This story has been edited to delete an error in the last paragraph. The reference was to a pastor in Fort Worth, Texas, not a former president of Southwestern Seminary.
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary has apologized for a photo which has circulated on Twitter of five white faculty members posing as black gang members. The photo has been criticized as racist.
The photo, since removed from several Twitter feeds, shows School of Preaching Dean David Allen and other professors wearing bandanas, gold chains, hoodies and sideways baseball caps. One, Barry McCarty, longtime parliamentarian for the Southern Baptist Convention, appears to be holding a handgun. The phrase “Notorious S.O.P.” (School of Preaching) is scrawled graffiti style across the top of the photo.
Allen, former dean of the School of Theology from 2004 until 2016, tweeted the photo with the caption. “Why you should come study at the School of Preaching @swbts! Rap the word. Reach the world.”
The seminary’s Twitter feed carried a post April 25 reading: “An offensive tweet was posted to one of our faculty members’ personal Twitter handles. We have asked that the tweet be removed.”
Allen explained on Twitter the group took the photo for a departing faculty member, assistant professor Vern Charette, famous on campus as a rapper. A YouTube video posted in 2011 shows the white professor rapping at a Bible conference at Shocco Springs Conference Center near Talladega, Ala., dedicated to “all my pimps, players, thugs and hustlers” in northwest Tulsa, Okla., and with lines including “Let’s see if we have any CRD in the room: Caucasian rhythm disorder.”
Allen later apologized, saying “context is immaterial” and the seminary’s stance on race “is as clear as mine.” McCarty also removed the photo from his Twitter feed, saying Allen speaks for the entire group.
Critics including Christian hip-hop artist Lecrae wondered why the professors ever thought it seemed like a good idea.
“Stance clear as mine,” the Grammy Award-winning self-proclaimed “pastor/rapper” repeated Allen’s words. “Said stance thought the picture was worth creating and sharing. How do you all plan to grow from this?”
John Fea, a history professor at Messiah College, said the gaffe suggests the seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, “has some systemic problems that someone needs to address.”
“Think about it,” Fea wrote on his blog. “At some point these guys sat down in a faculty lounge somewhere and decided that it would be fun to dress this way and take a picture. At what point in this conversation did one of the guys in the photo think it was a good idea to show his gun? Did he bring it from home? Or did he have it in his office gun cabinet?”
To top it off, Fea said, the professors “seem to possess virtually no historical consciousness.”
“They have no sensitivity to the fact that Southwestern, like all Southern Baptist institutions, has a long history of racism and segregation,” he said.