WRAP-UP: States address child abuse, hate crimes
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--Southern Baptists in six annual state convention meetings addressed issues related to protecting children from victimization.
Four conventions passed resolutions expressing concern that recent hate crimes legislation will threaten religious freedom.
Messengers to state convention meetings in Alabama, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana and Ohio offered a variety of ideas for preventing child victimization. In most cases churches were encouraged to perform background checks on employees and volunteers who work with children, and LifeWay Christian Resources materials to prevent the possibility of child abuse were cited. The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, meanwhile, recommended the Texas-based Child Guard Systems during a session of their annual meeting and Alabama Baptists were encouraged to access their state convention's guidelines for churches to use when dealing with sexual misconduct.
Messengers in Alabama, Indiana, Louisiana and Oklahoma expressed opposition to any hate crimes legislation that potentially criminalizes speech and beliefs, threatening First Amendment rights. New England Baptists also reiterated First Amendment rights of citizens. Responsible Christian citizenship was addressed by Louisiana and Oklahoma Baptists, while Ohio Baptists encouraged boldness in the face of hostility toward "our Christian heritage and values."
Expansion of gambling is an issue addressed most every year in several state conventions and this year it prompted comment in Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Maryland-Delaware and Missouri.
Baptist General Association of Virginia messengers denounced the payday lending industry and its practice of "further impoverishing the poor."
Missouri Baptists sought tighter regulation of pornography.
Various pro-life issues were addressed in Louisiana against partial-birth abortion, in Maryland-Delaware opposing embryonic stem cell research, in Missouri on a "cures without cloning" campaign, and in Oklahoma on sanctity of human life.
Use of alcohol was addressed in five state conventions, with messengers in Florida approving a bylaw revision requiring trustee nominees to agree to abstain from drinking alcoholic beverages and using any other recreational drugs. Southern Baptists of Texas Convention messengers changed a bylaw to replace the word "drunkenness" as it appears in several instances to "the use of alcohol as a beverage," stipulating that such practice is unacceptable for employees and members elected to the executive board, committees and offices of the SBTC. A Missouri resolution asked that no one be elected to serve as a trustee or member of any entity or committee of MBC who uses alcoholic beverages, following the language passed by SBC messengers in 2006 in objecting to the practice. Alabama Baptists opposed Sunday liquor sales and Oklahoma Baptists opposed the sale of alcohol in grocery and convenience stores.
Legislation that protects the institution of marriage was encouraged by Indiana Baptists and Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. Missouri Baptists encouraged the practice of family worship.
Messengers to Southern Baptists of Texas Convention and State Convention of Baptists in Ohio adopted resolutions on regenerate church membership. SBTC messengers urged churches to "renew their commitment to regenerate church membership by acknowledging the necessity of spiritual regeneration and Christ's lordship for all members of local churches." Both Texas and Ohio messengers urged churches to make sure only those who have been saved and subsequently baptized become members of the local church, referencing the Baptist Faith and Message article on the church. The two conventions further encouraged discipleship, biblical discipline and maintenance of accurate membership rolls.
Alaska Baptists urged prayer support for members of U.S. armed forces from their state while West Virginia Baptists expressed similar appreciation and prayer. Ohio Baptists also honored the nation's veterans.
Indiana, Louisiana and Oklahoma Baptists encouraged personal and corporate repentance. While Arkansas Baptists underscored church unity, messengers in Georgia and Texas appealed for greater care in expressing convictions. The Georgia resolution specifically addressed blogging with "divisive and destructive rhetoric" that causes division and disharmony and asked that "personal attacks" cease immediately. The SBTC resolution encouraged Christlike communication and conversation, noting that "Christian decorum and decency often lags behind the development of new forms of technology and communications.”
Messengers in both Ohio and the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention expressed concern for biblical literacy, with Ohio Baptists urging parents to assume responsibility for training children in a biblical worldview while expressing appreciation for Christian teachers who have chosen to be spiritual salt and light in the government school system. The SBTC resolution asked churches to give a higher priority to biblical knowledge and its importance to the development of a Christian worldview.
Various resolutions focused attention on increased evangelistic and mission activity, with Northwest Baptists encouraging participation in the convention’s Jericho outreach event next year and Arizona Baptists committing to influence their communities, state and nation, while also praying for missionaries around the world. An SBTC resolution spoke to need to apply greater mission efforts and resources in reaching the unreached areas of the United States.
