June 26, 2017
Southern Baptist Convention: Resolution #10
The Southern Baptist Convention is always a wonderful time of fellowship and encouragement. I attended this year’s convention in Phoenix, AZ. Our convention is basically a two day business meeting. The convention is a very public event that is covered by many news publications.
My committee chair and mentor at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary was Dr. Jeff Riley, professor of theology and ethics. This year Jeff was on the convention’s Resolution Committee. Resolutions are submitted by pastors and leaders for adoption by our denomination. A Resolution is a statement adopted by the convention that publicly expresses our thoughts and general disposition regarding a matter of particular importance. The Resolution committee sifts the resolutions to identify those that are well written, represent the spirit of our denomination, are timely and deal with issues that have not been thoroughly covered in recently adopted resolutions. The Resolution committee received and considered 12+ resolutions this year. The Resolution Committee decides which resolutions to bring forth for the consideration and vote of the messengers in the general assembly.
This year proposed resolution #10 was submitted by Texas pastor Dwight McKissic. Resolution #10 denounced “white supremacy and every form of racial and ethnic hatred as of the devil.” Sounds good. However, the Resolution committee chose not to bring the resolution to the general assembly for vote. Why? Could be because Southern Baptist are sympathetic to the white supremacist agenda. However, while we were having dinner together after the first day of the convention, my friend Jeff Riley told me that Resolution #10 was not brought to the general assembly because it was not well written, using inflammatory language and repudiating not only “white-nationalism,” but sentiments of nationalism and patriotism generally speaking. Jeff also noted that Southern Baptists have addressed the issues of racism through resolutions passed at our past three conventions. “In recent resolutions the Southern Baptist Convention called on ‘all Christian men and women to pray and labor for the day when our Lord will set all things right and racial prejudice and injustice will be no more’ (2014); expressed continued grief ‘over the presence of racism and the recent escalation of racial tension in our nation’ (2015); and urged fellow Christians to discontinue using the Confederate battle flag, acknowledging that it is a symbol of hatred, bigotry, and racism, offending millions of people’ (2016).”
Pastor McKissic, the author of Resolution #10 requested for the general assembly to vote on allowing his resolution to come to the general assembly. The assembly voted and denied the resolution the opportunity to come to the general assembly. Was this a vote in favor of the alt-right movement and white supremacy? No, not even a passive affirmation of racism. No southern baptist, at any point, argued in favor of the alt-right agenda. The assembly did not vote down a well written resolution that made a stand against discrimination, but instead simply voted not to bring to the floor a poorly written resolution covering the issue of racial discrimination, which we have addressed recently.
However, a media storm ensued, proclaiming that Southern Baptists are torn over racial discrimination and the alt-right movement. The Resolutions Committee was reconvened and the Resolution Committee wrote a resolution repudiating the alt-right and white supremacist ideology and requested a vote by the general assembly to allow this new resolution to be brought to the general assembly. The general assembly voted to allow the new resolution on the floor and the next day, the general assembly voted, almost unanimously, to adopt the resolution.
I’m not insinuating that Southern Baptists do not have racism and discrimination in our past, nor would I argue that we all have repented and turned away from racism and discrimination and these ugly, anti-gospel sentiments can no longer be found in our denomination. However, I am confident that, regarding resolution #10 at this year’s convention, we were not being sympathetic to the ideology of white supremacy.
So what do I take away from this event? One, a watching world is eager to place the label of racists on Southern Baptists. We can respond by saying “we don’t care what you think about us,” but that is not true and we should care because we are to live in such a way as to adorn the gospel and be ambassadors for Christ. Two, we certainly must be vigilant and intentional to guard our reputation. Because of our past, we need to be very clear and even very public on where we stand regarding the gospel and our love for all the ethnicities of this world. We certainly must be faithful to the truth of the gospel and vigilant and intentional about the work of the gospel. Your congregation will follow you in this matter. Teach them that the love of Christ breaks through all barriers.
Consider also this article in Christianity Today