If UNC Chapel Hill will permit me, I’ll put it this way: Southern Baptist born, Southern Baptist bred, and Southern Baptist dead. I grew up in a Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) church, was educated in an SBC seminary, was ordained at an SBC church, teach part-time for SBC schools, serve at an SBC church, and last year I resigned from my full-time teaching position at an SBC school. I love the SBC, and while I’m not an “insider,” I consider myself loyal to this denomination.

However, there is a significant problem imbedded with Southern Baptists’ DNA. Our convention was founded because we wanted to own other human beings as property. To put it another way, a group of white Baptists from the south wanted to continue to exercise their power over other human beings — without the criticism of Baptist abolitionists — to the extent that they split from northern Baptists who were willing to maintain fellowship with them. Most people know this, but I had no clue until I was in college, and it shocked me. That’s our original sin.

Perhaps unrelated — but also perhaps related — our convention was re-established roughly one hundred years later as thoroughly conservative, hell-bent on defending the Bible’s inerrancy, through what’s known as the Conservative Resurgence. This “resurgence” was clearly aimed — and succeeded — at returning the Southern Baptist Convention to its conservative theological roots. This time, though, powerful Southern Baptists expelled those who would criticize them rather than creating a new denomination.

Russ Meek

Associate Professor of Old Testament at William Tennent School of Theology