Southern Baptists apologized for the sins of their slave-owning
founders and for more than a century of condoning racism, and white
members clasped hands with black members to pray for forgiveness.
"We forgive you, for Christ's sake," said the Rev. Gary Frost,
the highest ranking black Southern Baptist and a pastor from
He and the denomination's president, James B. Henry, embraced
at the podium on the floor of the Georgia Dome.
The dramatic exchange occurred as more than 20,000 delegates,
or messengers, of the Southern Baptist Convention met in Atlanta
and marked the denomination's founding 150 years ago in Augusta,
Ga. The denomination, with 15.6 million members, is the second
largest in the country, after Catholics. Southerners founded it
after they balked at New England Baptists' pronouncement that slave
owners' "hands were tainted with blood." It wasn't until 1989 that
the Southern Baptist Convention declared racism a sin.
The delegates, seated on the teal-blue chairs in the Falcons
football stadium, loudly and definitively passed a resolution to
work for racial reconciliation, after 12 minutes of debate. Frost
accepted the apology on behalf of black Southern Baptists and led
the messengers in prayer. He asked the audience, which was
overwhelmingly white, to join hands with blacks in the dome,
including food service employees.
The Rev. Robert W. Hurlbut, pastor of Country Music Church in
Nashville, reached out to the Rev. H. Bernard Miller, pastor, and
Gregory D. Ward, a Sunday school teacher, at the First Baptist
Church of Griffin, Ga. Hurlbut is white; Miller and Ward are black.
"Now we can take our focus off racism and work for the Lord,"
said Miller. He said he considered the resolution a healing action
- if genuine action follows the words.
"This could be our finest hour," proclaimed the Rev. Charles T.
Carter, who led the committee that drafted the resolution. It shows
the world that Southern Baptists are reaching out to all in the
name of Christ, he said, and it follows the "two greatest
commandments . . . to love Him and love one another."
Carter, a pastor from Birmingham, Ala., said the resolution was
not an effort to enhance the denomination's evangelizing, but a
sincere move to reflect the gospel of Jesus Christ. The resolution
cited Acts 17:26, which said, "God has made from one blood every
nation of men to dwell on the face of the earth."
Black Southern Baptists make up 5 percent of the denomination's
The Rev. Steve Aubuchon, a co-pastor at Calvary Baptist Church
in Jennings, Mo., wants to put words into action. He offered a
resolution Tuesday morning calling for the denomination to
encourage blacks to become pastors by offering blacks scholarships
to the six Southern Baptist seminaries. …