The president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary has issued a lengthy apology after a photograph of senior staff dubbed 'racist' by critics was posted online.
The photograph showed teachers in the seminary's School of Preaching in a pose aping rap culture and wearing gold and silver chains, hoodies and baseball caps. One of them carried a gun. It was widely denounced on social media and the seminary tweeted an apology.
A subsequent statement from seminary president Paige Patterson denounced racism, drawing on his own experience of growing up in a racist society to declare it 'an affront to God' and stressing his anti-racism record.
Referring to Vern Charette, Patterson said: '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. '
However, he said that '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.'
He said that while Southwestern 'cannot make a moment of bad judgment disappear', it would redouble its efforts to end racism on the campus.