Those words were tweeted by Dr. Russell Moore today in response to Fred Luter’s election as the first African-American president to the Southern Baptist Convention. So far, I have teared up every time I have heard them or said them to someone else. But why? Why is a white 26 year old from Alabama crying over today’s proceedings at the Southern Baptist Convention? The short answer is, “Jesus is alive!”
As co-author of this blog, I’ll take the opportunity, however, to give you the long reason. I was born in Birmingham, AL. There isn’t a square mile in the state that isn’t stained with the horror of racism and the sacrifice of the Civil Rights movement. Moreover, I come from a long line of white men who hated black men.
As much as I am Alabamian, I’m Southern Baptist, maybe even more. I was Southern Baptist born, Southern Baptist bred, and when I die I’ll be Southern Baptist dead. As some have said, they were my tribe, so to speak. I identified with them culturally, morally, and philosophically. When I began to read my Bible and understand it, I became Baptist in my theology. I grew up in a Baptist church. I was a Royal Ambassador, never missed a vacation Bible School, and can’t dance to save my own life. I went to a Baptist university, served with the Baptist mission board (the International Mission Board), and attend The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. I am Southern Baptist.
But what does that mean? Well, in 1845, at the inception of the Southern Baptist Convention, it meant two things. The first was a desire to plant churches in the South, which the Northern Baptists within the American Baptist organization refused to do. The other was a desire to send missionaries who were slave owners, which the Northern Baptists, rightly, refused to do. Thus a split occurred and dark heritage was born.
Today, the grace of God overcame that heritage. The Lord has given the Southern Baptist Convention Fred Luter as the man to lead us for the next year, and, hopefully, two years. Fred Luter’s ancestors were slaves. They weren’t even thought of as human, much less Southern Baptists. He who began a good work in us is faithful to complete it.
Is Fred Luter’s election as president the end of our good work? I sure hope not. I hope it’s the beginning of a long line of Southern Baptist presidents that represent that childhood song we all know: “red, and yellow, black, and white.” I think it does represent change and grace. Ladies and gentlemen, that’s the gospel: changed by the blood of Jesus, who gives grace to wretched sinners like us.
And that’s why I can’t stop tearing up. Jesus is alive and the shackles of slavery are broken. Only God can take a racist, blind convention of churches and give them a descendent of slaves as their president. Sola Deo Gloria!