Southern Baptist President: 'As a Gospel Issue, Black Lives Matter'

Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear delivers an online address to his denomination, Tuesday, June 9, 2020, via Facebook Live. (Screengrab from RNS)

In a speech offered in lieu of his address at the denomination's canceled annual meeting, Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear called for members of the nation's largest Protestant denomination to declare that "black lives matter."

"We realize that, especially in a moment like this one, we need our brothers and sisters of color," Greear said Tuesday (June 9) about how the leadership of the denomination lacks diversity. "We know that many in our country, particularly our brothers and sisters of color right now, are hurting.

"Southern Baptists, we need to say it clearly: As a gospel issue, black lives matter. Of course, black lives matter. Our black brothers and sisters are made in the image of God."

While he used the phrase "black lives matter," which has become a widespread motto of civil rights since the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in Florida eight years ago, Greear noted in his speech that he is not aligned with Black Lives Matter, the organization founded in 2013.

Greear, who is pastor of The Summit Church, a megachurch in Durham, North Carolina, was also careful to point out that he disagrees with some of that organization's agenda.

"I think saying bold things like 'defund the police' is unhelpful and deeply disrespectful to many public servants who bravely put themselves in harm's way every day to protect us," he said. "But I know that we need to take a deep look at our police systems and structures and ask what we're missing. Where are we missing the mark? And I'll say that we do that because black lives matter."

Greear, appearing via Facebook Live, added addressing sexual abuse and diversity to the ways to focus on the "gospel above all" and to not hinder people from joining the denomination, which has seen a decline in membership for years.

Greear called for steps to "promote a culture of accountability and awareness" about sex abuse. He urged churches to make training about abuse "a part of the ordination process." And he said he will ask the SBC Executive Committee to finalize a plan to conduct comprehensive background checks on trustees of the denomination's boards and agencies.

"We pray that our culture continues to change, and we know it starts with the leaders," he said. "We've got to stay vigilant in this area, and I pledge to, also, in my last year of the presidency."

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