SWBTS apologizes for Twitter photo

April 27th, 2017 / By: David Roach | Baptist Press / comments

SWBTS apologizes for Twitter photo

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary “deeply” apologized for a photograph posted by faculty members on social media April 25 featuring some of the seminary’s preaching professors dressed as hip-hop artists.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The full text of a statement by Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Paige Patterson appears below.

FORT WORTH—Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary has “deeply” apologized for a photograph posted by faculty members on social media April 25 featuring some of the seminary’s preaching professors dressed as hip-hop artists.

Among responses to the photo on social media were allegations it evidenced racial prejudice. Ensuing dialogue on Twitter included an invitation by Southwestern for Grammy-winning Christian hip-hop artist Lecrae to lead a dialogue for the seminary community.

Southwestern President Paige Patterson called the photo “a moment of bad judgment” and promised to “redouble our efforts to put an end to any form of racism on this campus.”

A preaching professor “does rap as a hobby,” Patterson said in a statement released to Baptist Press April 26. “He preached a sermon recently in chapel in which he included a section of rap,” he noted. “I thought that it was great, and the students seemed responsive to it. He has since accepted a pastorate; and, as part of his departure, his fellow professors wanted to awaken memories and in so doing to tease him. That is par for the course around here. The president encourages our people to laugh at each other rather than to risk taking ourselves too seriously.

“But, as all members of the preaching faculty have acknowledged, this was a mistake, and one for which we deeply apologize,” Patterson said. “Sometimes, Anglo Americans do not recognize the degree that racism has crept into our lives. Such incidents are tragic but helpful to me in refocusing on the attempt to flush from my own system any remaining nuances of the racist past of our own country. Just as important, my own sensitivity to the corporate and individual hurts of a people group abused by generations of oppressors needs to be constantly challenged.”

The departing faculty member referenced by Patterson is Vern Charette, pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Yukon, Okla.

The photo in question—which has been deleted from Twitter—appeared to depict five Anglo Southwestern School of Preaching professors dressed in bandannas, sideways baseball caps, gold chains and other traditional hip-hop attire. Barry McCarty, who also is the Southern Baptist Convention’s chief parliamentarian, appeared to be holding a handgun. Above them was written “Notorious S.o.P.” [School of Preaching], an apparent parody of the name of late rapper The Notorious B.I.G.

The other four faculty members in the photo are David Allen, dean of the School of Preaching; Kyle Walker, vice president for student services; Deron Biles, professor of pastoral ministries and preaching; and Matthew McKellar, associate professor of preaching.

A screen capture published by Faithfully Magazine indicates Charette tweeted in response April 25 that his colleagues were “all true OG’s”—an acronym for “original gangsters.” The tweet no longer appears on Charette’s Twitter feed.

Southwestern tweeted April 25, “An offensive tweet was posted to one of our faculty members’ personal Twitter handles. We have asked that the tweet be removed.”

As of April 26, the photo did not appear on any of the professors’ Twitter accounts.

Embedded in Southwestern’s tweet was an April 25 tweet by Allen stating, “I apologize for a recent image I posted which was offensive. Context is immaterial. [Southwestern’s] stance on race is clear as is mine.”

As of midday April 26, 38 people had replied to Allen’s tweet, including Lecrae, who asked the Southwestern community, “How do you all plan to grow from this?” In reply, Southwestern invited Lecrae through its official Twitter account to lead a dialogue for the seminary.

Lecrae declined and suggested the seminary contact other African-American Christian leaders about the opportunity.

Southwestern tweeted in response to Lecrae, “Thank you, we will be reaching out.”

Another Twitter response to Allen came from Terry Turner, an African-American pastor and former president of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, who stated, “My prayers are with you that God gives you clarity on this subject to glorify His Name. Preach to lift Jesus up!”

Allen told BP in an email, “There is no excuse or defense for the indefensible. Context or intent are immaterial when offense has been given. I apologize for a recent image I posted, which was offensive. There are few issues in culture today more vital than racial reconciliation.”

McCarty, professor of preaching and rhetoric, tweeted April 25, “I deleted a photo that our faculty did for a departing prof., [Vern_Charette], who is famous for his raps. Dr. Allen speaks for all of us” in his apology.

