Confederate flag

Settling in to follow the Russell Moore story: Where will Southern Baptists gather to talk shop?

Settling in to follow the Russell Moore story: Where will Southern Baptists gather to talk shop?

Having seen a few Southern Baptist Convention rodeos during my time, I would assume that most of the key debates about the work of the Rev. Russell Moore have moved back into the world of emails, cellphones and talks behind closed doors.

The key for reporters -- other than paying attention to social media -- will be to try to figure out when and where young and old Baptists in the various niches will gather to talk shop over coffee during breaks in their usual meetings. (Few Southern Baptists hide out and talk in bars. But think about it: Would reporters ever think to look for them there?)

Maybe look for gatherings of pastors at the level of regional associations, maybe in North Texas and other hot zones? As I suggested in my earlier post, I would also keep an eye on Louisville and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, where Moore has many ties. The leader of that campus, of course, is the influential President Albert Mohler, Jr., another articulate conservative critic of Donald Trump.

Now that public debates about Moore's work have begun -- with some journalists paying attention -- it is crucial that key leaders in the growing networks of African-American Southern Baptist churches have made their views clear. These churches are crucial to the SBC's future and national leaders know it. Click here for a strategic Baptist Press story on that, released before the March 13 meeting between Moore and the Rev. Frank Page, head of the SBC executive committee.

In terms of a mainstream news update on these developments, look to this story by Religion News Service veteran Adelle Banks, with this headline: "Black Southern Baptists: ‘We are pulling for Dr. Moore’."

Like I said, they are making their views quite clear.

(RNS) Embattled Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore, the public face of the nation’s largest Protestant group, has at least one group of vocal supporters: African-American Southern Baptist leaders.

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Take down that Confederate flag: Southern Baptist Convention rejects a symbol of the past

Take down that Confederate flag: Southern Baptist Convention rejects a symbol of the past

You may not have noticed, but there are actually two mass shooting stories in the news this week. One is the ghastly murder of 49 people in the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.

The other is the startling news that the Southern Baptist Convention has denounced the Confederate flag as a symbol of hate and bigotry.

Shooting story? The latter hearkens back to June 2015, when Dylann Roof shot nine people dead at a church in Charleston, S.C. As one result of the public revulsion at the act, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley took down the Confederate flag taken down at the Capitol.

Now the Southern Baptists, convening in St. Louis, are following suit -- though not without some opposition, as the Religion News Service reports. Veteran RNS writer Adelle M. Banks ably captures the striking symbolism:

The Southern Baptist Convention, born in 1845 in a split over its support for slavery, passed a resolution calling for Christians to quit using the Confederate flag.
"We call our brothers and sisters in Christ to discontinue the display of the Confederate battle flag as a sign of solidarity of the whole Body of Christ, including our African-American brothers and sisters," reads the resolution adopted Tuesday (June 14) at the convention’s annual meeting in St. Louis.
Former Southern Baptist President James Merritt, who said he was the great-great-grandson of two Confederate Army members, helped draft that language, which included striking a paragraph that linked the flag to Southern heritage: "We recognize that the Confederate battle flag serves for some not as a symbol of hatred, bigotry, and racism, but as a memorial to their loved ones who died in the Civil War, and an emblem to honor their loved ones’ valor."

As a longtime specialist on evangelical Christianity, Banks also quotes one of the most-qualified Southern Baptists: Russell Moore, president of the its Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. Moore says the convention "made history in the right way," and that it's "well past time."

Banks collects other eager quotes. An Alabama minister and author calls the action "the most wonderful surprise." A spokesman for the denomination’s executive committee says the convention delegates decided to "take one bold step."

Even more vivid prose ran in the Washington Post:

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Confederate flags and stained glass: Why can't journalists run more than one point of view?

Confederate flags and stained glass: Why can't journalists run more than one point of view?

Years ago, I used to be a tour guide at the Washington Cathedral. We were called “cathedral aides” back in the mid-1970s and we wore purple gowns in the winter with cute purple berets. In the summer, we retained the berets, but wore summer garb with some purple in it. It was always a challenge to find the right color blouse I could wear with my outfit, but I loved memorizing the facts about all the gargoyles, chapels and the amazing stained glass the illuminated the place.

Some of those windows depicted scenes from U.S. history. What drew the most eyes was the blue, green, orange, red and white Space Window showing the universe with a tiny piece of moon rock embedded therein.

Meanwhile, my personal favorites were the brilliant-hewed windows by Rowan LeCompte who designed some 40 of the cathedral’s 200+ windows.

