The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) is currently holding its annual meeting in Phoenix, Arizona. A dramatic reaction to a proposed resolution to condemn alt-right thinking and the roots of white supremacy in the SBC has brought to light a contentious issue in the largest Protestant denomination in the U.S.
The annual convention is held so that members of the SBC Executive Committee can meet with the thousands of pastors, missionaries and lay leaders of the convention. This is a time when members can do things like bring proposed resolutions before the convention to be voted on and thus adjust the course of direction for the 47,000 churches represented. This year, Dwight McKissic, pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas, brought the proposed “Resolution on the Condemnation of the ‘Alt-Right’ Movement and the Roots of White Supremacy.”
McKissic says he was prompted to write the resolution because he “saw people identifying themselves as Southern Baptist and members of the alt-right.”
Resolutions must receive a two-thirds majority by the Resolutions Committee before they can be brought to the entire body of the SBC to vote on them. McKissic’s resolution was brought before the Committee on Tuesday June 13, 2017. After hours of consideration, McKissic’s resolution failed to receive the two-thirds majority the two times it was pitched to the Committee. According to Resolutions Committee chairman Barrett Duke, the committee “didn’t see a way that we could speak to the multiple issues that were raised in that resolution in a way that we felt would be constructive” and that “elements [in the proposal] already had been addressed recently.”
However, pushback for the decision came from members attending the conference and several influential voices speaking up on Twitter.
Now is not the time for indifference or complicity. Now is the time for prophetic courage, clarity and assertion. We need to get it together
— Thabiti Anyabwile (@ThabitiAnyabwil) June 14, 2017
The decision made at #SBC17 to not denounce white supremacy is hurtful.
— Jackie Hill Perry (@JackieHillPerry) June 14, 2017
The so-called Alt-Right white supremacist ideologies are anti-Christ and satanic to the core. We should say so. #SBC17
— Russell Moore (@drmoore) June 14, 2017
Late into the evening, the debate raged until Ethics and Religious Liberty Committee (ERLC) President Russell Moore and SBC president Steve Gaines worked with the committee, re-working the language on the resolution so it might be voted on today (Wednesday). The Committee on Order of Business approved (unanimously) to present the resolution to the convention body for a vote.
On Wednesday afternoon, messengers gathered to hear about the revised resolution, bring any final amendments and vote on the resolution. President Gaines called Resolutions Committee Chairman Duke to the podium to share a few words on the resolution. Duke addressed some of the previous day’s drama and tension by saying the committee “regret[s] and apologize[s] for the pain and the confusion that we created for you and the watching world” when they decided against reporting out on the resolution.
Duke assured the messengers “we do share your abhorrence” for alt-right racism. However, he explained, the Committee’s hesitation to the resolution was due to their concern over “sounding like we hate our enemies” and running the risk of ignoring Jesus’ teaching on how to treat one’s enemies. Duke explained the Committee worked into the “early morning hours” to revise the resolution’s wording so that it employs a “tone that honors all people”—even those with whom the SBC may disagree.
Next, Gaines opened the meeting to messengers on the floor who wished to speak about the resolution and offer any amendments.
Russell Moore was one of the messengers who took to a microphone. True to form, Moore opened his comments with strong language. “This resolution has a number on it,” Moore started. “It’s resolution number 10. The white supremacy it opposes also has a number on it: It’s 666.” Moore paused for a moment as the crowd clapped. Continuing, he said, “Unrepentant racism is not just wrong. Unrepentant racism sends unrepentant racists to hell. If we’re a Jesus people, let’s stand where Jesus stands, and Jesus says my house shall be a house for all people.” Moore advocated for the unhesitant passing of the resolution.
— ERLC (@ERLC) June 14, 2017
One messenger in agreement with Moore pointed out the fact that alt-right sympathizers stood outside the convention hall in Phoenix handing out flyers explaining why the SBC should not allow African Americans in their churches. He also commented on their vocal opposition to the resolution on Twitter.
The resolution was then put to the vote and appeared (by the show of green ballots across the convention hall) to pass unanimously. The crowd clapped enthusiastically when Gaines declared the resolution passed.