Southern Baptists adopt statement on family

SALT LAKE CITY (BP)--Messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting added a statement on the family to their 35-year-old Baptist Faith and Message statement during the Tuesday afternoon session, June 9, in Salt Lake City's Salt Palace Convention Center.

The four-paragraph statement was adopted as presented after the failure of two efforts to amend it.

The proposal was brought to provide "in unequivocal terms the clear teaching of Scripture" on the family, said Anthony Jordan, executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma and chairman of the committee that prepared the proposal.

"Divorce, homosexuality, abortion and abuse all tear at the fabric of the family," Jordan said prior to the vote. "While there has been a barrage of books from every perspective on family, we have failed to give a clear call to biblical principles of family life."

The new statement outlines the roles of husbands, wives and children. Adoption of the statement marks the first time the Baptist Faith and Message has been changed since its adoption in 1963.

A seven-member committee brought the proposal to SBC messengers as the result of a motion passed at the 1997 annual meeting that asked SBC President Tom Elliff to appoint a committee to produce a statement on the roles of husband, wife and children in the family.

"The assignment to produce a concise and clear statement that expresses the generally held beliefs of Southern Baptists concerning family was a daunting one for us," Jordan told messengers as he presented the proposal. "Therefore, we approached our work with humility of heart, fervency of prayer and commitment to biblical truth.

"The statement on family is thoroughly biblical," he continued. "Every line is deeply rooted in the clear teaching of Scripture. ... Our intent was to craft a confessional statement that declared what is believed rather than to describe what is disbelieved. It is a positive declaration of biblical truth regarding family.

"While cultural standards are like shifting sand, this article stands on the firm foundation of the Word of God. We believe the proposed article captures the essential teachings of Scripture in regard to family," he said.

One amendment offered from the floor suggested changing paragraph 3, sentence 5 to read: "Both husband and wife are to submit graciously to each other as servant leaders in the home even as the church willingly submits to the lordship of Christ."

The author of the amendment, Tim Owings, First Baptist Church, Augusta, Ga., said: "We need to be very clear that when we amend the Baptist Faith and Message, a document that has stood us well as Southern Baptists for nearly three decades, that we do so scripturally.

"Paul's admonition to the Ephesians as recorded in Ephesians 5.21 and as cited in the committee's report clearly states: 'Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ,' " Owings continued. "Husbands, wives and children are as followers of Jesus to submit to each other and supremely to the lordship of Christ. If we are going to amend the Baptist Faith and Message, let us do so being true to holy Scripture and not contrary to it."

A second amendment suggested adding two sentences to paragraph 1: "The Bible contains many examples of the diverse manifestations of the family. Single adults, childless couples, widows and widowers can comprise legitimate and biblical expressions of the family."

The amendment's author, Dennis Wyles of First Baptist Church, Hunstville, Ala., said: "I pastor a church that has many members that would be described by the statement as it stands written without amendment, so I am grateful to this committee for your fine work. I also have many members in my congregation who are single adults, who are widows, widowers, married couples without children.

"I

read in the commentary section (which was prepared by the committee to more fully explain the statement and was distributed to messengers) that those situations are addressed, but they are not addressed in the body of the article that will appear in the Baptist Faith and Message, so I'm simply asking that we include a broad, biblical statement about the family and not just one about marriage and parenting."

In separate votes by a show of ballots, Elliff ruled each amendment failed.

The statement became Article 18 of the Baptist Faith and Message, which was first drafted in 1925 to serve as "information to the churches" and "guidelines to the various agencies" of the Southern Baptist Convention. Revised in 1963, the statement is not officially a creed since it is not binding on churches or individual believers. Southern Baptist agencies, however, require employees to accept its tenets.

The statement as adopted reads:

"God has ordained the family as the foundational institution of human society. It is composed of persons related to one another by marriage, blood or adoption.

"Marriage is the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime. It is God's unique gift to reveal the union between Christ and His church, and to provide for the man and the woman in marriage the framework for intimate companionship, the channel for sexual expression according to biblical standards, and the means for procreation of the human race.

"The husband and wife are of equal worth before God, since both are created in God's image. The marriage relationship models the way God relates to His people. A husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church. He has the God-given responsibility to provide for, to protect, and to lead his family. A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ. She, being in the image of God as is her husband and thus equal to him, has the God-given responsibility to respect her husband and to serve as his helper in managing the household and nurturing the next generation.

"Children, from the moment of conception, are a blessing and heritage from the Lord. Parents are to demonstrate to their children God's pattern for marriage. Parents are to teach their children spiritual and moral values and to lead them, through consistent lifestyle example and loving discipline, to make choices based on biblical truth. Children are to honor and obey their parents."

In addition to Jordan, Elliff appointed six other members to the committee: O.D. "Damon" Shook, pastor of Champion Forest Baptist Church, Houston; Richard Land, president of the SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission; Mary Mohler, wife of R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary,Louisville, Ky.; Bill Elliff, pastor of First Baptist Church, Little Rock, Ark.; John Sullivan, executive director of the Florida Baptist Convention; and Dorothy Patterson, wife of Paige Patterson, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary,Wake Forest, N.C.

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