An African-American pastor is asking the Southern Baptist Convention to adopt a resolution calling for elimination of public display of the Confederate flag.
Dwight McKissic, pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas, recently submitted a resolution for possible consideration at the SBC annual meeting June 14-15 in St. Louis, Mo., urging individuals and both public and private institutions to discontinue use of the Confederate flag “as a step in good faith toward racial healing” in a country in many ways still divided by race.
The debate over whether the Confederate flag stands for Southern heritage or as a symbol of hate has been going on for years, but it took on greater urgency after the June 2015 murder of nine black Christians attending a midweek Bible study and prayer meeting at Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., by a young man often pictured draped in a Confederate banner.
The state of South Carolina soon permanently removed the Confederate flag that had flown since 1962 at the state Capitol. Just recently the president of Oklahoma Baptist University announced a decision to remove a glass panel containing an image of the Confederate flag from a window in the campus chapel.
McKissic said “racial tensions and ongoing bigotries are inflamed” by continued use of the Confederate flag, which “is utilized as a symbol of racial, ethnic, and religious hatred, oppression and murder which offends untold millions of people.”
He is asking the nation’s second-largest faith group behind Roman Catholics to acknowledge “the controversial and necessarily divisive symbol of racism conveyed by the ongoing public display” of the Confederate flag and call on all people to “work diligently to remove vestigial symbols of racism from public life as evidence of the fruits of repentance that we have made for our past bigotries.”
Russell Moore, head of the SBC Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, is on record as saying that displaying the Confederate flag as a symbol of pride “is out of step with the justice of Jesus Christ.”
Last July someone placed four Confederate flags on the campus of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site and Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta in a bell tower under a “Black Lives Matter” poster, an act Pastor Raphael Warnock said was “intended to send a message.”
Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., has said he agrees it is inappropriate to fly the Confederate flag, but he wouldn’t remove the names of slaveholders from campus buildings.
Southern Baptist Convention resolutions are non-binding statements expressing the views of messengers present and voting at the annual meeting. They are submitted in advance to a resolutions committee, which may decide whether or not to bring them to a vote.
McKissic said removal of the Confederate flag won’t solve the most severe racial tensions plaguing the nation, but “it does symbolize another development in ongoing efforts to eliminate systemic racism that has divided our people for too long.”