Today, LifeWay Christian Resources, a Southern Baptist retail organization currently led by Thom Rainer, officially apologized for a Vacation Bible School curriculum produced 10 years ago. The curriculum, “Rickshaw Rally”, was successful for LifeWay but came with criticism that the material was racially insensitive and inappropriate.
Jimmy Draper, then president of LifeWay, defended the curriculum against objections that the material used was inaccurate and that it unfairly stereotyped Asians.
Doris Kung, an Asian-American blogger writes,
“When the Asian-American Christian community protested the release of the Rickshaw Rally, Lifeways’ reponse was dismissive. Among Draper’s many defenses of the curriculum, the repeated mantra is ‘Lifeway did not mean to offend the Asian- American community.’ Apparently this is enough of a reason for them to continue marketing and distributing the materials throughout North America and the world.”
Religion News Service reports,
Rainer, who became president and CEO in 2006, said in a video message at the Mosaix conference in California that the “Rickshaw Rally” curriculum is “still a point of hurt for some.”
“I am sincerely sorry stereotypes were used in our materials, and I apologize for the pain they caused,” Rainer said, according to a transcript provided by LifeWay to RNS.
“I agree with those who have helped us understand the offensive nature of that material,” he said. “And I agree evangelical church and ministry leaders – particularly those of us who are white – need to commit to assuring, as best we can, these offenses stop.”
Several Asian American Christians were surprised by the apology, expressing appreciation.
I am thankful for the leadership of Thom Rainer at LifeWay. Southern Baptists are well served by Rainer and the many great folks at LifeWay. This is another step in the right direction.