By / Feb 10

At the annual convention in 2015, the SBC adopted a resolution on racial reconciliation that, in part, urged “churches to demonstrate their heart for racial reconciliation by seeking to increase racial and ethnic diversity in church staff roles, leadership positions, and church membership.”

Increasing racial diversity is not the end goal, of course, and will not automatically lead to reconciliation. Yet it can be a useful metric to determine whether reconciliation is being attempted within our churches and throughout the denomination. Ideally, individual SBC churches that are living out the gospel would be attractive to people of all races and ethnicities. If a lopsided racial imbalance is occuring, it might signal that there is a divide along other lines, such as cultural or political, that should not ​​separate the people of God. 

How is the SBC faring in its goal to be more racially diverse?

To find the answer we can look to the Great Commission Relations and Mobilization (​​GCRM) Ethnic Research Network, which tracks the state of ethnicity and race in the SBC. The network is a research initiative and a shared data collaboration of Southern Baptist Research Fellowship (SBRF) and SBC entities, such as the ERLC. Through statistical and analytical research, GCRM Ethnic Research Network “tells the story of SBC diversity as well as our collaborative and cooperative effort of sharing the Gospel in every city, town, neighborhood, and community in fulfilling the Great Commission.”

Diversity by the numbers

Currently, the SBC Annual Church Profile documents that there are 50,696 congregations and 14,089,947 people in the SBC. The network tracks the state of ethnicity and race within those congregations.

As of 2020, there are 39,408 congregations that are predominantly White Anglo, 3,895 that are African American, 3,361 that are predominantly Hispanic, 1,501 predominantly other ethnicities, and 422 that are predominantly Native American. Since 2010, there has been a 33.2% increase among congregations of other ethnicities, a 20.7% increase among Asian American congregations, 10.2% increase among African American congregations. During that time there was a 3.3% decrease among White Anglo congregations and a 3.0% decrease among Native American congregations. 

  • The states with the most African American congregations are Texas (1,168), California (455), and Georgia (239). 
  • The states with the most Asian American congregations are California (445), Texas (313), North Carolina (125), and Georgia (119). 
  • The states with the most Hispanic congregations are Texas (1,353), California (376), and Florida (317). 
  • The states with the most Native American congregations are Oklahoma (185), North Carolina (78), and Arizona (26). 
  • The states with the most other ethnic congregations are Florida (465), Texas (250), California (105), and North Carolina (98). 
  • The states with the most White Anglo congregations are Texas (4,685), North Carolina (3,739), Alabama (3,090), and Georgia (3,019). 

Within those congregations, 12,642,060 individuals are White Anglo, 880,108 are African American, 223,351 are Hispanic, 173,773 are Asian American, 136,750 are other ethnicities, and 33,590 are Native American. Since 2010, there has been a 23.8% increase among other ethnicities, a 12.1% ​​increase among Asian Americans, and an 8.6% increase among Hispanics. During that time there was a 16.1% decrease among Native Americans, a 14.1% decrease among White Anglos, and a 2.1% decrease among African Americans. 

Encouraging signs of growth

Almost 1-in-4 (22.3%) Southern Baptist congregations are non-Anglo or ethnic minority congregations. In contrast, in 1990 only 8.4% of SBC congregations were non-Anglo or ethnic minority congregations. African American congregations saw the largest growth of 289.3% from 1990- 2018, while the Anglo group saw the smallest growth of 11.4%. From 1995-2000, the African American group grew by 482 congregations, and, from 2000-2005, this group grew by an additional 833 congregations.

As for church membership, from 1990-2019 ethnic minority groups increased by over one million (1,021,658). From 2000-2010, the most growth experienced among SBC membership

was among African American, Asian American, and Hispanics, with Asian American membership growing by 270.7%.

With 22.3% of our Southern Baptist congregations being non-Anglo and many worshiping in multiple languages across America, the Southern Baptist Convention may be the most multiethnic and multilingual denomination in the United States. While the SBC still has a long way to go in its pursuit of racial reconciliation, we are moving in the right direction toward ​​the first step of having a diverse convention of believers unified around a common goal to fulfill the Great Commission.

By / Mar 30

On Mon., March 28, President Biden released his FY 2023 budget proposal. Every year, the president submits his budget proposal, and it serves as a blueprint for the administration’s priorities. A president’s budget proposal has no binding authority over Congress. It is a request and a statement of priorities and serves as a starting point for a long negotiation in Congress as they work on the 12 spending appropriations bills that fund the government. 

The ERLC actively engages in the appropriations process each year, and in the recently released FY23 budget proposal, there are areas of deep concern, but also areas of possible collaboration.

Exclusion of pro-life riders and increased funding for abortion providers

Notably, for only the second time since its inception in 1976, the Hyde Amendment has been excluded from the president’s proposal. The Hyde Amendment is a budget rider on the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) appropriations bill to prevent Medicaid from covering the cost of abortion. This rider, along with other pro-life riders, are essential in protecting life as well as the consciences of millions of American taxpayers. 

Before the Hyde Amendment was introduced, approximately 300,000 abortions a year were performed using federal Medicaid dollars. It is estimated that the Hyde Amendment has saved over two million lives since it was enacted. Since 1976, the Hyde Amendment has been passed by every Congress. Its success across the generations is not due to a shared belief about abortion but precisely because those representatives and senators believed the disagreement deserved respect. 

Congress should also protect the Weldon (discrimination protections for those with objections to abortion), Dornan (Hyde protections in the District of Columbia), Helms (protection against funds being used for abortion in international aid), Siljander (protection against funds being used to lobby for abortion internationally), and Kamp-Kasten (protection against funds to organizations that support coercive abortion or sterilization) Amendments. It is important to note that although Biden’s FY 2022 budget proposal also excluded these amendments, they were ultimately included in the final appropriations package passed by Congress.

Biden’s budget proposal also includes a request for a 40% increase in additional funding for abortion providers through the Title X Family Planning program. Though these pro-life riders have traditionally kept this funding from directly funding abortion procedures, abortion providers are still able to receive funding through the Title X Family Planning program and other government funds to cover operational costs, allowing them to more easily reserve non-taxpayer dollars for abortion services. Although it is vital for women of any economic status to have access to important healthcare services, abortion — the act of taking a life — is not healthcare.

Inclusion of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity langauge

Throughout the budget proposal, Biden includes multiple proposals that advance “gender equality” on the basis of “sexual orientation and gender identity.” Efforts to advance SOGI as protected classes under federal law have explicitly included attempts to roll back

religious freedom and conscience protections. As the ERLC has long maintained, a government that is able to pave over the conscience is one that has the unlimited ability to steamroll dissent on any issue.

In the proposal, Biden references several Executive Orders he has signed during his presidency on this topic, including Executive Order 14020, “Establishment of the White House Gender Policy Council,” establishing the first White House Gender Policy Council within the Executive Office of the President and charged the office with leading a government-wide effort to advance gender equity and equality. Last year the administration issued the first ever National Strategy on Gender Equity. As the ERLC noted when that strategy was introduced, “This strategy is not only ambitious, but can be seen as a way for the federal government to expand its authority and influence over everyday life given the sheer breadth of issues included.”

The ERLC will closely be tracking these developments as Congress begins their budget proposal and will advocate against the inclusion of any provision that could hinder the American conscience and religious liberty. 

Rebuilding of the refugee resettlement program and immigration processes

One area where we were pleased to see significant investment in Biden’s budget proposal was in rebuilding the refugee resettlement program and improving our immigration and asylum processes. The proposal includes substantial funding to provide humane and proper care to unaccompanied minors, facilite family reunifications that occurred under the zero-tolerance policy of the previous administration, and support the resettlement of up to 125,000 refugees in FY 2023. The ERLC has long advocated for the United States to resume its global leadership in providing a place of refuge for the vulnerable and for the necessary investments in the refugee resettlement program infrastructure to support that goal. 

