Russell Moore on the SBC, Racism, and Fred Luter

Russell Moore’s article in the most recent issue of Southern Seminary magazine is about the SBC and racism, and it is a must-read. It’s impossible to understand the significance of Fred Luter’s candidacy for president without remembering where Southern Baptists have come from. We all have our stories, but Moore shares one of his. He writes:

One of my earliest memories is of a substitute Sunday school teacher in my Southern Baptist church chastening me for putting a coin in my mouth. “That’s filthy,” she said. “Why, you don’t know if a colored man might have held that.” It might just be my imagination playing tricks on me, but it seems as though she immediately followed this up with, “Alright children, let’s sing ‘Jesus Loves the Little Children, All the Children of the World.'”

The rest of the article traces how Southern Baptists went from support for segregation to the probable election of its first black president. In the conclusion, Moore reflects on what the presidency of Fred Luter would mean to the SBC.

I’m thrilled about where God might be taking the SBC. A denomination formed to protect slavery led by a descendant of slaves, that’s just the kind of providential irony our God loves. Maybe it will prompt our denomination to stop seeing non-white people as opportunities for “ethnic ministry,” and prompt us to see there opportunities to find our leaders. Maybe seeing a non-white face with the gavel of the SBC might remind us that the Man we’ll see on the Judgment Seat, well, he isn’t a white guy either.

Read the rest here.


  • Phil Ratliff

    When I was the pastor of FBC Springtown, Texas out side of Ft. Worth, my music director resigned after I left the church and went to FBC Burmingham, AL as the Minister of Music. About a month later, I received a call from him tell me about the Church’s “Sidewalk Committee.” It seems this committee was nominated and elected like all the other committees in the church. Their job was to stop any cars entering the church parking lot that had “Colored” people in it. They were to tell them they needed to go to the colored church where they would be welcome. This was about fourteen or fifteen years after Martin Luther King was murdered.
    Phil Ratliff, Pastor
    Alameda Baptist Church
    Norman, Oklahoma

  • dr. james willingham

    Makes one sick to hear it (the Sidewalk Committee of FBC Birmingham. I was a pastor of a rural Baptist Church in Mo. and was encouraged to attend Lincoln Univ., some fifty miles away. One of my members who was principal of the high school in the near by town, said, “You fill famous scholars in small classes.” (I should had that that church had had Black members some 20 years previously. I did attend Lincoln and graduated with my B.S. Ed. in ‘1/67. and a few years after Dr. King was murdered I moved to South Carolina and began teaching History at S.C. State College. One lady at FBC Orangeburg, said something that indicated the change that was beginning to occur. She said, “Mr. Willingham, I taught a year in the Black schools before integration, and I cried when I saw what segregation had done to the personalities of those little Black children.” Then in the Fall of ;75, I did my Doctor of Ministry Project at a rural church here in NC on the subject, “Christian Love & Race Relations.” The test before and after seemed to show little change, but 20 years on down the road a white member of the church had two black grandsons and took them on a senior trip with her fellow members and she said to me, “O Mr. Willingham, I got the most compliments on my grandsons.” Our son now pastors a rural church in NC (has been there for 13 years) and he has two of three Black members. When he baptized one of the new Black converts, two rows of Blacks showed up to witness his baptism. Considering the location of that church (in a county that has been noted for racism), that is quite an accomplishment. Things are changing. Praise God.

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