The Rev. Ralph West, founder and senior pastor of The Church Without Walls in Houston, Texas, says he is cutting ties with the Southern Baptist Convention over a recent statement from the denomination’s Council of Seminary Presidents denouncing critical race theory and intersectionality as incompatible with their beliefs.
West, who ministers to more than 24,000 families in three locations each week, made the announcement in an op-ed published in the Baptist Standard, which called on the seminary presidents to repent for bringing “division and confusion to the body of Christ” with their statement.
The Texas pastor, who revealed that he had been pursuing a Ph.D. at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and had been encouraging other ministers to do the same, said he had taken “President Adam Greenway’s invitation to return as a statement of good faith, that the seminary wanted to welcome me and many other Black ministers to contribute to its legacy.”
After processing the seminary heads' recent statement on critical race theory, however, he said he has come to recognize that that is not the case.
“The statement on critical race theory and intersectionality has soiled that good faith. I cannot maintain my affiliation any longer and therefore am withdrawing from Southwestern Seminary. Nor will I associate with the SBC any longer,” West said.
“What the SBC seminary presidents have done has brought division and confusion to the body of Christ. They must repent and seek reconciliation with those who can properly inform them of the wrong they have done. They must ask the Lord to open their hearts to hear the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ and how Jesus’ reign truly should impact our society,” he added.
The SBC defines critical race theory as a set of analytical tools that explain how race has and continues to function in society. Intersectionality is the study of how different personal characteristics overlap and inform one’s experience.
At their recent annual session, celebrating the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the revised Baptist Faith & Message, the Council of Seminary Presidents, which is comprised of six seminaries, voted to reject CRT as incompatible with their faith while condemning “racism in any form.”
“In light of current conversations in the Southern Baptist Convention, 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,” the council said.
Danny Akin of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Jason K. Allen of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Jamie Dew of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Adam W. Greenway of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Jeff Iorg of Gateway Theological Seminary, and Albert Mohler of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary are all members of the council.
Mohler argued that advocacy based on views like CRT and intersectionality “has no rightful place within an SBC seminary.”
Since the publication of the statement, many prominent black members of the SBC have spoken out against it, including Pastor Dwight McKissic who said he had initially supported the statement but retracted his support after a closer review.
West argued that the rejection of CRT and intersectionality by the seminary presidents makes their stand against racism ring hollow.
“I am uncertain as to why these men found it necessary even to associate their affirmation of the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message with a rejection of critical race theory. One would expect, with their sincere rejection of racism, they would speak to instances of it in our culture. They would stand against our president’s attempts to maintain the names of Confederate generals on monuments and military bases,” he noted.
“I take issue with the assertion such theories are ‘incompatible’ with the gospel. As their brother in Christ, as an African American Christian, as a pastor in the Lord’s church, I stand against this assessment, and I strongly disagree with the seminary presidents,” he argued.
“Are these systems spiritual and on par with the biblical text? Absolutely not. But can one secular theory helpful in human flourishing be named that is not also equally lacking? One could look at economic theories, social theories, etc. Enlightenment conceptions have been upheld, despite having no root in the Bible, because they still offer us some value,” he said.
West further praised the work of Baylor University’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary, noting that the administration there has been courageously tackling issues important to people of color.
“In the future, my primary seminary affiliation will be with Baylor University’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary. There, I have been an affiliated faculty member since 2008,” he said. “Truett Seminary courageously continues to diversify. Truett boldly engages with the crucial issues concerning students and faculty of color in their community. This is what the body of Christ needs right now.”