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2nd ballot by Ill. Baptists affirms SBC’s stance on marriage & family

QUINCY, Ill. (BP)–Southern Baptists in Illinois narrowly rejected adoption of the Baptist Faith and Message’s 1998 family amendment into its constitution but later agreed to affirm that same language without a constitutional revision.

The action to revise the Illinois Baptist State Association’s constitution needed a two-thirds approval, but it gained only 65 percent of the votes by 226 messengers on the first day of the association’s Nov. 1-2 annual meeting at the Quincy Holiday Inn.

The family amendment was resurrected the following morning when Patrick Stewart, pastor of First Baptist Church, St. Charles, who had supported the defeated measure, made a motion to affirm the article on the family in the Baptist Faith and Message approved by the Southern Baptist Convention in June in Orlando, Fla., which left unchanged the language of the 1998 amendment approved at the SBC annual meeting in Salt Lake City.

Stewart said he chose to affirm the language in the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message — instead of the 1998 amendment — to be certain no one would challenge the motion on the technicality that the ’98 amendment had been dealt with during the previous night’s business. The move also sets the stage to consider the full revisions of the Baptist Faith and Message at a future annual meeting, he said.

The motion passed with 70 percent approval in a 224-97 vote. It does not alter the IBSA’s constitution and required only a simple majority to pass.

Opponents cited several reasons on the first night of the IBSA annual meeting to reject the constitutional change. One messenger said it excluded “blended” families, in which the parents are remarried. He also said the Baptist Faith and Message was becoming increasingly creedal. Another messenger called it “scripturally flawed” because the Bible teaches Christians should submit themselves to each other, not just wives to husbands. The family amendment had attracted national media attention in ’98 over its call for a wife to “submit herself graciously” to her husband. A third messenger said the passage in Ephesians, used as one of the biblical references for the amendment, was regularly misinterpreted by some men to justify abuse and to “beat down their wives.”

Supporters also made their case. One pastor from a blended family said the addition of the amendment “will help keep families on track.” Another pointed out that “we are clearly making a Christian statement” about the biblical roles and responsibilities of husbands and wives, both of whom are equal before God. He said it was important for Southern Baptists to make a united stand about the biblical model of a family in a nation that has been redefining what constitutes a family.

Another pastor said the amendment’s defeat could cause the media to incorrectly conclude that Illinois Baptists support these redefinitions, including homosexual couples.

In a related matter, the association unanimously approved on Nov. 2 a resolution opposing recognition of “civil unions” of homosexual partners.

The IBSA constitution will continue to use the wording of the 1963 Baptist Faith and Message, but that could change by 2002. The IBSA’s constitution-and-bylaws committee next year is expected to review those revisions. If committee members recommend its adoption, the first reading would be held November 2001 in Peoria and a vote taken after the second reading in November 2002 in O’Fallon.

IBSA President Tim Lewis, pastor of Bethel Baptist of Troy, said he would encourage the committee to seek a broad range of input from the state’s Southern Baptists.

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  • Michael Leathers