13 SBC Leaders, Pastors Sign Letter Endorsing Tenn. Gov.’s Gun Proposal

Michael Foust | ChristianHeadlines.com Contributor | Thursday, April 20, 2023
13 SBC Leaders, Pastors Sign Letter Endorsing Tenn. Gov.’s Gun Proposal

13 SBC Leaders, Pastors Sign Letter Endorsing Tenn. Gov.’s Gun Proposal

More than a dozen prominent Southern Baptist Convention leaders and pastors in Tennessee have signed a letter endorsing an “order of protection” gun proposal by the state’s governor, saying it would save lives and that it falls within the framework of what the denomination’s messengers have supported. 

The letter includes signatures from Randy Davis, president of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board; Brent Leatherwood, president of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission; Mike Glenn, senior pastor of Brentwood Baptist Church; Robby Gallaty, senior pastor of Long Hollow Baptist Church in Hendersonville; and Ronny Raines, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Clarksville.

The letter was released less than a month after a 28-year-old former student entered The Covenant School in Nashville and killed three students and three adults. Police Chief John Drake said of the shooter, “Her parents felt like that she should not own weapons.”

“We are writing to help articulate the perspective of our churches,” the letter says. “In Tennessee, upward of 20 percent of the populace identifies as Southern Baptist. The members of these churches who gather weekly across the state care deeply about life and the protection of all people made in the image of God. They believe in protecting innocent children from violence and struggling people from self-harm.”

Gov. Bill Lee, a Republican, has urged the legislature to pass an “order of protection law” that he says would “remove individuals who are a threat to themselves or to our society” from guns. Lee said such a proposal would require a “high standard burden of proof” and give the accused individual due process.

“We are writing to urge you to act to support Governor Bill Lee's proposal to strengthen our state's order of protection laws to protect the broader population from those who are a danger to themselves or others,” the letter says. “His framework is a thoughtful approach to ensure we protect the constitutional rights of citizens while also helping to protect potential victims from dangerous individuals. Allowing law enforcement to work with loved ones in order to lead a process that involves full due process in the judicial system, this will ensure individuals who could cause great harm are temporarily kept from accessing weapons, protecting them and others from potential tragedy.”

The letter says Lee’s proposal falls within the framework of resolutions that have been approved by messengers at SBC annual meetings. The letter points to a 2018 resolution that “call[ed] on federal, state, and local authorities to implement preventative measures that would reduce gun violence and mass shootings while operating in accordance with the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution.” It also points to a 2022 resolution which said messengers pray “for our local, state, and federal leaders to recognize the seriousness of the ongoing threat of mass shootings throughout our society and to take concrete steps, toward solutions that uphold the dignity and value of every human life, especially the most vulnerable among us, and to minimize the threat of gun violence throughout our society.”

“As an elected member of the Legislature, you now have an incredible opportunity before you,” the letter said. “We have great confidence in you as you face this pivotal moment and have the opportunity to advance the cause of protecting the vulnerable citizens who are your charge. This action is desperately needed.”

The letter also was signed by: Aaron Bryant, campus and teaching pastor, The Church at Avenue South; David Freeman, pastor, First Baptist Church of Lebanon; Steve Freeman, senior pastor, Grace Baptist Church of Springfield; Wade Owen, campus and teaching pastor, The Church at Nolensville; Nathan Parker, senior pastor, Woodmont Baptist Church; Matt Pearson, campus and teaching pastor, The Church at West Franklin; Matt Satterfield, senior pastor, The Glade Church in Mount Juliet; and Brandt Waggoner, lead pastor, Fairview Church in Lebanon. Non-SBC-related pastors signing the letter were: Ben Anderson, lead pastor, Christ Church Nashville; Clay Stauffer, senior pastor, Woodmont Christian Church; and Darren Whitehead, senior pastor, Church of the City, Franklin. 

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/People Images

Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chroniclethe Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.

13 SBC Leaders, Pastors Sign Letter Endorsing Tenn. Gov.’s Gun Proposal