Despite Racial Tensions, Black Southern Baptist Churches Still on the Rise

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Recruitment efforts draw African American pastors to SBC missions efforts, though growth is slowing.

Last year, pastor Charlie Dates led Progressive Baptist Church, a historic, black congregation on Chicago’s South Side, to affiliate with the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).

The 100-year-old church is still part of the Progressive National Baptist Convention, a mainline, African American denomination, and convincing his social justice-minded members to join the SBC was “one of the hardest lifts” of Dates’ 10-year pastorate, he said.

Dates is among several high-profile black pastors whose churches have become Southern Baptist in recent years.

Others include H. B. Charles of Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida, in 2013, and Bartholomew Orr of Brown Missionary Baptist Church in Southaven, Mississippi, in 2015. Charles served as president of the SBC Pastors’ Conference in 2018.

Progressive began cooperating with the SBC, Dates said, for two main reasons: its relationship with Adron Robinson, a fellow black Chicago pastor who serves on the SBC Executive Committee, and its desire to work with North American Mission Board (NAMB) in establishing a residency program to help train young black pastors.

Southern Baptists have seen growth among ethnic minorities, including African Americans, while the denomination overall is in decline. But Dates understands why some black churches don’t want to partner with the SBC.

He’s troubled that no SBC entity is led by a non-Anglo. “Every time there is a selection and they say, ‘God’s man is …,’ it’s a white man,” the Chicago pastor said. Over the past two years, nearly half of the denomination’s major entities—missions bodies and seminaries—have appointed new presidents. …

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