EFCA President Kevin Kompelien Lamants George Floyd’s Death. And Why the Southern Baptist Convention Will Not be Able to Overcome its Racial Past and Needs to be Dissolved

After George Floyd’s death and the riots in Minneapolis EFCA President Kevin Kompelien reacted to the injustice and loss that took place. This post is a response to the EFCA President. And while I think the EFCA is better situated to address racial issues for the first time in contrast I reflect and explain how the Southern Baptist Convention will not be able to overcomes its racist past. In my view the SBC needs to be dissolved.

And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it America has failed to hear? … It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity.”

Martin Luther King

but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.

Isaiah 40:31 NIV 

EFCA President Kevin Kompelien

A couple of weeks ago I engaged in a project that was very labor intensive. This blog which writes about the EFCA denomination wanted to record and capture how EFCA Churches in the Minneapolis and Saint Paul area responded to George Floyd’s death and the riots and unrest which followed. You can read those posts in, “A Compilation of How EFCA Churches in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul Area Are Responding to the George Floyd Protests, Riots and Unrest Part 1” and “A Compilation of How EFCA Churches in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul Area Are Responding to the George Floyd Protests, Riots and Unrest Part 2.”  There is the corporate side to the EFCA which is headquartered in Minneapolis which I have been wanting to write about. When I read Kevin Kompelien’s post I put it aside to reflect upon. The lament he uses comes from Greg Strand who is the EFCA executive director of theology and credentialing. Greg also wears other hats in the organization.

 

Some Thoughts on the EFCA and Race and Kevin Kompelien

Kevin Kompelien is an interesting figure. In writing this blog I have interacted with different personalities in the United States. Some people have told me some very positive things. It stands in contrast with what I heard about his predecessor William Hamel. Kompelien comes across as being sincere. As the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded I was moved by his prayer and call for prayer as the coronavirus spread across the United States. You can read about that in, “During the COVID-19 Outbreak President Kevin Kompelien is Calling on the EFCA to Pray for Those Afflicted by the Disease.”  That sincerity comes across in the response below. One has to consider the the riots happened in the backyard of the EFCA which has called Minneapolis home since its formation in 1950. When you live in an area you develop affinity for it. For example even though I am a Californian I have lived in Milwaukee and Washington, D.C. area and have strong feelings for both. Kevin Kompelien if my memory serves me correct comes from Northern California. To live in Minneapolis and watch the unrest and riots unfold has to be equally devastating for many in the EFCA.  You can read Kevin Kompelien’s response to the Minneapolis riots and George Floyd’s death in, “A Time for Lament.” 

But there is another component that needs to be stated. The EFCA has problems – yes, but there are pockets of good as well. I think Kevin Kompelien represents one of those pockets of good. But the EFCA has also been proactive in addressing racism and racial injustice. Its been featured in theology conferences and also in programs rolled out into EFCA Districts. That has been encouraging and I think they will have more credibility in responding to the racial strife given their previous attempts. But also I would state the following. When it comes to race I think the EFCA is better positioned to tackle the issue. Why? It goes back to their history. The EFCA’s origins comes from Scandinavian immigrants. As immigrants they have had to adjust and deal with American culture. This blog from time to time has heard some stories as to how some EFCA churches still had worship services in Scandinavian languages up until the 1970’s in parts of the United States. I have written about this topic before and I have also written about the EFCA and response to racism. You can read more in the following posts. 

  1. Eddie Cole, Dr. Cedrick Brown and Alex Mandes of the EFCA on Addressing Racism in the Church.”
  2. On Martin Luther King Day Being Thankful for the Efforts by EFCA North Central District Superintendent Brian Farone in Addressing Racial Injustice.”
  3. SE District Superintendent Glen Schrieber Invites EFCA President Kevin Kompelien and District Superintendents to Montgomery, Alabama Where they Wrestle with the Legacy of Racial Injustice.”
  4. Resources for EFCA’s Theological Conference: The Gospel, Compassion and Justice.”
  5. EFCA’s Upcoming Theological Conference: The Gospel, Compassion and Justice. A Review of the Speakers and Some Personal Thoughts.”
  6. The Strategic Role the EFCA can Play in Racial Healing; Plus Did the EFCA Allegedly Remove a Church from the Denomination that Had Ties to the White Supremacist Organization the League of the South?
  7. EFCA’s Bob Rowley Likes a Deeply Controversial Tweet from President Trump on Twitter. In Light of the Upcoming EFCA Theology Conference Does the EFCA District Superintendent of the Texas and Oklahoma District Comprehend Racism?

