A notable exodus from the Southern Baptist Convention has been underway since 2020, when America's largest Protestant denomination reaffirmed its "Baptist Faith and Message 2000" (BFM) and rejected Critical Race Theory – resulting in many African-American pastors and prominent women leaders leaving the denomination.
On November 30, 2020 – the 20th anniversary of the SBC's adoption of the BFM – the denomination unified behind a statement confirming allegiance to principles central to its Christian beliefs, which emphasized that it does not support or condone racism of any type … against blacks or whites.
"[We reaffirm the Baptist Faith and Message 2000] as the doctrinal statement that unites and defines Southern Baptist cooperation and establishes the confessional unity of our Convention," SBC's Council of Seminary Preventions declared, according to Baptist Press.
"In light of current conversations in the Southern Baptist Convention," it continued, "we stand together on historic Southern Baptist condemnations of racism in any form and we also declare that affirmation of Critical Race Theory, Intersectionality, and any version of Critical Theory is incompatible with the Baptist Faith & Message."
Supporters of Critical Race Theory not happy
When the SBC announced it wouldn't promote CRT and its teachings – essentially that the U.S., the Constitution, and white people are inherently and systemically racist – the exodus began.
"In response, some prominent black pastors denounced this statement and left the SBC in December," ChristianHeadlines.com reported. "The Convention made headlines again last month when Beth Moore, author and Bible teacher, announced she was leaving the SBC and ending her publishing partnership with Lifeway."
However, a decline in numbers did not start just last year, as Christianity Today (CT) divulged that SBC annual reports show an 11% drop in total SBC membership from 2006 (16.3 million) to 2020 (14.5 million), along with a 2% drop from 2019 to 2020.
CT noted that decades before the marked drop began, a higher percentage of Southern Baptists left to attend other evangelical churches. "[Approximately 11% of exiting members who were] raised Southern Baptist became a member of a non-denominational church in the 1980s and 1990s, but that has increased to nearly 19% in more recent years," said that report.
According to data collected by General Social Survey, efforts have been underway to keep and drive the SBC's membership, taking into consideration how race, sex, and age have come into play concerning the exodus. It was also noted that those exiting have not left the Christian faith, just the denomination.
"Fortunately, there has not been a significant drop in the Christian faith among departing members, despite the considerable decline over the last year," ChristianHeadlines.com noted. "Most are moving to other evangelical denominations – many of which are non-denominational."
Taking a stand against CRT
Late last year, Baptist Press published a list of statements from SBC seminary presidents explaining that Critical Race Theory is incompatible with biblical doctrine:
"We stand together in stating that we believe that advocating Critical Race Theory or Intersectionality is incompatible with the Baptist Faith & Message, and that such advocacy has no rightful place within an SBC seminary … We are thankful for our African-American brothers and sisters in the SBC whose voices are so needed and must be honored. We are not to be guided by secular ideologies, but by the Word of God alone and in the love of Christ."
Dr. R. Albert Mohler, president
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
"While we must continue to speak with clear conviction against any aspects of racism, the sure and certain cure to any evil of this age is the gospel of Jesus Christ … No unbiblical ideology [such as Critical Race Theory] can solve the social issues that confront us. Every faculty member of Southeastern Seminary is fully committed to teaching biblical truth in service to King Jesus, and to standing steadfast in an increasingly secular culture."
Dr. Danny Akin, president
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
"Confusion abounds on Critical Race Theory, but one thing is clear: the closer you look into the history, advocates and aims of Critical Race Theory, the more troubling it becomes. Unfortunately, the problem of racism still exists, but Critical Race Theory is not a biblical solution … We must be a people who stubbornly fight against both racism and Critical Race Theory, while fighting for racial reconciliation and the truth of Scripture."
Dr. Jason K. Allen, president
Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary