Kentuckians react to resolution to halt display of Confederate flag

Originally published at Western Recorder –

Louisville—On June 14 at the Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in St. Louis, the messengers voted overwhelmingly to repudiate the Confederate
Battle Flag.

The event made history for the Southern Baptist Convention, which began in part in support of slaveholding missionaries.

Although the SBC officially repented of racism in 1995, this was an historical moment for the convention. The resolution’s significance in promoting racial unity is rivaled only by the electing of their first African-American president, Fred Luter, in 2012, Joel Bowman, senior pastor of Temple of Faith Baptist Church in Louisville, pointed out in a commentary on Kentucky Today.

Despite two messengers speaking against the resolution, former SBC President James Merritt presented an amendment followed by a speech where he declared, “All the Confederate flags in the world are not worth one soul of any race.”

Across Kentucky, other Baptists have expressed support for the resolution. “I am a proud son of the South, but my highest allegiance is not to my region, but to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and His kingdom,” David Prince, pastor of preaching and vision at Ashland Avenue Baptist Church in Lexington, said. “As a child of God by the grace of God in Christ, I am a part of a glorious, multi-ethnic family, with brothers and sisters from every tribe, tongue, and nation.

“If we cling supremely to our gospel heritage in Christ more passionately than we do our ethnic and cultural heritage, this becomes a simple issue for our churches,” Prince noted.

“Our Christian gospel heritage teaches us that the reality of vertical gospel reconciliation with God should be demonstrated in the church through the horizontal reconciliation of believers, transcending all cultural boundaries (Eph 2),” he said.

Bowman’s commentary stated, “Let’s face it, the display of the Confederate flag, no matter what your personal view of it, does not promote peace among people, but rather, it stirs up strife. Why? For many, including myself, it is an ugly reminder of the Dred Scott Decision of 1857. The Confederate flag hearkens back to a time when people of African descent were not considered full human beings; made in the image of God.”

“The SBC is to be commended, as in one ‘seminal moment,’ it set the example for many other Christian groups to follow,” he added. “I am thankful to be a part of an SBC family in which corporate repentance is the order of the day.”

Joshua Whisenant, messenger from Hurstbourne Baptist Church in Louisville, noted that Merritt’s comments reflected the theme of unity that he saw demonstrated throughout the convention.

“After Dr. Merritt did his thing, I pretty much saw him as dropping the mic and walking away. He had his point made,” Whisenant said.

“There were several people that were swayed because of his eloquence,” he continued. “We did need to vote against the Confederate flag, not for its history or for its importance but because of forming a unified front and convincing people it’s not worth condemning lives because they see us a certain way or because they associate it with something that is not Christian.”

Jarvis Williams, author of “One New Man: the Cross and Racial Reconciliation” and professor of New Testament interpretation at Southern, added, “The SBC resolution to repudiate the flying of Confederate flags is an important symbolic act of repentance for Southern Baptist involvement in the enslavement of and the sponsoring of the enslavement of black bodies.

“May God use this resolution to serve as a means by which to create clear examples of reconciliation within many of our SBC churches, which are still divided along racial lines,” he continued.

“The conversations that this resolution will produce are needed to confront the ghost of Jim Crow that haunts too many of our congregations,” Prince concluded.

Citing Paul in Philippians 2, he added, “Symbols matter, and out of a desire to do the right thing and out of familial love for our black brothers and sisters, I think we are right to urge Southern Baptists to take the Confederate Battle Flag down.” (WR)