Thoughts from a random Southern Baptist on John Onwuchekwa’s “4 Reasons We Left the SBC”

Today, John Onwuchekwa published an article on why he led Cornerstone Church in Onwuchekwaleaving the Southern Baptist Convention. (See here: https://thefrontporch.org/2020/07/4-reasons-we-left-the-SBC/ .) As an alumnus of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a member of a church that’s ‘in friendly cooperation with the SBC’, this was a difficult and thought-provoking read. Here are four initial thoughts I’ve had.

1. Thankfulness

Onwuchekwa writes: “the North American Mission Board (NAMB) stepped in and helped us get a loan for our building… and again NAMB stewarded Cooperative Fund Giving our way in the form of a $175,000 grant to renovate the church building.” Onwuchekwa expresses gratitude for Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and for the SBC entity heads. Now, the SBC, as I understand it, is a network of churches that has the primary purpose of pooling resources for missions and theological education. Onwuchekwa’s account seems to indicate that the SBC has been largely effective in this primary purpose in the case of Cornerstone Church and Onwuchekwa’s own ministry. If the SBC continues to help establish congregations like Cornerstone and (at least in part) train pastors like Onwuchekwa, if the gospel is being faithfully proclaimed through Cornerstone Church (as I assume it is), then it is hard to see that contributing to the SBC is a bad idea, even if autonomous congregations eventually come to decide that it is more prudent (in their case) to leave the SBC.

2. Learning

However, I sincerely hope that the SBC learns from John Onwuchekwa’s experience, and that, as a network of congregations, we grow in ways that would make it where churches such as Cornerstone would not feel ‘othered’ and where pastors like Onwuchekwa would not feel like he was on a “work visa” rather than being a full “citizen”.

3. Question

In regard to implementing practical changes that would help with the issues Onwuchekwa mentions, he writes: “The SBC undeniably had a systemic hand in perpetuating wickedness, and yet, its systemic efforts to restore and promote racial justice fall flat.” I’m honestly not sure what Onwuchekwa has in mind regarding “systemic efforts” that the SBC should take as a convention. Obviously, he believes that the SBC Resolution on Racial Reconciliation falls flat (see here: http://www.sbc.net/resolutions/899/resolution-on-racial-reconciliation-on-the-150th-anniversary-of-the-southern-baptist-convention ). Likewise, the NAMB’s work, with its efforts for and giving to Cornerstone Church: their pastor being sensitive to promoting racial justice, also falls flat. I am seriously open to the SBC doing better. I’m honestly interested in hearing specific proposals.

4. Addendum

As a final thought, I would note that the most explicit act of ‘othering’ that Onwuchekwa recounts is when he writes, “I’ve heard the former leader of the Georgia Baptist Convention tell other people that we (Cornerstone Church) are not one of them (presumably Southern Baptists)”. As a Georgia native, I don’t doubt this. I know about the GBC, and I know that many congregations have complaints about the GBC for a variety of reasons. I do wonder if, in another state (such as Kentucky,or Maryland/Delaware), the experiences of Onwuchekwa and his congregation may have been different.

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One Comment on “Thoughts from a random Southern Baptist on John Onwuchekwa’s “4 Reasons We Left the SBC””

  1. John Says:

    I appreciate the thoughtful engagement with the letter man! In all honesty the hope was that this would start a dialogue even if there wasn’t consensus on all of the points.


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