But of all the denominations seeking to diversify, many agree that the Southern Baptist Convention -- an association of about 40,000 congregations that make up the nation's largest Protestant denomination -- has the farthest to travel.
From its 1845 birth in Georgia as a haven for white Baptists who supported slavery, the SBC has had troubled relations with African Americans. For 150 years, by its own admission, it was hostile to black progress, often speaking in favor of Jim Crow laws.
But in 1995, the Southern Baptists did an about-face, issuing a public apology for their history of bigotry and vowing to "eradicate racism in all its forms" from its ranks.
These days, the faith that was once proudly white now touts the fact that almost 20 percent of its congregations are predominantly black, Latino or Asian. Hundreds of minorities serve in leadership posts in its state conventions, seminaries and other organizations.
The SBC Mission Board estimates that the number of black members has doubled to about 1 million since the 1995 apology.
The article also says:
By establishing churches in minority communities, changing worship practices, electing minorities to leadership positions and purging racism from their language and attitudes, the faiths are seeking to draw in communities of color as a way to boost stagnating or falling membership.
This article reminds me of my own work with the Southern Baptist Convention. In 1967, when the Southern Convention met in Houston, Texas, I made a motion on the floor of the convention asking the convention to elect minorities to leadership position in the convention and to all of the boards and committees of the convention.
At that time I was serving as the pastor of a Hispanic church in California; later I worked for the Home Mission Board as a missionary among the Portuguese and Brazilians in the San Francisco Bay Area. My motion failed but the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention decided to study the request.
Over the years the Southern Baptist Convention has changed and more ethnic churches have been established and, as a result, more leaders are coming out of these churches to lead Southern Baptist churches and participate more fully in the life of the Southern Baptist Convention. I think it took the Southern Baptist Convention a few years to realize that anyone, including minorities, can function as a leader in God’s Kingdom.
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary
Tags: Ethnic Churches, Minorities, Southern Baptists