SBC tackles Calif. 'gay marriage' ruling

INDIANAPOLIS (BP)--Messengers to the 2008 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting passed resolutions in the June 11 evening session supporting a California initiative to repudiate same-sex "marriage" and urging government defunding of Planned Parenthood, the country's leading abortion provider.

The resolutions were two of three left for presentation in the evening after messengers approved six in the morning session. The convention also adopted a resolution recognizing the 100th anniversary of Royal Ambassadors, the convention's missions training program for boys.

One resolution adopted earlier in the day, which was debated at length and amended, urged the maintenance of a "regenerate membership" and the restoration of "wayward members" by churches. That statement was adopted on a show of ballots, and the other eight resolutions received unanimous or nearly unanimous votes.

The other five resolutions approved in the morning:

-- expressed thanksgiving for the growing ethnic diversity in the SBC and urged "balanced representation" of ethnic groups on the convention's trustee boards and entity staffs.

-- called for Southern Baptists and other Christians to participate in the political and public policy process, while avoiding the politicization of congregations.

-- urged Southern Baptists and other Christians to "resist the march of secularism" and seek to influence businesses and other institutions to return Christmas to "its proper place in the culture."

-- celebrated the 60th anniversary of the state of Israel and encouraged prayers on its behalf.

-- offered thanks for the work of Southern Baptists in Indiana and others who assisted with this year's meeting.

All resolutions express the views of the messengers at an annual meeting but are not binding on churches and the entities of the SBC.

The resolution on the California referendum came in the wake of a May decision by that state's Supreme Court that will permit homosexuals to "marry." Californians collected enough signatures to place a referendum on the November ballot that will combat the ruling by defining marriage as only between a man and a woman.

The resolution urged Southern Baptists in California to work and vote for the referendum and called for all Southern Baptists and other Christians to pray for its passage. It encouraged California pastors to "speak strongly, prophetically and redemptively" about homosexuality and the protection of biblical marriage. It also repeated calls for adoption of a federal constitutional amendment to define marriage as only the union of a man and a woman.

The resolution on Planned Parenthood called for Congress to eliminate funding for a nationwide organization that receives more than $336 million in government grants and contracts. Clinics affiliated with Planned Parenthood performed nearly 290,000 abortions in 2006. While decrying the "immoral actions" of the organization's clinics, the statement urged President Bush to veto spending bills that include funds for Planned Parenthood.

Though the resolution on Planned Parenthood passed without hesitation, an extended debate on an eventually unsuccessful amendment occurred on the statement about "gay marriage" in California.

Ron Wilson of First Baptist Church in Thousand Oaks, Calif., sought adoption of an amendment that would have encouraged "all Christians in California to remove their children from the public schools, which are the main training ground for the teaching of same-sex marriage." After messengers debated its merits, the amendment failed by a margin that was estimated by some observers as about four to one.

The failed amendment essentially would have accomplished the goal of a proposed resolution -- not reported out by the committee -- that dealt with recent events which legally cemented the indoctrination of Califonia's students into "sexual deviancy." The rejected resolution was an extension of recent advocacy by some Southern Baptists for a Christian "exit strategy" from the public schools.

At a news conference following the final resolutions report, Darrell Orman, chairman of the Resolutions Committee, said the panel wanted to stay focused on the same-sex "marriage" issue in opposing Wilson's amendment.

"Basically, we felt like our resolution that we drafted regarding the homosexual marriage issue in California was not germane really to where they were going," said Orman, pastor of First Baptist Church in Stuart, Fla. "We felt it was two different issues. That's why we wanted to take our stand where we were in relationship to our original resolution."

Richard Land, also answering reporters' questions at the news conference, said he personally believed messengers are "wise not to adopt this strategy [called for in the amendment], because I think it shows a lack of understanding of the complexities of our society and the constraints a lot of parents are working under."

"I think that sometimes we tend to be a little stuck in the middle-class ghetto," said Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. "A lot of parents don't have the option of homeschooling because they're single parents, and a lot of people don't have the option" of home or private education because of "income constraints."

The resolution on church membership and restoration was the only one in the morning session to be addressed from the floor. Messengers approved two amendments that added to the content of the amendment.

The amended version approved by messengers addressed the disparity between the SBC's annual report, which shows more than 16 million members in convention-affiliated churches, and the average Sunday morning worship attendance of about 6 million. The resolution called for repentance for failure to practice church discipline and urged churches to keep their membership rolls accurate, to proclaim the "necessity of spiritual regeneration and Christ's lordship for all members" and to seek to restore absent members.

"We agreed with all of the theology that was inserted," Orman said of the amendments to the church membership resolution. "We felt like there were a couple of things that maybe weren't helpful for" Southern Baptists. In explanation, he later cited the call for repentance by the entire convention and the inclusion of statistics he contended did not provide an accurate picture of the reality.

The resolution encouraging participation in voting and influencing government policies called for Christian leaders to weigh the possible problems of "politicizing the church and the pulpit before endorsing candidates." It also called for prayer for personal and national revival and "cultural renewal," urging Southern Baptists to take part in the 40/40 Prayer Vigil, an initiative of the ERLC and the North American Mission Board.

The other members of the committee were:

-- Tony Beam, member of Northwood Baptist Church in Greer, S.C., and vice president for student services and Christian worldview at North Greenville University.

-- Galen Jones, member of Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church in Tuscaloosa, Ala., and an African American church planting strategist as an appointee of NAMB and the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions.

-- Rick Lineberger, pastor of First Baptist Church in Bradenton, Fla.

-- Michael Martin, member of The Quest, a Southern Baptist church in Novato, Calif., and vice president for academic affairs and professor of New Testament studies at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary.

-- Jeff Moore, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Altus, Okla.

-- Frank Moreno, member of First Hispanic Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., and director of the Florida Baptist Convention's language division.

-- Kevin Smith, pastor of Watson Memorial Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., and assistant professor of church history at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

-- Charles Strickland, senior pastor of Whitefield Baptist Church in Belton, S.C.

-- Greg Thornbury, member of Englewood Baptist Church in Jackson, Tenn., and dean of Union University's school of Christian studies.


Tom Strode is Baptist Press' Washington bureau chief.

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