Southern Baptist Seminary Documents And Discloses History Of 'Deep Racism'

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The Rev. R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, speaks to reporters on Monday, Oct. 5, 2015. (Bruce Schreiner/AP)
The Rev. R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, speaks to reporters on Monday, Oct. 5, 2015. (Bruce Schreiner/AP)

With Meghna Chakrabarti

The largest Protestant denomination in the United States is apologizing for its dark history of racism.

Read the Report on Slavery and Racism in the History of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary


Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, the flagship school of the Southern Baptist Convention. He appointed the committee of researchers to prepare a report on the legacy of slavery and racism in the history of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. (@albertmohler)

Lawrence Ware, professor of philosophy and Africana studies at Oklahoma State University. Former ordained minister with the Southern Baptist Convention. Contributing writer to Slate Magazine, The New York Times and The Root. (@law_writes)

Curtis Woods, associate executive director for the Kentucky Baptist Convention (@KentuckyBaptist). He was a member of the committee conducting research on slavery and racism in the history of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

From The Reading List

NPR: "Southern Baptist Seminary Confronts History Of Slaveholding And 'Deep Racism'" — "The Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in the United States, came into being in 1845 as the church of Southern slaveholders.

"Now, 173 years later, Southern Baptist leaders are not just acknowledging their dark history; they are documenting it, as if by telling the story in wrenching detail, they may finally be freed of its taint.

"The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, the denomination's flagship institution, this week released a 71-page report on the role that racism and support for slavery played in its origin and growth.

"'The founding fathers of this school — all four of them — were deeply involved in slavery and deeply complicit in the defense of slavery,' writes school President R. Albert Mohler Jr., in a letter accompanying the report. 'Many of their successors on this faculty, throughout the period of Reconstruction and well into the 20th century, advocated the inferiority of African-Americans and openly embraced the ideology of the Lost Cause of southern slavery.'

"Mohler, who has led the seminary since 1993, commissioned the history report, which was compiled by a committee of six current and former seminary faculty members, and he promised from the outset that it would be released to the public without editing."

Washington Post: "A Southern Baptist seminary just admitted its slave-owning past. But it didn’t touch the theology behind it." — "This week, the Southern Baptist Convention’s flagship seminary released a detailed, historical accounting of its white supremacist founding. Over 71 pages, the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary made explicit its founders’ slave-owning and the fact that its teachers and leaders used the Bible to justify it. The report explained for the first time in plain words that seminary leaders defiantly passed on a legacy of white supremacy well into the latter half of the 20th century.

"'We knew, and we could not fail to know, that slavery and deep racism were in the story,' seminary President Albert Mohler wrote in his introduction to the document.

"And that’s where the report stopped.

"While it’s notable that one of the most prominent and historic Christian educational institutions in the country is spelling out the nuts and bolts of its racist past, if Mohler — and conservative American Christianity overall — want to address the legacy of slavery, it will take more self-honesty than this report musters.

"It will take a theological reckoning that gets to the heart of what it means to read the Bible, to share its Good News and to be saved."

Louisville Courier Journal: "Albert Mohler: Baptist seminary must face sinful past with slavery" — "The seminary's report comes as schools and cities around the country, including Louisville, have grappled with questions of removing Confederate statues or renaming buildings after revelations of racist comments or behavior.

"Mohler told the Courier Journal the 'substance of the report is tragic, sinful and sad.'

"He said buildings on the seminary's campus today are named after each of the four slave-owning founders but that no statues of founders are on the campus.

"But Mohler said the seminary does not plan on removing the founders' names from the buildings.

"'From a Christian perspective, erasing the past and hiding the past is not the appropriate response, but telling the whole truth is,' Mohler said. 'Just like the nation has sad chapters in its history, so does this school.'

"On its 150th anniversary in 1995, the Southern Baptist Convention, which is the largest Protestant denomination in the country, issued a formal apology for its pro-slavery and pro-segregation views."

Anna Bauman produced this show for broadcast.

This program aired on December 17, 2018.


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