DALLAS (BP) — Messengers to the 2018 Southern Baptist Convention affirmed the dignity and worth of women, denounced all forms of abuse and called for sexual purity among Christian leaders in adopting 16 resolutions Tuesday (June 12).
Passage of the resolutions on women, abuse and pastoral purity by nearly unanimous votes late in the afternoon session came after months of disclosures of sexual abuse and misconduct by male leaders had rocked Southern Baptist and other evangelical churches and institutions.Adoption of the measures also came in the wake of the May 30 termination of Paige Patterson at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary following his alleged mishandling of the reported rape of a female student and criticism of his advice to a woman abused by her husband.
The resolution on women recognized May 15 as the 100th anniversary of female messengers to the SBC meeting and honored “the immeasurable contribution of women to our cooperative mission of Great Commission work.”
It also affirmed women’s gifts “in their distinctive God-assigned roles” and urged Southern Baptists “to encourage, cultivate, and celebrate the diverse gifts, callings, and contributions of women in biblically appropriate ways.”
The measure on abuse renounced “all abusive behavior as unquestionably sinful” and called for decisive action to report abuse allegations to law enforcement authorities. It also offered compassion to abuse victims, “being careful to remind the abused that such injustice is undeserved and not a result of personal guilt or fault.”
In the resolution on clergy purity, messengers repudiated actions that undermine the New Testament standard of holiness for Christian leaders and urged churches “to exercise appropriate redemptive church discipline” when needed.
While the subjects of these first three resolutions had some overlap, the Resolutions Committee — which received 38 resolutions, the most since 1997 — “determined to address each theme individually” because of the number of proposed statements it received, Chairman Jason Duesing told reporters afterward.
“It was clear to us that the convention wanted to speak to those themes,” and separate resolutions allowed the committee to meet that desire, said Duesing, provost and associate professor of historical theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo., and a member of Antioch Bible Baptist Church in Gladstone, Mo.
Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, commented on the three resolutions by commending the Resolutions Committee “for strong, positive resolutions that address a crisis in our country and in our world right now.”
The resolution process not only speaks “to the outside world for the convention” but also serves “to help educate and equip” Southern Baptists, Moore said at the news conference. “And my hope is that these resolutions, as weighty and biblically crafted and worded as they are, would help to spark conversations and actions in local Southern Baptist churches and other churches about how can we best respond to those who are being abused.”
Messengers also continued to address racial reconciliation by adopting a resolution renewing the SBC’s “public repudiation of racism in all its forms,” including “the curse of Ham” teaching that God determined the descendants of this son of Noah would have dark skin and live in subordination.
In a measure on immigration, messengers again requested reform — as they had in 2011 — that secures the borders and proves a pathway to legal status “with appropriate restitutionary measures.” The resolution also calls for “maintaining the priority of family unity.”
Messengers also approved resolutions that:
— Affirmed the “full dignity of every human being.”
— Called for “caution and wisdom in our media and social media” communications.
— Encouraged government authorities to establish policies that would curtail gun violence while functioning according to the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment.
— Urged pastors and churches to be informed about the dangers of opioids and to minister to people impacted by opioid abuse.
— Pledged to pray for Arab Christians in the Middle East and around the world.
— Mourned the February death of evangelist Billy Graham, a Southern Baptist, and celebrated his life and ministry.
— Thanked God on the 100th anniversary of GuideStone Financial Resources.
— Voiced gratitude to God on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
— Offered thanks to God for 50 years of ministry through Southern Baptist Disaster Relief.
— Expressed gratitude to God, as well as Southern Baptists in the Dallas area and all others who helped with this year’s meeting.
Messengers also passed a multi-subject resolution that reaffirmed commitment to the trustworthiness of the Bible and “unswerving belief” in the one true God, continued to call for Southern Baptists to welcome refugees into their churches and homes, and urged church members to pray about adopting or fostering children.
Because of time constraints at the close of the June 12 afternoon session, messengers approved 14 of the resolutions with one vote. Revisions were offered from the floor on the resolutions on abuse and human dignity, and the committee received them as friendly amendments. Messengers approved all the resolutions in votes that appeared nearly unanimous.
