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BGCT declines Muslim evangelism for religious liberty resolution

DALLAS (BP)–Messengers to the Baptist General Convention of Texas annual meeting declined Oct. 30 to amend a resolution on religious liberty to include language which would have made it more evangelistic regarding Muslims.

Adopting resolutions which included a call to prayer, abhorrence of the persecution of Muslims and of “attacks” on Buckner Benevolence Ministries and affirmation of the importance of racial harmony, messengers paused briefly to debate one of the six resolutions considered.

The resolution called religious liberty a “fundamental and historic Baptist distinctive” and credited Baptists for playing “an important role in shaping and securing the religious liberty clauses of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.”

Further, it noted Baptists in Europe, America and elsewhere have been “persecuted and killed for their faith” but “historically have championed religious liberty for all.”

Texas Baptists resolved to “affirm religious liberty as a constitutionally guaranteed right” and “that in the present context of fears regarding terrorism, we are vigilant to protect the religious rights of Muslims in America.”

Deploring “the persecution of Muslims and attacks on their places of worship” it further resolved “that in the Spirit of Christ, we work to build relationships with Muslims and with persons of other faith groups in our communities.”

Danny Crosby of First Baptist Church, Cleburne, was successful in introducing an amendment to insert the phrase “we deplore religious persecution and violence against Christians or any religious groups by Muslims or any other religious group.”

Crosby said 164,000 Christians were martyred around the world in 1999 and 165,000 in 2000. He also reminded messengers 16 Roman Catholic Christians were murdered in Bangladesh in the previous week by Muslim extremists.

No one spoke in opposition to Crosby’s amendment and it was adopted with only a few opposing votes.

Another attempt to amend the resolution failed after Darren Donaldson of Fellowship Baptist Church, Brenham, asked for stronger language in the final phrase of the resolution.

Donaldson said while efforts should be made to build relationships with Muslims, like with others they should be based on “seeking opportunity to share with them salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ….”

Prison chaplain Mike Maness of First Baptist Church, Woodlake, opposed the amendment, noting in his job he defends religious liberty for Muslims, “which does not threaten me or my faith.”

The amendment failed with only a few votes of support.

Another resolution recognized the suffering in “our nation and world” as a result of the “horrific terrorist attacks” Sept. 11 and the resulting grief and financial hardship. Urging prayer for “those who have suffered losses” and for national and world leaders and law enforcement and military personnel, the amendment resolves that “we pray for those who are attacking us, and for the spread of God’s peace in the world.”

A resolution affirming support for BGCT-related institutions and ministries noted some “have been victimized by misinformation and guilt by association, including recent attacks on Buckner Baptist Benevolences.”

Asking messengers to “urge fellow Baptists in the spirit of Matthew 18:15-17 to confirm facts in conversation with the institutions and ministries in question before making allegations,” the resolution resolves to “strongly affirm BGCT-related institutions and ministries with our prayers and continued support.”

The resolution did not refer to Baptist Press, the official news service of the Southern Baptist Convention, in the text of the resolution, but another organization meeting in conjunction with the BGCT named Baptist Press outright, while the BGCT Christian Life Commission in its convention report Oct. 30 also made a veiled reference to the story about Buckner, which was released Sept. 20 in Baptist Press.

Bill Wilson, pastor First Baptist Church, Waynesboro, Va., and the co-chair of the Mainstream Baptist Network, made reference to the Baptist Press story at the annual breakfast of Texas Baptist Committed Oct. 30 in Dallas.

“When Baptist Press accuses Buckner Children and Family Services of being partners with Planned Parenthood in providing abortions, they are being stiff-necked toward God’s command against bearing false witness,” Wilson said.

(Readers may assess Wilson’s criticisms by reading the Baptist Press article at http://www.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?ID=11774.)

Wilson also spoke against Roger Moran, an SBC Executive Committee member from Missouri in talking about guilt-by-association tactics. Moran has for years worked with conservative groups in Missouri to offer researched-based materials explaining the affiliations of certain groups and individuals to political and other groups.

“Whenever anyone, whether it be Roger Moran or Baptist Press or Associated Baptist Press, accuses fellow believers of associating with sinners and somehow construes that as a reason to break fellowship with them, they are falling into the same trap that those who put to death the Son of God succumbed to.”

In presenting the Texas CLC’s report Oct. 30, Phil Strickland spoke of peace and justice, recognizing that Baptists live in conflict with one another. Attempts to discredit people through guilt by association and the insistence in using the word “inerrancy” in the Baptist Faith & Message are examples, he said.

Telling messengers the word inerrancy was “not around for the first 1,800 years of the life of the church,” Strickland said it has many meanings today.

What “bothers me is that many inerrantists claim that their position applies only to the original manuscripts of the Bible. … I want more than that. I want to emphasize that the Bible we have, the one I hold in my hand, is the Word of God….”

Another resolution called on messengers to “affirm that racial harmony and cross-cultural relationships are of utmost importance in following the teachings of our Lord” and urged that “we commit ourselves to deep and lasting reconciliation across racial and ethnic boundaries through a lifestyle of establishing friendships and humbly walking together in Christ’s love.”

The resolutions committee was led by chairperson Reby Lawler, minister of childhood education at Trinity Baptist Church, San Antonio.

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  • Joni B. Hannigan