Update (April 26, 2017): Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary president Paige Patterson published a statement on the controversial photo at swbts.edu.
A White dean of a Texas seminary affiliated with a Christian denomination once known for its staunch defense of Black enslavement posted a controversial photo of himself and other White professors apparently dressed as gangsters on Twitter Tuesday.
Seen in the photo are the following Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary faculty: 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.
The men, dressed in variations of gold and silver chains, bandannas, hoodies, and askew ball caps, appear to be White. Several of the men shared the image online, as seen in the screengrabs below.
One of the faculty members (perhaps McCarty) 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.
Indeed, Dr. Charette does rap. In one video published on YouTube in 2011, Pastor Vern or The Real Vern C, as he is sometimes called, gives a “shout-out to my boys in Northwest Tulsa, Oklahoma” before delving into his rap song. He goes on to tell “all my pimps, players, thugs and hustlers, all my boys that are in lock-down” that Jesus Christ “is the answer.”
Allen’s explanation, however, did not cut it for Nick Cannariato, who replied: “A tone-deaf celebratory picture with racist overtones is still a picture with racist overtones.”
The photos were deleted from the various Twitter accounts within minutes of being observed by this reporter.
In addition to calling their offices, email requests were sent to both Allen and McCarty requesting comment and a response to concerns that the photos they celebrated online were racially insensitive.
Allen responded by directing this reporter to his Twitter/Facebook statement, published just minutes after the media inquiry was sent to his faculty email address.
“I apologize for a recent image I posted which was offensive. Context is immaterial. @swbts stance on race is clear as is mine,” Allen’s brief statement reads.
McCarty did not respond to the request for comment by press time.
I apologize for a recent image I posted which was offensive. Context is immaterial. @swbts stance on race is clear as is mine.
— David L. Allen (@DrDavidLAllen) April 25, 2017
An offensive tweet was posted to one of our faculty members'
personal Twitter handles. We have asked that the tweet be removed. https://t.co/LUxWmUUAgu
— Southwestern Seminary (@SWBTS) April 25, 2017
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, billing itself as “one of the largest seminaries in the world,” is a private, non-profit school founded in 1908. It is one of six seminaries affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.
The Southern Baptist Convention, which claims to be the largest Protestant Christian denomination in the United States, has been troubled with racism since its inception. In 1845, Southern Baptists split from their Northern brothers due to the latter’s refusal to allow slave owners to serve as missionaries.
Over time, however, the Southern Baptist Convention has attempted to repent of its racist beginnings and its members’ racists activities and anti-civil rights positions over the last 172 years. Most notably, the 15 million-member denomination issued a “Resolution On Racial Reconciliation” in 1995, naming, repenting of and apologizing for its sins against African Americans and others.
Some have noted, however, that the 1995 resolution “failed to include any substantive call for restitution and reparation to victims of racism and discrimination.”
The Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission recently revealed that it is co-hosting a “MLK50: Gospel Reflections from the Mountaintop” event in 2018 in Memphis, Tennessee. The conservative Christian conference, also hosted by The Gospel Coalition, has been billed as an opportunity for participants to reflect on the state of racial unity in the church.
Despite its public shift away from racism, “the stain of racism still remains in the SBC,” according to Dr. Jarvis J. Williams. Williams is a professor in the School of Theology at another Southern Baptist Convention-affiliated school, the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Jarvis and Boyce College Associate Dean Kevin Jones have written a book about that very subject: Removing the Stain of Racism from the Southern Baptist Convention: Diverse African American and White Perspectives.
“Even though the convention repented of this sin publicly, a profound divide between the white majority and the black and brown minority still exists for many churches,” the publisher writes of the Black men’s book.
The authors believe the “stain of racism” prevents White Christians from embracing the kind of Christian unity the Bible demands for Jesus’ followers.
The book, to be release in July, was endorsed by Paige Patterson, the president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary where the controversial photo at the center of this report originated.