In addition to Duesing, the other committee members, in alphabetical order, were: Ken Alford, pastor, Crossroads Baptist Church, Valdosta, Ga.; Byron Day, pastor, Emmanuel Baptist Church, Laurel, Md.; Candi Finch, assistant professor of theology in women’s studies, Southwestern Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas and member of Hope Church, Fort Worth; Willie McLaurin, special assistant to the executive director, Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, Franklin, Tenn., and member of Simeon Baptist Church, Antioch, Tenn.; Chris Metcalf, pastor, Lihue Baptist Church, Lihue, Hawaii; Jason Paredes, lead pastor, Fielder Church, Arlington, Texas; Adron Robinson, senior pastor, Hillcrest Baptist Church, Country Club Hills, Ill.; Alicia Wong, associate professor of women’s ministry, Gateway Seminary, Ontario, Calif., and member of Rosena Church, San Bernardino, Calif.; and Curtis Woods, associate executive director for convention relations, Kentucky Baptist Convention, Louisville, Ky., and member of Watson Memorial Baptist Church, Louisville.
Recently, I attended the MLK50 conference in Memphis, TN. I was happy to go and looked forward to learning more about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., as well as how the gospel informs and empowers us to be, as Tim Keller says, “just persons.”That is, those changed by the gospel should be persons of justice, particularly in reference to racial issues. In God’s secret and gracious providence, and and unbeknownst to me, he wanted me to attend this conference where he would expose some serious deficiencies (read sin) in my heart.
Candidly, I was spiritually unprepared for much of what was shared, both in keynote addresses, breakouts, and short testimonials. When I say “spiritually unprepared,” I’m specifically referring to the nature of my heart. The heart is the place where our choices, intentions, and feelings come from. There were many times where I affirmed the speaker’s words with a hearty amen or looked to several friends and stated, “wow.” The “wow” was in regards to a statement that dripped with such gospel clarity and power that it was almost stunning. And yet, disappointingly, there were many times when irritation sprang from my heart and even, at times, dismissiveness.
Why did this happen? What was going on and, still goes on, within me? Let me share several reasons why I believe I reacted the way I did during the conference.
I failed to see the reality of spiritual warfare.
I failed to keep in mind the reality of Ephesians 6:12, where Paul writes, “for we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against rules, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” A good friend reminded me earlier this year that our struggle is not against one another but against a very real demonic presence and power that seeks to bring disunity, bitterness, and chaos. Spiritual warfare is alive and well. He wants to wage war on this front. We see this rooted in the truth of Genesis 3 where the root of enmity and relational and ethnic tension is found. We see it in the very next chapter where Cain murders Abel; the downfall of humanity failing to see one another as created in God’s image is frightening. Today, as image bearers fail to see the beauty and awesomeness of God’s image in one another in our racial distinction the same insidious scheme of the devil is palpable.
My irritation and dismissiveness were playing a part in giving “ground” to the devil, as I was choosing not to see the urgency and seriousness of the issue at hand. In doing so, I was not only failing to love my neighbor, but it necessarily meant that I was not loving God with the totality of my being. Love is always action-oriented; it is never passive.
1. Tim Keller, General Justice: How God’s Grace Makes us Just (New York: Dutton, 2010), 17
On March 14, 2018, International Mission Board missionaries Randy and Kathy Arnett died as a result of injuries suffered in an automobile accident in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The Arnetts were traveling with fellow IMB missionaries Jeff and Barbara Singerman to a training conference for pastors outside of the capital of Kinshasa. As a result of that accident, Jeff and Barbara also sustained some very serious injuries.
When I first heard this news, I was in China, and my heart was broken. I know the Singerman family well. Jeff and Barbara are members of the church I pastor in Dayton, OH. Their children grew up in our church (when they were home from the mission field). Two years ago, we helped launch Josh and Kari Ortega (Jeff and Barbara’s daughter) to plant H2O church on the campus of Wright State University. Barbara’s parents, Bill and Lucille Burns, are members of my church. This family means the world to me, and I was on the other side of the planet with limited access to communication and no ability to help.
Thankfully, we have a mission board that is prepared to deal with these tragic situations. Jeff and Barbara were flown to South Africa to get the medical care they needed, and they did not have to worry about who was paying for it, who was arranging it, or how they would make things work for their family while they recover. The reason for that is because of the faithfulness of Southern Baptists across this country who give to the Cooperative Program.
