June 15, 2017; ABC News (Associated Press)
ABC News reports that gauntlets were thrown down last week at the annual national meeting of Southern Baptists when a resolution declaring that the conference stood squarely against white supremacy was delayed.
The declaration, which did eventually repudiate “every form of racism, including alt-right white supremacy, as antithetical to the Gospel of Jesus Christ” and denounced white supremacy “and every form of racial and ethnic hatred as a scheme of the devil” was passed, but only after it was held back by the resolutions committee and a backlash began.
The delay, according to Barrett Duke, who leads the resolutions committee, was due to the need for a redrafting away from inflammatory and broad language “potentially implicating” conservatives who do not support the so-called “alt-right.”
Of course there are many stories and much history behind this story.
Debate also underscored ongoing tensions among Southern Baptists whether Donald Trump, a thrice-married casino and real estate mogul, was morally fit to be president.
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[Rev. Russell] Moore vehemently condemned candidate Trump. At the same time, several prominent Southern Baptists, including former presidents of the denomination, signed on as evangelical advisers to the Republican’s campaign. They remain among the president’s most steadfast supporters.
When Trump won with 80 percent of the white evangelical vote, Moore faced a backlash within the denomination. That landslide support for Trump left black evangelicals feeling alienated and disappointed given their concerns about Trump’s past treatment of blacks, his rhetoric about Mexicans, and his promised policies.
Doing battle in one’s own community can be excruciating, but the fruits are perhaps sweeter for it.
“We are saying that white supremacy and racist ideologies are dangerous because they oppress our brothers and sisters in Christ,” said Moore, who leads the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, the Southern Baptist public policy arm. “If we’re a Jesus people, let’s stand where Jesus stands.”
According to the Wall Street Journal, Moore’s open criticism of “religious right” priorities and attempts “to lead evangelicals in a new direction” has split the Southern Baptist Convention and caused the denomination to be excluded from Trump White House access. The initial draft resolution that was eventually edited and passed was written by the Rev. William McKissic of Arlington, Texas, one of the 15 percent of the denomination who are people of color, and had repudiated “retrograde ideologies, xenophobic biases and racial bigotries of the ‘alt-right’ that seek to subvert our government.”
McKissic later received an apology from Duke for the way his draft proposal was handled, especially since he was not consulted in the redraft of the new statement, but he did say that the outcry from white and black Christians that brought the issue to a vote was encouraging. “We’re turning the corner,” McKissic told reporters. “I see the heart of the majority.”—Ruth McCambridge