About a year ago, we were asked to serve on the Resolutions Committee for the 2019 Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Annual Meeting. Serving on the committee was a great experience, and gave us a deeper appreciation for the incredible gifts and biblical convictions that mark our Southern Baptist family.
We accepted this responsibility for one reason: to help the convention speak with biblical clarity on theological, social and practical topics in order to advance our cooperative witness and mission. The convention adopted 13 resolutions on a wide range of topics including gains in the pro-life movement, sexual abuse in the church, local church autonomy, sexuality and personal identity, religious persecution and a cutting-edge genetic technology called “germline editing.” It was truly an honor to serve the messengers in 2019.
Much discussion has surrounded Resolution 9, “On Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality” (CRT/I).
Since June, we’ve discussed concerns that people have raised through private conversations, including fruitful interaction with the pastor who submitted the original resolution. We want to address some questions that we have answered privately, but do so in a more public way, with the hope of bringing clarity to our deliberation.
Q: Resolution 9, “On Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality,” continues to be an ongoing discussion which has caused concerns among some Baptists. Why did the committee choose to address the subject?
A: We did not begin our work with any desire or plan to speak to this issue, but we appreciated the concerns expressed by the pastor who submitted the original resolution, we recognized the influence that CRT/I has had in our society and we shared concerns within the SBC that these theories could undermine the gospel and the church’s mission. And so, we proposed a resolution that we hoped would reflect how the Christian church for 2000 years has applied the doctrine of the sufficiency of scripture with ideas that emerge from sources outside the Bible. We were seeking to help our convention address an issue some Southern Baptists were already concerned about.
Q: One of the concerns raised over the resolution is the origin of these theories. Does the committee acknowledge this concern? Does the committee or the resolution endorse CRT/I?
A: Yes, we understand the concern, and have benefitted from discussion with individuals who have expressed it. We want to be clear that we acknowledge CRT/I originates from people who are not Christians and hold views that oppose the gospel. No one is claiming that CRT/I is Christian or that all of its cultural applications are in line with scripture.
At the same time, as with other secular theories, not every observation is wrong, sinful or unhelpful. But even insights that describe the social dynamics of our society accurately remain insufficient to address the sinful heart of man.
For example, we know from our missionaries, who work throughout North America and even to the uttermost parts of the world, that it is crucial to understand the social dynamics where the gospel’s power to reconcile all things is desperately needed. We affirm without reservation that we must rely exclusively on biblical theology for understanding God’s plan for His world and the power of the gospel to accomplish His plan.
This is why the resolution rejects embracing CRT/I as a worldview and calls us to place any descriptive insights under the authoritative and sufficient scriptures. One of the resolved statements reads, “That we deny any philosophy or theology that fundamentally defines individuals using categories identified as sinful in scripture rather than the transcendent reality shared by every image bearer and divinely affirmed distinctions.”
Q: Some question that the 2019 Resolutions Committee was unclear about embracing the sufficiency of scripture. What is the committee’s response to that?
A: The resolution appeals directly to the sufficiency of scripture and does so by using language from the Baptist Faith and Message (BF&M). Article 1 of the BF&M states: “all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy. It reveals the principles by which God judges us, and therefore is, and will remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried. All Scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is Himself the focus of divine revelation.” We affirm that the Bible is the authoritative standard for belief and practice, and further, it teaches that Christ, Himself, is the subject of scripture, not a human theory.
The resolution expresses clearly that the sufficient scriptures govern all our own ideas as well as the use of ideas from any and all non-biblical sources. This affirmation reflects precisely how the Christian church for 2000 years has interacted with ideas that emerge from sources outside of scripture.
Q: There has been a real concern that this resolution’s adoption is an illustration of creeping liberalism in Southern Baptist life, or even an attempt to nudge the SBC in that direction. How does the committee respond to this?
A: The committee has been accused of bad motives. Some have compared the resolution to building a “Trojan horse” or letting liberalism into our Southern Baptist tent. This was not the goal of any member of the committee, and there is nothing about our work to indicate that it was our intention. We sought to provide clear biblical parameters to engage ongoing conversations about race in society.
