Convention approves resolutions addressing racism, marriage, religious liberty, abortion – leaders speak out with authority
By Pam Blume
Christian Action League
June 19, 2015
COLUMBUS – With the Supreme Court ruling on same sex marriage expected at any time and after months of racial unrest across the nation, the issues of biblical morality, religious liberty, and racial reconciliation dominated the sermons and business proceedings of the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). The 5,400 messengers (representatives from Southern Baptist churches) met in Columbus, Ohio, June 16 and 17.
The business sessions of the convention deal in part with resolutions presented for the consideration of the messengers. This year the majority of resolutions dealt with pressing social and ethical issues and were passed by close to unanimous votes.
A resolution on racial reconciliation stated that, “…Racism is sin because it disregards the image of God in all people and denies the truth of the Gospel that believers are all one in Him;” and that Southern Baptists …”grieve over the continued presence of racism and the recent escalation of racial tension in our nation. …” The resolution further called on Southern Baptists “…to be faithful ambassadors of reconciliation in their personal relationships and local communities,” and to work toward achieving racial and ethnic diversity in church membership and leadership roles.
“On the Call to Public Witness On Marriage,” a resolution on the impending Supreme Court decision, presented the biblical basis for marriage and the responsibility of government to uphold and protect what is good. It said, “…God in His divine wisdom created marriage as the covenanted, conjugal union of one man and one woman (Genesis 2:18–24; Matthew 19:4–6; Hebrews 13:4)…” and that “God ordains government to promote and honor the public good and recognize what is praiseworthy (Romans 13:3–4);” and “The public good requires defining and defending marriage as the covenanted, conjugal union of one man and one woman”
The same resolution recognized the threat to religious liberty if same sex marriage is legalized. “The redefinition of marriage to include same-sex couples will continue to weaken the institution of the natural family unit and erode the religious liberty and rights of conscience of all who remain faithful to the idea of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife.”
The resolution declared that Southern Baptists’ stand is clear: “No matter how the Supreme Court rules, the Southern Baptist Convention reaffirms its unwavering commitment to its doctrinal and public beliefs concerning marriage;” and “That the religious liberty of individual citizens or institutions should not be infringed as a result of believing or living according to the biblical definition of marriage.” It further called on Southern Baptists and “all Christians to stand firm on the Bible’s witness on the purposes of marriage, among which are to unite man and woman as one flesh and to secure the basis for the flourishing of human civilization.” but at the same time being sure to “love our neighbors and extend respect in Christ’s name to all people, including those who may disagree with us about the definition of marriage and the public good.”
The sanctity of human life resolution affirmed life “at all stages of development,” and urged Southern Baptists to work to achieve “the repeal of unjust laws and inhumane practices that degrade human life.”
Also calling for the dignity of all life, the resolution asked that “…we call on our churches and all believers to care for the elderly among us, to show them honor and dignity, and to prayerfully support and counsel those who are providing end-of-life care for the aged, the terminally ill, and the chronically infirm.”
Another resolution on world-wide religious persecution said that, “Vast numbers of Christians worldwide are experiencing religious persecution because of their confession of Christ as Lord (2 Timothy 3:12);” and “Multiple thousands of these believers are martyred each year, while countless others are imprisoned, tortured, or otherwise oppressed for activities including possessing a copy of the Scriptures, gathering to worship Jesus Christ, or sharing the Gospel.” The resolution called on our government to make the issue of religious liberty a higher priority and for believers to pray for persecuted believers. An additional resolution singled out North Korea for their particularly harsh practices and punishments for Christians in that country.
During the reports of the Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC); brought a stirring challenge about the issue of encroachment on religious liberty and freedom of conscience saying, “I want to keep you out of jail, and help make you willing to go.”
