Messengers to the 2016 Southern Baptist Convention, in addition to repudiating the display of the Confederate battle flag, approved 11 other resolutions on a variety of culture and ministry concerns.
Messengers voted on the proposals over both days of the annual meeting, adopting resolutions that expressed compassion for those devastated by the Orlando mass shooting, urged consistent evangelism of unbelievers and encouraged care for refugees. They also passed measures that included calling for the federal government not to discriminate against people who support only the biblical, traditional view of marriage and opposing an effort to require women to register for the military draft.
For Stephen Rummage, chairman of the Resolutions Committee, the call for Southern Baptists to evangelize was central to the 10-member panel’s deliberations in presenting the 12 measures to the messengers.
The resolution on evangelism “might just seem like a standard resolution for an evangelical body such as Southern Baptists to pass,” Rummage said at a news conference Wednesday morning (June 15), “but really that is at the heart of everything that we talked about, including what we had to say about the Confederate flag. Everything that we do should have as its end and as its goal reaching people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Echoing a comment made in support of the measure on the Confederate flag, Rummage said resolutions “build bridges and they tear down walls, but we’ve got to cross those bridges with the Gospel and take Jesus to people because that’s what it’s all about and that’s the only hope for our world, for our nation and indeed for Southern Baptists.”
Rummage, senior pastor of Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Brandon, Fla., and SBC ethics leader Russell Moore both thought it helpful that messengers strengthened the original Confederate flag resolution proposed by the committee.
The committee-presented resolution called for Christians who display the Confederate flag “to consider prayerfully whether to limit, or even more so, discontinue its display” because of the “undeniably painful impact of the flag’s symbolism on others.” Acting on an amendment offered by former SBC President James Merritt, messengers overwhelmingly approved language that urged “brothers and sisters in Christ to discontinue the display of the Confederate battle flag as a sign of solidarity of the whole body of Christ, including our African American brothers and sisters.”
The committee crafted the resolution with tempered language “to achieve as broad a consensus as possible,” Rummage told reporters. When the committee saw the messengers desired to make an even stronger statement, “I think the whole committee was very thankful to be able to vote ‘yes’ to the amendment,” he said. “I was elated to see us make the type of statement that we did.”
Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, told reporters, “I think it lends to an even stronger witness that the process happened the way that it did.”
Those outside the denomination saw “a Southern Baptist Convention that came in and affirmed its Resolutions Committee [and] said, ‘Thank you for bringing this resolution of unity to us, and we want to make sure that we’re as clear as we can be about standing in solidarity with one another,'” Moore said.
In addition to the Confederate flag measure, the other 11 resolutions:
— affirmed Southern Baptists’ commitment to biblical sexuality and urged the protection of religious free exercise. Kelvin Cochran, who was fired as Atlanta’s fire chief after writing in a book that homosexual behavior is immoral, presented the resolution to the convention as a member of the committee.
— called for prayer for and pledged support to those affected by the June 12 killings in Orlando.
— encouraged faithful proclamation of the Gospel by churches and intentional evangelism by individual Southern Baptists locally, nationally and globally.
— declared “unrelenting opposition” to efforts by military leaders and the Obama administration “to increase the likelihood that women will be placed in harm’s way” along with voicing support for service members and their families.
— called on the government to enact strict security in screening refugees and for Southern Baptists to compassionately minister to and share the Gospel with them.
— urged participation in voting and prayer for God to provide “spiritual, moral, ethical, and cultural renewal.”
— encouraged churches to consider increasing ministries to Alzheimer’s and dementia patients and their family caregivers.
— called for pastors to support freedom of the press and journalists to practice that freedom responsibly.
— affirmed “In God We Trust” as the national motto and encouraged its public display.
— supported Israel’s right to exist as a free state and encouraged renewed prayer for peace in and salvation of Israel.
— expressed gratitude to God as well as Southern Baptists in the St. Louis area and all others who helped with this year’s meeting.
The convention passed the first seven resolutions during the Tuesday afternoon session (June 14) but was unable to vote on the remainder because time for their consideration expired. Messengers approved the final five resolutions as a package Wednesday morning.
In addition to the amendment on the Confederate flag, three amendments were offered by messengers that the Resolutions Committee welcomed as friendly ones.
The committee chose not to act on resolutions submitted regarding gambling, a million more baptisms by 2034, sexual predatory behavior among Southern Baptists, forced termination of pastors, character development of boys and churches not being political lobbyists.
Jason Duesing, provost and associate professor of historical theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo., and a member of Antioch Bible Baptist Church in Gladstone, Mo., served as vice chairman of the committee. The other committee members, in alphabetical order, were: Cochran, chief strategic officer, Elizabeth Baptist Church, Atlanta; Linda Cooper, member, Forest Park Baptist Church in Bowling Green, Ky., and national president of Woman’s Missionary Union; Mark Harris, senior pastor, First Baptist Church, Charlotte, N.C., and former candidate for the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives; Brad Jurkovich, senior pastor, First Baptist Church, Bossier City, La.; Shannon Royce, member, Columbia Baptist Church, Falls Church, Va., and chief of staff/chief operating officer of the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C.; Rolland Slade, senior pastor, Meridian Southern Baptist Church, El Cajon, Calif.; Jim Smith, member, Ninth and O Baptist Church, Louisville, Ky., and vice president of communications for the National Religious Broadcasters in Washington, D.C.; and Mat Staver, member, First Baptist Church, Orlando, Fla., and founder/chairman of Liberty Counsel, with offices in Florida, Virginia and Washington, D.C.
Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.