In times like these I am thankful for many things: 1) That we have missionaries like the Arnetts and Singermans who put their lives in harm’s way every day to share the gospel in hard places. 2) That we have a system like the Cooperative Program that allows us to pool our resources so that when situations like this occur, our missionary force can receive the best and most compassionate care possible. There is no way my church could have afforded to do what all of us can do together. 3) While I was unable to help this family in a tangible way, Southern Baptists from around the globe immediately began to pray, to love on the family of the Arnetts, and to reach out to the Singermans with encouragement and prayer.
We have something special in the Cooperative Program. Take a moment and watch the video below and see if you don’t agree that we are truly #BetterTogether.
Cooperative Program Catalyst Matt Crawford shares the story of Grace Alive Orlando and their pastor Cam Triggs. Thank you for supporting them through the Cooperative Program!
When we first decided to pursue planting a church in our city, we needed to think carefully about why we would plant and how we would do it. This was particularly important for our core team. If these brothers and sisters were going to link arms with me and my family, leave their current church homes, and invest time and resources into starting a new church, then we needed to see the need and be convinced of the strategic nature of the venture.
However, even though we were convinced of the need to plant, not everyone in our town shared the sentiment. The truth is, sadly, established churches often feel threatened by new churches. I get that. When new churches begin, transfer growth is a reality. Church planters can say (and mean) they are not after transfer growth. But it often comes with the territory. New churches simply attract people from other churches.
We knew we would deal with transfer growth, but we were adamant about cultivating a reputation of partnering with other churches in order to reach the unchurched.
Partners, not competitors. That was and is our goal.
What I hope to do in this article is encourage planting pastors and pastors of established churches to partner (rather than compete) for gospel mission as much as they can.
Cross Lines and Spur Each Other On
Historically, great things happen when churches link arms.
In studying the First Great Awakening under the leadership of Whitefield, Edwards, the Tennents, and others, one cannot help but appreciate its trans-denominational and multi-ethnic character (see Thomas Kidd, The Great Awakening: The Roots of Evangelical Christianity in Colonial America). Christians from different theological and cultural backgrounds came together in order to see the good news of Jesus flourish. Not only did revival happen among white evangelicals, but among Native-American and African-American communities.
In our day, as we seek outpourings of God’s Spirit, pastors are wise to build relationships with those who are different than themselves. Pastors, are you so tied to denominational allegiances that you miss the chance to partner with other faithful Christians in order to promote the gospel in your city? Build relationships with those who are outside your own cultural and ethnic heritage. We are better together.
One of the joys that I’ve had is meeting with a brother pastor from a different church in our town for encouragement. This pastor is outside of my own theological tribe, but loves the same Jesus. We do not sweep our theological differences under the rug, but we agree to disagree over important but secondary matters in order to see people in our city impacted by the gospel.
Encouraging each other along the way is a biblical idea. Both Paul and the writer of Hebrews called Christians to a ministry of encouragement (1 Thess. 5:11; Heb 10:25). It seems appropriate to encourage every Christian we can while heading towards Heaven through the present evil age.
One of the ways you can foster a spirit of partnership instead of competitiveness is by encouraging the pastors around your city, especially those who are not like you. Let them know that you’re for them, not against them. Make it clear that you’ll rejoice with the angels if God sees fit to bless their gospel-driven and gospel-faithful efforts.
When we cross denominational and ethnic lines in order to spur each other on, we put flesh on the idea that we are planting a partner, not a competitor.
Let me encourage you with a few simple ideas to get started. First, if you’ve never crossed any of the divides I’m talking about, simply start with a cup of coffee. Email a local pastor – someone outside your network – and sit down for a chat. You don’t need to debate the atonement, church government, or their views on women in ministry. Those days might come, but at this initial cup of coffee, leave those hot topics alone and enjoy a hot drink and pleasant conversation. Get to know the pastor in front of you.
Second, if you notice events that other churches are having, and if they’ve invited the community at large, consider attending. You don’t have to attend everything, but sometimes being in these places lets others know that you are not looking down your nose at everything they do and are supportive of gospel effort. The flip side of this is to let them know that you’re happy to have them around your people and involved in what you’re doing, as well.
Third, if appropriate, plan events together. I recently sat down with a group of local pastors and planned an event where four of the churches in our town linked arms to serve our city in tangible ways. Not only are we happy to have coffee with these brothers, to support their events and invite them to ours, but we will link arms in appropriate ways in order to share the love of Jesus.