Additionally, the president’s budget proposal provides significant funds for improving border security and management while also addressing the significant backlogs in our immigration and asylum systems. One of the most notable developments in addressing these backlogs was an increase of $621 million over last year’s levels in funding for immigration courts, allowing for the hiring of 100 new immigration judges and support personnel. The ERLC supports efforts that make our asylum and immigration systems more fair, just, and humane, and these investments are important steps in that direction.

Fighting food insecurity and the opioid crisis

We were also glad to see the president’s budget proposal place an emphasis on addressing food insecurity and the opioid crisis. The proposal included significant funding for combating poverty-driven food insecurity as well as the opioid epidemic, particularly among veterans. Though increased funding does not always necessitate better outcomes, we affirm the president’s desire to promote human flourishing through combatting the vicious cycle of poverty and the devastating impact of opioid abuse. According to the president’s proposal, the drug overdose epidemic claimed over 100,000 lives in the last fiscal year. The drivers for this epidemic are complex, but the effects are simply tragic. This investment in the prevention of drug abuse, treatment, and recovery, particularly for our nation’s veterans, could be an important step for many families facing this tragedy across the country. 

What’s next?

The House and Senate Appropriations Committees will begin the appropriations process which includes a hearing to discuss budget requests and writing and marking up the 12 appropriations bills that fund the federal government. Congress will therefore have the opportunity to include the Hyde Amendment and other important pro-life riders, as they did in FY 2022. 

Each year, the ERLC is actively engaged in the appropriations process, working alongside committee and leadership offices to ensure that important pro-life, religious liberty, and conscience protections are included and harmful policies are excluded. The ERLC will continuously advocate for the inclusion of these pro-life provisions as well as other legislative measures that reflect God’s gracious love for every human life around the world.

By / Aug 7

At the 2017 Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, the messengers passed a resolution on the anti-gospel of alt-right white supremacy. Among decrying racism, the resolution also made clear our belief that the Kingdom of Christ is made up of a “multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language” in worship of our risen Savior (Revelation 7:9). This past weekend, the United States was hit with more tragic mass shootings, first in El Paso, Texas and then in Dayton, Ohio. The shooter in El Paso claimed allegiance to the evil ideology of white supremacy as the motivation for his attack in the Texas border town. David French joins Jeff Pickering and Travis Wussow to discuss how this attack is connected with many others as this ideology is on the rise.   

Guest Biography

David French is a senior writer for National Review, a contributor to Time, and a New York Times bestselling author. He is a graduate of Harvard Law School, the past president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, and a former lecturer at Cornell Law School. He has served as a senior counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice and the Alliance Defending Freedom. David is a former major in the United States Army Reserve. In 2007, he deployed to Iraq, serving in Diyala Province as Squadron Judge Advocate for the 2nd Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, where he was awarded the Bronze Star. He lives and works in Franklin, Tennessee, with his wife, Nancy, and his three children.

Resources from the Conversation

By / Aug 13

I live in Charlottesville, Virginia. You may have heard of it.

You may have seen my city on the news or on your Twitter feed after several white nationalist and white supremacist groups converged on our downtown park to protest the potential removal of a Robert E. Lee statue. You likely have seen the images of confederate flags and swastikas, protesters and counter-protesters, fist fights and arrests, and videos of carnage. I have watched the evil of white supremacy playing out on my local library steps and hate on a street I’ve driven hundreds of times. My family is weeping in lament to learn that protesters have wielded clubs and even a car against other human beings, fueled by their ideology.

As a citizen of Charlottesville, I want to publicly state my disgust and condemnation of the rally that occurred to champion white supremacy. Aside from condemnation of their ideology, my husband and I and our church simply will not give them our attention. And we will also not be one-day activists who aren’t interested in faithful, gritty work in this community.

We will instead be Christians. We will continue to give the gospel issue of racial division our full attention. We will call white supremacy what it is: sin. We will continue building real relationships with brothers and sisters in our community and in our own church who represent, alongside us, the beautiful diversity of God's kingdom. We will continue partnering with our friends of various races as we seek to meet needs in our city.  And my husband will preach the gospel from the pulpit as it’s meant to be preached—for all people.

