Southern Baptists confront the past, look to the future

Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission

The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) discussed its racist past during the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission's Gospel and Racial Reconciliation summit last week. 

The two-day summit was held in Nashville, and included frank admissions of wrongdoing. 

"Our heritage comes to us through a trail of blood, but not all of it is Christ's blood, and some of it cries out from the ground right now," the Commission's president, Russell Moore said

"Racial reconciliation is going to take the courage of knowing who you are in Christ," he continued. "We are not the state church of the Confederate States of America."

The denomination was formed in 1845 in support of slave owners, and during the Civil Rights Movement, Southern Baptist leaders were largely silent, or supported segregation. In recent years, the church repented for condoning racism, apologised to African-Americans, and announced efforts to attract minorities to their flock. 

Although the denomination elected their first black president in 2012, SBC pastor Rev. Dwight McKissic pointed out that all other top executives and seminary presidents are white. In 2012, 20 per cent of the church's 51,000 congregations were nonwhite, but less than one per cent were multi-ethnic

At last week's summit, less than 30 of the nearly 550 attendees were black, according to the Religion News Service. Still, many felt the summit was a step in the right direction.

"I am thrilled to hear a white man, Russell Moore, stand up and preach the message he just preached," Missouri youth pastor Carlos Smith exclaimed. 

"We need some of our white brothers and sisters saying that it isn't just race-baiters and people with a victimised mentality who believe these things. (Racism) is a real problem."