Fourth, pray for other churches by name. Make sure your people and any visitors that come to your church understand that you are serious about partnering, not competing. One of the ways to do this is to pray for other churches to flourish. We often pray for churches by name and ask the Lord to bless their ministries.
Fifth, and last, send people back to their churches. This one is hard but worth it. We are serious about reaching the lost, not merely swapping sheep. I’ve sat with more than one person who has visited our gathering and asked them to go back to their church, talk to their pastors about the issues they are having, and let their elders shepherd them. That isn’t always necessary, but most of the time, it seems prudent and communicates a spirit of partnership.
We believe we are better when we work together for the cause of Christ. Though we can’t partner in every way with every church, we can link arms for mission and evangelism with those who are with us in the gospel. It’s wise for planting pastors and pastors of established churches to work at crossing lines, denominationally and ethnically. And we cross those lines in order to partner together so that the fame of Jesus spreads across the globe for the joy of all peoples and the glory of our God.
Last weekend, I was privileged to participate in the Evangelicals for Life Conference in Washington, DC. This conference is jointly presented by the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Commission (ERLC) and Focus on the Family. Two Cooperative Program Catalysts, Curtis Cook and myself, were able to host a pastor’s event during the late night portion of the conference.
Evangelicals for Life is one of my favorite events that the ERLC hosts, because of its focus on the sanctity of human life – especially as this sanctity is grounded in the image of God. Guest speakers included Senator Ben Sasse, Senator James Lankford, Jim Daly, Richard Stearns, and NFL player and author Benjamin Watson. I was especially blessed to hear in person from one of my heroes, Joni Eareckson Tada. All speakers challenged us to pray, give, and act on behalf of those in need, babies in the womb, the disabled, and refugees. All of these concerns flow from the gospel and the Imago Dei.
Built into the conference was the opportunity to join the annual March for Life along the National Mall. Prior to the march, there was a rally that featured a satellite address from President Trump – the first time a sitting president has addressed the march in its 45 years. After that, it was incredible to see tens of thousands of people protesting the murderous practice of abortion in our nation. This time lapse posted by Students for Life America gives you a sense of the massive size of the crowd.
Here are pictures of a few Southern Baptists who stood up for life that day:
Dr. Russell Moore of the ERLC is joined here by Dr. Ronnie Parrott of Christ Community Church in Huntersville, NC, and his wife Marci.
Executive Committee Vice President of Cooperative Program Ashley Clayton marched, along with his wife Sharon.
City Church Tallahassee brought several of their staff to the Evangelicals for Life Conference and the March, and Pastor Dean Inserra spoke on a panel at the conference.
Cooperative Program Catalysts Curtis Cook (Northeast Region) and Matt Crawford (South Region) marched, as well.
As a Southern Baptist, it encourages me to see the national leadership on behalf of life that is exercised by the ERLC. The ERLC receives less than 2% of the annual Cooperative Program budget, but what a return we get on this investment! Why? Because speaking and advocating on behalf of the unborn, orphans, the disabled, and others whom society prefers to cast off is not an issue that is peripheral to the gospel. Over and over again in Scripture, we are told to care and work for the good of orphans, widows, and those in need. This is a natural and even necessary response to God’s love that caused Him to come to earth, fight for us to the point of death, and adopt us into His family. As we participate in the Cooperative Program and support the ERLC, we are better together – for LIFE.
This morning, there was a dramatic scene in downtown Nashville, as Draper Centennial Tower at LifeWay’s former campus came down in an implosion. At 9:30 AM local time, the carefully planned implosion took place, clearing the way for new development following the sale of the downtown property – which broke the record for the largest real estate transaction in Nashville history.
LifeWay corporate employees have already been moved to their new location at Capitol View in Nashville – a brand-new building that is specifically tailored to fit the needs of the company, while providing better overall stewardship of resources regarding cost of space. In particular, the technological assets that the new building provides allow for better communication and collaboration across the organization, even with employees who are not located in Nashville.
The implosion was recorded live by many sources, including the Tennessean news agency, which provided a link to the video here: http://www.tennessean.com/videos/news/2018/01/06/video-lifeway-tower-implosion-nashville/109206622/.
Watching the old building come down brought mixed emotions to those who had worked at or visited the LifeWay building, or benefited from their “Biblical Solutions for Life.” But Dr. Jimmy Draper, former President of LifeWay (for whom the imploded tower was named), addressed the issue well when he stated for Baptist Press: “Some wonderful things occurred within those walls. However, that building never helped a church in its ministry, nor any person in their devotion to the Lord. It never designed a budget or a building for a church, nor provided a single piece of Bible study curriculum or a single piece of discipleship material…It never won a single soul to faith in Christ.
