In a scathing open letter published in The New York Times this week, an African-American minister announced his departure from the Southern Baptist Convention over the church’s reluctance to denounce white supremacy and its outward support of President Donald Trump.
Lawrence Ware, who serves as co-director of the Center for Africana Studies at Oklahoma State University and has been an ordained minister at the convention for nearly a decade, renounced his denomination Tuesday, July 17, noting that while it wasn’t an easy decision, it was a necessary one.
“As a Black scholar of race and a minister who’s committed to social justice, I can no longer be a part of an organization that is complicit in the disturbing rise of the so-called alt-right, whose members support the abhorrent policies of Donald Trump and whose troubling racial history and current actions reveal a deep commitment to white supremacy,” Ware wrote.
He explained that his decision was ultimately spurred by an event earlier this year when a prominent Black pastor from Arlington, Texas, introduced a resolution at the group’s annual convention denouncing the white supremacist and alt-right movements. Conference leaders initially refused to hear the resolution but later approved a revised version that excluded a denunciation of the “curse of Ham” theory and added details of all the “good” Southern Baptists have done for Black people and nonwhites.
Ware argued that the resolution should’ve been immediately adopted, but it wasn’t.
“A contingent of predominately white, old-guard members refused to take the resolution seriously, even while many Black and progressive clergy members advocated its adoption,” he wrote. “It wasn’t until chaos ensued that a reworded resolution vowing to ‘decry every form of racism, including alt-right white supremacy, as antithetical to the Gospel of Jesus Christ’ was adopted.”
Among other things, Ware highlighted the fact that over 70 percent of white evangelicals, many of whom are Southern Baptists, approve of President Trump’s job performance. He also touched on the church’s history of pro-slavery attitudes and its outward support of segregation during the civil rights movement.
Though the church issued a formal apology for its support of slavery in 1995, Ware insisted that enough still hasn’t been done to address the institution of white supremacy within the SBC. He then called out several churches for remaining “silent” about Trump and the rise of the alt-right while being “hostile” toward social justice movements like Black Lives Matter.
“I love the church, but I love Black people more,” Ware concluded. “Black lives matter to me. I am not confident that they matter to the Southern Baptist Convention.”