However, let it be noted that LeCompte did not design two windows that were in the news yesterday. I’ll begin with an account by the Washington Post:

Washington National Cathedral, one of the country’s most visible houses of worship, announced Wednesday that it would remove Confederate battle flags that are part of two large stained-glass windows honoring Confederate generals Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee. Cathedral leaders said they would leave up the rest of the windows — for now — and use them as a centerpiece for a national conversation about racism in the white church.
The announcement comes a year after the cathedral’s then-dean, the Rev. Gary Hall, said the 8-by-4-foot windows have no place in the soaring church as the country faces intense racial tensions and violence, even though they were intended as a healing gesture when they were installed…

Next comes a quote about the windows being installed in 1953. Then there is this very significant information, if one is looking at this story from a journalistic point of view. Please read carefully:

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No ghosts here: Powerful, insightful profile of South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley a must read

No ghosts here: Powerful, insightful profile of South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley a must read

Forgive me for turning into a fanboy.

But in case you hadn't figured it out, I've really enjoyed Jennifer Berry Hawes' coverage of the Charleston, S.C., church shooting.

Once again, I'm here to praise the Pulitzer Prize winner's excellent journalism — with strong religion ties — for The Post and Courier, Charleston's daily newspaper.

Of course, I'm not the only one with kind words for Hawes' Sunday profile of South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley.

As the best ledes do, this one immediately puts the reader in the middle of the gripping action:

The horror began with a late-night text from her chief of staff, then a phone call from the State Law Enforcement Division’s head. There had been a shooting at a Charleston church.
It was Sen. Clementa Pinckney’s church. Multiple people had been shot.
Gov. Nikki Haley quickly hung up.
“And then I called Sen. Pinckney.” She left a voice mail he never heard. “This is Nikki. I’ve heard about the shooting. I’m sending my full SLED team down there. Call me.”
Throughout the night, until 4:30 a.m., she spoke with SLED Chief Mark Keel as sickening details emerged. Each call “was one more kick in the gut,” she recalls.

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Hey, let's put faces on #CharlestonShooting victims, not wrap them in Confederate flag controversy

Hey, let's put faces on #CharlestonShooting victims, not wrap them in Confederate flag controversy

Earlier this week, I touted the strong coverage of the Charleston, S.C., church massacre by The Post and Courier, that community's Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper.

If you want one more reason to skip the national headlines and rely on the local coverage, compare how The Associated Press and The Post and Courier handled Thursday's first funerals for victims of the massacre.

This was the lede on the AP's national story:

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — Police officers stood guard and checked bags as hundreds of people filed into a church Thursday for the first funeral for victims of the massacre at a historic black church.
The increased security comes amid a heated debate over the Confederate flag and other symbols of the Confederacy around the South and elsewhere. A monument to former Confederate President Jefferson Davis had the phrase "Black Lives Matter" spray-painted on it Thursday in Richmond, Virginia, the latest of several monuments to be defaced around the country.
The first funeral was for 70-year-old Ethel Lance, a Charleston native who had been a member of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church for most of her life. Police say a gunman walked into the church during a Bible study June 17 and opened fire in a racially motived (sic) attack.

Yep, the national story is security. It's the Confederate flag controversy (which we discussed here at GetReligion yesterday). It really isn't the funeral or the victim, although if you keep reading, AP provides a few scarce details about each.

Meanwhile, this is the front page of today's Post and Courier:

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#DUH — You think there might be a religion angle on that debate over the Confederate flag?

#DUH — You think there might be a religion angle on that debate over the Confederate flag?

I grew up in the South.

My dad's work with the Air Force and as a preacher kept us on the move, and my elementary school years were split among Arkansas, Louisiana, North Carolina and Tennessee.

As a boy, I don't know that I thought much about race. My best friend in the fourth grade was black. My parents were surprised (and proud) the first time I brought Tyra home from school because I'd talked incessantly about him but never mentioned his color.

Some of my earliest memories of my Papa and Grandma Ross — who lived in southeastern Missouri's Bootheel — involve a light blue church bus that drove all over the countryside, picking up children and taking them to worship. Only years later did I learn that not everyone had appreciated Papa and Grandma’s bus ministry. You start filling a white church’s pews with black children, especially in the 1970s, and people talk.

I trace my exposure to the Confederate flag to watching "The Dukes of Hazzard" on Friday nights and seeing General Lee — Bo and Luke Duke's red 1969 Dodge Charger with the flag emblem atop it — fly through the air.

But honestly, I've never really taken the time to confront or understand the emotions associated with the Confederate flag — on all sides. 

That is, until the issue burst into the news in the wake of last week's shooting massacre at the Emanuel  African American Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C.:

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