BOSSIER CITY, La. -- It's the largest protestant denomination in the country. And here in the South, you can find Southern Baptist churches everywhere.
But there were some major waves at the last Southern Baptist Convention and more could be on the way. The pastor of First Bossier Baptist Church has created a new group to address these waves moving through Southern Baptist circles.
"We're in this together. Let's take a stand now through the Conservative Baptist Network," said the Rev. Brad Jurkovich of First Bossier.
Jurkovich launched the Conservative Baptist Network last month. At issue, many of the same things other denominations are dealing with -- gay marriage, transgender issues, a woman's roles in the church -- but maybe most significant is what went on at the 2019 Southern Baptist Convention with the passage of a resolution that deals with race.
"I move that the convention adopt resolution No. 9 on critical race theory and intersectionality." Those are the words that sparked controversy at the SBC Convention.
Some Southern Baptist are embracing Critical Race Theory in church and in seminaries. The theory examines the appearance of race and racism.
It's a school of thought meant to emphasize the effects of race on one's social standing. Supporters claim they are trying to make the church more inclusive and diverse. Opponents of CRT in the church and seminary say the Bible is enough.
"There are ideologies that deal with race, there are ideologies that deal with how to view people. ... Is it through power and a control lens? Is it a minority status? Is it their skin color? These are ideologies that unfortunately are being embraced and affirmed in Southern Baptist seminaries, that Southern Baptist are concerned about," said Jurkovich.
"This assertion that we need to look at everyone through the color of their skin, which to me is just so embarrassing and so insulting," said Lorine Hearne Spratt of First Bossier Baptist Church.
- "This is a very white institution."
- "The reality is that whiteness is rooted in plunder, in theft, in enslavement of Africans."
- "I have grown up with this, kind of invisible bag of privilege."
- "The thing for white women, because there's women in here, you have to divest from whiteness."
These quotes come from a documentary done by an organization called the Founders Ministries. The documentary focused on these topics and theories being discussed and endorsed by some Southern Baptists churches and seminaries. The Founders Ministries opposed resolution 9 and the theories and ideologies behind it.
Locally, KTBS reached out to more than 10 Southern Baptist churches on both sides of the Red River. Churches of all sizes and ethnic makeup to see how pastors felt about these issues and the Conservative Baptist Network.
Most did not respond to a request for comment. A spokesperson at Airline Baptist in Bossier said, "We do not have a comment at this time."
But one pastor in Shreveport, who is not a part of the Conservative Baptist Network right now, did have something to say.
"Sometimes you have to take a step out to make a statement, to send a strong clear message and I believe that's what this particular network, what I know about it, is doing ... and some would say it's about time," said Bishop L. Lawrence Brandon, senior pastor at Praise Temple.
But not everybody thinks it's about time for a network like this in Southern Baptist circles.
Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, tweeted in part, "The real network of Southern Baptists is called the Southern Baptist Convention."
Southern Baptist author and speaker Beth Moore tweeted: "There are no women trying to take over SBC pulpits, least of all me."
"Practically what we are saying is it's alright for a woman to preach to people of color around the world. They just can't preach to white men over here," said the Rev. William Dwight McKissic Sr. of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas.
"We knew that the more distinctive we put about the Conservative Baptist Network that people would seize on that and say you're against this. ... If you're not for Critical Race Theory then you must be a racist. We knew there would be push back and there has been some no question about it," said Jurkovich.
But there's also been overwhelming support. According to Jurkovich, in just the first week and half of the new network close to 4,000 people got on board to support it. That 4,000 represents many pastors around the country who have thousands more in their congregations.
"We don't need another lens to look at people through, we have the Word of God," said Spratt.
"Unfortunately there will be casualties to all of this and I just pray that we're prepared for it," said Brandon.
"No one is out to divide something, the reality of it is ... thousands of churches are already disengaging because they don't like where it's going. We're praying that this network can keep pastors and churches engaged, have the honest conversations and prayerfully we can move forward in a healthy way," said Jurkovich.
The Conservative Baptist Network is having an event on the eve of the Southern Baptist Convention in Orlando this summer. Jurkovich says they hope to talk with as many pastors and church leaders as they can about the future and direction of the SBC.