It took a second round, but the Southern Baptists, this week at their annual convention, passed a resolution condemning the white nationalist movement. The first draft of the resolution did not move forward, sparking protest from many, and, on the other side of the debate, a tweet from alt-right proponent Richard Spencer (“Jesus never complained about racism. Paul enjoined slaves to return to their masters. Have these fundies ever read their bibles?”; quoted by WFAA-ABC television).
After overnight revisions, the second draft was presented and passed. From the Washington Post:
The decision was met with a standing ovation as about 5,000 members of the denomination voted at their annual convention to affirm their opposition to the alt-right movement, which seeks a whites-only state. But it was not a decision easily reached.
Dwight McKissic, a black pastor from Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Tex., had introduced the resolution calling on the denomination to make it clear it had no sympathy for the alt-right.
“I saw people identifying themselves as Southern Baptist and members of the alt-right, so this is horrifying to me,” McKissic said. “I wanted the Southern Baptist Convention to make it very clear we have no relationship to them.”
The vote is nuanced by politics:
The debate over the resolution highlights the divisions within the denomination. A majority of white evangelicals supported the election of President Trump. But many evangelicals of color have questioned that support and criticized Trump’s policies as harmful to minorities, if not racist.
While several Southern Baptist leaders have served on Trump’s evangelical advisory board, many younger Southern Baptists — including the denomination’s Ethics and Religious Liberty president Russell Moore, 45 — vocally opposed his candidacy.
The initial disagreement was over language:
The initial text of the resolution called on Southern Baptists to “reject the retrograde ideologies, xenophobic biases, and racial bigotries of the so-called ‘Alt-Right’ that seek to subvert our government, destabilize society, and infect our political system,” which was removed in the final version.
The new text of the resolution noted some of the convention’s previous actions on race, including how Southern Baptists voted in 1995 to apologize for the role that slavery played in the convention’s creation. It noted how in 2012 it elected its first black president. More than 20 percent of Southern Baptist congregations, it says, identifies as predominantly nonwhite.
From National Public Radio:
Southern Baptist leaders had declined to consider the resolution the day before, saying they were concerned that the proposed language was too strong. The decision was met with confusion and anger from members of the denomination and the public. And it highlighted divisions in the roughly 15 million member denomination that surfaced during last year’s election.
“We regret and apologize for the pain and the confusion that we created for you and a watching world when we decided not to report out a resolution on alt-right racism,” Barrett Duke, the resolutions committee chairman, told the gathered crowd of about 5,000. “Please know it wasn’t because we don’t share your abhorrence of racism and especially the particularly vicious form of racism that has manifested itself in the alt-right movement. We do share your abhorrence.”
The explanation does not resolve the matter for all Southern Baptists:
The move was criticized by Southern Baptist members and pastors on social media, including Trillia Newbell. Newbell is an author and the director of community outreach at the denomination’s Ethics and Religious Liberty commission. She’s also African American.
“Was I hurt? Absolutely. Was I discouraged? Yes,” she says.
But she says she’s encouraged by the denomination’s resounding approval of the amended resolution.
“I think it’s important that we take every opportunity to denounce and set ourselves apart from anything that is racist or alienates our brothers and sisters in Christ who are people of color, especially given our history,” she says.