Patterson noted, “In an effort to be humorous, we made a mistake and communicated something that was completely foreign to anything that any of us felt in our hearts. To say that we are sorry will not be sufficient for many. We understand. To each of those and to everyone, we extend an invitation to visit this campus unannounced and at a time of your choosing and witness the love of Christ extended to all indiscriminately and to the best of our ability to every individual who sets foot on the campus.”

Patterson’s statement included a recounting of his personal efforts to combat racism and stated, “If I intend to love God and follow His paths, the slightest tinge of racism must be eliminated.”

See full statement below by Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Paige Patterson.


Statement from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Paige Patterson

Genesis 3:20 declares that “Eve is the mother of all living.” There are only two options. If I intend to love God and follow His paths, the slightest tinge of racism must be eliminated. Or if I wish to present myself as unconcerned about the ways of the Master, then I may indulge in racism or any other sin, but the consequences of such behavior are certain and tragic. In fact, this verse clearly declares that while we may have a variety of social origins, there is only one race—the human race. This fact is not abridged by skin pigmentation, body shape or size, unique abilities, or anything else. As a part of this one race, we are all sinners in need of redemption, and Christ died for every one of us.

My early years were spent in a part of Texas with a history of racism. However, the home in which I was reared was an intensely missionary home and free of racist perspectives. So I remember well returning from school in the fifth grade and asking my Mom why black kids had to go to other schools and why some of the kids at our school had unkind attitudes toward those who were different from them. My mother minced no words in explaining that such attitudes were a result of the sin of the race. She admonished above all that I would devote my life to eradicating every vestige of racism.

Since that time, I have come to understand why racism is an affront to God. The Heavenly Father is a God of variety. His artistic genius produced such a variety of birds, fish, animals—and people—that every time you meet a man of any ethnicity you meet a fascinating and unique member of the race, who in various ways demonstrates the artistry of God. To act in a racist fashion is to ridicule the God of creation for His artistry and judgment. A person who claims to follow the Bible cannot harbor racist convictions without proving himself selective in his approach to Scripture, and therefore, forfeiting his status as a faithful follower of the Bible.

The purpose of this article is not to elevate myself as any noteworthy example. Nevertheless, I will note that my first controversy in the SBC was not about the Bible per se but about the fact that I led a black man to Christ one day, thus incurring the wrath of godless men in that state and county. At Bethany Baptist Church in New Orleans, I was the object of constant threat because we ministered to children of all races in the Irish Channel district of the city. The course my mother established and my dad enthusiastically supported is one I continue to press here at Southwestern. From that I will not be deterred, whatever the cost.

A gracious young Native American preacher on our staff does rap as a hobby. He preached a sermon recently in chapel in which he included a section of rap. I thought that it was great, and the students seemed responsive to it. He has since accepted a pastorate; and, as part of his departure, his fellow professors wanted to awaken memories and in so doing to tease him. That is par for the course around here. The president encourages our people to laugh at each other rather than to risk taking ourselves too seriously. But, as all members of the preaching faculty have acknowledged, this was a mistake, and one for which we deeply apologize. Sometimes, Anglo Americans do not recognize the degree that racism has crept into our lives. Such incidents are tragic but helpful to me in refocusing on the attempt to flush from my own system any remaining nuances of the racist past of our own country. Just as important, my own sensitivity to the corporate and individual hurts of a people group abused by generations of oppressors needs to be constantly challenged.

Southwestern cannot make a moment of bad judgment disappear. But we can and will redouble our efforts to put an end to any form of racism on this campus and to return to a focus that is our priority—namely, getting the gospel to every man and woman on the earth. God has been kind to us and blessed this effort. In an effort to be humorous, we made a mistake and communicated something that was completely foreign to anything that any of us felt in our hearts. To say that we are sorry will not be sufficient for many. We understand. To each of those and to everyone, we extend an invitation to visit this campus unannounced and at a time of your choosing and witness the love of Christ extended to all indiscriminately and to the best of our ability to every individual who sets foot on the campus. Thank you for praying for us and especially praying that our Lord through His Spirit will perfect our hearts in every way to reflect the heart of the Master.