In the runup to the Southern Baptist Convention's annual meeting on Tuesday, infighting among leadership has become public — revealing backroom dealings, sexual abuse allegations, a culture of fear, and an ongoing clash between ultraconservatives and conservatives — according to reporting from the Washington Post.
Revs. Irene Monroe and Emmett G. Price III joined Boston Public Radio on Monday to talk through the situation within America's largest Protestant denomination, which they characterized as an inflection point for an organization that has been dealing with issues of racism and sexism for years.
"The culture has been inbred to the fact that no matter if you have people of color who are pastors of churches, they'll never get to be decisionmakers at the table," said Price. "And you have women who have suffered tremendously, who have been horrifically traumatized, who have not received justice or even an opportunity to tell their story. So at this moment, you have a couple of leaders choosing to move away from the centerpiece of that table."
The leader of the Southern Baptist Convention’s public policy arm, Russel Moore recently left his position and his church for a new position at Christianity Today magazine. Two letters he sent to Southern Baptist leadership in which Moore described a culture of racism and mishandling of sexual abuse claims were leaked to the public.
"As George Floyd was an inflection point last year, this change right now is an inflection point for the Southern Baptist Church," Price added.
Some of the tension comes from institutional pushback against Black members and church leaders wanting to bring Critical Race Theory and anti-racist teachings into the convention, said Monroe, as well as a generational divide in how younger frame issues of social jusice.
"You have millennials ... they come with a different viewpoint about social issues and a different theology that maintains this issue around social justice, around race, class, gender and sexual orientation," Monroe said.
Monroe drew parallels between the convention's infighting and that of the Republican party, which is facing its own identity crisis between right-wing politicians and more moderate conservatives.
"It reflects the GOP in so many ways that it troubles me, the kind of polarization," she said.
Rev. Irene Monroe is a syndicated religion columnist, the Boston voice for Detour’s African American Heritage Trail and a visiting researcher in the Religion and Conflict Transformation Program at Boston University School of Theology. Rev. Emmett Price is a executive director of the Institute for the Study of the Black Christian Experience at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Together, they host GBH’s All Rev’d Up podcast.