The Southern Baptist Convention approved a resolution denouncing the Alt-Right and White Supremacy at their Annual Meeting in Phoenix, but not without controversy.
Each year, Southern Baptist churches select messengers to represent them at the Annual Meeting, which rotates meeting sites from year to year. One of the items on the agenda is the adoption of resolutions which are designed to state the opinions and concerns of the Convention. Resolutions are different from motions, which call on the Convention to take an action. Instead, resolutions are non-binding in nature and merely express the thoughts of the messengers.
This year, Dwight McKissic, Pastor at Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas, submitted a resolution condemning the “Alt-Right and White Nationalism.” In particular, his resolution called on the Convention to “reject the retrograde ideologies, xenophobic biases, and racial bigotries of the so-called ‘Alt-Right’ that seek to subvert our government, destabilize society, and infect our political system.”
The Resolutions Committee, consisting of ten members appointed by SBC President Steve Gaines, declined to bring the resolution before the 5,000 registered messengers.
At the conclusion of the committee’s report, McKissic went to a microphone and asked why the resolution would not be brought forward. Committee chairman Barrett Duke explained that the resolution included inflammatory language and could be construed as condemning all people with conservative political leanings.
McKissic asked for a vote that would allow two-thirds of the messengers to overrule the committee and bring the resolution to the floor for consideration. Fifty-seven percent of messengers agreed with McKissic’s call, causing the determination of the committee to be upheld.
In the hours that followed, word began to circulate that the decision might be reconsidered and Gaines informed messengers at the evening session to stay until the end of the session for an important piece of business. At that time, Convention Parliamentarian Barry McCarty informed the messengers that the Resolutions Committee voted to reconsider their decision to decline McKissic’s resolution and asked the messengers to allow them to present it the following day during a timeslot allotted for previously scheduled business. The messengers overwhelmingly approved this course of action.
Wednesday afternoon the Convention hall was near capacity as the Resolutions Committee brought a reworked version of the original resolution to the floor. Duke apologized to the messengers for their previous decision and the pain it had caused.
The new resolution declared that the Convention “decry every form of racism, including alt-right white supremacy, as antithetical to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” Russell Moore, President of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, spoke in favor of the resolution and said messengers should state clearly that white supremacy oppresses men and women made in the image of God and stands in opposition to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The new resolution passed with almost no opposition.
The Alt-Right emerged as a force on national stage in 2015 and encourages white Americans to find their identity in their racial heritage. Popular Alt-Right speak Richard Spencer appeared at Auburn University earlier this year. A student asked him why white people should find their identity in their race rather than being made in the image of God. Spencer replied, "Yes, Jesus was not European, but I will say that this belief system that you embrace is truly a product of centuries of European Christianity ... To simply white out that history in the name of something Paul said is to lose sight of the reality.”
The Southern Baptist Convention is the United States’ largest protestant denomination, boasting more than 15 million members in over 46,000 churches. When the Southern Baptist Convention convenes for its annual meeting, it forms the world’s largest deliberative body.
Photo courtesy: Wikimedia Commons
Publication date: June 15, 2017