Thursday, June 16, 2011

Southern Baptists Choose a Black Leader–Good Move



by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Your Black World

The meeting of the Southern Baptists this week in Phoenix revealed an interesting surprise. In an effort to increase minority representation in its ranks, the group has elected an African American pastor to become First Vice President. This is the first time in the group’s history that this move has been made.

Rev. Fred Luter Jr. was the man selected for the post, elected on Tuesday to help run the nation’s largest Protestant denomination. The group is seeing declining membership levels, and in response, has been working to bring minorities into the fold. Executive Committee President and CEO Frank Page has admitted that there needs to be “measurable information” to help the Southern Baptists evaluate their progress on race relations.

"I believe we are living in a day and time where there will be increased ethnic involvement and increased sensitivity to ethnic diversity within our convention," said Page. "In the principle of honesty, I tell you we have not done as we ought."

The Southern Baptists Convention has seen a decline in the rate of Baptism by five percent since 2009 and a .15 percent decline in membership, making this the fourth year the number has dipped. There was a debate regarding whether there should be specific language in the group’s charter to address diversity. Some felt that it was too deliberate, while others felt the change was necessary.

"We cannot any longer be a convention that is basically a white convention that anybody can come to," said Pastor Jim Goforth, who leads a multicultural church in Florissant, Mo. "We must intentionally be a convention that reaches out to everyone, and until the stage looks like we want the pew to look like, it won't be that way. It doesn't happen by accident."

SBC President Bryant Wright acknowledges that the Southern Baptist Convention was created to defend slavery.

"It took us 150 years to come to our senses … and seek the forgiveness of God and to apologize with our African-American friends and to ask their forgiveness for the strain of racism all through our history," he said. "But there's a noble reason for which we were founded, and that is for the propagation of the gospel of Jesus Christ."

It seems that the Southern Baptist Convention has the same problem as the Republican Party. Even though the groups possess many principles that are in alignment with common views within the black community, they’ve allowed the blindness of racism to keep them from taking advantage of an opportunity for greater support. Republicans are continuously hindered by those on the Right Wing who can’t stomach a black president, which keeps African Americans loyal to the Democrats, even when the loyalty has not been earned.

I am impressed that there are those within the Southern Baptist Convention who avoid the temptation to, like so many other institutions, use the word “diversity” in every pamphlet without truly proving that they are committed to the concept. I spoke with a friend today who works for a law firm where there is only one black female attorney out of over 200 total attorneys working for the organization. There are quite a few organizations with equally embarrassing statistics, and no one holds these groups accountable for this blatant form of Americanized apartheid. If you are involved with a company, university or organization that has less than 10% African American representation within its ranks, the organization needs to be confronted in an honest and forthright way. It’s much easier to use the word “diversity” than to prove that diversity actually exists.

There are few institutions that run deeper in black America than the church. Additionally, the Southern Baptist tradition in is strong, alive and well. It is both wasteful and confusing that the Southern Baptist Convention has waited this long to take advantage of the obvious connection. But now that they’ve opened that door to accepting black people as their fellow citizens with the Lord, they’ve taken a few steps closer to Godliness.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Professor at Syracuse University and founder of the Your Black World coalition.  To have Dr.  Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here. 

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Creflo Dollar: Bishop Eddie Long “already has a ticket into heaven”


In this “interesting” video, Creflo Dollar tells his congregation that Bishop Eddie Long already has a ticket into heaven.

click to read

Friday, June 3, 2011

When Faith Challenges

This has been a most difficult year for those who proclaim a hope and faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. From headlines involving charges of Pastoral sexual allegations against youth, senseless infighting, the use of religious who do not provide children health treatments; polygamous sects; how religion is one's financial destiny to today's story, where religion is to blame taking  the fun out of sex while dating.  On the surface, only the Christian faith is the cause of all ill, Islam, Buddhism, Vodoun, various sects do not play the same role as hindering progress as those who love Jesus, even though the report of the Worldwide Religious News Service (WWRN) reports from the world perspective.

Even when it comes to ethnic-based religious news, unlike American Religious reporting which has a tendency not to report the whole story but only those parts which have a tendency to downplay the significance of all religions in the world.  When talking specifically about Black Religions and the religious influence of Blackamericans, to only speak in terms of Christianity is misleading, for Blackamericans are not all Christians, some identify themselves as secularists, humanists, theistic or nontheistics, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, African Traditionalists, and yet many more names to describe their belief system, even if they atheists, agnostic, gnostic, the various religious and nonreligious instruction, quite often as people of color we have allowed ourselves to become duped, bamboozled, that we cannot see the forest for the trees.

The tenets of a belief system differ even within the same grouping.  For example, there is a grave difference of the humanism expressed by Black Church Theologian William R. Jones who wrote God is a White Racist, and humanism expressed in the early 17th century.  However, if your source is based on Focus on the Family who only started including Blacks in their reports after the mid-1980sl, or the work of the Church Pollster whom many Black Conservative Clergy follow blindly, George Barna, who prior to the 1990s rarely included Blacks in his research; or, reports of the Family Research Council.  Recent articles written Ken Blackwell and Bob Morrison, senior fellows with the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C., reveals the religious danger of this organization and influence with political ideology which goes unchallenged by Black academia.
Revisionist historians of American Christianity and the significance of Black Religion which was argued during the 2008 Presidential Campaign by an individual whose claim to fame is neoconservatism and brashness perceived as boldness with selective guests with the aid of the Philadelphia native whose ministry in Boston was brought to America's attention because of his impression record in fighting gang violence. These articles are used not because they provide correct information, but the opposite reason - misinformation.  Why?  Using a homiletics tool, "I'm glad you asked."

These articles and others manifested daily are filled with half-truths and innuendos, information whose filter should be question.  Those who write against Black religion in blogs, are not honest and they cannot help it, because they have not devoted the time, research, serious debate, and that is not their fault along.  As we were privy to the Smiley and Joiner early years on the Public Broadcasting System where they produced several meetings on the State of the Black Church, which could have been a broad based topic on the role of Black Religions in today's changing culture.

After teaching Black Religion and Black Religions of the Diaspora for over 20 years, expanding, revising, attempting to assist students in becoming critical thinkers and not ever to accept my word without checking all sources, many seminarians and Black Studies, Africana Studies, Africologists, have abandoned or merely dropped serious dialogue about Black Religions, and particularly its significance for those who are descendants of enslaved Africans.  Contrary to the early teachings of Joseph R. Washington with his 1963 publication, there is a need to reaffirm the debate which led to the development of Black Theology which had been initially suggested by Swiss Theologian Karl Barth.

The time has come for a serious dialogue to take place by those who are concerned with the authenticity and in discovering the role of Black Religions.  For those who would argue that race doesn't matter, maybe they should reread the Biblical text, or revisit their theological thinking, for example, telling people they will know their loved one when we all get to heaven.  Yet, if the Bible is taken seriously, race is seriously exposed.  Contrary to the feverish conversation of Hannity and Rivers, they selectively forget while standing against Jeremiah Wright to show his wrongs, they need to re-examine their pontification which continually contribute to the proclamation of questionable ignorance which makes their smiley faces quite dangerous.

Knowledge of Black Religion birth in America still escapes the mental deliberations of this present age.  In an earlier article I spoke of the one hour I was given to share with the late Dr. Manning Marable when he came to Nebraska.  We agreed that the next level for African Studies will be Black Religion as birth in America.  What we see today the lack of credible discussions on religions, we seem to  have been weighed in the balance and found wanting. Faith is challenging us = and yet our response is lacking.