SALT LAKE CITY (BP)–In seven resolutions adopted during their June 9-11 annual convention meeting, Southern Baptist Convention messengers affirmed the sufficiency of the true gospel, expressed opposition to President Bill Clinton’s executive order prohibiting discrimination regarding sexual orientation in the civilian federal workforce and called for ethical behavior of persons holding public office.
Other approved resolutions addressed public funding of the National Endowment for the Arts, affirmed strengthening the marriage covenant, opposed women in combat and expressed appreciation for Salt Lake City hospitality. Meeting a few blocks from Salt Lake City’s Temple Square, messengers approved a resolution affirming the “finality, sufficiency and exclusivity of the Christian Gospel,” highlighting the doctrinal distinctives that separate orthodox Christianity from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints headquartered in the city.
“The purpose of the resolution is to clearly state what the Bible says is the true gospel of the true Christ,” explained Michael Whitehead, chair of the SBC Committee on Resolutions and an administrator at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Kansas City, Mo. “This is the most important thing Southern Baptist wanted to say at this convention.”
The dialogue between Southern Baptist leaders and Mormon leaders prior to the Salt Lake City convention has been “gracious and cordial, but very honest,” Whitehead said, acknowledging significant doctrinal differences between the doctrines of Southern Baptists and Mormons.
The resolution also underscored “biblical revelation as the sole source of saving truth,” saying the Bible is God’s only written revelation of his truth.
Noting “there have been and will be many false and counterfeit Christs,” the resolution insists Jesus Christ is the unique and eternal Son of God, “supernaturally conceived of the Holy Spirit, without sexual relations.”
A recent White House executive order on equal employment opportunity earned a rebuke from SBC messengers. The resolution urges Congress to nullify the action by President Clinton, which prohibits discrimination because of one’s sexual orientation within the civilian federal workforce.
An amendment to call on Immanuel Baptist Church in Little Rock, Ark., to discipline church member Clinton for the executive order was narrowly defeated by messengers, 52 percent to 48 percent.
Wiley Drake, pastor of First Southern Baptist Church of Buena Vista, Calif., proposed the amendment stating if Clinton did not rescind the order, “his home church should prayerfully consider disciplinary action based upon the holy Word.”
In approving the resolution, Southern Baptists went on record opposing efforts “to provide government endorsement, sanction, recognition, acceptance, or civil rights advantage on the basis of homosexuality.”
According to the Committee on Resolutions, Clinton signed the order, which is designed to “boost” the homosexual rights movement, “under cover of darkness” with very little press coverage.
Messengers also accepted a resolution on the personal integrity and morality of public officials. The statement calls for government leaders “to live by the highest standards of morality both in their private actions and in their private actions.”
While not citing President Clinton by name, the resolution insists no Americans, including politicians, are above the law. “We urge all Americans, including those who serve in public office, to submit themselves to governing authorities and to the rule of law,” the resolution states.
Saying the resolution wasn’t “very salty,” an amendment, also proposed by Drake and defeated by messengers, would have included a reference to Bill Clinton in the resolution “to hold him (Clinton) personally accountable.”
Whitehead agreed the world needs “salt,” but said the committee didn’t want to call names in any resolution. “The only personal name we would like this convention to mention is the name of Jesus,” Whitehead said.
In the face of opinion polls that suggest Americans are willing to excuse allegations of immoral behavior by elected officials, the resolution urges citizens “to embrace and act on the conviction that character does count in public office.”
“God says character counts and so do we,” Whitehead concluded.
A year after targeting The Disney Company for “increasingly promoting immoral ideologies” and calling for a boycott of the entertainment giant, messengers called on the Public Broadcasting System and the National Endowment for the Arts to cease supporting projects that “ridicule, attack, or debase the Christian religion.”
Citing the PBS program, “From Jesus to Christ,” and NEA’s promotion of the proposed “Corpus Christi” stage play, which reportedly depicts Jesus as “a sexually perverted person,” the approved resolution asks Congress to remove federal funding from the agencies if they do not cease supporting “these outrageous incidents.”
The resolution suggests the use of federal monies to support such programs violates the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the First Amendment that says the government must be neutral toward religion.
In another resolution, messengers sounded their support for public policies that stress the importance of the biblical concept of the marriage covenant, noting no-fault divorce laws have contributed to weaker and less stable marital relationships.
Recognizing the need “to strengthen the marriage commitment and to reverse the trend of the disintegration of the nuclear family,” the convention approved the resolution, which encouraged state governments to examine and adopt policies which stress pre-marital counseling that emphasizes the totality of the marriage commitment.
The net impact of such policies, according to the resolution, is that couples must exercise “greater care to be married, and greater caution to be divorced” than under most current laws.
Messengers also gave thumbs up to a resolution on women in combat. The resolution argued such an arrangement has been “a foolish social experiment,” saying the mixing of genders in combat situations weakens unit cohesion and presents special problems related to “the unique gender-based responsibility of men to protect women and children.”
While not denying women the right to serve in non-combat roles, the resolution noted the purpose of military combat is to inflict deadly harm and the essence of combat is to use force in order to kill, damage or destroy — “a purpose and essence aligned with the male role but opposed to the female role.”
The placement of women in combat situations is a result of “the unbiblical social agenda of ideological feminism,” the resolution alleged.
Messengers also approved the traditional resolution expressing appreciation to the people of Salt Lake City, Utah-Idaho Baptists and convention leaders.
In an uncharacteristic move, messengers amended the committee’s final report on the disposition of proposed resolutions, calling on SBC President Paige Patterson to communicate Southern Baptists’ support of the nation of Israel in its refusal to withdraw from land the country “deems necessary for its security.”
An attempt to further amend the report to express the convention’s support for a strong U.S. military and decrying the decline in the U.S. defense budget was turned back by messengers. An opposition speaker said the amendment would have Southern Baptists “stepping over the bounds of what Christ would us to do.”
The Committee on Resolutions received 27 resolutions for consideration from messengers but voted to take no action on most. Proposed topics included a statement urging Southern Baptists to petition Israel’s ruling body, the Knesset, to support religious liberty in the Jewish state; an expression of outrage over unwholesome television programming; and a call for a ban on all abortions.
Other resolutions proposed but not acted on by the committee included a call to refrain from using “Easter” to describe the Christian celebration of Christ’s resurrection and to instead use the term, “Festival of the Resurrection” or Resurrection Day; a resolution of support for public school teachers and administrators; and a resolution urging Southern Baptists to vote only for political candidates who support biblical principles.
Among others, the Committee on Resolutions also declined to act on resolutions:
— requesting legislation on relaxing zoning regulations for churches;
— praising Green Bay Packer lineman and clergyman Reggie White for his controversial remarks before the Wisconsin State Legislature
— asking SBC agencies and institutions to set executive salaries in line with the salary of missionaries;
— calling Southern Baptists to pray for the peace in Israel;
— supporting the retention of a strong military and national defense.