Kevin Smith, a Black pastor at Family Church in Palm Beach, Florida, and former executive director of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware, spoke truth to power at the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual gathering in Anaheim, California, last week, accusing fellow pastors in the conservative evangelical church of being racist “political whores” for Donald Trump.
“I think some Southern Baptists lost their minds when a Black man was elected president. Not all, but some,” Smith said. “I think some Southern Baptists were unloving to Black people beginning in 2012 with the killing of Trayvon Martin.”
Smith continued that he doesn’t expect everyone to “agree about politics or policy—I just mean giving a darn that somebody else is hurting who is supposed to be your brother or sister in Christ, and I think some Southern Baptists just bent over and became political whores with this whole Trump stuff.”
The video is on YouTube:
Obviously, Smith’s comments upset a lot of people in the largest Protestant denomination in the United States. The Montana-based Baptist publication Protestia called Smith’s remarks “disgusting” and noted that he wasn’t listed as a speaker in the promo material—he just requested a microphone to weigh in on a conversation at the panel and ask how the speakers felt about “the state of the SBC from 10 years ago to now.”
Raw Story compiled several tweets from SBC members objecting to Smith’s remarks:
But others jumped to his defense.
The SBC has been embroiled in controversy for several years. Russell Moore, the former president of the denomination’s policy arm, resigned in 2021 and left the church entirely. Many assumed it was because he was a vocal critic of Trump in a Trump-loving denomination; but Moore wrote in a letter that it was actually because of a sex abuse scandal.
NPR’s Terry Gross reported on the scandal and coverup:
A report issued just over a week ago confirmed that survivors who came forward alleging they were sexually abused by church leaders, ministers, workers and volunteers were ignored or silenced by church leadership and often disparaged. Meanwhile, the church kept a secret list of over 700 offenders. The list was even kept secret from most of the church’s leaders. This new report was commissioned by the Southern Baptist Convention in response to a series of articles investigating widespread sexual abuse in the church.
Given this context and the politics of the SBC, it was incredibly brave for Smith to grab the microphone at this convention and say what he said. One can only hope his comments force at least some church leaders to do a bit of introspection as to what it’s supposed to mean to be a “Christian.”