Southern Baptist Convention
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The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) is an American Baptist denomination founded in 1845. With a claimed 16 million members, it has the distinction of being the largest Protestant denomination in America and the largest Baptist denomination in the world. It has a particularly notable history of racism although it does seem to be recovering (the homophobia and sexism are both very much still evident).
The Southern Baptist Convention was founded as a pro-slavery denomination in 1845 after a dispute over the appropriateness of letting slave-owners be missionaries to Africa. The Baptists never were as anti-slavery as were, for instance, the Quakers or the Methodists. Four of the Convention's founders were slave-owners who were "were deeply complicit in the defense of slavery". In the two decades of the Second Great Awakening they gave up pleading for slaves to be freed, instead remaining neutral on the subject of slavery. Neutrality, however, wasn't enough for the slave-owning elites they'd attracted and slave owners insisted on the Baptists condoning slavery by allowing slave owners to be missionaries; this was too much even for the Baptists and they refused. The Southern Baptists then seceded and formed their own denomination.
After the American Civil War, black people unsurprisingly had had enough of the exclusively white-run and segregated Southern Baptists. They left the Convention in a few waves in the late 1860s, leaving it almost exclusively white.
Given its overtly racist origins and almost exclusive white membership, it should surprise no one that the Southern Baptist Convention was one of the driving forces behind Jim Crow laws.
In 1995, on its 150th anniversary, the Southern Baptist Convention renounced its racist roots and passed a motion apologising for its historical defence of slavery, segregation, and white supremacy. They appear to have been serious about this and in 2012 they elected Fred Luter Jr. as the first ever African-American president of the SBC.
Prominent members have included Billy Graham, Pat Robertson, Rick Warren, Anita Bryant and Jerry Falwell (the latter being a convert). Jimmy Carter, who had been a member, left for a more moderate Baptist denomination due to a fundamentalist takeover in the 1980s.
Widespread sexual abuse
|—SBC Executive Committee leader August Boto regarding the idea of dealing with reports of sexual abuse|
“”Dealing with [Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests] can be tricky. They have a way of twisting your words to suit their purposes.
|—Sing Oldham, former spokesman for the Executive Committee|
A 2019 joint-report by the Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News revealed that there had been more than 700 victims of sexual abuse within the SBC over a period of decades. As of 2022, 703 Baptist church leaders and volunteers have been accused of sexual misconduct with 409 affiliated with the SBC, and about 220 offenders pleaded guilty or took plea deals as of 2019. As of 2019, about 35 pastors, employees and volunteers who exhibited predatory behavior were still able to find employment at SBC churches. In some cases, the SBC did not alert law enforcement about complaints, amounting to a coverup. The allegations included the top leadership of the SBC, either for sexual misconduct itself, Paul Pressler (SBC vice president, 2002), or covering it up, Steve Gaines (SBC president, 2010), Paige Patterson (SBC president, 1990), Jerry Vines (SBC president, 1988), Edwin Young (SBC president, 1992), and Frank S. Page (SBC vice president, 2006). The SBC publicly refused to keep a database of accused abusers, but secretly kept one anyway. SBC leadership was more concerned with covering up abuse than reporting or preventing it. As of 2022, nine of the accused are still ministers and two are still in the SBC.
Beliefs and practice
As a church explicitly founded to support slavery, although they have massively improved on the racism front, they are generally on the wrong side of history. In particular they are both homophobic and sexist, subscribing to complementarianism.
The denomination allows a considerable degree of autonomy to individual congregations, and while the organization itself has largely broken free of its past outlook on race relations, there remain many local SBC-affiliated churches which look sharply down their nose at interracial marriage.
They say Baptists don't dance, and it looks like southern Baptists aren't too terribly fond of yoga either, even if you replace chanting om with screaming God hates gays. They have nothing against participating in organized sports though, or doing athletic stretches, as long as you don't mention how those are basically the same as dancing with a ball and doing yoga.
Southern Baptists are one of those groups running and even supporting so-called reparative therapy and going so far as to claim this quackery works. The Southern Baptist Convention also asserts that same-sex marriage has nothing to do with civil rights, probably because after supporting both slavery and Jim Crow they want to deny this has anything to do with their history.
