Black scholar and minister Lawrence Ware is speaking out about his reason for cutting ties with the Southern Baptist Convention, America’s largest Protestant Christian denomination.In a New York Times op-ed on Monday, Ware, who works as co-director of the Center for Africana Studies at Oklahoma State University, said the SBC hasn’t done nearly enough to address its racist past, or to help curb racism in present day.“As a black scholar of race and a minister who is committed to social justice, I can no longer be part of an organization that is complicit in the disturbing rise of the so-called alt-right, whose members support the abhorrent policies of Donald Trump and whose troubling racial history and current actions reveal a deep commitment to white supremacy,” wrote Ware.In a conversation with HuffPost, Ware said that he’s spoken to a number of black members who have also felt frustrated by the way the SBC handles race.
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He says at least five black ministers he knows have left the denomination quietly over the past year. But Ware felt it was important to speak up about his views.“For me, it’s important to articulate why I was leaving. Leaving quietly leaves the system unchanged and doesn’t force [the SBC] to address the voices of those who are marginalized,” he said.
The SBC is a national network of autonomous, predominantly white, evangelical Protestant churches. As previously reported, the denomination drew headlines in June when, at its annual meeting, its leaders initially refused to consider a resolution submitted by a black pastor that condemned white supremacy and the alt-right, a group that seeks to re-inject racism and anti-Semitism into the American conservative movement.
After significant backlash from outraged black and progressive clergy members, the delegates approved another version of the resolution the next day. The revised version was passed near unanimously.
In another serious misstep, faculty members at a Southern Baptist seminary in Texas staged a photo mimicking stereotypes of black rappers ― posing with hoodies, bandanas, chain necklaces and a gun. The university president later apologized for the photo.
Ware said what really helped him see the deep racial divisions in the SBC are surveys that show the extent to which white evangelical Protestants support Trump’s policies. A whopping 81 percent of white evangelicals voted for Trump in the past election. In April, a Pew Research Center survey found that 8 in 10 white evangelicals who attend church at least once a month approve of how the president is leading the country.