UPDATED 6/14/12, 9:30 a.m. See section on proposed resolution about Mormonism.
NEW ORLEANS (BP) — The Sinner’s Prayer, same-sex marriage and civil rights, and “racist statements” in Mormon documents are among the topics being discussed in various media about resolutions that pastors state they submitted for the Southern Baptist Convention’s Resolution Committee to consider in preparation for the June 19-20 annual meeting in New Orleans.
Five proposals have been publicized and posted through three media outlets — The Christian Index provided coverage for Eric Hankins’ “A Sinner’s Prayer” on May 31; the Florida Baptist Witness carried a news story April 30 on Chris Roberts’ “Resolution on a Spirit of Cooperation in Missions and Evangelism Despite Theological Differences” and a blog site, SBC Voices (www.sbcvoices.com), posted three proposed resolutions by Dwight McKissic, one of which was co-authored by Eric Redmond.
Roger S. Oldham, vice president for convention communications and relations with the SBC Executive Committee, differentiated resolutions that will be proposed by the Resolutions Committee at the annual meeting from those released to the public by their respective writers.
“No resolution submitted to the Resolutions Committee has ‘standing’ with the convention until it is first considered and then introduced by the committee to the messengers at the SBC annual meeting’s Wednesday morning session. There is no certainty that any proposal, even those being discussed in the media prior to the annual meeting, will be brought forward by the committee.”
According to SBC Bylaw 20, the Committee on Resolutions “shall prepare and submit to each annual meeting of the Convention only such resolutions the Committee recommends for adoption.” It also states, “Only resolutions recommended by the Committee may be considered by the Convention, except the Convention may, by a 2/3 vote, consider any other resolution properly submitted to the Committee.”
A proposal titled “On the ‘Sinner’s Prayer'” by Eric Hankins, pastor of First Baptist Church in Oxford, Miss., was publicized by The Christian Index in Georgia. Hankins notes there is “no one uniform wording found in Scripture or in the churches for a ‘Sinner’s Prayer,’ the prayer of repentance and faith,” yet it is “biblically appropriate to help a sinner in calling on the Lord for salvation.”
A sinner’s prayer, Hankins states, “is not an incantation that results in salvation merely by its recitation and should never be manipulatively employed or utilized apart from a clear articulation of the Gospel.”
Hankins would have the convention go on record affirming the use of a sinner’s prayer as a “biblically sound and spiritually significant component of the evangelistic task of the church.”
In an article posted May 31, Gerald Harris, editor of The Index, quoted David Platt, pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala., as saying at a recent conference, “Many people in our churches are simply missing the life of Christ, and a lot of it has to do with what we have sold them as the Gospel. [For example], ‘Pray this prayer, accept Jesus into your heart, invite Christ into your life.’ Should it not concern us that there is no such superstitious prayer in the New Testament?”
Platt, in comments to Baptist Press, said, “Any cautions I have expressed about what many have called the ‘Sinner’s Prayer’ … are deeply motivated by a concern for authentic conversion and regenerate church membership — convictions that are central tenets of Baptist theology. … Do I believe it is ‘wrong’ for someone to pray a ‘prayer of salvation’? Certainly not. Calling out to God in prayer with repentant faith is fundamental to being saved (Romans 10:9-10).”
God desires “all people’s salvation (2 Peter 3:9),” Platt told BP. But he is concerned about a relatively large number of people in churches who “thought they were saved because they prayed a certain prayer, but they lacked a biblical understanding of salvation and were in reality not saved.”
“This … leads me to urge us, as we go to all people among all nations with the good news of God’s love, to be both evangelistically zealous and biblically clear at the same time (Matthew 28:18-20),” Platt said.
Other potential resolutions circulating in Baptist papers and other media include:
— A “Resolution on a Spirit of Cooperation in Missions and Evangelism Despite Theological Differences” by Chris Roberts, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Panama City, Fla. Noting that the nation and world “continue in a state of moral and spiritual crisis,” Roberts celebrates Southern Baptists’ cooperation in the work of missions.
If Roberts’ submitted resolution is brought forward to messengers in its current form, it would affirm “the right and responsibility of individuals to read and seek to understand their Bibles” and affirms that the convention “cannot dictate what churches must teach and believe.” The proposal affirms the autonomy of local congregations to hold “confessions of faith which may address matters not contained in, yet consistent with, the Baptist Faith and Message.”
Roberts told the Florida Baptist Witness the goal of the proposed resolution is to “reduce some of the tension that currently exists” in the SBC, and he acknowledged that Calvinism is the “primary issue behind” the resolution.
“The resolution would help accomplish this goal by providing a public declaration that Southern Baptists will cooperate with other Southern Baptists even if we do not see eye-to-eye on all matters of theology,” Roberts said.
