Southern Baptist Theological Seminary creates $5 million scholarship for black students, but retains founders' names on buildings

by Jenny Mount · Oct 13th, 2020 3:27 pm
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Last Updated Oct 14th, 2020 at 10:05 pm

Southern Baptist Theological Seminary has approved a $5 million scholarship for black students, as well as approved names of school founders who owned slaves being kept on buildings.

SBTS trustees voted to keep names — such as founding president James P. Boyce and founding faculty members John Broadus, Basil Manly Jr., and William Williams — on various campus buildings in a unanimous vote during a recent SBTS fall meeting.

The trustees also approved $1 million to be set aside for an endowment that will help qualified African-American students at SBTS, which will take effect at the beginning of the 2022-2023 school year. SBTS will also set aside $1 million for the scholarship fund every three years until the $5 million goal has been reached.

"We're not going to erase our history in any respect or leave our history unaddressed. We're trying to do what is right for a Christian institution. We must be clear in our heartbreak and horror in the face of racism and racial supremacy," said SBTS President Albert Mohler. "This is part of the burden of history. We must be clear in our embrace of the priceless legacy left us by those who founded this institution and sacrificed so that it would survive – who defined our convictions and laid foundations for theological faithfulness. To be human is to see this mixture in humanity. To be Christian is to see it with biblical clarity. To be faithful as a Christian is to see it in ourselves."

Dwight McKissic, a prominent black Southern Baptist pastor, had campaigned for the removal of the names from campus buildings. He has commended SBTS for creating the scholarship.

"It certainly represents fruit worthy of repentance. It speaks to the past and to the future. Hats off to Dr. Mohler and the trustee board for this historic decision that is a step toward healing," McKissic wrote in a blog post.

SBTS released a report in 2018 that documented its history of support for slavery and segregation as a way to recognize its past moral failings on racial issues.

The report revealed that the seminary's founders all owned slaves and supported the Confederacy during the American Civil War and that SBTS had actively supported segregation and racial inequality. However, the report had some positive aspects to it, such as advancing black education before the 1940s and integrating classes prior to the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education ruling. It also showed that faculty supported the Civil Rights Movement during the 1950s and 1960s.

"In light of the burdens of history, some schools hasten to remove names, announce plans, and declare moral superiority. That is not what I intend to do, nor do I believe that to be what the Southern Baptist Convention or our Board of Trustees would have us to do," Mohler said. "We do not evaluate our Christian forebears from a position of our own moral innocence. Christians know that there is no such innocence. But we must judge, even as we will be judged, by the unchanging Word of God and the deposit of biblical truth."


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