The Southern Baptist Convention’s Major Problem

I’ve been affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention my entire life. I’ve served as President of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (2002-04). I’ve been a pastor of the same SBC affiliated church for the last 27 years. Southern Baptists have done, are doing and will do some great things.

But we cannot hide from our past, nor should we excuse our present. The SBC was built on a fractured foundation. We will not stand the test of time. We’ll collapse.

Unless we remove the foundation of authoritarianism, racism and patronism.

It’s time for some corporate repentance in the SBC.

On Monday night, February 18, 2019, SBC President J.D. Greear spoke to the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention in Nashville, Tennessee, proposing a 10-step strategic plan to address sexual abuse within our ranks.

The next Saturday, the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention rejected J.D. Greear’s impassioned plea that the SBC change regarding its past silence and cover-up of cases of predatory sexual abuse in the Southern Baptist Convention.

Similar to Southern Baptists in 1840 who separated from the Northern Baptists who were advocating for the cessation of slavery among Southern Baptists, the 2019 Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention distanced itself from the SBC President who advocated for transformational change in how Southern Baptists deal with predatory sexual abuse.

Why?

What’s similar between Southern Baptists in 1840 and 2019?

The answer is found in Mr. Galusha’s phrase from 1840. Southern Baptist leaders then—and today—cling to power-maintained privilege.”

SBC leaders, which include pastors, denominational employees, institutional presidents, Executive Committee members, board trustees and a host of other Southern Baptist people in positions of leadership, must boldly and unequivocally distance themselves from three unbiblical and corrupt practices:

Patronism, which is defined as a practice or a culture in business and society that is based on personal relations for advancements in position, income and exposure. Under a system of patronism, prominent or powerful people determine or influence decisions based on their own criteria or interests.

Racism, which is defined as prejudice, discrimination or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior.

Authoritarianism, which is defined as a form of radical, totalitarian leadership, characterized by dictatorial power, forcible suppression of opposition and the strong regimentation of followers.

Abuse thrives and abusers hide in organizations built on the cracked foundation of patronism, racism and authoritarianism.

It‘s time the Southern Baptist Convention repent of our unbiblical and harmful views of racial superiority, gender inferiority and spiritual authority in the church, the home and society.

This patronism, racism and authoritarianism of the past SBC form the systemic problems we face today.

The Southern Baptist foundation of power-maintained privilege must be changed.

This article originally appeared on WadeBurleson.org.

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Wade Burleson
Wade Burleson is the pastor of Emanuel Enid in Enid, Oklahoma, a writer, and an avocational historian. Wade has served two terms as President of the Oklahoma Baptist General Convention. He has been a trustee of the International Mission Board and currently serves on several non-profit community foundations and boards in the state of Oklahoma. Wade is the President of Istoria Ministries, a 501-C3 non-profit ministry designed “to reach people with the gospel of Jesus Christ so that His Story becomes the center of all our stories.”