The leader of the largest Protestant Christian denomination in the country shocked many in a recent Facebook message by urging members of his congregation to declare “Black lives matter” and denouncing use of the phrase “all lives matter.”
Rev. J.D. Greear, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, made the comments during his annual address, which was made on Facebook due to coronavirus orders limiting public gatherings.
“Southern Baptists, we need to say it clearly as a gospel issue: Black lives matter,” Greear said. “Of course, Black lives matter. Our Black brothers and sisters are made in the image of God. Black lives matter because Jesus died for them.”
Greear made the comments in the wake of George Floyd’s May 25 death while in police custody.
“I do not align myself with the Black Lives Matter organization, and I think saying bold things like ‘defund the police’ is unhelpful and deeply disrespectful to many public servants who bravely put themselves in harm’s way every day to protect us,” said Greear, pastor of Summit Church in Durham, N.C. “But I know that we need to take a deep look at our police systems and structures and ask what we’re missing. Where are we missing the mark? And I’ll say that we do that because Black lives matter.”
Rev. Dwight McKissic, pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church, a predominantly African-American congregation in Arlington, Texas, told the Houston Chronicle he was shocked but “thankful beyond measure” to hear Greear’s comments, which he praised as “sensible,” “therapeutic” and “without qualification or equivocation.”
“It’s almost surreal to me that it would come off the lips of a president of the Southern Baptist Convention,” McKissic said. “It’s true, it’s right and it should have been said 50 years ago.”