“But the people who have served in these buildings have done all that and infinitely more. Individuals come and go, but all who serve or have served here comprise the essence and the strength of LifeWay.”
Dr. Thom Rainer echoed these sentiments to BP: “God has worked in that place, but God is not limited to a place. LifeWay has served the church obediently for 126 years, and the future is in front of us. As we remember our past, we move toward the future with anticipation and excitement.”
Dr. Frank Page, President and CEO of the Executive Committee of the SBC, shared this with me in relation to today’s events: “Life is full of transitions. Ministries, ministers, and institutions go through seasons of transition. LifeWay is certainly in the midst of a major transition in their relocation. The key is to focus on the mission and the person behind that mission. It is the Lord Jesus Christ who should remain our focus. Buildings come and buildings go. Leaders come and leaders go. However, our central focus must always be on our Lord who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life!”
As both a Cooperative Program Catalyst and a LifeWay trustee, I am grateful for men like Dr. Draper, Dr. Rainer, and Dr. Page, who understand that ministry is about more than buildings. The Kingdom of God is not brick and mortar, but God’s reign and work in the hearts of disciples of Jesus. In this work, we are truly better together. May the next generation of Southern Baptists take up this torch as we push back lostness and make disciples of every nation, tribe, people, and language!
One of my favorite moments in the entire Bible is at the conclusion of Acts 16 when Paul helps plant the first church in Philippi and its first three members are a Gentile jailer, a slave girl, and a woman named Lydia. The great irony of how this scene concludes is that prior to his conversion, the former Pharisee, Paul, would most likely have begun his daily prayers by declaring, “God, I thank you that you have not made me a Gentile, a woman, or a slave.” Surely, outsiders who didn’t even yet believe in God must have looked at this beautifully-bizarre, countercultural community and thought, “the only explanation for this is God stepped in and moved.”
Historically, the church has always been at its best when we’ve been a people of reconciliation in times of division. Unfortunately, we’ve been at our worst when we’ve ignored this responsibility in favor of cultural preferences and comforts. Today, with the increased fracturing and divisions in our own culture that we’re painfully and perpetually reminded of through our social media feeds, the church must reclaim this vision that was part of what made it so great at its inception.
There are countless implications here, but in pursuing this destination, I’d love to challenge fellow majority culture leaders and pastors to help lead in this pursuit by responding well to the concerns and questions of our minority brothers and sisters by making three simple commitments:
- I want to develop diverse relationships where I listen more than I speak
One of the greatest impediments to reconciliation is a lack of diverse relationships, which feed into the false belief that “my experience is everyone’s experience.” I started to recognize this when my family adopted our first child of a different ethnicity, and we fairly quickly encountered racism, even in her infancy. I not only realized that my experiences growing up as a white male will be vastly different than my daughter’s, but are radically different in many ways from my minority friends. Consequently, I stopped assuming that my experiences were everyone’s experiences.
- In these relationships, I refuse to diminish my friend’s pain
One of the most dehumanizing things we can do is to dismiss another’s pain, or diminish it by making it seem comparably insignificant. Unfortunately, I’ve been in many rooms where the concerns from minority voices are downplayed because of “how far things have come.” Yes, we should be deeply thankful in the ways there have been progress. At the same time, just because we don’t have slavery doesn’t mean there aren’t still major issues that have to be confronted and worked through for authentic reconciliation to spill into our communities. Striving to empathize with pain is the path towards healing. Immediate dismissal of pain only worsens the hurt.
- In the public sphere, I’ll join the fight for justice and reconciliation
Our silence and inactivity in response to another’s pain communicates something. As one friend told me, “When the church won’t speak out or acknowledge my pain, I feel put in this place where I’m once again unrepresented and unheard, and the pain only compounds.” The question of when and where to speak out is a complex one, and it requires much wisdom. I’ve found myself increasingly asking these trusted friends when and how is the right time to act. But what’s not complex is that quiet apathy only further creates hurt and division. We also must be people of action.
These are troubling times, and yet, times of unique opportunity for the church to reflect that it’s in the darkest of days that the God of light shines the brightest. Let us humbly pursue this great chance to be a people of reconciliation in an age of division.