Almost immediately following Ed Litton’s announcement that he would decline to serve a second year as President of the Southern Baptist Convention, Megachurch pastor Willy Rice announced his candidacy for SBC President. In his Pastor’s blog, Rice stated that the decision came “after prayer and consultation with several friends and Southern Baptist Leaders.” Amazingly, prayer and consultation for such an important decision did not take more than 24 hours, unless of course Willy Rice is the establishment candidate who was hand-chosen by the SBC elites long before Litton finalized his decision to resign.
A Slick Willy candidacy should give Southern Baptists great pause, as the pastor has a shaky track record on critical issues that the convention faces. At the 2021 convention, Rice, who claims to be a conservative, used his sermon to criticize those with doctrinal convictions about Critical Race Theory and Biblical Womanhood. In a statement that characterized egalitarians who constantly seek to subvert the scripture as Godly women who really have a heart to serve, Rice took a swipe at Pastor John Macarthur’s call for Beth Moore to “Go home”, equating Baptist Missionary Lottie Moon with wicked egalitarian motivational speaker Beth Moore:
And while we’re at it we should also remember that this convention did not build the largest missionary force in the history of Christendom by telling Lottie Moon to “go home.” Most of our sisters, our daughters and our mothers, only desire to obey the command of the risen Christ and to joyfully submit to His authority.
Rice has a knack for criticizing those who desire to follow the scriptures, frequently accusing his ideological opponents of disrupting the unity of the church and seeking power. During a twitter rant session in January 2021, Rice got up on his high horse and made veiled swipes at those in the SBC who “use doctrine as a bully club to harass, intimidate, and shame others.” Like many Big-Eva leaders, Rice is quick to give out veiled vague criticisms with a thin veneer of Biblical imagery, while refusing to identify the target of his criticism.
Perhaps the most concerning aspect of Rice’s Theology is the weaselly way that he approaches the issue of Critical Race Theory. In a June 24, 2021 Calvary Church Podcast titled “Critical Race Theory is a Thing”, Rice begins the discussion of CRT by saying that he opposes Critical Race Theory. As the conversation progresses, Rice reveals that he doesn’t believe that Resolution 9, the SBC resolution that declared CRT as a “useful analytical tool” was necessarily a bad thing. According to Rice, bad actors in the convention are trying to use a misunderstanding of CRT to stifle discussions about race. Rice then proposes that there isn’t a single person amongst SBC leadership or prominent pastors who is a proponent of CRT:
I don’t know anyone, anyone, any single one, black, white, or anyone, behind closed doors or anywhere who is advocating Critical Race Theory.
The remainder of the podcast focuses on listening to Black Voices and learning from those who claim to have experienced racism. Rice’s viewpoint is driven by standpoint epistemology, a key tenant of Critical Race Theory. Rice genuinely believes that Black Christians have special secret knowledge about systemic injustices and racism that white Christians do not have the ability to perceive (a CRT framework described by Pastor Voddie Baucham as ethnic Gnosticism). In a nutshell, Willy Rice uses weasel words to claim that he is against CRT, even while he defends its tenants.
The standpoint epistemology of Rice was apparent in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd. As was the practice with many pastors who were beholden to CRT, Rice held a “help me understand” listen and learn panel at his church. The panel included 5 black pastors and church leaders, in addition to 2 white men who had adopted black children. The members of the panel were selected on the basis of their skin color or the skin color of their children. Rice begins by urging the congregation to refrain from casting judgements on differing opinions about race and racism, and just focus on listening and learning. The discussion that proceeded could only be described as a defense of Critical Race Theory. Panel members reflected on “white privilege” in light of the Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin “incidents”, postulating that America has been systemically racist and unjust since its inception. The Gospel was cited in passing, but all of the members of the panel push the idea that the solution to the problem is listening, learning, and having conversations, because white Christians need to know about how black Christians experience racism.
What would a winsome Willy Rice SBC presidency look like? Willy seems to emphasize unity at the expense of truth. Whether it is the issue of egalitarianism in the church or the issue of Biblical Justice, slick Willy doesn’t want to be confined to a single position on an issue, because everyone has their story and life experiences. He wants to listen and learn from those voices that feel marginalized and oppressed. Truth is defined by scripture. Justice and partiality are defined by the word of God. Man and Woman and their design are clearly defined by the word of God. Prior to the surge of standpoint epistemology into Southern Baptist Churches, the SBC was known for its reliance on scripture as inerrant and sufficient. Southern Baptists don’t need another “lean in and listen” standpoint epistemology advocating candidate, but rather a candidate who has a laser focus on the standard of scripture. In the words of past SBC President Adrian Rogers, “It is better to be divided by truth than to be united in error.”
Editor’s Notes and Reference:
This post was written by Paul Brown for Protestia.
Critical Race Theory is a Thing // Ricecast – YouTube
Minute 23-24, Minute 25, there is no one in the southern Baptist convention who is saying that we need CRT, Minute 27- COVID affected black communities worse, Minute 28, I don’t know any single one, black white, or whatever, behind closed doors who is advocating behind closed doors who is advocating for CRT, Minute 32-felt like resolution 19 shouldn’t have been brought up at all, Minute 33-we don’t want to go so far as to say that there is not such thing as systemic injustice in America, Minute 35- I can’t imagine anyone telling me they don’t want to hear about their experiences, Minute 35- we need our black brother’s and sisters opinion, Minute 40 embracing conversations, Minute 41- there are some people on the fringes who are angry and upset, Minute 45- Leaning in to hear is what we need
19:37, lean in and hear this story, 26:36 Michael Brown situation cited by associate pastor, 27:07 White Privilege, 28:22 systems and structures that perpetuate, 29 Racism woven into fabric of America, 30 Structure has continued to perpetuate racism, 31:30 Systems and structures are designed, 31-Willy says that unconscious racism is real, 35:55 adopted black baby and asked people what is it like to grow up with black or brown skin, 57:14 History books are wrong and implicit bias privilege and systemic racism are real, Our nation was founded on racism and we stole labor
Willy Rice’s Sob Story: Ben Carson Sacrificed for the Sake of Unity (pulpitandpen.org)
Prominent Pastors Discuss Calvinism, Call for Unity – Lifeway ResearchPastor Willy Rice slams those who contribute to disunity in SBC | Church & Ministries News (christianpost.com)