Southern Seminary theology dean Russell Moore says it isn’t enough for First Baptist Church in Crystal Springs, Miss., to feel bad because a minority got their pastor to move a black couple’s wedding to another venue in an attempt to avoid a church fight.
By Bob Allen
A Southern Baptist seminary professor said July 30 the Southern Baptist Convention should withdraw fellowship from a Mississippi congregation if it doesn’t discipline a minority of members who managed to block an African-American couple from getting married at the church.
Russell Moore, dean of the school of theology and vice president for academic administration at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., said in a blog that the pastor of First Baptist Church in Crystal Springs isn’t a racist but moved the ceremony to another church to create a “win-win situation” for both the couple and a minority who threatened to fire him if he went through with plans to marry the couple in their church.
The problem, Moore, a native of Mississippi opined, is: “The only answer to the ongoing struggle between Jesus Christ and Jim Crow is a lose-lose situation.”
“Mississippi Christians know, perhaps better than the rest of the country, just how satanic and violent racial supremacy can be,” Moore said. “We have danced with the devil and we ought to recognize him when he returns. But that’s precisely why Mississippians ought to be the ones to lead the way in showing the church what biblical reconciliation and revival looks like.”
Moore said he believes that the majority of church members are horrified by all the media attention their congregation has received, but what now needs to happen is for them to follow the biblical model of confronting the minority to seek repentance and reconciliation.
“That’s what I think they should do, and will do,” Moore said. “If not, the larger Body of Christ, particularly in the Southern Baptist Convention, should deal with this as an issue of defining importance for the gospel.”
Moore isn’t the first SBC leader to criticize the congregation
“Mississippi Baptists both reject racial discrimination and at the same time respect the autonomy of our local churches to deal with difficulties and disagreements under the lordship of Jesus,” Jim Futral, executive director of the Mississippi Baptist Convention, told Baptist Press.
Roger “Sing” Oldham, vice president for convention communications and relations with the SBC Executive Committee, said the convention’s official faith statement clearly labels racism a sin.
“We are all saddened when any sin, including the sin of racism, rears its head in our midst,” Oldham said. “It is equally unfortunate when a group within a church seeks to determine church policy without giving the church an opportunity to discuss the matter and take formal action as a congregation.”
Fred Luter, a New Orleans pastor elected as the first African-American SBC president in June, said other pastors can learn from the controversy that it is important to talk to their membership about social issues like race.
George Pat Bufkin, director of missions for Copiah County Baptist Association, told CNN the Crystal Springs congregation is “now in the way of amends.”
He labeled the people who made mostly anonymous calls to their pastor to complain about the black couple’s wedding as a small minority of “radicals,” but said he didn’t know exactly who was behind the calls.