A day after overruling the Resolutions Committee, messengers to the 2021 Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting adopted a resolution June 16 calling for “abolishing abortion immediately, without exception or compromise.”
The Resolutions Committee had declined the resolution, reasoning that while “messengers would agree with some aspects of this resolution,” the issue of abortion was addressed in another resolution condemning the repeal of the Hyde Amendment, which prevents federal funding of abortion.
But after one of the resolution’s 9 co-authors spoke to the motion June 15, messengers brought it to the floor with a two-thirds vote. It was adopted after an amendment softening its language.
The resolution was among 10 resolutions messengers approved this year. Among other resolutions adopted, all receiving strong support from messengers, were measures recommending that churches permanently bar sex abusers from the pastorate; a resolution rejecting any theory that credits racism to anything other than sin and a resolution denouncing the Equality Act, a far-reaching gay and transgender rights bill that critics warn would devastate freedom of religion and conscience, as well as protections for women, girls and unborn children.
The resolution on abolishing abortion was revived Tuesday in a motion by Bill Ascol, pastor of Bethel Baptist Church of Owasso, Okla., who had initially submitted the resolution. It is perhaps the strictest antiabortion statement messengers have adopted in nearly 50 years. A resolution adopted in the 2018 SBC annual meeting reaffirming the full dignity of every human denounced “every act of abortion except to save the mother’s physical life.”
A group calling itself Southern Baptists for Abolishing Abortion was passing out pamphlets to messengers at the convention. The pamphlets included the full text of the original resolution as well as a rationale for its adoption and a question-and-answer section.
The resolution drew several minutes of contentious debate Wednesday, even as each messenger who spoke affirmed a pro-life position. Critics said the resolution was poorly written and would discredit all attempts to restrict but not eliminate abortion – such as bans on partial-birth abortion or so-called “heartbeat” laws.
The resolution was adopted after it was amended with the addition of one word: “alone,” a paragraph that then read:
“RESOLVED, that we will not embrace an incremental approach alone to ending abortion because it challenges God’s Lordship over the heart and the conscience, and rejects His call to repent of sin completely and immediately.” The resolution terms abortion a Great Commission issue, and laments “any complicity in recognizing exceptions that legitimize or regulate abortion.”
Disqualifying sex abusers from pastorate
Building on the momentum of the SBC measures to prevent sex abuse in churches and protect vulnerable populations, messengers approved a resolution encouraging churches to permanently disqualify sex abusers from serving as pastors. The resolution also asks churches to apply the standard to all positions of church leadership.
“I believe it’s very important for Southern Baptists to speak unequivocally, and we’d like everyone to understand this, that we believe that sexual abuse is a disqualifying factor for anyone who would serve in church leadership, or be in a position where they were commended to vulnerable populations in the church,” said committee member Bart Barber, pastor of First Baptist Church of Farmersville, Texas.
Committee member Nathan Finn said the resolution supports other measures the SBC has taken to prevent sex abuse in churches, including an amendment to Article III of the SBC Constitution supporting the disfellowshiping of churches that don’t act to prevent sex abuse.
“It is very obvious that the will of the convention is that we do a better job of addressing this issue,” said vice chairman Nathan Finn, a member of Mountain Creek Baptist Church in Greenville, S.C., who is provost of North Greenville University. “We felt like this is a way that we can come alongside all the positive momentum that says our first instinct needs to be to care for those who have been abused, more than protecting our own reputation.”
In other resolutions, messengers:
- Encouraged Southern Baptists to pursue holiness and brotherly love in their speech and conduct, and not permit “personal, social, theological or political interests to supersede” the urgency of fulfilling the Great Commission.
- Urged the Chinese Communist Party to end the genocide of Uyghur Muslims, and encouraged the U.S. government to prioritize the admission of Uyghurs to the U.S. while continuing sanctions punishing China for its persecution of Uyghurs.
- Mourned lives lost to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Expressed appreciation to the Lord, the city of Nashville and all those who contributed to the annual meeting’s success.
James Merritt, lead pastor of Cross Pointe Church in Duluth, Ga., chaired the Resolutions Committee. In addition to Barber and Finn, committee members included Alex Cosio, senior pastor, New Horizons Fellowship, Woodstock, Ga.; Robyn Hari, a member of Clearview Baptist Church, Franklin, Tenn.; Andrew Hunt, senior pastor, New Life Community Church, Indianapolis; Brooke Medina, a member of The Summit Church, Durham, N.C.; Dana Hall McCain, a member of First Baptist Church, Dothan, Ala.; Adron Robinson, senior pastor, Hillcrest Baptist Church, County Club Hills, Ill.; and Jared Wellman, lead pastor, Tate Springs Baptist Church, Arlington, Texas.
More details on various resolutions are available here.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ senior writer.)