Resolutions at annual meeting address tensions, affirm civility
November 24th, 2020 / By: Bonnie Pritchett | TEXAN Correspondent / comments
AUSTIN This year has challenged SBTC churches to an extraordinary degree: a global pandemic that has killed 19,000 Texans as of November, lockdowns that caused economic and emotional turmoil, and racial tensions that spilled over into protests and riots. The troublesome times have scattered the church that is trying to regroup.
The SBTC Resolutions Committee offered eight resolutions that provide churches with biblically objective perspectives on some of the year’s most troubling issues. Messengers approved them all.
The first resolution thanked Hyde Park Baptist Church in Austin for the “kind hospitality and generosity of the staff and leadership” in hosting the annual meeting.
The second resolution, “On the Affirmation of Life” is a ubiquitous resolution—the truth that humans are image bearers of their Creator was a theme woven throughout the other resolutions.
A portion of the resolution was influenced by the killing of George Floyd, a black man, by a white Minneapolis police officer. That event sparked protests and riots across the nation and warranted the reminder that Christians must protect those vulnerable to discrimination. The resolutions states, in part:
“Whereas significant challenges threaten the dignity and worthiness of human beings who do not possess power or advantage, including but not limited to: the heinous murder of the unborn child in the womb… the prejudices and discriminations of racism and ethnocentrism, various abuses of other human persons…”
The statement resolved to “affirm the full dignity of every human being, whether or not any political, legal, or medical authority considers a human being possessive of “viable” life regardless of cognitive or physical disability, and/or ethnicity, denounce every act that would wrongly limit the life of any human at any stage or state of life.”
The third resolution, “On Civil Authority” does not speak directly to the year’s civil unrest but it calls Christians to remember that “all authority that exists is appointed by God” who is a Christian’s ultimate authority.
Messengers agreed to amend the resolution before passing it. A passage originally stated “we will be subject to the governing authorities.” It was amended to include the phrase “so long as they do not require disobedience to God.”
“On the Family” noted three court decisions—two from this year—that “promote sexual immorality,” “promote alternative lifestyles,” and allow “children to determine their sexual and gender identity.” The resolution affirms the God-created institutions of marriage, the families that flow from that relationship, and God’s perfect design of humans.
By passing the resolution, messengers committed to “stand for the biblical family as the foundation of civilization” regardless of governmental or societal actions to alter its meaning and purpose.
The resolution echoed the affirmation of life and built upon a 2018 resolution that repudiated “any and all assaults on the dignity and humanity of God’s image bearers, regardless of refugee status” and extends that biblical consideration to asylum seekers.
The resolution defines asylum seekers as immigrants in the U.S. “while applying for refugee status and are trying to live and work here” during that process. The statement recognizes the asylum seekers have fled their own countries due to persecution and include Christians and “persecuted minorities of other faiths in need of the gospel, both of which are in need of support from the local church as they seek to integrate into American society.”
The resolution calls Christians to pray for those fleeing hostility in their homelands and to encourage the churches and ministries to help meet the needs of asylum seekers in their communities and commit to disciple them.
“On Religious Liberty and Worship as Essential,” the sixth resolution, affirms the God-given right to religious liberty that is reaffirmed in the U.S. Constitution.
A messenger proposed deleting this phrase: “Whereas, there is a growing tendency to label the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the assembling of the church as non-essential and the expression of the Christian mind as a ‘hate crime.’”
He questioned the use of “hate crime” as an accurate description of Christian and secular tensions.
Messengers and Resolutions Committee member Denny Autrey discussed rephrasing “hate crime” to “hate speech.” Autrey said the committee chose the stronger term “crime” because so-called hate speech is a crime in some places in the U.S. He further argued LGBT advocates have labeled the preaching of the gospel and biblical sexual ethics as a hate crime.
The resolution also addressed the “essential” nature of religious exercise that “supersede[s] popular culture’s perception or governmental shutdowns even in a pandemic.”
The sixth resolution passed without amendment.
Barry Calhoun, chairman of the Resolutions Committee, authored the seventh resolution “On Civility on Social Media.”
Calhoun told the TEXAN he has seen people leave churches because of the destructive nature of unguarded words sent via digital mouthpieces.
“You’ve got the pulpit and the pew doing what they shouldn’t—sowing discord,” Calhoun said.
What’s worse, he said, is the world sees believers can’t talk civilly about divisive issues.
The resolution recognizes the potential of social media to connect people around the world and even aid missionaries in the field, but states “some using social media use language inconsistent with the fruit of the Spirit.”
From the resolution: “We know that our social media posts can and will follow us, for we never know who is looking into what we post, and unfortunately, we can write things that may negatively affect future opportunities.”
The resolution calls for believers, especially during this difficult year, to consider how to build up one another and to speak the truth in love.
And some issues should be resolved off-line. The resolution states, “…there are times when we should dialogue with someone who holds an opposing view over the phone or invite them to meet in an effort to get a better understanding of their position rather than attack them via social media and cast a stain on the body of Christ…”
The final resolution “On Racial Harmony” also drew debate—not over the intent of the statement which is to “condemn prejudice as unworthy of the people of God and an offense to God” and to advance biblical responses to the problem of sin and foster harmony” among all people.
The resolution also recognizes Adam and Eve as the first humans and that the entire human race originates from them. God shows no partiality and “reveals that the dignity and equality of every human being is rooted in the image of God, regardless of ethnicity, age, or gender.”
The point of debate centered on the terms Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality. The resolution said ideologies are used as “analytical tools that are divergent from biblical truth and often create disunity, confusion, and conflict.”
Defining the ideologies behind Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality can be nebulous. For clarity’s sake, a messenger asked that the resolution be amended to include definitions of the terms. Messengers agreed to the footnote and the committee added the following:
“Critical Race Theory is the secular view that the law and legal institutions are inherently racist and that race, itself, instead of being biologically grounded and natural, is a socially constructed concept that is used by white people to further their economic and political interests at the expense of people of color. It is an unbiblical approach to the problem of sin that brings division among ethnic diversity and, as such, must be rejected.”
The resolution ended with the life-affirming message, “we acknowledge that there is only one race, and that is the human race, and seek to bring all peoples into the family of God through repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, thereby producing racial harmony.”