Religious liberty priority in state conv. resolutions

by Tammi Reed Ledbetter, posted Wednesday, December 21, 2016 (one year ago)

NASHVILLE (BP) -- Values-driven voting and defense of religious liberty were topics frequently addressed in annual meetings of state Baptist conventions this year as messengers voiced their concerns in resolutions.

Nevada Baptists encouraged churches -- as led by their pastors -- to "engage in the political process by researching the candidates and ballot questions," helping their members vote "to reflect Biblical values in the upcoming election."

Messengers to the Kentucky Baptist Convention adopted resolutions against human trafficking and advocating foster care and adoption.
Photo by Robin Cornetet
Messengers in Arkansas, the Dakotas, Illinois, Missouri, Northwest, New England, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC) and Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia (SBCV) passed similar statements, some giving particular emphasis to praying for elected leaders.

Southern Baptists in Arkansas, Florida, Ohio, Oklahoma, the SBTC and the Baptist General Association of Virginia (BGAV) addressed religious liberty concerns.

Resolutions on some aspect of biblical sexuality passed in seven states, with Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, South Carolina and SBCV messengers responding to gender dysphoria and Dakota and Ohio Baptists opposing same-sex marriage. The South Carolina resolution included a commitment to "pray for revival and a return to recognition of the sanctity of marriage as between one man and one woman, God's design for gender, freedom of conscience, and unhindered religious freedom."

Arkansas Baptists called on members to be a catalyst for racial reconciliation, encouraging increased racial and ethnic diversity in church leadership and membership.

"We will be diligent in denouncing racial discrimination in whatever form it takes in seeking to bring healing and cohesiveness to our fractured culture," the resolution stated. Illinois, Oklahoma, the SBTC and SBCV also spoke to racial reconciliation.

Messengers of the BGAV opposed anti-Muslim rhetoric and joined Alabama Baptists in an appeal to show love to Muslim people. Ohio Baptists passed a resolution on reaching refugees and people groups in their state, while Georgia Baptists acknowledged "the federal government's failure to fulfill its responsibility in the area of illegal immigration” and the biblical mandates to "not mistreat the alien living among you."

Resolutions in state conventions in Arkansas, Kansas/Nebraska, Kentucky and Northwest expressed opposition to human trafficking and encouraged ministry to victims.

In other business, several states addressed guidelines for cooperation, including discussion by the Baptist Convention of New York (BCNY) of a proposal to be voted on next year that excludes churches that act to affirm, approve or endorse any expression of marriage other than "the uniting of one biological man and one biological woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime."

Another amendment addressed by BCNY would add to the convention's affirmation of the Baptist Faith and Message (BF&M) the statement, "We also believe that God wonderfully and immutably creates each person as male or female. These two distinct, complementary genders together reflect the image and nature of God (Genesis 1:26-27). Rejection of one's biological sex is a rejection of the image of God within that person."

Indiana Baptists amended its bylaws to specify an effort to communicate with churches that have not met cooperation guidelines requiring agreement with the BF&M, giving to the Cooperative Program or state mission offering, and submitting Annual Church Profile data.

Messengers in Florida and New Mexico incorporated references to the BF&M in their governing documents. In Florida, a constitutional amendment establishes it as the guiding interpretation of Scripture, while in New Mexico new requirements for a church to seat messengers at the annual meeting specify that the congregation must contribute "a percentage of their undesignated gifts through the Cooperative Program" and not hold any beliefs or practices that conflict with the BF&M.

Baptist General Convention of Texas messengers granted its Executive Board authority to remove a congregation outside of harmonious cooperation. A second motion based on previous positions, specifies that a church which affirms any sexual relationship outside the bonds of a marriage between one man and one woman to be out of "harmonious cooperation with BGCT."

Tammi Reed Ledbetter is news editor of the Southern Baptist TEXAN.
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