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Southern Baptists Head for Annual Meeting at a Crossroads on Race and Gender

Like Moore, McKissic has intimate, lifelong ties to the SBC. When asked by the Associated Press what a separation from the denomination would feel like, he responded, “It would feel like a divorce.”

But the relationship has been a  challenging one. In 2006, a former SBC executive told him that if he didn’t fall into line on SBC orthodoxy, he could “ride on the bus,” but not drive it. McKissic has also been deeply troubled at his colleagues’ loyalty to Trump, who on multiple occasions refused to flatly condemn white supremacists.

At the  2017 national convention, McKissic introduced a resolution calling on the SBC to “reject the retrograde ideologies, xenophobic biases, and racial bigotries of the so-called ‘alt-right’ that seek to subvert our government, destabilize society, and infect our political system.”

The chair of the resolutions committee publicly criticized McKissic’s resolution as “poorly written and incendiary,” and the committee refused to move it forward for a vote. After an outcry by younger pastors and the few Black messengers, a narrower resolution, composed by white leaders without McKissic’s input, was reintroduced the next day.

Emotions ran high, but it  passed. McKissic noted that, however awkward the process, its passage was heartening.

But a broader battle was brewing. In 2019, the SBC passed a measured resolution, known as  Resolution 9, acknowledging critical race theory’s valuable insights but cautioning “that critical race theory and intersectionality should only be employed as analytical tools subordinate to Scripture — not as transcendent ideological frameworks. 

Most Southern Baptists, including McKissic, assumed that this comfortably settled the matter. But following 2020’s protests for racial justice,  Trump  brought critical race theory into the national spotlight. As the presidential campaigns were entering the home stretch last September, the president attacked critical race theory as part of a “left-wing cultural revolution.”

In November, the all-white, all-male presidents of the six Southern Baptist seminaries issued an unprecedented joint  statement, without consulting any Black leaders, that left no room for ambiguity: “We stand together on historic Southern Baptist condemnations of racism in any form and we also declare that affirmation of Critical Race Theory, Intersectionality, and any version of Critical Theory is incompatible with the Baptist Faith & Message.” McKissic called the machinations “painful to watch.”