Southern Baptist seminary faculty spark outrage with 'rap' photo

Senior academic staff of a prestigious Southern Baptist college have run into a firestorm of criticism after an offensive image of themselves was posted online.

TwitterThe photo showing SWBTS staff, one holding a gun.

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary faculty members – all of them apparently white – have been accused of crude racism after they were shown aping rap culture and wearing gold and silver chains, hoodies and baseball caps. One of them – probably Barry McCarty, a preaching professor and Chief Parliamentarian for the Southern Baptist Convention – appears to be holding a gun against his chest. The phrase 'Notorious SOP' (School of Preaching') appears graffiti-style across the top of the photo.

The men in the picture are David L Allen, dean of the School of Preaching, Kyle Walker, the seminary's vice president for Student Services and a professor of preaching, McCarty, Deron J Biles, a Dean Emeritus and a professor of Pastoral Ministries and Preaching, and Matthew McKellar, an Associate Professor of Preaching.

McCarty shared the photo on Twitter, though he later deleted it. It drew outrage from social media users, with one, Zach Hoag, posting: 'Barry, this is blatantly racist. Ya'll should be ashamed of yourselves, especially considering your denomination's history.'

Allen also shared the picture on Twitter saying, ' This is a going-away picture we gave to one of our faculty members today at lunch, Dr Charette, who is himself an excellent rapper.' One respondent, Nick Cannariato, said: 'A tone-deaf celebratory picture with racist overtones is still a picture with racist overtones.'

Allen later apologised, saying: ' I apologize for a recent image I posted which was offensive. Context is immaterial. @swbts stance on race is clear as is mine.'

Other respondents also took him to task, with CarolJean saying: 'Grown adult men gathering together to take a picture and holding a gun no less. Stereotyping and being racist. It's disgusting.' The seminary itself said on Twitter: 'An offensive tweet was posted to one of our faculty members' personal Twitter handles. We have asked that the tweet be removed.'

Many contributors on social media expressed outrage at what they said was the racism inherent in the photo.

John Fea, Professor of American History and Chair of the History Department at Messiah College in Grantham, Pennsylvania, wrote in a blog post: 'Think about it. At some point these guys sat down in a faculty lounge somewhere and decided that it would be fun to dress this way and take a picture. At what point in this conversation did one of the guys in the photo think it was a good idea to show his gun? Did he bring it from home? Or did he have it in his office gun cabinet?

'And to top it all off, these professors seem to possess virtually no historical consciousness. They have no sensitivity to the fact that Southwestern, like all Southern Baptist institutions, has a long history of racism and segregation. (This is also the school where one of its former presidents actually killed a guy).

'This school has some systemic problems that someone needs to address.'