June 24, 2009
Southern Baptists Express `Pride' in Obama's Election
Southern Baptists on Wednesday overwhelmingly expressed their "pride" in President Obama's election as the nation's first African-American president while also criticizing his policies that they oppose.
The resolution, adopted at the Southern Baptist Convention's annual meeting in Louisville, Ky., said Baptists "share our nation's pride in our continuing progress toward racial reconciliation signaled by the election of Barack Hussein Obama as the 44th president of the United States of America."
The statement also commended Obama for his "evident love for his family" and retention of security policies that "continue to keep our nation safe from further terrorist attacks."
At the same time, Baptists voiced strong opposition to his expansion of federal funding "for destructive human embryo research," increased "funding for pro-abortion groups" and a reduction of abstinence-education funding. The resolution also opposed Obama's declaration of June as "Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month."
Despite their differences with Obama, delegates nonetheless committed to "join hands" with the White House "to advance causes of justice insofar as those efforts are consistent with biblical principles."
The Rev. Dwight McKissic, a black pastor from Arlington, Texas, who proposed the resolution, hailed its passage as a milestone of racial progress for Southern Baptists, who trace their roots to the national divide over slavery that split many U.S. denominations into Northern and Southern branches.
"I think it was important to all African-American Southern Baptists," said McKissic, who voted for Republican John McCain last year. "To me, it's a great step toward Southern Baptists having a more effective ministry in the African-American community. ... I'm proud of Southern Baptists today."
In 1995, Southern Baptists passed a resolution apologizing to African-Americans for condoning racism and committed to work to eradicate it within the denomination.
SBC President Johnny Hunt prayed for Obama immediately after the resolution passed.
"I pray your blessings upon our president," said Hunt, who was re-elected to a second one-year term on Tuesday. "I pray that you would so work in his heart that you would draw him to yourself and make him overwhelmingly aware of who you are."
The annual two-day meeting, which was attended by more than 8,700 Baptists, has been overshadowed by concerns about baptism rates, which are at their lowest in more than two decades. On Tuesday, delegates voted to let Hunt appoint a task force to determine ways to refocus every level of the nation's largest Protestant denomination on evangelism.
As the convention opened Tuesday, Southern Baptist researchers predicted that the SBC could lose almost half its membership by 2050 if it did not do more to change its mostly white, aging image.
Baptists also passed a resolution encouraging fellow members to consider and support adoption, and a statement that affirms marriage as only between one man and one woman, while decrying recent action by state legislatures to "redefine marriage."
Hunt co-authored the "Great Commission Resurgence" declaration in an effort to turn the denomination around. It calls for maintaining Baptist belief in an error-proof Bible and the principles that undergird the conservative resurgence that began in the denomination 30 years ago. It also calls for streamlining the church's work and openness to new ways
of starting churches and mission work.
While some older leaders argued that a task force to study Hunt's plan would be a waste of time and money, the initiative seemed to capture the imagination of younger Baptists.
"This Great Commission Resurgence is something that we as young pastors can get behind and support," said Jarrett Stephens, associate pastor for young singles of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas.
It also drew the support of Billy Graham, one of the oldest and most well-known Southern Baptists, who sent a handwritten note to his South Carolina pastor that was read to the convention on Wednesday.
"I ... read with interest the call to a Great Commission Resurgence for our convention," wrote Graham, 90. "With a world in crisis and our nation in challenge such of which we have not seen in decades, the clear and certain proclamation of the gospel is paramount. I pray that ... Southern Baptists will rally to the bold call of evangelism for this