One of the controversial tweets, subsequently deleted from Twitter, featuring photos of five Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary professors posing as rappers. Screenshot from Twitter

Seminary apologizes for tweeted photo of professors posing as rappers

(RNS) The president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary apologized for a photo of white professors posing as rappers that appeared on Twitter and was instantly deemed racist.

“As all members of the preaching faculty have acknowledged, this was a mistake, and one for which we deeply apologize," said Paige Patterson in a lengthy statement, “Racism IS a Tragic Sin.” "Sometimes, Anglo Americans do not recognize the degree that racism has crept into our lives.”

The photo, captured by Faithfully magazine before it was deleted from Twitter, featured senior School of Preaching faculty members gesturing and wearing bandannas and chains and was labeled “Notorious S.O.P.” One of them appears to hold a handgun.

Many saw the photo of white professors putting on clothes typically associated with African-American rappers as mocking, insulting or degrading to minorities.

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The tweet was a farewell gesture for a colleague, Vern Charette, who had previously rapped during a sermon at the seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. That professor, described by Patterson as “a gracious young Native American preacher,” was leaving for a pastoral post.

After Christian rapper LeCrae questioned the tweet, the seminary tweeted him back, asking, “would you be willing to lead a dialogue on growth for our community?”

He declined, saying, “There are many more qualified and perhaps willing.”

Yolanda Pierce, director of Princeton Theological Seminary’s Center for Black Church Studies, criticized the seminary, tweeting: “Disappointed, dismayed, and deeply offended by the racist display of members of the faculty @swbts. This dishonors the body of Christ.”

David Allen, dean of the seminary’s School of Preaching who posted the original tweet calling Charette “an excellent rapper,” also apologized for the tweet.

“I apologize for a recent image I posted which was offensive,” he tweeted. “Context is immaterial. @swbts stance on race is clear as is mine.”