Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, one of the most prominent evangelical Christian seminaries in the US, has released a year-long study indicating the painful truth that the Southern Baptist Convention was founded upon white supremacists' values.
Albert Mohler Jr., leader of the seminary since 1993, wrote in the introductory letter, "We have been guilty of a sinful absence of historical curiosity. We knew, and we could not fail to know, that slavery and deep racism were in the story."
"We comforted ourselves that we could know this, but since these events were so far behind us, we could move on without awkward and embarrassing investigations and conversations," he continued.
The report identifies the four founders of the denomination had extensive ties to slavery, support for Confederacy, and opposition to racial equality. The early leaders owned about 50 slaves and even defended the practice as "righteous."
Later, leadership continued the sentiment as leaders – including the school's first president, James P. Boyce – and served in the Confederate army. Joseph P. Brown, chairman of the board of trustees from 1880 to 1894, used the labor of black criminals for his coal mines, and in the 20th Century, the leaders supported Jim Crow segregation.
This is not the first time the SBC, the largest Protestant denomination in the US with about 15 million members, has addressed its tragic legacy of racism. In 1995, the convention approved a resolution highlighting slavery's role its formation. In 2017, the convention formally denounced white supremacy.
"The moral burden of history requires a more direct and far more candid acknowledgment of the legacy of this school in the horrifying realities of American slavery, Jim Crow segregation, racism, and even the avowal of white racial supremacy," Dr. Mohler stated in the report.
The names of the founders are located on the campus of the school. Dr. Mohler states he has no plans to remove the names from the campus. "We will not attempt to rewrite the past, nor can we unwrite the past," he explained. "Instead, we will write the truth as best we can know it. We will tell the story in full, and not hide."
The convention has taken necessary steps over the years to enhance equality. In 2012, the convention elected Fred Luter as its first black president. Currently, the denomination has many African-American ministers.