SBC messengers approve 10 resolutions, including one favoring capital punishment

ORLANDO, Fla. (BP)--Messengers to the 2000 meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention adopted 10 resolutions, including a ground-breaking one in support of capital punishment.

Several of the resolutions focused on liberty. These included: the right to proclaim the gospel of Christ in the United States; religious freedom in China and Sudan; the elimination of sexual trafficking in women and children; and the right of the Boy Scouts of America to determine its own leadership and membership in the face of pressure to include homosexuals.

Except for the resolution on capital punishment, the committee's recommendations met with no opposition or almost none. Even the measure on the death penalty was approved overwhelmingly.

That resolution affirms the use of capital punishment "by civil magistrates as a legitimate form of punishment for those guilty of murder or treasonous acts that result in death." The death penalty should be used only when there is "clear and overwhelming evidence of guilt," the resolution states. It also calls for "vigilance, justice and equity in the criminal justice system," with capital punishment "applied as justly and as fairly as possible without undue delay, without reference to the race, class or status of the guilty."

The resolution cites several biblical passages, including Genesis 9 and Romans 13, in providing support for the use of capital punishment.

This apparently was the first time the SBC has voted in favor of such a recommendation. In 1964 messengers rejected a call to abolish capital punishment. That year, the convention passed a recommendation by the Christian Life Commission (name later changed to Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission) affirming the sanctity of human life and urging legislation to clear up abuses of the death penalty. The messengers, however, voted to delete a paragraph calling for the abolition of the death penalty.

"The heart of [this year's resolution] is not capital punishment but biblical authority," said Hayes Wicker, chairman of the Resolutions Committee. "In other words, we don't operate according to sentiment but [Scripture]. Baptists believe in speaking when the Bible speaks and being silent when the Bible is silent.

"We are saying that [the civil magistrates] may [use capital punishment], not that they must.

"Our resolution is simply trying to underscore the biblical allowance, the civil right and the divine creation of man in [God's] image," said Wicker, pastor of First Baptist Church, Naples, Fla. "We have to take every opportunity to underscore the sanctity of human life."

Also passed:

-- a resolution expressing gratitude to God for the Cooperative Program, the giving plan of the convention, on its 75th anniversary and encouraging churches to consider increasing by one percent their budgetary percentage of giving to Southern Baptists' plan for funding missions.

-- a call for a recommitment to personal evangelism, affirming the right to proclaim Jesus in a pluralistic society.

-- support for the work of the congressionally established Commission on International Religious Freedom, urging the federal government to influence the regimes in China and Sudan to halt religious persecution.

-- a condemnation of the recently revealed trade in unborn baby parts for research purposes and asking public officials to act to stop it.

-- support for legislation to halt international trafficking of women and children for sexual purposes.

-- affirmation of the right of the Boy Scouts of America to determine its leadership and membership. The New Jersey Supreme Court has ruled the Boy Scouts must allow homosexuals to be troop leaders. The case has been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which is expected to release a decision in late June.

-- encouragement to the federal government to protect the family and national sovereignty amid the rise of New Age globalism.

-- support for the traditional method of calendar dating with the designations B.C. and A.D. instead of the revised BCE (before common era) and C.E. (common era).

Messengers also expressed appreciation to the city of Orlando and Southern Baptists in the city and state for their efforts on behalf of the annual meeting.

"We particularly did not want to cover issues that had been dealt with in recent history," Wicker said. "We wanted to break some new ground."

The resolution on religious liberty and evangelism in a diverse culture "could be the most significant," he said.

The resolution followed the May release of the Chicago Declaration on Religious Freedom, which affirmed the freedom to proclaim one's faith and was authored by Southern Baptist and other evangelical Christian leaders. The document was written in response to criticism of an SBC evangelistic outreach in Chicago. Some religious leaders in the city described the effort as a "hate crime."

"Of all people, Baptists need to rally around [the Chicago declaration] and do everything we can to preserve our freedom of preaching Christ and his world view," Wicker said.

Messengers introduced 18 resolutions during the convention's proceedings June 13. A couple of those were fashioned into a different form by the committee. Several were incorporated into or already included in other resolutions. The committee declined to act on eight.

In addition to Wicker, members of the Resolutions Committee and the states in which they reside are: Jim Bolton, Texas; Ann Frazier, North Carolina; Rick Lazor, Hawaii; Roger Moran, Missouri; Jeremy Morton, Georgia; Nancy Pressler, Texas; Steven Rumley, North Carolina; Tom Rush, New Mexico, and Ted Traylor, Florida. Moran was named by SBC President Paige Patterson to replace Mark Patton of Indiana when Patton had unexpected surgery just prior to the convention, Wicker said.

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