This resolution was never intended to divide us or to harm our convention. It was presented to address concerns that were being raised and provide a basis for unity. However, confusion about the resolution’s content and our motives has brought division. We appreciate the genuine critiques that have been expressed. At the same time, we have watched misunderstandings spread and people’s reputations maligned due to misrepresentation. We are grieved by this, and we believe it grieves the heart of our Lord.
Q: For the sake of fellowship within our Southern Baptist family, where does the committee believe we should go from here?
A: We realize that Southern Baptists may come to different conclusions as to the wisdom of presenting Resolution 9. We encourage brothers and sisters not to lose sight of the profound and clear common ground we share on the sufficiency of the gospel. Along with the message of Resolution 7, “On Biblical Justice,” the resolution makes clear that only Jesus is able to redeem men, women, boys and girls from every nation, tribe and tongue to an eternal relationship with God and reconciled relationships with one another.
We pledged ourselves to a cooperative culture in Birmingham through Resolution 6, “On the Promotion of a ‘Cooperative Culture’ in the Southern Baptist Convention for Mission Advance.”
We want to, along with our brothers and sisters, pursue cooperation built on trust and goodwill. We ask our leaders to lead us with biblical courage and conviction as we face various challenges to our cooperative mission. We ourselves are resolved to work tirelessly for this biblical vision with every opportunity the Lord Jesus gives us.
Members of the 2019 Resolutions Committee: Curtis Woods, chair; Keith Whitfield, vice chair; Tremayne Manson; Adron Robinson; Walter Strickland; Angela Suh Um; Trevin Wax; Jared Wellman; Rick Wheeler; Alicia Wong.
FAQ from the 2019 Resolutions Committee
Why did Resolution 9, “On Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality,” focus on how the theories are “appropriated?”
We believe that the concerns that people were expressing over CRT/I focused on the application of the theories. Because of that assessment, we consulted the Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel to help us with the wording of the resolution. This statement addresses concerns over the emergence of social justice in Evangelicalism.
We affirm what we found in the “We Deny” portion of Article I. The Statement rejects “the postmodern ideologies derived from intersectionality, radical feminism, and critical race theory are consistent with biblical teaching.” Indeed, we followed this language. It focuses on how the theories are appropriated by rejecting the philosophies and applications that are developed from CRT/I.
Why the mention of analytical tools?
We used analytical tools to distinguish between the worldview of CRT/I’s creators and the concepts that are used from these theories by some Christians. We share the concerns about the foundation, worldview and various applications of CRT/I. However, not every observation from these theories is wrong, sinful or unhelpful.
In limited ways, insights from these theories may show us “what is” when it comes to the social dynamics people experience and help us see more robustly the nature of – as one SBC leader has described it – “racial injustice and systemic wrongs” throughout our cultural landscape. We don’t believe that a willingness to listen and learn undermines the gospel. We are firmly committed to relying only on biblical theology for understanding “how things ought to be” and to trust only in the sufficiency of the gospel to bring about God’s redemptive plan in our world.
How do we consider identity politics?
The resolution denies any philosophy or theology that defines human identity on anything other than “transcendent reality shared by every image bearer and divinely affirmed distinctions.” It establishes human identity in the image of God, and for all redeemed humanity, it affirms that our common identity is rooted in being eternally united to Christ.
Thus, the resolution repudiates all forms of identity politics and any ideology that establishes fundamental human identity on anything other than our created dignity in God’s image. Furthermore, it calls for Southern Baptist churches to pursue unity based on our fundamental unity in Christ.
EDITOR’S NOTE – Because of the ongoing discussion involving Resolution 9, “On Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality,” from the 2019 SBC Annual Meeting, members of the 2019 Resolutions Committee sought to shed light on both their purpose in addressing the topic and the process by which the resolution was developed, with the goal of clarifying any misconceptions. These brief comments from the committee about their overall experience are from a Q&A with Baptist Press, as well as an FAQ from the 2019 Resolutions Committee.)