The most controversial resolution at the 2019 annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention was Resolution 9, “On Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality.” While resolutions are not binding, they are important because they send a message to the larger culture, especially the secular media.
One of the issues many had with the resolution was that the original resolution as presented by Stephen Feinstein, pastor of Sovereign Way Church in California, was altered so much by the Resolutions Committee that it changed the meaning and intent of the original resolution. Feinstein shared with The Baptist Courier that his “intent was to denounce Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality ideology so that we could hold accountable those espousing it, especially within SBC institutions.”
Critical Race Theory evolved from the legal realm as a method for doing critical analysis of race and racism, highlighting the idea that racism is ingrained in the fabric and system of American society.
According to the UCLA School of Public Affairs, the works of Derrick Bell and Alan Freeman have been instrumental in the development of CRT, calling it “an outgrowth of critical legal studies, which was a leftist movement that challenged traditional legal scholarship.” It has spread from the area of Law throughout higher education. Bell emphasized that the basic problem is white supremacy which, he contended, is present through the institutions and laws of Western civilization.
Intersectionality came out of Critical Race Theory and was developed through the work of leftist Law Professor Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw in a 1989 paper. While some have called CRT a “cult of white resentment,” Crenshaw maintains that it is a “philosophical framework that has come to dominate progressive activist thinking.”
Intersectional theory teaches that people are discriminated against because of multiple sources of oppression such as race, class, gender, sexual orientation, etc., that intersect in a person’s life, putting them at risk for greater oppression. When multiple sources of oppression intersect, greater discrimination occurs, according to her theory.
Crenshaw stated that intersectionality is “not about supplication, it’s about power. It’s not about asking, it’s about demanding. It’s not about convincing those who are currently in power, it’s about changing the very face of power itself.” She assisted the legal team for Anita Hill when she testified against Clarence Thomas in his confirmation hearing for the Supreme Court.
Hill accused Thomas of sexual harassment, which he vehemently denied. Crenshaw has written that society has embraced male denials of wrongdoing.
The controversy surrounding the resolution revolves around the views promoted by CRT and Intersectionality. R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, stated, “Both critical race theory and intersectionality are a part of the continuing transformative Marxism that is now so dominant in higher education and increasingly in policy. Critical race theory emerged from worldviews, and from thinkers who were directly contrary to the Christian faith.”
The Courier contacted the Resolutions Committee chairman, Curtis Woods, Kentucky Baptist Convention associate director for convention relations and assistant professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, who indicated “the committee desired to craft resolutions that a strong majority would affirm and that would hold people accountable if they contradicted the gospel. We appreciated the heart of Pastor Feinstein to protect the gospel from unbiblical assumptions and conclusions that are often associated with CRT/I as a worldview. We distinguished between a narrower view of analysis and a more expansive worldview, so that we can condemn absolutizing CRT/I as worldview and yet not condemn all possible insights that may be gleaned.”
Joe Carter, an editor at The Gospel Coalition, stated, “As an analytic framework for identifying the effects of systemic sin, intersection theory may be of some use to Christians. But when it is used to justify the creation of ever narrower and increasingly divisive identity groups, it becomes another secular worldview that Christians must reject.”
Feinstein said that when he read the resolution as revised by the committee, “I realized it was over 60 percent different. The worldview behind CRT still needs to be denounced publicly. I pray that state conventions will use my resolution as a template to try to get that accomplished at the state level.”
Another point of controversy in the adopted resolution was calling it an analytical tool instead of a worldview or ideology. Mohler observed, “They emerged as analytical tools, but they were never merely analytical tools, and in the common discourse in the United States — and especially in public argument, and in higher education — both critical race theory and intersectionality are far more than analytical tools. The main consequence of critical race theory and intersectionality is identity politics, and identity politics can only rightly be described as antithetical to the gospel of Jesus Christ. We have to see identity politics as disastrous for the culture and nothing less than devastating for the church of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Pastor Tom Buck, First Baptist Church, Lindale, Texas, called on messengers to realize they “voted for something that we likely don’t understand. We need to understand the gravity of it.”
Pastor Josh Buice, Prays Mill Baptist Church, Douglasville, Ga., stated that “the SBC has made a serious mistake and one that without stern correction will be the tipping point for an already vulnerable and numerically decreasing convention of churches.”
Trevin Wax, an editor at LifeWay Christian Resources and member of the Committee on Resolutions, defended the resolution and the committee on Twitter. He said, “In no way was the committee adopting or promoting CRT/I as a worldview. Everyone on the committee would agree that the origins of CRT/I come from worldviews opposed to the gospel. Still, that does not mean that every observation issuing from CRT/I is wrong, sinful, or unhelpful for how Christians understand the world.”
Some on Twitter responded to his explanation with appreciation, while others stated that the need for an explanation indicated a problem with the resolution itself.
Jeff Brown, pastor of Grace Pointe Baptist Church in Edmond, Okla., tweeted, “The only hope for the SBC is to repeal it as it stands and pass the resolution as it was originally written.” This sentiment complements Feinstein’s desire that state conventions deal with a resolution like his at the annual meetings this fall.