The Largest Protestant Denomination Shows Radical Shift In Their Focus
The Southern Baptist Convention was at a historic crossroads. The denomination has been sliding into a crisis of identity for the last year. While this group originally were some of Trump’s largest supporters, a split has occurred over the president’s immigrant policies and lack of denouncement of alt-right groups.
This was not the only issue. Paige Patterson, one of the leading figures of Southern Baptists, has been accused of sexual misconduct by both former staff and parishoners. He has been expelled from the church. Women have criticzed the lack of action and many have argued that this is the #MeToo moment for Southern Baptists.
With these issues at the forefront, the nation has been engrossed on which resolutions the convention would pass, as well as topics of speeches.
The Southern Baptist Convention was significantly more revolutionary than many could have predicted.
The voting representatives passed a resolution condemning abuse towards women and changing the process for how church leaders should report abuse. The resolution admitted that the Baptist church had “wronged women, abused women, silenced women, and objectified women” throughout its history. Speakers also addressed the doctrine of “complementarianism” where the man is the head of household and woman have to “submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband.” While no resolution was passed that directly affected complementarianism, there was a larger conversation that the doctrine should be ideologically reformed to be respectful of women and official support for an increase in women’s involvement in the church.
The second important change was addressing racial discrimination. A significant national news story has been the Raleigh White Baptist. The church has been accused of discrimination towards the a black congregation that shares the same building. The convention voted to expel the church. But the Baptist church did not stop there. It passed a resolution renouncing the “curse of Ham” a section of the bible that has been historically used to justify slavery and mistreatment of racial minorities. Finally, there was a public statement supporting immigration as matter of respect for human rights. The statement also implied racist implications of conservative immigration policies.
The EC has voted, on behalf of the SBC, to withdraw fellowship from Raleigh White Baptist Church in Albany, Ga., based on 'clear evidence' of racial discrimination. #sbcam18
— Baptist Press (@baptistpress) June 11, 2018
Even the featured speaker, Vice President Mike Pence, drew rebuke. Pence decided to make the focus of his speech about the Trump administration. Many Baptists complained that it was too focused on politics, rather than religion. The grumbling was so abundant that the newly elected president JD Greear, put out a tweet that partially criticzed the vice president:
I know that sent a terribly mixed signal. We are grateful for civic leaders who want to speak to our … https://t.co/BT1SgUXWgj
— J.D. Greear (@jdgreear) June 13, 2018
The election of Greear is emblamtic of the shift in the Baptist Church. Greear is known for more tolerant views and a laidback personal style. The Baptist church wants change their public image.
While some protestors argued that the convention did not go far enough, on several major issues of concern the church aligned to a more liberal stance. It remains to be seen if the church will escalate this agenda and how it will affect local churches.