Does SBC Leader's Rant Reflect God's Love?

Wendell Griffen


Does SBC Leader's Rant Reflect God's Love? | Wendell Griffen, Richard Land, SBC, Racism

God's love contradicts the strident and fearful conduct and words of Southern Baptist leader Richard Land, Griffen observes. (Main photo: David Shankbone)
Richard Land, the official public voice of the Southern Baptist Convention, has denounced civil rights leaders who join other people of good will in challenging the failure of Florida officials to arrest and aggressively prosecute George Zimmerman, the man who killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin on Feb. 26.

I guess this is how Southern Baptists hope to demonstrate God's love to people of color.

At one time I was a member of a Southern Baptist church (University Baptist Church in Fayetteville, Ark.).

Years later I pursued seminary extension studies at a Southern Baptist seminary (Midwestern Theological Seminary) under the auspices of the Southern Baptist Convention and was taught by professors from the SBC seminaries at Southwestern and New Orleans.

Among the cherished names on my ordination certificate is that of Robert U. Ferguson, a wonderful Southern Baptist saint who strengthened my young ministry as he nurtured fellowship between National Baptists and Southern Baptists.

Land's rant against civil rights leaders reminds me why I ended my relationship with the Southern Baptist Convention.

Southern Baptists opposed practically everything Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference tried to do in the name of social justice.

They denounced King for trying to desegregate buses in Montgomery, Ala.

They denounced King for pressing for voting rights for black citizens.

They denounced King for opposing the unjust U.S. war in southeast Asia.

They denounced King for standing with sanitation workers in Memphis and poor people everywhere in the cause of economic justice.

Like many other Baptists, I grieved years ago when Southern Baptists chose fundamentalism over fellowship.

When Southern Baptists rejected the notion that the Holy Spirit affirms women in all aspects of faith life, I remembered the racism that permeated the SBC's origin.

God's love is bigger than racism, military adventurism, imperialism, male privilege, homophobia and religiously glorified materialism. God's love contradicts the strident and fearful conduct and words of Richard Land.

Martin was killed after Zimmerman told a 911 operator Martin looked "suspicious." Now Land dares to attack civil rights leaders who want Zimmerman treated like a killer.

If this is what Southern Baptists want me to consider their notion of social justice, I have an easy response.

No thanks. I'm inspired with a very different notion of God than that.

Wendell L. Griffen is pastor of New Millennium Church and a circuit judge in Little Rock, Ark. His sermon manuscripts appear on EthicsDaily.com.