After a series of floor votes and behind-the-scenes discussions in the late evening, convention leadership announced Tuesday night that messengers will be given opportunity to consider a resolution originally proposed by a Texas pastor condemning the “alt-right” movement. Debate over the resolution, which is a statement of messengers’ opinion but non-binding on Southern Baptist churches, threatens to draw attention away from SBC President Steve Gaines announcement that he wishes to name a committee to focus on soul-winning, and possibly shift the spotlight away from Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore.
The Resolutions Committee, a group of one-time appointees led this year by former ERLC vice president Barrett Duke, brought nine resolutions to the floor. They included statements on prayer and repentance, the morality of political and church leaders, the nature of atonement, and “the sin of gambling.” But the committee did not bring for a vote a statement proposed by Arlington, Texas pastor Dwight McKissic condemning actions of the alt-right political movement.
“Our decision not to report that resolution out is not an endorsement of the alt-right,” Duke said at a news conference following the afternoon session. “There are aspects of people who identify as alt-right, certainly, a lot of views and their intentions, we would adamantly, aggressively oppose.” He said the committee chose not to bring McKissic’s motion for a vote after hours of discussions over broad language that they characterized as problematic and possibly inflammatory.
As he did in a previous convention to debate use of the confederate battle flag, McKissic took to the floor. He asked the messengers to amend the rules and bring his proposed resolution for a vote. That vote failed to get a two-thirds majority.
Later, in the evening session, another messenger from Washington D.C. cited unnamed media reports about conventions failure bring the “alt-right” statement back for a vote, and made an impassioned plea for another opportunity for messengers to see McKissic’s statement. The messenger said he “feared” the SBC was being called racist because they did not vote on the alt-right statement. A second balloting to bring the resolution to the floor received only 58% of the vote, again short of the two-thirds majority. But messengers’ considerable interest in the issue convinced the Resolutions Committee to revisit the matter.
The Committee will bring a resolution addressing the alt-right movement at 2:45 p.m. (PT) today. The statement is expected to address the sin of racism. It comes as the SBC continues efforts to bring non-whites into leadership. Coming three years after New Orleans pastor Fred Luter served as the SBC’s first African American President, messengers elected African American pastor and professor Walter Strickland as first vice president on Tuesday and Hispanic pastor Jose Abella as second vice president. The SBC Pastors Conference on Monday elected African American pastor H.B. Charles of Jacksonville, Florida as its president.
SBC President Gaines had asked for time on Tuesday to announce plans for a year-long study on evangelism in the SBC, and presentation of a plan for more effective soul-winning by SBC churches and pastors. Gaines’ effort comes after another year of declines in baptisms and worship attendance, and a decade of shrinking SBC church membership.
The ERLC’s annual report is the final item on the agenda today. Yesterday, Moore characterized the annual meeting as a “family reunion” of people who together advance the gospel. Although there was a motion for messengers to be allowed to address concerns about the ERLC, the motion seems likely to be referred or dismissed entirely. Moore did not speak to recent national reports that his relationship with the both SBC leaders and the Trump administration remains strained. And as attention turns to the “alt-right,” it appears less likely messengers will have time, or a parliamentary vehicle, to discuss the ERLC.
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— Eric Reed in Phoenix