I’m sure you’ve had your share of Rabbis, Baptists, and Presbyterian stories. You know, where they were caught on an island… Well, I have one of my own. This time it’s just a Rabbi and a Baptist. You get it, I’m the Baptist.
Last July, while in California, a Rabbi asked me what denomination I belonged to. I told him Southern Baptist. His reply, “I thought you would be either National Baptist or Progressive National Baptist, which are historically African-American.
Then I met a National Baptist minister. When he found out I was Southern Baptist, he tried to recruit me into the National Baptist Convention. However, earlier last year, while in South Carolina, an A.M.E. pastor straight out told me to leave the Southern Baptist Convention and join A.M.E, African Methodist Episcopal Church.
In his recruiting pitch, my A.M.E. pastor friend told me that the Southern Baptist Convention is racist, and it’s a white denomination, and that the A.M.E. is black.
I wasn’t always Southern Baptist. But while living in California, pastoring in a different denomination, I resigned my pastorate because of doctrinal differences and became Southern Baptist.
Before resigning my pastorate and becoming Southern Baptist, I was approached by a Vineyard pastor to join him, and also an ex-Methodist pastor, now non-denominational, to join him. But I chose Southern Baptist. Why?
First, when I accepted a call to pastor a church in California, I became a close friend of a Southern Baptist pastor in the city. We would meet for lunch and talk theology. He would answer many of the questions I was wrestling with.
Second, while pondering a resignation from my previous denomination, I began to research several denominations. I found myself agreeing more with the Southern Baptists.
Third, since becoming Southern Baptist, and while being aware of the racist past of the Southern Baptist Convention, I had to come to terms with my own burden to pursue racial justice and equality and harmony. After all, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, who was National Baptist before being a co-founder of the Progressive National Baptist, remains a hero of mine.
And because of this burden of mine, I have even pondered leaving the Southern Baptist Convention, concluding that it does not best represent what I stand for in terms of racial justice and the like.
Fourth, I’ve taken the matter to the Lord time and time again. I have spoken to my wife. I have spoken to a close pastor friend about the issues that I was wrestling with. But I’ve been made to rethink my own passion for racial reconciliation and harmony.
Last June, the Southern Baptist Convention elected Fred Luter its president, making him the first African American president of a predominantly white denomination. There are some five million African American Southern Baptists.
Finally, the Lord has not made it clear to me that I should leave the Southern Baptist Convention, despite its tainted past. Furthermore, when I think about the gospel of Jesus Christ and its transforming power, I am convinced of the need for forgiveness and reconciliation. However I am a Christ follower first.