From the early 1970s, they have asserted the primacy of "traditional gender roles". In 1998 they amended their statement on marriage to assert male headship, and in 2000 they asserted male-only pastors.
Before 1980, the Southern Baptist Convention officially advocated for loosening of abortion restrictions, "to work for legislation that will allow the possibility of abortion under such conditions as rape, incest, clear evidence of severe fetal deformity, and carefully ascertained evidence of the likelihood of damage to the emotional, mental, and physical health of the mother." W. Barry Garrett wrote in the Baptist Press, "Religious liberty, human equality and justice are advanced by the [Roe v. Wade] Supreme Court Decision," but by 1980, conservative Protestant leaders became vocal in their opposition to legalized abortion.
Other Christian denominations
R. Albert Mohler, Jr, the president of the The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, had the following to say about liberal Christianity:
One core doctrine after another has fallen by liberal denial—all in the name of salvaging the faith in the modern age. The game is now reaching its end stage. Having denied virtually every essential doctrine, the liberals are holding an empty bag....they should give up their claim on Christianity for the sake of honesty.
In short, they accuse liberal Christians of not really being Christian.
The Southern Baptist Convention has an exclusivist attitude, and therefore hates all other religions. They consider Judaism, Islam, and Baha'i to be mostly invalid, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Taoism as Satanic, and Neopagan religions as actual Satanism.
In popular culture
A lot of kids in the late 1960s and 1970s knew of the group because of their cartoon series Jot, which was used as filler material on Saturday morning TV. Jot tried to brainwash kids into believing the morality of the Bible.
- Database of Southern Baptist church pastors, leaders, employees and volunteers who pleaded guilty or were convicted of sex crimes (mind the paywall)
- Report of the Independent Investigation: The Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee’s Response to Sexual Abuse Allegations and an Audit of the Procedures and Actions of the Credentials Committee (May 15, 2022) Guidepost Solutions
- Mississippi Praying: Southern White Evangelicals and the Civil Rights Movement, 1945-1975 by Carolyn Renée Dupont (2015). New York University Press. ISBN 1479823511.
- Southern Baptist Convention's flagship seminary details its racist, slave-owning past in stark report by Marisa Iati (December 12, 2018 at 7:54 PM) The Washington Post.
- Report on Slavery and Racism in the History of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (December 12, 2018) The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
- Christine Leigh Heyrman, Southern Cross: The Beginning of the Bible Belt, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998, pp. 10–18, 155
- RESOLUTION ON RACIAL RECONCILIATION ON THE 150TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION
- The Rev. Fred Luter Jr. of New Orleans elected first black president of Southern Baptist Convention Times Picaune
- Key takeaways from the bombshell sex abuse report by Southern Baptists by Sarah Pulliam Bailey (May 23, 2022 at 7:01 p.m. EDT) The Washington Post.
- Abuse of Faith: 20 years, 700 victims: Southern Baptist sexual abuse spreads as leaders resist reforms by Robert Downen, Lise Olsen, and John Tedesco (Feb. 10, 2019) Houston Chronicle.
- Abuse of Faith: 20 years, 700 victims: Southern Baptist sexual abuse spreads as leaders resist reforms by Robert Downen, Lise Olsen, and John Tedesco (Updated 8:20 pm CST, February 9, 2019) San Antonio Express-News.
- The SBC website on sexuality
- Reuters Factbox: The Southern Baptist Convention
- SBCnet Comparison of 1925, 1963, 2000 versions
- Southern Baptist Warns Against Christians Practicing Yoga, Scott Baker, Oct 7, 2010
- The American Psychiatric Association certified reparative therapy as quackery back in 1997
- Baptist Press News
- Fox News - probably deserves an automatic question of its reliability
- NBC's an improvement
- "Sbc Resolution: Resolution On The Place Of Women In Christian Service". Sbc.net. Retrieved December 10, 2011.
- They Kingdom Come pg. 12, a book by Randall Herbert Balmer, Professor of Religion and History at Columbia University.
- They Kingdom Come
- Southern Baptist Prayer Guides: Background material by B.A. Robinson (published January 7, 2000; last updated April 7, 2003) Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
- Southern Baptist Prayer Guides by B.A. Robinson (published January 7, 2000; last updated October 12, 2003) Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance