Faced with declining numbers, Southern Baptists focus on evangelism

Tensions from US presidential race rile Southern Baptists - Honolulu, Hawaii news, sports & weather - KITV Channel 4

One pastor, David Mills of Athens, Georgia, requested that the resolution be a amended to include a study of "alt-right" and "alt-left" movements in the country to be brought as a report at the next meeting of Southern Baptists in 2018.

On Tuesday, they initially declined to consider the proposal submitted by a prominent black pastor, the Atlantic reported, but changed course after a significant backlash.

The resolution touched on the church's racist history, as the Southern Baptists once prominently taught the "curse of Ham" theory, which the resolution describes as "echoing the belief that God through Noah ordained descendants of Africa to be subservient to Anglos" and "which provided the theological justification for slavery and segregation".

"Racism and white supremacy are, sadly, not extinct but present all over the world in various white supremacist movements, sometimes known as "white nationalism" or "alt-right", the motion read, calling racism and ethnic hatred "a scheme of the devil".

To be fair, committee chairman Barrett Duke said, "The resolution just contained some significantly inflammatory language that we felt was over the bar".

Duke explained in his opening statement Wednesday, however, that the issue that prevented the initial vote was one of clarity in messaging, rather than division over white supremacy.

The event in Phoenix is the first Southern Baptist annual meeting since the USA presidential election, which riled the denomination's leadership over whether Trump, a thrice-married casino and real estate mogul, was morally fit for office.

It also animated many well-intentioned clergy and laypeople within and beyond the SBC who lament the strands of white supremacy and blindness to racial inequity that still persist in churches.

The resolution's failure on Tuesday prompted indignation and anger as younger evangelicals, including African-Americans, took to social media to vent their feelings.

Thabiti Anyabwile, a black Southern Baptist pastor, was critical of Duke's decision, tweeting emphatically that "any "church" that can not denounce white supremacy without hesitancy and equivocation is a dead, Jesus denying assembly". "Was I discouraged? Yes", she says. The creation of the convention in 1845 stemmed from its pro-slavery roots when the issue of slavery split Northern and Southern Baptists.

"I'm grateful that things have ended up like they have, I think, for the kingdom of God's sake", McKissic said following the vote. "I thought it would be a slam dunk, but I misread Southern Baptists apparently", McKissic said. "It's resolution number 10", said Moore.

McKissic's resolution, however, had been rejected by the convention's Resolutions Committee before the meeting.

"There were a lot of people who just weren't familiar with what the alt-right is".

The new resolution, which risked little confusion with the new title, "On the Anti-Gospel of Alt-Right White Supremacy", could be voted on the following day if two-thirds agreed to an immediate vote.

In April, five white Southern Baptist seminary leaders posted a racially insensitive photo on Twitter with many of them dressed in hoodies and pointing as though they were holding guns.

He called on the convention to reconsider McKissic's resolution and "condemn the alt-right from the stage as we speak right now so there is not misunderstanding from the press or this convention". Organizers said they saw only one person vote in opposition.

While the condemnation of the "alt-right" movement failed, attendees did pass a resolution on moral leadership that praised public officials who "displayed consistent moral character and uncompromising commitment to biblical principle". "We just weren't certain we could craft a resolution that would enable us to measure our strong convictions with the grace of love, which we're also commended by Jesus to incorporate".

SBC's Annual Church Profile showed that the number of baptisms, which has always been considered as a benchmark for denominational health, has dropped to its lowest level in 70 years.

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