By Tom Strode
ORLANDO, Fla. (BP)–Messengers adopted a resolution calling for reaffirmation of the centrality of the Gospel of Jesus and endorsed other resolutions addressing the implications of the Good News at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention June 15-16 in Orlando, Fla.
The resolution on the Gospel was one of seven approved by messengers either unanimously or with almost no opposition during the morning session June 16. The other measures:
— Encouraged prayer for the end of the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and for those affected by the crisis, and action by the government and corporations to prevent future catastrophes.
— Opposed the effort to change federal law to permit homosexuals to serve openly in the military.
— Expressed disapproval of the Employment Non-discrimination Act, which would grant rights in the workplace based on homosexuality and other “sexual orientations.”
— Called for the “scandal of Southern Baptist divorce” to be addressed by the convention and its churches.
— Urged Christians to participate in family worship in their homes, with fathers taking the lead, and churches to promote the practice.
— Thanked God and those He used in producing the annual meeting of Southern Baptists.
The first resolution adopted by messengers urged churches not only to proclaim the Gospel to unbelievers but to Christians as well “that through the renewing of our minds we might continually be transformed by the gospel.” It called for pastors “to keep the gospel foremost in every sermon” and churches “to display the gospel by transcending ethnic, racial, economic, and social barriers due to our unity in Christ.”
It also encouraged Southern Baptists “to speak to the outside world as those who are forgiven sinners, who have received mercy as a free gift, and not as those who are morally or ethically superior to anyone.” The resolution expressed prayer that God would make Southern Baptists “truly gospel-centered, gospel-saturated people whose lives and words point the world to our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Most of the other resolutions called for Southern Baptists to share the Gospel or to demonstrate the Gospel in their lives, including in their marriages.
Russell Moore, chairman of the Resolutions Committee, told reporters after the messengers’ votes the committee members “wanted to make a very clear statement at the very beginning that we believe the Gospel is central not only in our evangelism, although that is certainly true, but in every aspect of the Christian life.”
The committee was “very intentional on trying to speak in a Gospel-focused way not only in the first resolution” but in each of the others, said Moore, dean of the school of theology and senior vice president for academic administration at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, as well as a preaching pastor at Highview Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky.
Moore said the committee members sought to “speak as forgiven sinners and not as outraged partisans on any issue. … e wanted to make very clear through the resolution process that we are speaking from the point of view of the Gospel as those who deserve only condemnation ourselves and who are extending with every word of prophetic warning … a word of grace and mercy in Christ.”
The resolution on the Gulf oil crisis asserted that mankind’s “dominion over the creation is not unlimited, as though we were gods and not creatures,” meaning there is a higher standard than economic profit.
“We are acknowledging here there is no unlimited, Pharaoh-like dominion over the earth,” Moore said at the news conference. “There is a Christ-like stewardship over the earth, and that would apply in every aspect of life.”
The resolution also urged Southern Baptists to be prepared to help towns and churches with the same generosity demonstrated after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in 2005.
The resolutions on homosexuals in the military and workplace expressed concerns about religious liberty, especially regarding the freedom to share the Gospel, in the effort to expand civil rights to those with various “sexual orientations.”
Barrett Duke, vice president for public policy of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said at the news conference the committee was “right to recognize that we are at a time when we are looking at the very real possibility that religious liberty rights are going to be abridged in these areas.”
Duke told Baptist Press, “It is an issue that all Christians need to be deeply concerned about as the country continues to have this debate about homosexuality and the degree to which some in the country want homosexuality to be accommodated…. resolutions expressed not only just concern about the homosexuality question but especially as it relates to the ability of people of faith to be able to live out the convictions of their faith, not only privately but also publicly.”
Sixteen resolutions were submitted to the committee. The committee declined to act on some but addressed others in the final resolutions recommended to the messengers.
In addition to Moore, the other members of the committee were: Kie Bowman, pastor of Hyde Park Church in Austin, Texas; Gary Crawford, pastor of Westside Church in Gainesville, Fla.; Mike Daniels, campus pastor of the Church at Pinnacle Hills in Rogers, Ark., a campus of First Church in Springdale, Ark.; Paul Fleming, executive pastor of Forestville Church in Travelers Rest, S.C.; Paul Jiminez, associate pastor for global missions at Johnson Ferry Church in Marietta, Ga.; Jim Law, pastor of First Church in Gonzales, La.; Shane Russell, pastor of Shoal Creek Church in Deatsville, Ala.; Kevin Smith, assistant professor of church history at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and pastor of Watson Memorial Church in Louisville, Ky., and Stephen Wilson, vice president for academic affairs at Mid-Continent University in Mayfield, Ky.
Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.