“That is a message we want everyone to hear.”
A Long Time Coming
The Ethnic Research Portal project contains information from SBC annuals going back 30 years and is the culmination of efforts going back more than a decade.
“Since 1990, ethnic and racially diverse congregations have increased … from 3.9 percent to 22.3 percent,” says the Report on Ethnic Diversity and Participation in the Southern Baptist Convention, found on page 171 of the 2021 SBC Annual. Information in the printed report largely mirrors that of the site, Nguyen said, but with the site containing updated figures.
That same report in the 2021 annual gives background on what led to the website. At the 2009 annual meeting Paul Kim, pastor emeritus of Antioch Baptist Church in Cambridge, Mass., made a motion for a study “regarding greater involvement of ethnic churches and leaders.” After being studied by workgroups for two years, Southern Baptists embraced the measure in a historic vote.
That 2011 initiative received a boost in 2019, when a motion passed by messengers and referred to the SBC Executive Committee asked for a progress report on diversity in the SBC. The EC’s response to that referral, adopted during its February 2020 meeting, included a goal to “monitor, solicit, and report such progress” through 2025 “so that the racial and ethnic diversity reflected among the Convention’s cooperating churches continuously becomes ingrained in Convention life and processes as our normal way of relating to and with one another as equal partners in ministry and brothers and sister in Christ.”
One of the strategic actions of Vision 2025, adopted by messengers last year, includes the elimination of all incidents of racial discrimination in churches. Former EC President Ronnie Floyd led in the formation of Vision 2025, but first built the GCRM team by bringing McLaurin on board alongside others in executive director roles – Julio Arriola, Hispanic relations; Peter Yanes, Asian American relations; Charles Grant, African American relations; and Ashley Clayton, church affiliation.
“Everything changed when [ethnic diversity] was highlighted by the EC,” Yanes said.
That team collaborated to collect the data that makes up the GCRM Ethnic Research Portal. Nguyen led in piecing the information together.
McLaurin asked Yanes to work with Nguyen on the project due to their longstanding friendship.
“The website has existed for a year or so, but this is the first time we’re sharing it with updated information,” Yanes said. “This is available not only to entities, but the local church.”
Data collection began shortly after Kim’s 2009 proposal for the diversity study, he said.
“If you go through the sections there is information related to missional engagement. This helps us to see where we are in terms of diversity and where there is an opportunity for Gospel impact.”
Nguyen told Baptist Press that it was important for the portal’s findings to reflect data points in the Annual Church Profile and other sources.
“Technically, the information on the site should be the same as what is in the SBC [printed] Annuals. The source of both is the Annual Church Profile (ACP) so this makes the GCRM Ethnic Research Portal trustworthy.
“What makes the site unique is, first, a greater granularity in terms of ethnicity and languages that is inclusive of some of the newer groups such as the Burmese and the Nepalese congregations. Second, the data on the site is standardized to the U.S. Census data, making comparability possible. This allows us, for example, to compare Southern Baptist diversity with the U.S. diversity at the national, state, county and city levels.
“Third, the graphic visualization of the data and communication of insights and trends on the web platform make the information accessible to a larger audience and to those who have leadership roles at all levels in the Convention. In other words, it is not intended for researchers only but for all leaders and practitioners at the entity, state convention, association and local church levels.”
Mission Force, Not Mission Field
As the number of ethnic said minorities has increased in SBC life, so has their participation in leadership. Former SBC President J.D. Greear gave diversity an elevated platform, appointing not only ethnic minorities but women to boards in greater numbers than ever before in the Convention’s history.
Nguyen estimates that hundreds of hours have been poured into making the site a reality. However, it’s more than worth it.
“I began to work on the GCRM Ethnic Research Portal with the purpose,” he said. “First, it is to tell the SBC story of ethnic diversity the way our ethnic fellowships and congregations want it to be told and second, to motivate our ethnic fellowships to partner with the larger SBC family for church planting and the Great Commission. …
“Ethnic minority leaders want to be considered as part of the mission force and not the mission field. The Great Commission belongs to them, too.”
This article originally appeared here.