Some key resolutions were passed at the 2021 Southern Baptist Convention last week in Nashville that I wanted to highlight.
It is important to recognize that all of these resolutions are non-binding, but they reflect the primary direction and attitude of Southern Baptist Churches.
On Taxpayer Complicity in Abortion and the Hyde Amendment
This resolution is the first pro-life resolution passed during the convention. It condemned efforts to eliminate the Hyde Amendment that prohibits taxpayer funding of abortion (well, direct funding of abortion anyway, it hasn’t prevented Planned Parenthood from receiving taxpayer funds, and money is fungible).
The messengers said they “condemn any effort to repeal the Hyde Amendment as morally abhorrent, a violation of Biblical ethics, contrary to the natural law, and a moral stain on our nation.”
“Southern Baptists call on Congress and the President to uphold the Hyde Amendment and all pro-life Amendments, to protect life, and to prevent taxpayers from being complicit in the moral evil of abortion,” the resolution further states. “Southern Baptists should work through all available cultural and legislative means to end the moral scourge of abortion as we also seek to love, care for, and minister to women who are victimized by the unjust abortion industry.”
On Abolishing Abortion
The SBC was not in danger of embracing abortion or becoming abortion-neutral. Before the 2021 convention, the SBC has passed 27 pro-life resolutions since Roe v. Wade. This resolution is the second pro-life resolution they affirmed at the convention.
The messengers affirmed that abortion is murder.
“(We) do state unequivocally that abortion is murder, and we reject any position that allows for any exceptions to the legal protection of our preborn neighbors, compromises God’s holy standard of justice, or promotes any God-hating partiality,” the resolution reads.
They also state that we shouldn’t solely pursue an incrementalist approach. This text was controversial and was opposed by some, and Baptist News reported that it was amended to soften its language.
The resolution states, “we will not embrace an incremental approach alone to ending abortion because it challenges God’s Lordship over the heart and the conscience, and rejects His call to repent of sin completely and immediately.”
I think the word “alone” is important; without it would condemn numerous pro-life organizations and elected officials who have worked on pro-life legislation. That said, I think it’s important to recognize that while a 20-week abortion ban may be progress, it’s not the end goal. Abortion before 20 weeks is as much a sin as abortion after 20 weeks.
I don’t think the resolution was well-written. For instance, the resolution also states, “we humbly confess and lament any complicity in recognizing exceptions that legitimize or regulate abortion, and of any apathy, in not laboring with the power and influence we have to abolish abortion.”
What is complicity? What exceptions “legitimize or regulate abortion”? Are they talking exceptions for rape and incest? The mother’s life (granted, that is pretty much non-existent except for ectopic pregnancies, but I don’t consider the procedure used to address that abortion, and neither do pro-life OB/GYNs)?
This appears, again, to be a rebuke to any pro-life elected official who voted for a bill that included an exception because it wouldn’t have passed otherwise or who voted for a bill that didn’t ban all abortions.
I think that is wrong-headed and unduly divisive. It also appears to contradict the first pro-life resolution that was passed. While I agree with most of the text in the resolution, I disagree with the spirit in which it was offered.
On Abuse and Pastoral Qualifications
Convention messengers passed a resolution making it clear that pastors who commit sexual abuse are permanently disqualified from pastoral ministry.
“(We) believe that any person in a position of trust or authority who has committed sexual abuse is permanently disqualified from holding the office of pastor,” the resolution reads. “We recommend that all of our affiliated churches apply this standard to all positions of church leadership.”
This resolution is common sense, and I’m glad they affirmed it.
On The Equality Act
Convention messengers also adopted a resolution that opposes the Equality Act passed in the U.S. House of Representatives but has stalled in the Senate.
The language also addressed how Southern Baptists should approach ministry to LGBTQ persons.
“(W)e believe effective Gospel ministry to individuals who consider themselves part of the LGBTQ community requires that we speak to them and about them with respect and Christlike love, while holding firmly to our biblical convictions on these issues,” it reads.
Speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). Too many Christians speak the truth but sound like a noisy gong and clanging cymbal when they do (1 Corinthians 13:1). Being loving is not optional. It is a command.
“(W)e, therefore, encourage our fellow Southern Baptists to engage discussion of the Equality Act and related issues with this in mind,” the resolution continues. “(W)e strongly oppose the Equality Act and urge Congress to reject this dangerous legislation, which represents one of the greatest threats to religious liberty in our nation’s history.”
On the Sufficiency of Scripture for Race and Racial Reconciliation
A group wanted to pass a resolution that would have essentially repealed a resolution passed in 2019 and condemn Critical Race Theory outright. Unfortunately, doing so would have caused a rift within the SBC, causing several black churches to leave.
Is this an issue worth dividing over when that resolution affirmed the Bible’s authority? I think there was a real danger for the SBC to have a setback in its progress over the years with race relations.
Convention messengers did adopt a resolution that affirmed the sufficiency of scripture related to race and racial relations. They also condemned racism. While not condemning CRT specifically, they did offer a statement that outlined the SBC view on particular worldview approaches to race.
“(W)e reject any theory or worldview that finds the ultimate identity of human beings in ethnicity or in any other group dynamic,” it reads. “We reject any theory or worldview that sees the primary problem of humanity as anything other than sin against God and the ultimate solution as anything other than redemption found only in Christ.”
Also, “we, therefore, reject any theory or worldview that denies that racism, oppression, or discrimination is rooted, ultimately, in anything other than sin.”
This language addresses how some have implemented CRT but, at the same time, also addresses a worldview like white nationalism.
On Baptist Unity and Maintaining Our Public Witness
I was very happy with all of the infighting before the convention to see convention messengers pass this resolution.
It states, “we will not permit our personal, social, theological, or political interests to supersede the urgency of evangelism and distract us from the task of the gospel’s advancement through the whole world.”
And continues, “we exhibit Christ-honoring patience and kindness upon those with whom we disagree.”
Now, if only we can just get all Southern Baptists (and other Christians) who fight online to adopt this.
On Sole Membership
This resolution was a rebuke of an attempt to consolidate more power with the SBC executive committee.
Convention members made it clear that they, the convention as a whole, not the SBC executive committee, exercise sole membership rights.
“Neither the ministry assignment of the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention nor any of the Convention’s other commissions, seminaries, or entities ascribe to that entity the responsibility or privilege to exercise the sole membership rights of the Convention ad interim,” it reads.
“(We) affirm the Convention’s exclusive sole membership of each Convention entity,” the resolution continues. “(W)e proudly affirm our heritage of trustee governance of our various entities, on behalf of the Convention, which allows each entity to undertake their respective ministry assignment without infringing upon the governance of other entities or interfering in their administration or ministry assignment.”
Also worth mentioning are a resolution on the Uyghur Genocide in China, and a resolution that states the SBC mourns the lives lost to COVID-19, which we should. How you feel about the pandemic shouldn’t change the fact people died, and we are commanded to mourn with those who mourn.
While not a resolution, the convention messengers also approved a task force to be assembled at the SBC President’s direction to investigate the executive committee’s handling of the sexual abuse crisis.