PHOENIX (BP)–Homosexuality, staff cuts at the International Mission Board, family roles of men and women, the Southern Baptist Convention’s decision to reduce funds to the Baptist World Alliance, and political involvement were topics du jour at Jack Graham’s post-election presidential news conference June 17.
Graham, pastor of Dallas-area Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, was elected without opposition for a second one-year term as president of the 16-million-member convention during its June 17-18 annual meeting in Phoenix.
“The outreach to the homosexual community is certainly of keen interest in our time. It’s obviously a huge cultural issue,” Graham said when asked about Southern Baptists’ task force on ministry to homosexuals, which is a joint initiative by LifeWay Christian Resources and the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
“We, as Southern Baptists, believe that a person can experience freedom — sexual purity in their life…” Graham said. “We do not believe that people are captured by a way of life that does not please God. A person can come out of that lifestyle. There can be a past tense experience and the cleansing experience of the blood of Christ, the forgiveness of God.”
Because there is so much “volatility on this issue,” Graham said he wanted to clarify that Southern Baptists are not “angry or full of hatred” toward homosexuals.
Southern Baptists “oppose the homosexual lifestyle, but we lovingly and compassionately seek to bring people to faith and forgiveness in Jesus Christ. We want every person to know that Jesus loves them and that the message of the Gospel is for every person,” Graham said.
When asked about Southern Baptists’ involvement in secular political affairs, Graham said there is “a great deal of fire in the belly” for the upcoming presidential election and “support for the policies and principles [of the Bush administration].”
“We certainly want to encourage the people in our churches to register to vote, to be informed voters, to know the issues and to be involved in the process,” he said.
“Being salt and light includes cultural engagement and moral issues as well as spiritual issues,” Graham said. “We believe the Bible is clear on these issues, whether it be an abortion issue or the issue of race.”
Graham used a popular sports analogy to illustrate his point: “I once heard that the church plays water boy in the game of life. But I am glad that Southern Baptists are not playing water boy in the culture, but rather, we are in the game. We’re on the field. And we are representing a vast arena of conservative people across this nation.”
FAMILY LIFE INITIATIVE
Answering a question on the comparative roles of men and women, Graham said Southern Baptists believe men and women have different roles and responsibilities in life and in the family.
“I believe the family–the breakdown and fracturing of the family–is the greatest social issue of our time,” Graham said. Such problems are evident inside the church as well as out, he reminded reporters.
While Southern Baptists acknowledge that men and women have equal standing with God concerning their personal relationship with Jesus Christ, they also acknowledge that men and women, as well as parents and children, have different responsibilities in the family, he said.
Graham said the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 addresses this matter in a way that is both biblical and practical.
INTERNATIONAL MISSION BOARD
A downturn in the economy necessitated staff layoffs at the SBC’s International Mission Board, Graham said. “But at the same time, missionary appointments are way, way up.” He cited a two-year trend since 2001 of almost 100 missionaries appointed to service per month.
“I have a great deal of confidence in our International Mission Board. Southern Baptists are, if they are anything, they are deeply devoted and committed to world missions.” Graham said he believes the “best days of the International Mission Board are before it.”
BAPTIST WORLD ALLIANCE
Graham said the SBC’s decision to reduce its funding of the Baptist World Alliance from $425,000 to $300,000 per year results from “Southern Baptist not being heard or properly understood on our viewpoints on the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and other issues I am not exactly prepared to talk about today.”
“We are struggling with that relationship at this point and endeavoring to work things out. There are issues at stake that are very serious issues for Southern Baptists.”
Facing a $650,000 deficit, the BWA reduced its 2003 budget by 20 percent, to $1.6 million.
A LOOK TO THE FUTURE
Graham said he considers his election as Southern Baptists’ 52nd president a “calling from God” and “a sacred trust.” He said he wants to spend his second year as SBC president encouraging young pastors to be closely involved in the SBC, continuing a trend that “participation in Southern Baptist life is strong.”