Christian School Linked to History of Racism Embroiled in Controversy
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary asked Christian rapper Lecrae for his help after getting severe backlash for a racist photo of faculty members supposedly dressed as rappers.
“Would you be willing to lead a dialogue on growth for our community?” the @SWBTS Twitter account asked the rapper on Tuesday, at the height of the backlash.
The request was in response to Lecrae questioning the brief apology by Dean David Allen, who appears in the photo and shared it on Twitter.
Instead of accepting the seminary’s request, Lecrae suggested the troubled Southern Baptist Convention-affiliated school seek out “more qualified” individuals for its desired dialogue.
Lecrae had expressed weeks prior his refusal to “use my voice to speak on racial unity” at the behest of Evangelical leaders who “don’t use yours to talk about racism.”
On Wednesday, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary president Paige Patterson published a statement on the controversial photo at swbts.edu.
Patterson acknowledged that the photo was racist, stating, “Sometimes, Anglo Americans do not recognize the degree that racism has crept into our lives.”
In his lengthy statement, titled “Racism IS a Tragic Sin,” Patterson said of the controversial photo:
“A gracious young Native American preacher on our staff does rap as a hobby. He preached a sermon recently in chapel in which he included a section of rap. I thought that it was great, and the students seemed responsive to it. He has since accepted a pastorate; and, as part of his departure, his fellow professors wanted to awaken memories and in so doing to tease him. That is par for the course around here. The president encourages our people to laugh at each other rather than to risk taking ourselves too seriously. But, as all members of the preaching faculty have acknowledged, this was a mistake, and one for which we deeply apologize. Sometimes, Anglo Americans do not recognize the degree that racism has crept into our lives. Such incidents are tragic but helpful to me in refocusing on the attempt to flush from my own system any remaining nuances of the racist past of our own country. Just as important, my own sensitivity to the corporate and individual hurts of a people group abused by generations of oppressors needs to be constantly challenged.”
As Faithfully Magazine reported within hours of the photo’s emergence on Twitter Tuesday, all of the men who appear in the photo are White. The men wore gold and silver chains, bandannas, hoodies, and crooked baseball caps. One of the faculty members can be seen holding what appears to be a gun or similar weapon against his chest. The phrase “Notorious S.O.P.” (School of Preaching) was scrawled in black ink across the top of the photo.
Faithfully Magazine identified the men as: David L. Allen, dean of the School of Preaching; Kyle Walker, the seminary’s vice president for Student Services and a professor of preaching; Barry McCarty, a preaching professor and Chief Parliamentarian for the Southern Baptist Convention; Deron J Biles, a Dean Emeritus and a professor of Pastoral Ministries and Preaching; and Matthew McKellar, an associate preaching professor.
Several of the preaching professors shared the image on their personal Twitter accounts before deleting them hours later.
President Patterson neglected to mention in his statement on Southwestern’s “moment of bad judgment” that his school has a history of racism, particularly through its affiliation with the Southern Baptist Convention. The denomination, which claims to be the largest U.S. Protestant Christian body, was founded in 1845 by pro-slavery Baptists.
Dr. Yolanda Pierce, director of Princeton Theological Seminary’s Center for Black Church Studies was among the many Christians who had a few words for Southwestern and its faculty on Tuesday.
“Disappointed, dismayed, and deeply offended by the racist display of members of the faculty @swbts. This dishonors the body of Christ,” Pierce tweeted at the school’s Twitter account.
“Racism is a structural evil and it’s present and pervasive in our Christian seminaries and churches, perhaps more so than the larger public,” she added. “If you’ve been called to train generations for service to the Church but continue to foster racist ideology, please stop. And repent.”
This is how I know all that racial reconciliation talk isn't real. You haven't put in the work. And talk is cheap.
— Yolanda Pierce (@YNPierce) April 26, 2017
See our original report, White Christian Dean and Faculty Pose as Gangsters in Controversial Photo, for more background on this story.