One of the only problems I came across on racial issues in the EFCA was when I observed EFCA Texas and Oklahoma District Superintendent Bob Rowley liking controversial racial tweet by President Trump on Twitter. I have to say that last post is solid religious intelligence. That last post was composed in January of 2018 and when you think of what has happened racially in the United States since then, that post has aged very well. That said, this blog wishes EFCA President Kevin Kompelien well in this area of tackling racial injustice. That is a major challenge. Its with that in mind I want to write something and start to communicate some thoughts about racial injustice and the Southern Baptists. 

 

The Southern Baptist Convention Will Not Be Able to Overcome its Racist Past and Needs to be Dismantled

This blog has been doing a lot of thinking. I read a lot and have a number of conversations, email discussions and more with different individuals. The Southern Baptists if you know your history broke off from the Northern Baptists in Augusta, Georgia in 1845. Slavery was a hill to die on and by breaking away they allowed missionaries to own slaves if I remember correctly. The Southern Baptists have been complicated when it comes to race. They have apologized for once embracing slavery and its racial past. However the Southern Baptists are constantly in conflict over racial issues it appears. They take one step forward and then take two steps backward. They talk about addressing their past in slavery and then a wing of the SBC embraces Christian nationalism and marries faith and politics and sets back other racial efforts inside the SBC. So I have been thinking about this for a while. And even though many Neo-Cavinst Southern Baptists such as David Platt and Thabiti Anyabwile are committed to discussing and taking this issue on; I don’t think the Convention will be able to overcome the issue of racism. It was born out of defense of slavery which cost 620,000 lives in the United States. The Civil War was about putting down the insurrection in the South and ending slavery. But given the SBC’s roots I think what needs to happen is that the Convention needs to dissolved and another Protestant denomination needs to be formed. That is the only way ahead as I don’t believe the Southern Baptists will be able to rise to the occasion. Their past is an albatross and they can’t face it and deal with it properly. And this perspective is just in the context of racial injustice in their past. I am not even scratching the surface of sex abuse, corruption and other issues inside the Southern Baptist. God knows I have written plenty of posts about the issues inside the Convention. 


Just three weeks after I wrote “Once Again, Racism Necessitates a Response,” I sit writing this with a broken heart and tears in my eyes as I have watched the events of the past several days unfold in Minneapolis. First, my heart breaks for George Floyd and his family following his horrific and senseless death earlier this week. As I wrote earlier this month, “it is not acceptable that unjust killings of this nature continue to happen in America.” The pain, brokenness and heartache surrounding George’s death have unleashed a flood of anger and violence, tainting protests in the Twin Cities and across America. As the people of God, where do we turn and how do we respond in the face of injustice and civil unrest in our communities?

It is essential we return to the foundational truths of our faith. Jesus is still Lord and King. He has not abandoned us, and He is at work, even in these painful days. The hope we have is eternal and rooted in the life-changing truth of the gospel, which has been “good news” to the souls of people in difficult times for more that 2,000 years. God calls us to a ministry of reconciliation through the gospel. He gives us the responsibility to call people in broken and estranged relationships to be reconciled to God and to one another through the work of Christ. We must remember that our Lord has a heart to heal the broken, hurting and wounded. It is our duty to be a voice of hope and the hands of help to those around us.

In these days, we must pause to grieve and lament. Through our tears, we must cry out to God as we witness the brokenness around us. After we pause, it is imperative we turn—first to the Lord for guidance, faith and courage, then to the people around us. We have the opportunity to speak words of hope and healing to neighbors, co-workers, family members and friends. Silence isn’t the healthy way forward; neither is complaining. Rather, speaking words that reflect the heart of the Lord will bring hope to the frustrated and hurting. It is time for churches and families to have conversations about how our God looks at our present circumstances. We also have the responsibility to build relationships and bridges that reflect the love of Jesus to churches and people around us of other backgrounds and ethnicities. Taking the initiative to develop genuine friendships can chart a path forward toward true reconciliation and change.

