On the last day of their annual meeting, U.S. leaders of Southern Baptists, a Christian denomination boasting 16.16 million members, approved resolutions of recommittment to vigorously promoting the institution of marriage and the family in their churches. The Baptist leaders especially condemned the scandal of divorce and legislative attempts to normalize homosexuality in the military and the workplace.
More than 11,000 church delegates or “messengers” from across the U.S. attended the 153rd annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, which took place June 15-16 in Orlando, Florida.
Messengers unanimously approved a resolution entitled “On the Scandal of Southern Baptist Divorce” – the first to specifically address divorce in over 100 years – reaffirming their commitment to build a healthy Christian culture of unified families founded on the biblical principle of indissoluble marriage.
The resolution states that the “acceleration in rates of divorce in Southern Baptist churches has not come through a shift in theological conviction about scriptural teaching on divorce, but rather through cultural accommodation.”
It cited one study showing the rate of divorce among conservative Christians to be equal to or higher than the average rate for the U.S. population.
This accommodation with divorce is the source of “spiritual wreckage” in churches and also harms “our global witness for Christ,” emphasizes the resolution.
The resolution urges Southern Baptists “to proclaim the Word of God on the permanence of marriage,” to help teach their churches that marriage vows are not simply about romance, but “a covenant before God, until death do them part.” It exhorts those “in troubled or faltering marriages to seek godly assistance and, where possible, reconciliation.”
Another resolution passed Wednesday encourages Southern Baptists to “rekindle the spiritual discipline of family worship” and to reaffirm the centrality of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in their lives. Family worship, it says, would help “nurture stronger families, a stronger church and a stronger nation.”
Other resolutions passed by the Convention include one opposing the repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which bars open homosexuals from serving in the armed forces. Another adopted resolution opposes the enactment of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would prohibit employers from discriminating or making personnel decisions based on sexual orientation. The resolution warns that ENDA poses a danger to religious business owners and the freedom of individuals to exercise their religious beliefs and to act in accordance with them.
Nevertheless, the resolution makes very clear that “Homosexual persons are not our enemies but our neighbors whom we love and wish to see find the same forgiveness and freedom we have found in Christ.”
The Baptist Press reports that Florida pastor Mac Brunson, of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, gave a sermon to the 11,000 delegates or messengers at the SBC, reminding them that Christians need to focus on the gospel and strengthen their unity in Christ.
“I’m afraid that in our convention and across the ministry today we are far better preachers at battling one another than at battling our enemy,” Brunson said.
But the key to solving that problem among Christians, he said, is to return the focus to Christ as the source and summit of all things.
“We don’t need just a resurgence, folks,” Brunson said. “We don’t need just a revival, we have got to get back and refocus on the pre-eminence of Jesus Christ.”