The president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), the largest Protestant denomination in the nation, called upon his members Tuesday to make the declaration that “black lives matter” and condemn the slogan “all lives matter.”

“Let me echo my friend Jimmy Scroggins, a pastor down in Florida, in saying that ‘black lives matter’ is an important thing to say right now because we are seeing in our country the evidence of specific injustices that many of our black brothers, and sisters and friends have been telling us about for years,” SBC President J.D. Greear, the pastor of the Summit Church in Durham, North Carolina, said during his annual address:

“Southern Baptists, we need to say it clearly as a gospel issue: black lives matter,” he continued. “Of course, black lives matter. Our black brothers and sisters are made in the image of God. Black lives matter because Jesus died for them.”

“And by the way, let’s not respond by saying ‘oh, well all lives matter,’” he added. “Of course, all lives matter. … That’s true. But you’re missing the point.”

However, Greear said as well, “I do not align myself with the Black Lives Matter organization,” which, he explained, has been “hijacked by some political operatives whose worldview and policy prescriptions would be deeply at odds with [his] own.”

The SBC president said slogans such as “defund the police” are not constructive.

“I think saying bold things like ‘defund the police’ is unhelpful and deeply disrespectful to many public servants who bravely put themselves in harm’s way every day to protect us,” he said.

“But I know that we need to take a deep look at our police systems and structures and ask what we’re missing,” Greear continued. “Where are we missing the mark? And I’ll say that we do that because black lives matter.”

Greear’s call to say that “black lives matter” was met by expressions of surprise.

The Houston Chronicle reported:

The Rev. Dwight McKissic, pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church, a predominantly African American congregation in Arlington, said he was shocked — but “thankful beyond measure” — to hear Greear’s comments, which he praised as “sensible,” “therapeutic” and “without qualification or equivocation.”

“It’s almost surreal to me that it would come off the lips of a president of the Southern Baptist Convention,” McKissic said. “It’s true, it’s right and it should have been said 50 years ago.”

On Thursday, Greear wrote at Baptist Press News that it was also “time to retire the Broadus gavel,” the gavel that bears the name of John Broadus, a 19th century Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president who was a slaveholder and supported the Confederacy:

“Southern Baptists, I think it is time to retire the Broadus gavel,” he said. “While we do not want to, nor could we, erase our history, it is time for this gavel to go back into the display case at the Executive Committee offices.”

In June 2017, SBC members voted to condemn “alt-right white supremacy” in a nearly unanimous vote:

Controversy over the resolution on “the anti-gospel of alt-right white supremacy” preceded the vote, which defined “alt-right” as “a movement that advocates white nationalism” and has “gained increasing attention in the last 18 months.”

The original resolution was submitted by McKissic, who said, “I think that today’s vote will help to mitigate some of the hurt and some of the pain, because it’s painful to watch people who tout biblical inerrancy and who tout the centrality of the Gospel have to deliberate over denouncing white supremacy.”