This is the gospel that has made me a Christian, the gospel that tells me all are made in the image of God but only One stands supreme—Jesus Christ. He teaches me to love others, not celebrate myself or fight for my rights, not love selectively or with favoritism. He teaches me to try to understand others and to honor them, not to honor myself. He teaches me that His Kingdom is the country and people to which I belong, and that this Kingdom is formed by every nation and people group.

We need Christians being Christians not only in Charlottesville but all across our nation. Being a Christian in the face of racial hatred begins with Christ’s church falling to its knees in lament and confession and asking for his Spirit to move us toward Him and toward one another. May we do this corporately as we gather. Help us, Lord, to understand our union with You and with all who are Yours! Help us to love our enemies–those who spew hatred–and remember they need Your grace just as we do.

It’s time for us to stop believing and repeating the worn phrase that we’ve moved beyond racism because we’ve moved beyond Jim Crow. If Charlottesville shows us anything, it begs us to see reality. We have failed one another in so many ways, some have ignored what they haven’t wanted to see, some among us are disheartened and weary from ongoing injustice, but our God offers us repentance and restoration, both individually and collectively, as we acknowledge our racial sins before Him and before one another.

Let me acknowledge mine to you. I have received benefit from educational, social, and economic systems that I've assumed all could enjoy if they simply worked hard enough for it. I have lived ignorantly, failing to understand that my reality is not the reality of others and shrugging it off when some have tried to explain otherwise. I have not called out racist jokes or words for what they are. I have desired a multiethnic church while also expecting people of different races to adjust to my preferences for church expression. I have not spoken up about injustice, I have not tried to understand different perspectives, and I have been fearful of those who are different than me.

But, praise God, he does not leave us in our sin. Praise God that he who began a good work in us will carry it on to completion. He has convicted and is changing me, he is teaching me through his people, and I want more of his transforming work.

I want this for the Church as well, which is why I share: because God is able! He is able to make us tender toward others rather than angry and embittered. I do, however, think of Jesus' words to the crippled man who'd lay beside the pool for many years: "Do you want to be healed?" That seems a curious question, but I hear what Jesus is saying. Sometimes we are too content in our sickness. We don't want the healing because we don't want to have to really look at ourselves, confess, repentant, or forgive. We don't want to be uncomfortable; we just want Jesus to fix it.

I want us to live fully in the picture of what the gospel is and can do, specifically in the area of racial hositility and division. "For he himself is our peace who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility” (Ephesians 2:14-15). Church, we have hope to hold out, both for the white supremacist fighting from a place of anger and fear and for the victim of his hatred. We can have peace! We must not just believe this in theory, but we must show it and speak it in our relationships and our communities! Only as we humbly submit to his Spirit and to one another can this be so.

So let us lament the state of things. Let us confess what are some of the most uncomfortable things to talk about with one another: racial sins.

Let us hear how we’ve hurt one another and really listen, believing what our brothers and sisters are saying to us.

Let us pray for the hurting, including those whom we consider enemies.

Let us pursue and engage others of different races so that this listening and confession, restoration and forgiveness, can actually happen.

Let us serve together and stand together in our communities so that those who aren’t in Christ may know us and know Him by our love for one another.

I'm sorry for the hurt and pain this rally has caused my brothers and sisters of color. It comes as one in a long line of pains, so I am praying for your perseverance, and I look forward with you to the day when all injustices will be made right. May the Church be vocal in standing with you and denouncing white supremacy as evil.

Please know that there are faithful Christians trying to bridge the racial gap here in Charlottesville. People are trying to do something meaningful, which we believe is primarily building real-life, everyday relationships and having important conversations at that level. By the power of the Spirit, my hope is to be one of those people. Please pray for us in our city as we seek to love, understand, address, confess, and forgive.