Northwest Baptists exhorted believers to "follow the Lordship of Jesus Christ in guiding our churches in whatever divine way we are led in the mission that lies ahead by encouraging supporting and holding each other accountable as partners in the work of his kingdom."
Oklahoma Baptists first affirmed the conservative resurgence of the SBC which "returned us to our historic roots of commitment to the Bible as the infallible and inerrant Word of God," then called for a "Great Commission Resurgence" in accordance with Matthew 28:19-20.
Southern Baptists of Texas Convention messengers said "true biblical unity" is based upon "certain unalterable doctrinal confessions" as revealed in Scripture, and affirmed "ongoing doctrinal conversation" within Baptist life for the purpose of further defining ourselves, evangelizing this world, and growing in relationship and obedience to God."
Alabama and Arkansas Baptists recognized the 300th anniversary of Baptist associations. Alabama and California Baptists spoke to the value of the Cooperative Program. Missouri Baptists, meanwhile, recognized the 150th anniversary of the Dred Scott decision.
Arkansas Baptists encouraged ministry to children at risk and disabled people. Oklahoma Baptists encouraged ministry to all people, noting that recent state legislation related to illegal immigration should not cause churches to "screen or profile individuals" before ministering to them in Jesus' name.
Several state conventions addressed relationships to their own entities, including Tennessee where a settlement was announced with Belmont University that provides $11 million to a convention endowment over 40 years in light of the school's charter change to a self-perpetuating board; Illinois where messengers gave two officers voting privileges on the Foundation and Children's Home; and the Baptist General Association of Virginia where budget changes reduced direct allocations to affiliated academies and colleges in favor of assisting ministerial students at any college or seminary. BGAV messengers declined to reduce allocations for the John Leland Center for Theological Studies and Bluefield College to the degree recommended by the BGAV budget committee.
Messengers in California were told sole membership would not provide needed protection of their relationships with convention-owned entities while Georgia Baptists were informed their entities are cooperating in adding such a provision.
Florida Baptists agreed to a State Board of Missions recommendation to allow the seating of three "at large" churches, one of them from Brunswick, Ga., near Jacksonville, Fla., to be dually affiliated with both state conventions. Messengers to the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention rejected a motion carried over from last year's meeting that sought to allow affiliation by out-of-state churches. Participation in SBTC training and fellowship will be permitted.
Discussion of the Baptist Faith and Message arose in California where messengers declined to require churches to adhere to the "most recent" BF&M, and in Tennessee where the BF&M was affirmed for the second year and is referenced when questioning prospective trustees and committee members. Efforts to back away from affirmation failed in spite of multiple amendment suggestions. Georgia Baptists were told no immediate action would be taken regarding a Decatur church calling a woman as a senior pastor, an action divergent from the BF&M which messengers adopted last year. The issue will be revisited at the Georgia convention’s executive committee meeting in March after the local association decides whether to respond.
Michigan Baptists approved a constitutional amendment which clarifies that churches "which act to affirm, approve, or endorse homosexual behavior" are not in cooperation with the Convention, and thus, their messengers will not be seated at the annual meeting. Some opposition was expressed to the action which was approved after the second reading in annual session.
An SBTC resolution affirmed the BF&M as an "instrument of doctrinal accountability" for all Southern Baptist entities to employ as the minimal theological standard, while also noting the appropriateness of entities adopting and enforcing "additional theological standards" as part of the unique responsibility of trustee boards as they operate in "conscientious accountability" to govern the entities in their charge.
Two state conventions noted their participation in the New Baptist Covenant meeting in Atlanta, with Baptist General Association of Virginia messengers encouraging participation by leaders while urging the meeting planners to "honor its promise and pledge for a nonpartisan gathering." At the Baptist General Convention of Texas annual meeting, Executive Director Charles Wade described the New Baptist Covenant as a coalition of "the great and diverse Baptists bodies" that make up the North American Baptist Fellowship, including BGCT. He predicted they will "live up the great vision of our Lord," calling it "the Jesus Agenda" to "preach good news to the poor, to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."
Tammi Reed Ledbetter is a writer based in Grand Prairie, Texas.