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Divorce resolution speaks ‘to ourselves’

ORLANDO, Fla. (BP)–A resolution on the “scandal of Southern Baptist divorce” was an attempt “to speak first to ourselves,” the chairman of the Resolutions Committee said after its approval by messengers to the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in Orlando, Fla.

In what appeared to be a unanimous vote June 16, messengers endorsed a resolution that “acknowledged the complicity of many among us for too often failing to show the world the meaning of the gospel through marital fidelity.”

The measure said some studies show conservative Protestants are divorcing at similar rates to the American public as a whole and areas where Southern Baptists predominate frequently have higher divorce rates than “unchurched” regions.

It was past time for Southern Baptists to address the issue directly, said Russell Moore, the Resolution Committee’s chairman.

He said at a news conference after passage of the resolution he was “amazed, although divorce has been mentioned in some resolutions in the 20th Century, there has not been a resolution that I have found speaking directly and specifically to the issue of divorce since 1904, when this scandal is everywhere in our churches.”

Moore told reporters, “We have to speak just as clearly and with just as much force and alarm, indeed with more so, to the sins that are rampant among ourselves as we do to the things that are on the outside. Unfortunately, I think sometimes things seem obvious to us when they are not near to us. And so we’re able to speak to those things prophetically, but when something is very close to us we tend to lose perspective and not to speak to those things.”

“[O]ne of the things that the committee wished to do is to speak first to ourselves and to call ourselves to repentance and accountability,” Moore said, “so that with credibility we can speak to the outside world and say, ‘Here is redemption that is found in the Gospel, and here is the justice of God.'”

The resolution voiced the convictions that the convention should:

— Declare “the whole counsel of God, especially when the Bible confronts our own patterns of sin.”

— Realize “how damaging Southern Baptist accommodation to the divorce culture is to our global witness for Christ.”

— Confront “the spiritual wreckage left in our Southern Baptist churches by our own divorce rates and our silence about the same.”

It called for churches to proclaim the biblical view on marriage’s permanence, perform wedding ceremonies only for men and women qualified scripturally to be married to each other, counsel couples and families going through difficulties, declare God’s mercy to those who have divorced without a biblical basis and pray the “next generation will see the gospel not only in the counter-cultural nature of our verbal witness but also in the counter-cultural love and fidelity of our marriages.”

Moore is dean of the school of theology and senior vice president for academic administration at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, as well as a preaching pastor at Highview Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky.
Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.