Leaders of Mississippi’s Baptist Convention Board are calling on state legislators to change the state flag, calling it a ‘moral issue.’
Dozens of leaders with the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board, both past and present, have signed a letter asking legislators and the governor to remove the flag with its confederate emblem. Current Executive Director Shawn Parker authored the letter. He says now is the time to change the flag as protests across the nation call for an end to racial injustice. “And given that we are where we are, we simply want to weigh in as a prophetic voice," says Parker. "Our understanding of [what] the responsibility following Christ is that we speak the truth, and we feel as if we have done that today. And we are not interested in being a political player, we are interested in being a prophetic voice.”
Around 38 percent of Mississippians are African American, and Jim Futral, a Former Executive Director, says many of them are hurt by the confederate symbol. Futral says “For a century and a half, that emblem, the battle flag of the south, has been an emblem of hurt and pain and slavery that does not need to be flown on all the flag poles in our state.”
Former Executive Director Kenny Digby says the symbol has the potential to hurt the message preached in Mississippi churches. “Jesus said if your right eye is going to offend you, pluck it out. And if there’s anything that is causing people to feel an offense to the preaching of the gospel, even if it being our state flag, then it is time for a change,” says Digby.
The conservative-leaning majority-white Southern Baptist group has more than 500,000 members in the state, and more than 2,100 (21 hundred) churches. Leaders say the call to remove the flag does not represent every church in the denomination, but they feel the majority holds this same value.