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Baptist Pastors Say Race Conversation Should Focus On Southern Baptist Seminary, Not Castleman

For more than a year, Louisville leaders and residents have discussed what to do about the Cherokee Triangle monument to John Breckinridge Castleman, which some see as racist because he was an officer in the Confederacy. Now, some religious leaders are calling for a shift in focus when it comes to addressing racism in Louisville.

Hours before a public conversation on such statues between Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, Reverend Jason Crosby of the Crescent Hill Baptist Church said the local conversation of race should turn to another institution.

"At the other end of Grinstead [Drive], there is a living, breathing organism that continues to perpetuate a theology that perpetuates white male hegemony," he said.

He was referring to the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, which has its campus in Crescent Hill.

At a Simmons College discussion Wednesday, panelists addressed a December report in which the seminary acknowledged its racist legacy.

"The history of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is intertwined with the history of American slavery and the commitment to white supremacy which supported it,” the report's authors wrote. There was no representative from Southern on the panel, nor was anyone at the Seminary immediately available to comment.

Crosby and fellow panelists criticized the seminary for not committing to action to make up for those ties, which they say persist in the Southern Baptist Convention’s teachings today.

Another panelist, Arkansas pastor and judge Wendell Griffen, said he was fine with removing statues that memorialize racism, but was more concerned with the continuation of Southern’s teachings.

"If you were in the health business, you wouldn’t spend a lot of time arguing about how much time you need to bury something that’s been dead when you had a living disease process that was perpetrating an epidemic," Griffen said.

Wade Rowatt, who studied and worked at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and now teaches at the Baptist Seminary of Kentucky at Simmons College said Southern’s beliefs needs to change.

"We need to push a theology, a politic, a daily living, a lifestyle, a culture of equality," he said.

Rowatt and Griffen encouraged Southern Baptists to reach out to black pastors and learn from them.

Amina Elahi is LPM's City Editor. Email Amina at aelahi@lpm.org.

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