The Witness described Roberts as a Calvinist who pastors a predominantly non-Calvinist church. The church affirmed the statement submitted as a resolution.
“It is my hope and prayer that the Southern Baptist Convention continues to leave Calvinism as a matter of conscience, where fully cooperating Southern Baptists are free to be Calvinists or non-Calvinists,” Roberts told the Witness.
— A “Resolution on Same-Sex Marriage and Civil Rights,” jointly written by Dwight McKissic, pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas, and Eric Redmond, pastor of Reformation Alive Baptist Church in Temple Hills, Md., was posted at the SBC Voices blog site.
The authors acknowledge that marriage “is an institution established by God rather than simply a human social construction” and that “homosexual behavior is sinful, including what this current age calls ‘same-sex civil unions’ and ‘same-sex marriage.'”
They also note that “support of same-sex civil unions has been portrayed as a Civil Rights issue akin to the overturning of slavery and security of equal treatment under the law of African Americans.”
The resolution, if brought to the messengers in its current form, would have Southern Baptists “reject the notion that race, as a by-product of birth given by the Creator’s design, and gender-orientation, as a behavioral choice made by individual persons, are to be compared as equal social issues, or that acceptance of the equality of races necessitates the equality of sexual preferences.”
— In a second proposal posted on the site by McKissic, “Resolution on Racist Statements in Mormon Source Documents,” McKissic says the Mormon Church has “denied and denounced racism” but has “yet to denounce the racist teachings” contained in books they hold as authoritative. McKissic specifically mentioned The Book of Mormon and Pearl of Great Price.
Baptist Press asked Tal Davis, a former interfaith witness consultant with the North American Mission Board and now executive vice president of MarketFaith Ministries (http://www.marketfaith.org) of Tallahassee, Fla., for comment.
“It is certainly true that the extra-biblical scriptures of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) contain divine curses as indicated by dark skin,” Davis stated. “It is also clear that evangelicals reject the historicity and authority of those extra-biblical sources. That being said, in LDS ecclesiology any revelation(s) received by the church’s living prophet (president) supersedes anything in their scriptures. In 1978 then-LDS President Spencer Kimball supposedly was told by God that the curses were no longer in effect and that ‘all worthy male members of the Church may be ordained to the priesthood without regard for race or color.’ I fear the proposed resolution will be perceived as casting undeserved aspersions on LDS members and hinder Baptists reaching Mormons with the true Gospel.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE, 6/14/12: Since the publication of this article, McKissic has voiced disagreement with Davis’ characterization of Kimball’s revelation. McKissic, in a statement to Baptist Press, said Kimball never disavowed the curses when he opened the Mormon priesthood to men of all races. McKissic relayed a link to Kimball’s pronouncement, http://www.lds.org/scriptures/dc-testament/od/2?lang=eng, and to a Mormon writer’s assessment of the lingering effect of the curses, http://askmormongirl.wordpress.com/2011/11/07/what-do-mormons-believe-about-african-americans/. Davis believes, however, his statement is correct, noting to Baptist Press, “In my opinion the LDS [Mormon church], since 1978, considers the case closed and rejects racism.” Davis was a guest on Ed Stetzer’s weekly webcast “The Exchange” in late May. The program, titled “Engaging Mormonism,” can be accessed at http://www.edstetzer.com/the-exchange.html. Stetzer is president of the LifeWay Research division of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.)
— In a third proposal from McKissic, “Resolution on the Recognition of Black Minister, George Liele, as America’s First Missionary,” he challenges the familiar accounts of Adoniram and Ann Judson being the first American missionaries. Liele, an African American, left the United States to start a church in Jamaica 30 years before the Judsons left for Burma.
Liele, according to McKissic, “became the first Black Baptist in America” and “became the first Protestant missionary to go out from America to establish a foreign mission.”
Resolutions Committee members, in their organizational meeting in early May, agreed not to discuss the subject or substance of any submitted resolution until they had opportunity to review it together and determine whether to present it to the SBC annual meeting in its submitted or an amended form. The committee does not release advance copies or comment on the proposals until it brings its report to the messengers.
Bylaw 20 stipulates that proposed resolutions must be submitted no later than 15 days prior to the SBC annual meeting, and any submitted resolution must be accompanied by a letter from a church qualified to send a messenger to the SBC annual meeting “certifying that the person submitting the resolution is a member in good standing.”
The titles of all properly submitted proposed resolutions, including the name and city of the person submitting it and the disposition of each submission will be printed in the Convention Bulletin.
SBC President Bryant Wright named Jimmy Scroggins, pastor of First Baptist Church in West Palm Beach, Fla., as chairman of the 10-member Resolutions Committee, which will deliberate in the days immediately prior to the June 19-20 annual meeting.
Erin Roach is assistant editor of Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).