At the 92nd annual Messenger Meeting of the American Baptist Association in Daytona Beach, Florida, pastor Jason Carlton, and his church, along with 33 other signed-on churches brought a resolution to the body that should never have had to be offered in the first place. It should never have had to be offered, because the reason for it should never have had to exist. Bro. Carlton’s resolution for the American Baptist Association to disavow previous resolutions from 5 different meetings that occurred in the 50’s, 60’s, and even one in the early 70’s pertaining to racial segregation, was both a joy and embarrassment. It was a joy to be part of the disavowing, and embarrassment that it had to be done. To further the embarrassment was the fact that there was actual debate concerning the disavowing.
If I understood the arguments from those opposing the resolution, with no intention of disparaging anyone, they were unthinking at best and unspiritual at worst.
The most repeated argument that some men made honestly and genuinely was the premise that one generation cannot apologize for another generation, or that one messenger assembly cannot apologize for another messenger assembly. On the technical merits of that argument, these men had a purely “associational” point. For those who know and understand the nature of messenger body, and the nature of the messenger meeting, each meeting and each body are stand alone bodies unconnected to previous bodies, and non-binding to future bodies when it comes to resolutions. In other words, each resolution, is only a resolution for the body of that specific year and no others. Their point being that those were resolutions of previous messenger assemblies that had nothing to do with this one. Now that would be a good point, if we lived in an “associational minded world.” It might be on point technically, yes, but we do not live in technically minded, associationally educated society.
The fact is that every messenger body, and every generation of messenger bodies serve as caretakers of the testimony of the American Baptist Association to the outside world. Regardless of what is technically true, the American Baptist Association has a corporate identity that transcends all messenger meetings, that transcends all generations, that transcends all things we know and understand pertaining to the nature of associational meetings.
That being said, the very last printed words, the very last printed resolutions concerning racial segregation were egregious, wicked, and sinful. Whatever anyone may say about previous bodies, previous generations, previous attitudes, is categorically irrelevant as long as those words were our last words on the subject. I praise God they are no longer the last printed words on the subject.
It has been a long overlooked duty of annual messenger bodies to address those sins upon the testimony of the identity known as the American Baptist Association. I am thankful that, 1) these sins were brought to light, and 2) something was overwhelmingly done about them.
Some arguments though, were just flat disingenuous. Not well thought at best, stubborn at worst. For anyone to be willing to denounce segregation but refuse to admit we ever wronged anyone is nothing short of prideful charlatanism. One cannot denounce it in the present, but refuse to disavow it in the past, and maintain any form of credible genuineness. If it is wrong now, (and it is) then when it was practiced and encouraged, by nature it was wronging people then. Regardless of what anyone thinks, it is categorically impossible to actually decry racial discrimination, but flatly refuse to apologize for it, and maintain any spiritual credibility.
The public identity, known as the American Baptist Association could never credibly decry and denounce racism in the present, while at the same time refusing to disavow the racist resolutions that existed in the past. Spiritual integrity and credibility should be the left and right footprint underneath every sign in the world that bears the insignia of the ABA.
Now some have an aversion to proverbially throwing previous generations under the bus; and I do appreciate that sentiment and agree with it, when it is unnecessary. I have great, great respect for the forefathers of these meetings. They have laid a worthy foundation, and paved a precious path for us to follow. None-the-less, these forefathers were sinners, and it should be no surprise that they sinned. However, it should also be no surprise that their theological descendants picked up on those sins, and have brought them to light. The same men that committed these sinful and egregious errors, are the same men that have passed down the great doctrines of the Bible, lived out missionary work, and structured a fellowship for us to enjoy. It is no sin, to call their sin, sin. In fact it is a glory and a joy, to confess and repent, as well as a necessity for the well-being of the testimony of the ABA.
With all of that said, I for one am resolved to be thankful for the resolution that was passed in Daytona. I fundamentally believe that it was a change worth making.