He declared that “We said then and we say now, regardless of how the Court rules, we as Southern Baptists must both articulate and embody a vision for marriage. If the Court finds some right to marriage that neither the drafters of the Constitution nor any previous generation of Americans could ever have imagined, then we will dissent, and we will stand — we can do no other. We will not capitulate on these issues because we cannot. To dispense with marriage is to dispense with a mystery that points to the gospel itself. To minimize what the Scripture teaches about marriage or to ignore a Christian sexual ethic is to abandon the message Jesus handed down to us, and we have no authority to do this. We cannot offer the world a half-gospel that exempts from God’s judgment those sins we fear are too fashionable to address. At the same time, we must not lash out in rage and fury —we must be the people who are prepared to engage the culture in a different day; we must be the people who are ready to take the gospel to a culture that doesn’t recognize it.”
Current SBC President Ronnie Floyd, in his presidential address to the convention said that the church faces a “Bonhoeffer moment” in confronting the evil in this world. He quoted the German theologian saying, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”
Floyd referred to the current evils and concerns such has radical Islam, poverty, human trafficking, racism, and the threats to religious liberty. Referring to the impending ruling of the Supreme Court, Floyd said a ruling in favor of same sex marriage would not only “alter our nation’s belief and practice on traditional and biblical marriage, but also our historic commitment to religious liberty for all people.”
In a somber press conference on Wednesday morning, Floyd and former SBC presidents dating back to 1981 issued a statement affirming they will stand for the biblical definition and practice of marriage despite whatever legal or societal changes say otherwise.
The statement says in part, “The Scriptures’ teaching on marriage is not negotiable. We stake our lives upon the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus. We will not accept, nor adhere to, any legal redefinition of marriage issued by any political or judicial body including the United States Supreme Court.”
The presidents warned of possible lawsuits, fines and even incarceration if Christians stand firm against the redefining of marriage. The loss of tax exempt status could be devastating to smaller churches. They advised churches to update their constitutions and bylaws and other church policy documents in order to be proactive against possible legal attacks. Former SBC President Paige Patterson advised pastors and churches: “You need to get ready for this. You need to be prepared for this.”
To read the full text of the 2015 SBC resolutions go to http://www.bpnews.net/44951/sbc-resolutions-on-key-issues-pull-broad-consensus
To read Russell Moore’s entire message, go to http://erlc.com/article/sbc-2015-report-from-russell-moore
Here is the entire declaration from SBC’s current and former presidents:
As Southern Baptist Christians, we are committed to Biblical faith and ethics. As a result, this body of Believers stands on the authority of Scripture and God’s Truth as central to our lives.
What the Bible says about marriage is clear, definitive and unchanging. We affirm biblical, traditional, natural marriage as the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime. The Scriptures’ teaching on marriage is not negotiable. We stake our lives upon the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus.
Consequently, we will not accept, nor adhere to, any legal redefinition of marriage issued by any political or judicial body including the United States Supreme Court. We will not recognize same-sex “marriages”, our churches will not host same-sex ceremonies, and we will not perform such ceremonies.
While we affirm our love for all people, including those struggling with same-sex attraction, we cannot and will not affirm the moral acceptability of homosexual behavior or any behavior that deviates from God’s design for marriage. We also believe religious freedom is at stake within this critical issue – that our first duty is to love and obey God, not man.
Therefore, we strongly encourage all Southern Baptist pastors, leaders, educators, and churches to openly reject any mandated legal definition of marriage and to use their influence to affirm God’s design for life and relationships. As the nation’s largest non-Catholic denomination with over 16 million members, we stake our very lives and future on the Truth of God’s Word.
We also join together to support those who stand for natural marriage in the corporate world, the marketplace, education, entertainment, media and elsewhere with our prayers and influence, and resources.
Former SBC presidents signing the statement are Bailey E. Smith, SBC president, 1981-82; James T. Draper Jr., 1983-84; Charles F. Stanley, 1985-86; Jerry Vines, 1989-90; Morris H. Chapman, 1991-92; H. Edwin Young, 1993-94; James B. Henry, 1995-96; Tom Elliff, 1997-98; Paige Patterson, 1999-2000; James Merritt, 2001-02; Jack Graham, 2003-04; Bobby Welch, 2005-06; Frank S. Page, 2007-08; Johnny M. Hunt, 2009-10; Bryant Wright, 2011-12; and Fred Luter, 2013,14.