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Seminary apologizes for tweeted photo of professors posing as rappers

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

(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.

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.”

About the author

Adelle M. Banks

Adelle M. Banks, production editor and a national reporter, joined RNS in 1995. An award-winning journalist, she previously was the religion reporter at the Orlando Sentinel and a reporter at The Providence Journal and newspapers in the upstate New York communities of Syracuse and Binghamton.

48 Comments

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  • It’s true that the seminary professors perhaps should have chosen a different theme, but let’s be honest about it:

    Princeton Theological Cemetery Seminary faculty do not need to weigh in on this or any other controversy, for a good long time.

    PTS needs to clean up its own mess, or else they need to become a Parking Lot (with apologies to all other parking lots.)

  • Yep, PTS is the problem here. Not the racist culture of SWBTS. Get back to us when you really want to “be honest.” I’ll be holding my breath. Hahahahahaahahahahaha!

  • in all seriousness here floydlee…..thank you for the lovely things you said about me today. Much appreciated.

  • Speaking of race, the seminary professors were attempting to honor a departing Native American colleague who gave an admirable rap performance.

    They weren’t trying to insult Vern Charette (who gave no complaint), weren’t trying to insult the rapper Lecrae, and most of all, weren’t trying to insult the Gummy-Wormed PC-Police at Princeton Swamp.

    So your baseless accusations of “racist culture at SWBTS” simply don’t fit the story. (Perhaps you should stop holding your breath now; it may be affecting brain function.)

  • “I’d rather offend someone into heaven, than flatter someone into hell.”
    I wasn’t sure what that would look like when you posted it the other day.
    I guess it’s true what they say about a picture and 1000 words.

    Not our best day as southern baptist.

  • Ummmm….so there are no white/caucasian rappers? I did not know of this deficit. How could we have overlooked it?

    Oh, Oh there are white/caucasian rappers. Has anyone told them they were racist for wearing “rapper” clothing?

    As for being racist – how? They were having a little fun. They didn’t do this in blackface, did they? No. As far as the costumes – if white people can’t dress up in what libs declare are people of color [see, I’m making progress k52 et al] clothing then isn’t it fair to say that people of color cannot dress up in white peoples’ clothing?

    Here is a recent incident and I can absolutely attest to it factualness:

    “Hey, you…yeah you…the person of color there in a three piece suit…what’s your name?”
    “I’m Dr. Ben Carson…Hello, who are you?”
    “Never mind who I am. Do you realize you are being racist?”
    “No, I didn’t. How so?”
    “You’re wearing a three piece suit, that’s ‘how so’.”
    “Yes I am. And it’s very nice, too. But how does that make me racist?”
    “That’s white people clothing. You need to wear ‘person of color’ clothing.”
    “What? What are you talking about? What’s person of color clothing? Who are you.”
    “I’m a bonafied certified fashionista – the fashion police, otherwise known as progressive liberals and we determine what is politically correct and what is not. And our liberal values are absolute – except when they’re not.”
    “Yeaaaah, excuse me but I’m late for a very important meeting and….”
    “And nothing buster, next time I see you – you had better be sagging and bagging, have a baseball cap sideways on your head, and wearing a hoodie and listening to Snoop Dogg. Got that?”
    “Sir, wait just a moment. Hello, White House security, This is Dr. Ben Carson. We have a nut job here by the entry and …”
    “Don’t worry, Dr. Carson. We’re on our way.”

  • PTS is not only a strong, thriving seminary with a full student body, but it is also the world’s wealthiest seminary. What mess are you referring to?

  • People on the right like you have been twisting the truth and obscuring what is right for a long time. You are firmly enacting the now worn out strategy of taking the circumstances and trying to reverse them in order to defend what was clearly something both insensitive and wrong. May Our Lord forgive you. He offers mercy to all who would repent.

  • The “world’s wealthiest seminary”? What does *that* mean in spiritual terms? It obviously ain’t doing anything for PTS.

    PTS has already disgraced itself with the recent Keller scandal. That was an automatic PC-Police mess that really exposed just how far PTS has fallen.

    They gotta clean up all that liberalism-gone-hog-wild mess, or else let’s bring in the bulldozers. PTS would make a very nice Parking Lot.

    I would easily pick SWBTS over “the world’s wealthiest seminary”, even if SWBTS was just a one-room shack with no roof.

  • These comments seem to miss the larger point. The culture of racism in Southern Baptist Circles has been well documented and long debated. It was as recent as 1995 that the Convention acknowledged it’s racist roots. http://www.sbc.net/resolutions/899/resolution-on-racial-reconciliation-on-the-150th-anniversary-of-the-southern-baptist-convention. Just this past year it took it a half-step further in calling on their churches, colleges, and other institutions to discontinue the display of the Confederate battle flag. http://erlc.com/resource-library/articles/resolution-7-on-sensitivity-and-unity-regarding-the-confederate-battle-flag.

    The concluding paragraph in the 2016 resolution cited above gives the reason that this post by its seminary leadership is offensive: “RESOLVED, That we urge fellow Christians to exercise sensitivity so that nothing brings division or hinders the unity of the Body of Christ to be a bold witness to the transforming power of Jesus.” Such behavior is acknowledged as divisive.

    Displaying a Confederate battle flag in your church and posing as gangsters/rappers, (the gun held in the hand of SBC’s parliamentarian, Dr. Barry McCarty leads to the gangster rap – pun intended) are understandably racist. If they weren’t understandably so, then the 2016 resolution would not have passed in a vote before the full convention and the seminary would not have offered such a quick apology.

    This denomination is fighting an implosion of sorts as it’s younger leaders are calling on the old guard to drop their racist, misogynistic, arrogant ways while the old guard, holding the purse strings, are telling the younger leaders to sit down and shut up.

