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Prominent or obscure? The plaque honoring slaves and slaveholders at a Southern Baptist seminary

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, located in Louisville, Kentucky, has faced controversy over a marker meant to acknowledge the slaves of the institution’s founders after the seminary’s president and trustees declined requests to remove the names of the slaveholding founders from buildings.

In 2020, seminary president Al Mohler promised a high profile SBC pastor that a memorial to those previously enslaved by the seminary and its founders would be erected. However, when Dwight McKissic visited the campus recently, he found a small plaque in the secondary chapel, Broadus Chapel, named after one of the slaveholding founders, John Broadus.

McKissic and other Black pastors do not consider this plaque to be prominent or sufficient. Critics argue that it should be more prominently displayed.

Mohler, who has been the seminary’s president for 30 years, has celebrated the founders due to their shared Reformed theology. However, this theology is intertwined with the legacy of white supremacy and slave ownership. The plaque, while acknowledging the enslaved, still begins by honoring the four slaveholding founders.

The controversy raises questions about how institutions grapple with their complex legacies, particularly in relation to slavery and racism, and whether acknowledgments like this plaque are adequate or meaningful. Critics argue that more substantial actions, such as renaming buildings, are needed to address the institution’s historical ties to slavery.

Baptist News Global writes:

A “prominent” marker on the campus of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary acknowledging the sins of the institution’s slaveholding founders is smaller than a nearby banner bearing the image of current seminary President Al Mohler, the Louisville Courier-Journal reports.

The 20-by-30-inch bronze marker in the lobby of Broadus Chapel came about when Mohler and seminary trustees declined requests to remove the names of slaveholding founders from campus buildings three years ago.

One of the loudest critics calling for taking names off buildings at the Louisville, Ky., school was Dwight McKissic, pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas. Until this summer, McKissic maintained a high profile in the SBC, but he and his congregation recently announced they are leaving the denomination because of restrictions placed on women in ministry. Mohler also is a key figure in advocating for those restrictions.

In 2020, when seminary trustees voted not to change the names of buildings, Mohler promised McKissic he would erect a memorial to those people previously enslaved by Southern and its founders.

But when McKissic recently visited the campus, he couldn’t find the memorial. He tweeted his disappointment.

Read the full article.

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