J D Greear, the president of the Southern Baptist Convention in the US on Tuesday, implored Southern Baptist members to accept and promote that “black lives matter” as a Gospel issue but criticised the Black Lives Matter organisation in his 2020 presidential address to church members.
Speaking from his office in Durham, NC, in a video address, Greear told the largest Baptist denomination in the world that black lives do matter.
“Southern Baptists, we need to say it clearly: As a Gospel issue, black lives matter. Of course, black lives matter. Our black brothers and sisters are made in the image of God. Black lives matter because Jesus died for them. Black lives are a beautiful part of God’s Creation and they make up an essential and beautiful part of this body,” he said.
“Let me echo my friend Jimmy Scroggins, a pastor down in Florida, in saying that ‘black lives matter’ is an important thing to say right now because we are seeing in our country the evidence of specific injustices that many of our black brothers and sisters and friends have been telling us about for years,” Greear said. “And by the way, let’s not respond by saying ‘oh, well all lives matter.’ Of course all lives matter. … That’s true. But you’re missing the point.”
Greear did not advocate for the Black Lives Matter organisation which he said has been “hijacked by some political operatives whose worldview and policy prescriptions would be deeply at odds with my own,” but he embraced and promoted the sentiment behind the movement. He noted it’s time to listen to one another.
“We know that honouring Christ in this moment, that means listening to those who hurt, it means lamenting with them, and bearing their burdens. Pursuing justice means labouring for the protection of others as fiercely as we would our own children,” Greear said. “A racially reconciled church requires more than just sentiment and hashtags and Twitter posts. It requires the humility to listen to one another, the empathy to see things from another’s perspective, the charity to give their motives the same benefit of the doubt that we would want them to give to us.”
The SBC president said the call in recent days by some protestors — and even some elected officials — to defund police departments is not constructive.
“I think saying bold things like ‘defund the police’ is unhelpful and deeply disrespectful to many public servants who bravely put themselves in harm’s way every day to protect us. But I know that we need to take a deep look at our police systems and structures and ask what we’re missing. Where are we missing the mark? And I’ll say that we do that because black lives matter,” he said.
Greear, the pastor of The Summit Church in Durham, NC explained how the SBC started 175 years ago with founding members who supported slavery. Years ago, the denomination rejected and repented of its past to become one of the most ethnically diverse religious groups in the US.
“A lot of people don’t know that, but nearly 20% of all Southern Baptist churches are majority non-white and the North America Mission Board tells us that more than 60% of new churches planted recently have been planted and led by people of colour,” Greear said.
“We realise that especially in a moment like this one, we need our brothers and sisters of colour. We need the wisdom of leadership that God has written in their community. We know that many in our country, particularly our brothers and sisters of colour, right now are hurting,” he said.
In addition to promoting diversity, Greear also spoke about issues like unity, missions, and sex-abuse prevention as goals for the denomination. But he also reminded church members that they must put the Gospel above all.
“Our agendas, our priorities, and our emphases are all determined by our commission to preach the Gospel. Everything is seconded to that,” he noted.