Mission Lab 2018

SBC messengers approve resolutions related to ‘alt-right,’ Planned Parenthood, prayer, substitutionary atonement, etc.

June 19th, 2017 / By: Tom Strode | Baptist Press / comments

PHOENIX—Messengers to the 2017 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting denounced “alt-right white supremacy” in a nearly unanimous vote Wednesday, June 14, after a tumultuous 24 hours following the failure Tuesday of the resolutions committee and messengers to bring an “alt-right” resolution to the floor.

It appeared maybe fewer than 10 messengers in the Phoenix Convention Center hall voted in the afternoon session against a resolution on “the anti-gospel of alt-right white supremacy.” The “alt-right,” a movement that advocates white nationalism, has gained increasing attention in the last 18 months.

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In the resolution, messengers said they:

-- “[D]ecry every form of racism, including alt-right white supremacy, as antithetical to the gospel of Jesus Christ;

-- “[D]enounce and repudiate white supremacy and every form of racial and ethnic hatred as a scheme of the devil intended to bring suffering and division to our society;

-- “[A]cknowledge that we still must make progress in rooting out any remaining forms of intentional or unintentional racism in our midst;

-- “[E]arnestly pray, both for those who advocate racist ideologies and those who are thereby deceived, that they may see their error through the light of the gospel, repent of these hatreds, and come to know the peace and love of Christ through redeemed fellowship in the kingdom of God, which is established from every nation, tribe, people, and language.”

After the vote, most messengers stood to applaud the result.

Dwight McKissic, the African-American pastor who submitted the original resolution, expressed gratitude for approval of the final version.

“I’m grateful that things have ended up like they have, I think, for the kingdom of God’s sake,” McKissic told reporters after the vote. “I think we’re back to a good place after a 24-hour roller coaster ride.”

The pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas, said he was “very pleased” that the final resolution —which was markedly different from his version—addressed the “alt-right” and white supremacy. “I think we’re unified around that,” he said.

The fact it took nearly 24 hours to pass such a resolution clearly disturbed McKissic; however, he was encouraged “to see so many Southern Baptists take a courageous stand” and for a generation of them to say, “We will not take this sitting down,” McKissic said.

Southern Baptist ethics leader Russell Moore, who spoke in support of the resolution from the floor, said of the resolution’s passage, “Southern Baptists were right to speak clearly and definitely that ‘alt-right’ white nationalism is not just a sociological movement but a work of the devil.

“Racism and white supremacy are not merely social issues,” said Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “Racism and white supremacy attack the gospel itself and the person of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

In bringing the resolution to messengers Wednesday, Resolutions Committee Chairman Barrett Duke apologized to the convention on behalf of the panel.

“We regret and apologize for the pain and the confusion that we created for you and a watching world when we decided not to report out a resolution on alt-right racism,” he said. “Please know it wasn’t because we don’t share your abhorrence of racism and especially, particularly the vicious form of racism that has manifested itself in the alt-right movement. We do share your abhorrence.”

The torturous path the resolution took to passage began Tuesday afternoon when the Resolutions Committee offered nine resolutions—all that gained unanimous or nearly unanimous approval—but did not report out a resolution on the “alt-right” from McKissic.

In explaining Tuesday afternoon why the committee did not report out McKissic’s resolution, Duke told reporters the committee agreed with the resolution’s point on racism but thought it and other “elements [in the proposal] already had been addressed recently” in Southern Baptist life.

At the close of the committee’s report, McKissic sought to bring his resolution to the floor for a vote. He asked that the SBC “would go on record to abate darkness that’s invading our nation right now.” Many “alt-right” members claim to be Southern Baptists, he said.

His motion failed to gain the two-thirds majority required in a raised ballot vote. In the evening session, a similar motion from the floor fell short again, gathering only 58 percent in a vote taken by marked ballot.

The Resolutions Committee asked Tuesday evening for an opportunity to bring such a resolution to the convention Wednesday, and the Committee on Order of Business and messengers approved its request. The Resolutions Committee worked on a final version into the earlier hours Wednesday morning, Duke said.

SBC President Steve Gaines spoke to messengers late Tuesday night before they voted on bringing an “alt-right” resolution to the floor.

“I want to encourage you: Let’s make sure before we leave Phoenix everyone knows we have spoken forthrightly that God loves everyone and we love everyone, and the whole world knows that we, in Christ ..., come against every kind of racism that there is,” Gaines said.

Messengers also passed the other nine resolutions Tuesday, June 13, covering some hot-button theological and moral issues, but the “alt-right gained the most attention.

In those resolutions, they:

-- Confessed as sin any lack of prayer and called on Southern Baptists to commit to at least 15 minutes a day of prayer and regular fasting as they are able, as well as petitions to God to grant revival and the salvation of millions of people.

-- Expressed gratitude for leaders who live consistently moral lives, urged all leaders to abide by God’s moral standards and pledged prayer for the country’s leaders to resist temptation.

-- Reaffirmed the doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement—which says Jesus took upon Himself in His death the divine punishment due sinners—”as the burning core of the Gospel message and the only hope of a fallen race.”

-- Denounced Planned Parenthood’s “immoral agenda and practices,” in addition to urging all government defunding and commending the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) for making federal removal of money for the country’s leading abortion provider a priority in its legislative agenda.

-- Called for Southern Baptists and other Christians not to participate “in the sin of gambling,” encouraged pastors and convention leaders to continue to teach Southern Baptists about the deceptiveness of gambling and urged government at all levels to halt state-sponsored gambling.

-- Urged Southern Baptists to pray for and invest in evangelism and discipleship efforts with college students and strengthen the relationship between parachurch campus ministries and local churches.

-- Voiced gratitude to God on the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation for its courageous leaders and urged recommitment to its convictions while advocating for religious liberty for all.

-- Offered thanks on the 100th anniversary of the SBC Executive Committee and commended the entity for its promotion of the Cooperative Program, the convention’s unified giving plan.

-- Expressed gratitude to God, as well as Southern Baptists in the Phoenix area and all others who helped with this year’s meeting.

When asked by a reporter in a news conference afterward about the absence of President Trump’s name from the resolution on moral leadership, Duke said, “There was no need to single out President Trump or anyone else. We simply believe the resolution stands on its own without bringing particular characters into it.”

Regarding the measure on gambling, Duke said “We looked back, and we noticed that we never in the past have actually labeled gambling as a sin in that kind of explicit way.”

Moore described the resolution on penal substitutionary atonement as “very well worded, reflecting the viewpoint of the Baptist Faith & Message [the SBC’s statement of faith] and in a context where penal substitutionary atonement has been the subject of a hot debate in recent years.”

He told reporters it was a “very appropriate word for this convention to speak to the fact that we believe, as the book of Romans teaches, that God is both just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus through the atoning sacrifice of Christ.”

Full text for all 10 resolutions can be found at texanonline.net/sbc2017resolutions.

—This article was compiled from two stories on SBC resolutions by Tom Strode.