Did Southern Baptist Convention agency head Richard Land write the apology statement for racially charged remarks issued under his name, or was it written by African-American Baptist clergy?
When EthicsDaily.com asked Dwight McKissic, a Land critic, if Land had written the apology himself or if he took input from others at the meeting, McKissic answered, “I cannot address that.”
Land apologized on May 9 for controversial comments he made on his March 31 “Richard Land Live!” radio show.
Land’s comments about Trayvon Martin, the unarmed, black teenager killed by George Zimmerman, referred to Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton as “race hustlers.”
Accusing President Obama of “racial demagoguery,” Land said Obama had “poured gasoline on the racialist fires.”
Such comments angered many, including African-American Baptist clergy.
Maxie Miller, an African-American church planter for the Florida Baptist Convention, said he was “embarrassed” by Land’s statements.
“Richard Land’s racial remarks against the backdrop of the Trayvon Martin tragedy are the most damaging, alienating and offensive words about race that I’ve read or heard, rendered by a SBC personality, in the twenty-eight years that I’ve served as a SBC church planter/pastor,” said McKissic, pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas.
McKissic pressured the SBC to repudiate Land’s comments, even calling for a resolution at the upcoming annual convention.
“I remain appalled at his unrepentant words,” wrote McKissic. “And since Dr. Land will not repent of his words, I feel compelled to ask the SBC by way of resolution to repudiate and renounce the racially offensive, biblically unjustifiable and factually incorrect words of Dr. Richard Land.”
Following a May 2 meeting with key African-American leaders, Land issued a five-part apology.
“I am here today to offer my genuine and heartfelt apology for the harm my words of March 31, 2012, have caused to specific individuals, the cause of racial reconciliation, and the gospel of Jesus Christ,” said Land.
SBC leaders in the meeting included McKissic; Fred Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans; James Dixon Jr., president of the NationalAfricanAmericanFellowshipoftheSBC; K. Marshall Williams, chairman of the Southern Baptist African American Advisory Council and pastor of Nazarene Baptist Church in Philadelphia; and Frank Page, president of the SBC’s Executive Committee.
Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, was also in attendance.
Attending the meeting at Land’s request, Patterson said through a spokesperson that he was simply there to pray for Land and for “God’s wisdom for all.”
Following the meeting, McKissic said he was satisfied with Land’s apology.
“Dr. Land’s apology was specific; he owned and disowned his words rather than blame his listeners for misunderstanding. It’s what I’ve been asking for, and because of that, I told those at the meeting that I would not be submitting my proposal to the resolutions committee,” said McKissic.
After his apology, Land promised in a press release: “I am also delighted to announce that as a result of our meeting, the ERLC, in conjunction with the SBC’s Executive Committee, will initiate regular meetings to discuss our common calling to heal our nation’s racial brokenness, work for meaningful reconciliation and strategize for racial justice.”
McKissic said African-American leaders want the ERLC and Executive Committee to follow through on that promise.
“We want to see dialog and conferences on these issues moving forward,” McKissic said. “It is critical to dialog proactively, not in crisis mode. I sincerely expect that they will follow through on this.”
Asked how African-American leaders will know that the situation is improving, McKissic said it would be an issue of more people of color in positions of leadership.
“I don’t just mean African-American Baptists in leadership positions,” McKissic said. “We should see all people of color in positions of leadership in the SBC.”
Dixon and Williams did not return calls for comment.
Dixon announced after the meeting that he will not comment until the ERLC’s ad hoc committee investigating Land for plagiarism releases their findings.
Land is being investigated for plagiarism because his charged comments were taken verbatim and without attribution from a Washington Times column by Jeffrey Kuhner.