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Local Baptist Leaders Address Racism At Weekend Rally

Caroline Halter/KGOU
Pastor A.B. Vines asked rally attendees to join hands as he preached about overcoming racial and denominational divisions on Aug 11, 2018.


The Southern Baptist Convention’s new president, J.D. Greear, has been vocal about diversifying church leadership. Before assuming the position in June, Greear wrote the following:


“The SBC was forged on the wrong side of the racial question and at far too many key points in our history, our leaders have been either (at best) slow to adopt or (at worst) resistant to needed cultural changes. Some of our leaders even presented ‘biblical’ defenses of slavery and segregation.”

That recognition may be trickling down to Oklahoma, where local SBC leaders recently held the first-ever African American rallies in Oklahoma, flying in California pastor A.B. Vines to preach about overcoming racial divisions stemming from the church’s pro-slavery roots.

Vines, who is known for heading a racially diverse congregation in San Diego, addressed pastors and churchgoers at St. John’s Missionary Baptist Church in Oklahoma City on August 11.

“Remember now, it’s called the twelve tribes of Israel,” preached Vines. “So there ain’t nothing wrong with the tribe, But you gotta remember the tribe is connected to a bigger tribe.”

The bigger tribe Vines spoke of is bound by a shared goal: evangelizing America.

Hance Dilbeck, who heads the Southern Baptist Convention in Oklahoma, was present at the rally and reiterated Vines’ message.

“We have some distinctive identities, and we celebrate those. But we’re pursuing a common cause,” explained Dilbeck.

Vines was recently elected first vice president in the Southern Baptist Convention, which has been grappling with declining membership for 11 years straight. Greear said the SBC is diversifying leadership to reflect the fact that roughly one-fifth of its members are minorities, and data shows predominantly white churches still make up the majority of SBC congregations.

Some African American pastors have chosen to leave the SBC because of persistent racism. Oklahoma State University professor Lawrence Ware, who pastors at Oklahoma City’s Prospect Missionary Baptist Church, wrote about his decision in the New York Times in 2017.

Ware said he’s encouraged by Greear’s explicit renunciation of racism, but he hasn’t seen enough change.

“Until those kinds of changes trickle down to state conventions, and we see more diversity in the convention in Georgia, the convention in Oklahoma...I'm still going remain suspicious,” Ware said.


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Caroline produced Capitol Insider and did general assignment reporting from 2018 to 2019. She joined KGOU after a stint at Marfa Public Radio, where she covered a wide range of local and regional issues in far west Texas. Previously, she reported on state politics for KTOO Public Media in Alaska and various outlets in Washington State.
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