Obama resolution: prayer and concern

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)--Messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting approved a resolution June 24 celebrating the election of the country's first African American president and urging prayer on his behalf, while expressing opposition to his actions regarding unborn life and homosexuality.

The resolution on President Obama was one of five brought to messengers by the Resolutions Committee and approved during the morning session in Louisville, Ky. The number of resolutions was small in contrast to other years. As recently as 2006, the SBC passed 15 resolutions.

Among the other resolutions adopted was one opposing federal policy proposals extending rights to homosexuals, while affirming the Bible's teaching on marriage and the Gospel's power to change the lives of those practicing sexual sin. Messengers also approved resolutions encouraging adoption and care for orphans, expressing gratitude for Southern Baptist Theological Seminary upon its 150th anniversary, and thanking the seminary and Southern Baptists in Louisville who assisted with the annual meeting.

The resolution on Obama, which gained approval with what appeared to be no more than a handful of "no" votes, said messengers "share our nation's pride in our continuing progress toward racial reconciliation" signaled by Obama's election. It also commended him for "his evident love" for his wife Michelle and daughters. In addition, the measure applauded his decisions to maintain policies that have kept the United States safe from terrorist attacks.

The resolution, however, opposed Obama's:

-- order providing federal funds for stem cell research that destroys embryos.

-- actions providing funds for organizations that perform or promote abortion and reducing money for abstinence education.

-- effort to rescind freedom-of-conscience protections for pro-life health-care workers.

-- proclamation of June as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month.

The resolution urged the president to nominate judges who base their rulings on the "original intent" of the Constitution and it voiced opposition to any effort by the administration to remove Judeo-Christian symbols "from public or private venues."

The measure called for prayer for Obama, based on the admonition in 1 Timothy 2:1-2 for Christians to pray for rulers, in order that he would use his authority "to promote liberty and justice for all people, including the unborn."

The resolution also urged Obama to "keep intact" America's military and national security defense measures "in order to assure the ongoing security of America and our allies."

Daniel Akin, the committee's chairman and president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., said at a news conference after the votes, "I think the resolution strikes a really good balance between our prayers and affirmation of much that our president represents but also expressing our strong concerns about certain policies that he advocates that we as Southern Baptists disagree with, disagree with quite strongly.

"[I]t would have been absolutely irresponsible for us not to speak to the election" of America's first African American president, Akin said. "[W]e could speak to it in a positive way where we could ... because it does show great progress ... though by no stretch of the imagination are we where we need to be. We still need to make further progress. And at the same time, we could affirm his election without affirming his policies where we have strong, strong disagreement."

Richard Land, president of the SBC's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, agreed with Akin, telling reporters he thinks the resolution "really has its hand on the pulse beat of where Southern Baptists are. Most Southern Baptists didn't vote for him, and they didn't vote for him because of their very strong disagreement with him on the life issue and some other issues. But at the same time they are very gratified that we have had enough racial reconciliation in America that we've come to the place where we can elect an African American president."

During the previous year, Land said, hundreds of Southern Baptists said to him, "I wish I could vote for him, but I can't."

The committee limited the number of resolutions for a couple of reasons, Akin said. The members decided not to address any issue that had been dealt with in the previous three or four years, unless there was an urgent need to do so, he said, and the committee also wanted to keep the focus of the annual meeting on the Great Commission, in keeping with SBC President Johnny Hunt's desires.

The committee, Akin told reporters, "wanted to make it clear that we believe that the Scriptures direct us to pray for those in authority and that we will indeed pray, as [SBC] President Hunt did this morning, for God to grant to our president godly wisdom and direction as he leads our country."

After the committee's report, Hunt led in prayer for Obama at Akin's request.

"We believe 1 Timothy 2 gives us clear guidelines to pray for those in authority over us, and I think it's important to note that when Paul penned that, there was a Roman emperor by the name of Nero, and he was not very sympathetic to the Christian faith, and yet Paul calls on us to pray for men like that," Akin said "[W]e believe that is the biblical admonition that we receive for how we do respond to our leaders, even those that we may disagree with quite strongly on particular issues."

Akin's comment appeared at least partially to come in response to radio comments by Southern Baptist pastor Wiley Drake three weeks before the SBC meeting. Drake, a pastor in Southern California and a former SBC second vice president, said he was praying imprecatory prayers for Obama, including for the president's death.

Messengers appeared to approve the other four resolutions unanimously.

The resolution regarding "biblical sexuality and public policy" urged Christians to live pure lives and endorsed the SBC Task Force on Ministry to Homosexuals in its attempt to lead churches "to engage in loving, redemptive ministry to homosexuals."

The measure also called for the defeat of policy efforts to force employers to hire applicants participating in homosexuality and "other unbiblical lifestyles" and for the defeat of efforts to expand hate crimes protections to homosexuals, bisexuals and transgendered individuals and efforts that would rescind the ban on open homosexuals in the military.

The resolution on "adoption and orphan care" encouraged every Southern Baptist family to pray about whether God wants them to adopt or provide foster care for a child or children. It also called on Southern Baptist and other evangelical churches to devote a Sunday each year to emphasize "our adoption in Christ and our common burden for the orphans of the world."

Twenty-six resolutions were submitted to the committee. Multiple proposed resolutions were addressed in both the measure on Obama and the one on sexuality.

In addition to Akin, the other members of the committee were Michael Cloer, pastor of Englewood Baptist Church in Rocky Mount, N.C.; Al Gilbert, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, N.C.; Jerry Johnson, vice president of academic development at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo.; Martha Lawley, an author/speaker and member of First Southern Baptist Church in Worland, Wyo.; Jeff Moore, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Altus, Okla.; Shane Russell, pastor of Shoal Creek Baptist Church in Deatsville, Ala.; Kevin Smith, assistant professor of church history at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and pastor of Watson Memorial Baptist Church in Louisville; Royce Sweatman, director of missions for the North Arkansas Baptist Association in Harrison, Ark.; and Don Wilton, pastor of First Baptist Church in Spartanburg, S.C.


Tom Strode is Baptist Press Washington bureau chief.