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Missouri Southern Baptist Leader Apologizes for Criticizing Confederate Flag

The interim executive director of the Missouri Baptist Convention has apologized for calling the Confederate flag a symbol of hate.

Earlier this year David Tolliver wrote a column in the Missouri Baptist newspaper The Pathway about the mixed message of seeing the Christian and Confederate flags flown together in a front yard in eastern Missouri. The former, he said, represents the love of Christ, while the latter “reminds us of the hatred of racism.”

“The Confederate flag represents a dark time in the history of our country,” Tolliver wrote. “The Confederate flag represents hate.”

Tolliver’s point was that infighting among Baptists creates a similar mixed message to the outside world. In his most recent editorial, however, Tolliver said the message was lost on readers who took exception to his analogy.

“I must reiterate that my personal life experience with that symbol presents it as a symbol that perpetuates a dark time in the history of our nation–the days of slavery in the South, that time leading up to and the time of the Civil War,” Tolliver wrote. “That has been my experience and my understanding for more years than I care to admit. Over the last few weeks, however, since that article appeared in Pathway, I have been made aware that I offended some Missouri Baptists with a different opinion concerning the symbolism of the Confederate flag.”

“I am sorry that I offended some of you,” Tolliver continued. “The last thing we need in our Missouri Baptist Convention is something else to fight about.”

Tolliver said he understands that some Missouri Baptists see the Confederate flag differently than he does. “I accept that some of you see that flag as a symbol of southern culture,” he said. “Actually, I knew that when I wrote the original article. That is why I acknowledged that ‘some will disagree with me on this issue.'”

Tolliver said he explained his position more clearly in early drafts for the first article but removed those sections to fit the assigned word count.

“Consequently, I too quickly acknowledged that some would disagree with me and then went on to state my position,” he said.

“Even though some of the revisionist history I have heard over the last couple of weeks, relating to the Confederate flag and to the War between the States, is bizarre, if you are one of those who disagree with me regarding the Confederate flag, I do not assume that you are a racist and I did not intend to accuse you of hate,” Tolliver wrote.

“Still, I wonder if those who were so easily offended by my statements ever considered that many people are just as offended by the mere sight of that flag. I wonder if those who so vehemently disagree with me about the Confederate flag will accept that there are others who just as passionately disagree with them. Even more importantly, I wonder, why is it that no one posted on a message board, or wrote a letter to the editor that addressed the real purpose of the article?”

A fourth-generation Missouri Baptist preacher, Tolliver was named as interim executive director of the state’s Southern Baptist convention when the MBC executive board fired Executive Director David Clippard April 10, 2007.

Prior to joining the state convention staff as associate executive director for the Cooperative Program, Tolliver was pastor at Pisgah Baptist Church in Excelsior Springs for six years. He was elected as the state convention’s president in 2003.

Tolliver is a past president of Southern Baptist Conservatives of Missouri, a group of pastors that strategized on how to achieve more influence in Missouri Baptist life. At the national level he has served as a trustee of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and a member of the SBC Executive Committee.

Bordering Kansas, a flashpoint in events leading up to the American Civil War, Missouri witnessed more battles and skirmishes in the war than any place except Virginia and Tennessee.

Territorial laws of Missouri recognized slavery. It became a state in 1821 as result of The Missouri Compromise of 1820, an agreement between pro-slavery and abolitionist advocates that Missouri would be admitted as a slave state but otherwise slavery was forbidden in areas of the former Louisiana Purchase above 36 degrees and 30 minutes north latitude.

Missourians were active in the mid-1850s in frontier-town border wars called “Bleeding Kansas”–a phrase coined by New York journalist Horace Greeley–between anti-slavery “Free Staters” and pro-slavery “Border Ruffians” that presaged the Civil War.

The Missouri Compromise was repealed by the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1846, which allowed settlers in Kansas and Nebraska to decide whether or not to have slavery in those territories.

The compromise also was invalidated in 1857 by the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dred Scott decision, which found that slaves and their descendants could not be citizens of the United States and that Congress had no authority to prohibit slavery in federal territories. Dred Scott was never overturned, but it was superseded by the 13th Amendment to the Constitution abolishing slavery in 1865 and the 14th Amendment in 1868, which guaranteed full rights and citizenship regardless of race.

Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.

Previous articles:

Missouri Baptist Editor Supports Confederate Flag

Confederate Flag Issue Flies in Face of Anniversary of MLK Assassination