    This twitter post by the old-guard seminary leaders is a very big deal. I’m grateful that both Jonathan Merritt and Adelle Banks took the time to respond to this.

  • So does this mean that little white children cannot dress up in rapper costumes on Halloween?

  • If those little white children represent a church, a seminary, a denomination, and an all-inclusive Christ, then, no.

  • Ms. Sandi? Uh oh. Floydlee, if I insulted you, I will withdraw my comment. I would not intentionally say anything to upset you. Please let me know.

  • No, you’re way more than okay, Ms. Sandi. You haven’t insulted me at all (in fact that was a rather sweet thing you said!), and I hope I’ve not insulted you.

    I was taught as a child to especially attach a prefix to the ladies, as a true sign of respect. I don’t always follow that rule (although I should), but you just KNOW that if I address you directly like this, I’m totally going to say “Ms. Sandi”, because I truly have a ton of respect for you.

    You are a true Christian warrior, armed with both scripture and spice.
    🙂

  • Praise God and thank you floydlee. I have immense respect for your comments also. I believe you are a well learned person with a lot of wisdom to impart, and I learn from you.
    Thank you for your kindness and sensitivity. God bless you.

  • Oh, hey everyone! Listen up! Listen please! Floydlee says this wasn’t racist, ok? So we can all stop now. Move along. Nothing to see here. Floydlee has spoken and that settles it.

  • Sounds like it’s about time for a pot luck. Everybody bring a covered dish. And if you don’t have one, c’mon anyway. They’ll be enough for everyone. ;D

  • It is not that “perhaps they should have chosen a different theme” but that the Dean of the School of Preaching also chose to tweet the photo, transforming it from being in poor taste to a public communication from SOP and thus open to interpretation and public scrutiny/comment/censure.

  • But we got to have church first.
    Sandi you preach the gospel message.
    Floydlee you give the altar call.
    We need someone to lead the song service.
    And we need counselors at the altar to help folks pray through.
    Any volunteers?
    I’m a deacon so I’ll organize the ushers.
    And after church we’ll have the pot luck (don’t forget the swedish meatballs!) and then the baptism service. Praise the Lord.
    It’ll be a blessing.

  • lol. My husband mentions this every now and then….You’ll be able to tell the Baptists at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, they’ll be the ones carrying the covered dish……I think it’s cute.

  • Lol. He’s right. Years ago a study showed S. Baptists had on avg. the largest no. of obese members. Probably from all of those potlucks. UMC folks came next and then Presbyterians after that.

  • Land o’ Goshen no! You go where the Gospel is preached fervently, the hymns are sung loudly (on key if possible), and the pot lucks are the most bountiful. Sounds like a old time SB church to me. Oh, and don’t forget the altar calls where people can pray through. Hey, I feel a gospel hymn coming on:
    Gone, Gone, Gone, Gone

    Gone, gone, gone, gone
    Yes my sins are gone,
    Now my soul is free
    And in my heart’s a song;
    Buried in the deepest sea
    Yes, that’s good enough for me–
    I shall live eternally
    Praise God!
    My sins are G-O-N-E gone!

  • nice….how about:

    When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
    When sorrows like sea billows roll;
    Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
    It is well, it is well with my soul.
    Refrain:
    It is well with my soul,
    It is well, it is well with my soul.

    Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
    Let this blest assurance control,
    That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
    And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

    My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!—
    My sin, not in part but the whole,
    Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
    Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

    For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
    If Jordan above me shall roll,
    No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
    Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

    But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
    The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
    Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
    Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!

    And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
    The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
    The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
    Even so, it is well with my soul.

    🙂 Did I manage to stay on key? 🙂

  • Hey Dan. You never gave me your reasoning. I’m asking for a little professional development here and you left me hanging. What’s up with that?

  • Sorry to break up your potluck, but Sandi is not allowed to preach the gospel message to you in church. I’m sure she’ll be happy to explain it to you.

  • Ask Anne Graham Lotz if that is the case. Sandi perhaps cannot be ordained – but lack of ordination never stopped a preacher from preaching – ask Charles Spurgeon (altho CS was not a woman). And when the Spirit prompts you to preach – you’d better preach.
    And btw – you are more than welcome to come to the potluck after church of course.

  • Thanks for the invite, but I really was just talking about Sandi’s views on the subject.

  • My comments had nothing to do with the way children dress up at Halloween, my comments were directly related to a denominational seminary where some are trying hard to shed its racist history. The seminary understood that the posted photo was perceived as racist and the seminary and at least one of the professors apologized.

  • There’ll be a hymn sing afterwards – not this modern rock and roll bubble gum for the soul stuff – but the old hymns. The hymns that were full of theology. Don’t get much better than this.

  • There are white rappers and asian rappers and hispanic rappers and arab rappers and they dress up like black rappers and that is okay?
    Black rappers by and large promote violence against women and police, use vile, disgusting, demeaning language toward women and you’re worried that some seminary profs dressed up like rappers is racist? I don’t get it. I think what that does is it diminishes what racism really is.
    Who’s in charge of political correctness around here – some prog lib professor in some ivy league school on the east coast?

  • Assuming this was not a passive-aggressive swan song, ask for help BEFORE launching a campaign like this. Or, have someone with cultural competence in a position of power when these decisions get made.

    The problem is the historical context of your institution (SWTBC / SBC). Should five, older Catholic priests pose with each one hugging a young choir boy? Tag line- “Hug the Word! Worldwide Love!” The ‘optics’ are just …wrong. Another true example, a judge in Louisiana (highest rate of mass incarceration in the world) wore an afro wig, orange jump suit and handcuffs for Halloween. He could not understand the problem either. Or was this willful tone deafness?

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