Now is not the time to allow fear or anger to rule in our lives. May the Lord show us His mercy and grace during these tragic and unsettling days as we pause to lament, seek His guidance, and share the reconciling heart of Jesus and the hope of the gospel with those around us. I encourage you to use the following prayer of lament, and join me in crying out to the Lord for the people of the Twin Cities along with our EFCA pastors, churches and district staff in these days.

 

A prayer of lament

The following prayer of lament is from The Christian’s Call to Lamentby Greg Strand, posted earlier today.

We encourage you to ponder and pray through Article 8 in the EFCA Statement of Faith on “Christian Living.” As you do, please ask the Holy Spirit to guide you in your time of lament, and we pray together corporately as an EFCA family.

“We believe that God’s justifying grace must not be separated from His sanctifying power and purpose. God commands us to love Him supremely and others sacrificially, and to live out our faith with care for one another, compassion toward the poor and justice for the oppressed. With God’s Word, the Spirit’s power, and fervent prayer in Christ’s name, we are to combat the spiritual forces of evil. In obedience to Christ’s commission, we are to make disciples among all people, always bearing witness to the gospel in word and deed.” (Article 8 of the EFCA Statement of Faith)

Our Father and our God, we are grieved beyond words as we ponder the events of this past week. With the mark of 100,000 deaths due to COVID-19 and the grievous death of George Floyd, we are shocked, angry and deeply sorrowful. And our anguish is multiplied as we see the devastating response—the rioting, burning, the looting and shooting—in the cities of Minneapolis, Saint Paul and elsewhere around the country.

We must speak because it is right to respond. This is not about politics. This is about human life, human beings created in the image of God who are fellow image bearers. We want and need to respond, but we often do not know how or in what way. Lord, we are confused and conflicted.

Our initial tendency, Lord, is often activism: to speak, to do, to engage before we prepare our hearts. There is a time and place for responding. But before we move to the response, with the deep grief and heavy sorrow we feel, we must first pause to lament, to weep and cry as we see the devastating and deadly results of sin. As we utter these prayers of lament in the midst of the suffering and pain, we do so with faith and trust in you and your promises. We seek to lament as our Lord Jesus did.

We lament that so often in our lives your justifying grace is separated from your sanctifying power and purpose, that the confession of our lips is inconsistent with our character and the manner in which we conduct our lives. Lord, hear our prayer, forgive and renew.

We lament we have not loved you supremely with our whole hearts, that we have made good gifts from you ultimate and thus engaged in idolatry. We have not loved others sacrificially, we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. To the contrary, we have despised the other. Lord, hear our prayer, forgive and renew.

We lament that our faith has been without works, it has not been lived out in care for others in the body of Christ. We have considered others an intrusion into our lives. We also lament that we have lacked compassion toward the poor, blaming them for their state, foregoing a life marked by the compassion we have experienced through Jesus Christ. We also care for justice for ourselves, but we care very little for justice for the oppressed, believing they get what they deserve. We have failed to reflect the gospel in word and deed, by overlooking that the God of justice cares about justice, especially for those in need. Lord, hear our prayer, forgive and renew.

We lament we have engaged in the world according to the flesh, using the world’s means and in a worldly manner. We have considered people the enemy, not the spiritual forces of evil, concluding our enemy is one who has different color skin, or one who disagrees with us, or one who has a different view on a subject, or one who is of the other political party. Lord, hear our prayer, forgive and renew.

We lament that we have been more committed to making ourselves happy and content than dying to self, and that we have desired more to retain the status quo in our churches than to obey the Lord Jesus’ command to make disciples. We also lament we have been more committed to people who look like us than we have been to a ministry among all people, which means we often reflect more of the world’s ways than we bear witness to the gospel, as God’s new community, being a reflection of the kingdom. Lord, hear our prayer, forgive and renew.

“O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not, for your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people are called by your name” (Dan 9:19).

In Jesus’ name and for his sake, amen.

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