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Southern summit

Southern Baptists reject Confederate flag, address cultural concerns


Moore Adam Covington/Baptist Press

Southern summit
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“It’s not often that I find myself wiping away tears in a denominational meeting,” Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), wrote on his blog, “but I just did.”

The cause was SBC passage at its June 14-15 annual meeting of a resolution urging Christians “to discontinue the display of the Confederate battle flag as a sign of solidarity of the whole Body of Christ, including our African-American brothers and sisters.”

Moore underscored the significance of the decision: The word “Southern” in Southern Baptist Convention “doesn’t speak to geography,” he wrote. “It speaks to history,” a history that includes the denomination’s formation in 1845 “over a controversy about appointing slaveholders as missionaries.”

Delegates in the wake of the Orlando shooting at an LGBT club also adopted a resolution to pray, to donate blood, and to give other assistance. They reaffirmed that “marriage is between one man and one woman” and expressed “dissent from the Obergefell opinion that purports to redefine the institution of marriage created by God.”

One resolution expressed support for laws defending religious freedom, and another praised 11 state attorneys general who are challenging the Obama administration’s guidance on transgender bathrooms.

Baptists also addressed the refugee crisis. Noting past instances of the SBC caring for displaced peoples, a resolution encouraged Baptists “to welcome and adopt refugees into their churches and homes as a means to demonstrate to the nations that our God longs for every tribe, tongue, and nation to be welcomed at His throne.”

Delegates at the convention voted twice to elect a president, but no one gained a clear majority. J.D. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in North Carolina, and Steve Gaines, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Tennessee, came to a near tie on the second round of voting. Greear then withdrew his name and endorsed his opponent. “The task for those of you who voted for me is not to complain that things didn’t go our way,” Greear wrote on his blog. “It’s to follow the example of our Savior, who came not to be served, but to serve.”

Marriage proposals

The 2016 General Synod of the Reformed Church in America (RCA) on June 13 surprised many members by adopting only one out of five recommendations from a special council of 74 RCA leaders it had convened in April to deal with same-sex marriage and ordination issues.

Accepted: That the RCA adopt as constitutional an “Order for Christian Marriage” liturgy that describes marriage as “a joyful covenanting between a man and a woman.” The key turn-down: That the RCA also adopt as constitutional a marriage liturgy that defines marriage merely as “between two persons,” whatever their sex.

The following day RCA delegates called for denominational governing bodies to “assure that marriages in a church or congregation are between a man and a woman.” The changes become official only if they gain approval by two-thirds of the RCA’s 45 district and affinity groups, along with a majority of delegates to next year’s General Synod.

Last year Pastor Fred Harrell and most elders of one key RCA church, City Church in San Francisco, decided that sexually active gay and lesbian couples in same-sex marriages could become church members (see WORLD, July 11, 2015). Some leaders want local churches or affinity groups to create their own standards concerning LGBT issues. Harrell on his Facebook page criticized on June 14 “the Injustice of General Synod 2016.” —Marvin Olasky


James Bruce

James is an associate professor of philosophy at John Brown University and a graduate of the World Journalism Institute.

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