NASHVILLE – A messenger’s question about critical race theory during the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary report to the Southern Baptist Convention June 16 led President Adam W. Greenway to explain the theory’s incompatibility with the Baptist Faith and Message, while also apologizing to African American believers who have been offended by the Council of Seminary Presidents’ statement about the controversial subject.
“For any way in which I personally have hurt you, I apologize, and I ask you to forgive me,” he said. “That is not my heart, that is not our heart at Southwestern Seminary.”
Before addressing the question, Greenway announced that Texas Baptist College is the new name of the seminary’s undergraduate school and noted Southwestern Seminary became majority non-Anglo in enrollment last year for the first time since its founding in 1908.
“I am thankful to serve as president of a seminary that the Lord is bringing back to new life,” Greenway said, quoting the “Amazing Grace” stanza with the words, “Through many dangers, toils and snares we have already come.”
With Texas Baptist College replacing the name of Scarborough College (named for Southwestern’s revered second president, L.R. Scarborough), Greenway said people have asked, “What’s the real reason you did that?” thinking there was “some nefarious political scheme involved by this group or that group.”
A primary reason, he noted, stemmed from being weary “of hearing from people who’ve said, ‘I searched Google for Baptist colleges in Texas, and I can’t find yours.’
The new name of Texas Baptist College denotes “a distinctive, Scripture-driven, Christ-centered, student-focused undergraduate education,” Greenway said. “When others run away from our Baptist identity and distinctives, we’re going to run toward and embrace these things because we believe being Baptist means something valuable.”
The question-and-answer time for Greenway’s report to the SBC moved to critical race theory after a first-time messenger, Conner Smith, senior pastor of Temple Baptist Church in Perris, Calif., said he was discouraged by the lack of resources for “defining these ideologies for pastors to help us pastor our people through some of those questions.” Smith asked whether the seminaries or a task force could provide help.
Greenway recounted that a statement by the SBC’s six seminary presidents in November 2020 was “something that at a bare minimum we felt like we needed to say, but it is not all that all of us could say” about the issue.
He read from Article 15 in the Baptist Faith and Message on the Christian and the Social Order: “All Christians are under obligation to seek to make the will of Christ supreme in our own lives and in human society. Means and methods used for the improvement of society and the establishment of righteousness among men can be truly and permanently helpful only when they are rooted in the regeneration of the individual by the saving grace of God in Jesus Christ.”
Emphasizing the second sentence, Greenway said, “Critical race theory as an academic, philosophical theory rejects that claim,” noting that a book on the sufficiency of Scripture by Southwestern Seminary faculty members will be published next year by the school’s Seminary Hill Press to help examine a key facet of Christian response to such theories.
“However, many of our African American brothers and sisters, when they hear critical race theory, what they hear and what they heard from us [as seminary presidents] was that we were denying the reality of structural or systemic racism,” he continued.
“And I want to say not only as president of Southwestern Seminary but as a pastor at heart … it breaks my heart that anything that we could have done as a [Council of Seminary Presidents] could in any way hurt or alienate or estrange our African American brothers and sisters in Christ.
“I will say publicly: For any way in which I personally have hurt you, I apologize and I ask you to forgive me. That is not my heart, that is not our heart at Southwestern Seminary.”
Earlier in his report, Greenway had described Southwestern Seminary as “committed unreservedly, unswervingly to the inerrancy, infallibility, inspiration, authority, sufficiency, indestructibility, indescribability” of Scripture. “Our confidence is in the Bible as the written Word of God. And it is the primary textbook in every classroom at Southwestern Seminary.
“We are a confessional seminary,” he continued.
The faculty’s adherence to the Baptist Faith and Message, the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, the Danvers Statement on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood and the Nashville Statement on Gender and Sexuality make clear that “Southwestern Seminary is committed to upholding the faith once and for all delivered unto the saints,” Greenway said.
“With confidence and conviction, you can be assured that your Cooperative Program dollars are going to invest in a theological education that echoes the heartbeat of our Southern Baptist Convention of churches.”