Will you join us? In whatever places you live as a Christian, let us fall to our knees in lament, let us cry out for healing from the only place it can come, and then rise up with a weapon far greater than clubs and shields. Rise up and go with the pursuing, reconciling love of Christ!

By / Oct 24

Walking through South Dekalb Mall in Atlanta is a revealing experience for a white girl from Kentucky.

As soon as you enter, you feel like the lights suddenly dim and the lonely spotlight snaps on, aimed right at you. You try to act normal, like it’s no big deal, but this is a strange situation. You’re not used to being the only Caucasian around. It feels like everyone’s looking at you—because many are. It’s uncomfortable, even with a diverse group of friends at your side.

For someone who has always been part of the racial majority, suddenly being the minority became eye-opening. There is a level of comfort and security in being the majority that I never recognized until I stepped away from it for a moment. But what happens when you become the minority most of the time?

A new perspective

Last August, I moved in with a group of girls that is about as racially diverse as you can get. I also started an internship at a church in Atlanta where the majority of members and attendees are African American. While there are still many other races represented, it’s quite a change from my home church—where I’d be excited to see just a handful of non-white faces on a given Sunday.

One awesome benefit of worshipping, serving, and learning about God in the midst of such diversity and being led by a different cultural framework is that you get a new perspective. When you consider the ways and teachings to which you’re accustomed and the new ones to which you’re being exposed, you start to check them with Scripture and distinguish between things that are really of Christ and things that are merely cultural. Your view of the kingdom of God is stretched further every day.

The beauty of diversity 

Something amazing happens when your view of God’s kingdom expands—your heart expands, too. You learn to embrace the unique ways the image of God shines through different races and cultures. You start to look at the world differently. Your values expand from the self-absorbed, this-is-how-I-was-raised scale of importance to, “Huh. Maybe there are different ways to look at this.” You learn to fight for justice effectively—not just in the ways that seem right (or easiest) to white, middle-class America.

But coming to understand all these things isn’t easy. I’m not even close to being there yet. Tension and misunderstanding are natural byproducts of diversity in a broken world. You can’t assume everyone shares your opinions. You have to put in the work, be open to change, and learn the backgrounds behind the worldviews, attitudes, and customs.

Diversity in the body

For my church, diversity didn’t just happen—it’s a value in and of itself. To be effective in the diversity of the city, especially the city of Atlanta, we believe the Church itself must be diverse. The fact that my church embraces and encourages diversity makes it easier to be in the minority than it probably is elsewhere. While I sometimes feel out of the loop on certain pop culture references or aspects of urban living, I’ve never felt any less a part of the church because of my skin color or heritage. I almost always feel loved, accepted for who I am, wanted, and needed (any time I don’t, it’s usually just personal insecurities). And when I look around at the people who make up this church, my heart is warmed at the wonder of how God can bring people of all races, classes, and backgrounds together, and my mind is set toward eternity, of which the diversity I see is just a glimpse.

Because that’s what Jesus does—he brings people together, no matter who they are or where they previously found their identity. Despite their differences, Jesus becomes their common ground. That’s basically what the Church is: anyone and everyone who finds their life and identity in Christ.

At my church, we have small groups called missional communities that meet, study God’s word, do service projects, and experience life together. Last fall, some of the missional communities came together for a cookout. It was a melting pot of people—different races, classes, ages, and backgrounds. Afterward, a guest who attended the cookout told one of my friends that they’d never seen such a diverse group of people who loved and accepted each other so much. The people of my church aren’t perfect, by any means, but that’s a picture of the Church at its best.

The gift of diversity 

When you’re exposed to diversity and have a chance to live as the minority, you start noticing the lack of diversity where you never would before. When I peruse through old Facebook albums now, I start to realize how many white people are in my pictures. When I go somewhere out of my current urban context, it’s odd to be back in the majority. It’s not that uniformity is always intentional or bad—it’s often just in the cultural makeup of a place. But it feels off because normality has changed. The beauty of diversity has left a mark on your mind. It’s like seeing a sunset for the first time. Blue skies are nice, too, but you don’t take as many pictures of them.