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Southern Baptists speak their mind on school violence, other issues

ATLANTA (BP)–It was evident the rash of recent school shootings was on the minds of Southern Baptist Convention messengers during their 142nd annual meeting as they gave overwhelming approval June 16 to resolutions on school violence and the effect of violence in the media on young people.
Fourteen resolutions were adopted covering a wide range of issues.
Messengers saluted the bold witness of students who came under gunfire in their schools and remained steadfast in their faith. They approved a resolution commending students and teachers “who have stood faithfully, courageously and publicly for their faith in the midst of such violence.”
The convention’s resolutions committee made their first report during the Wednesday morning session of the June 15-16 annual meeting in Atlanta and concluded its business during the final evening session.
Messengers also approved a resolution on youth and violence in the media which cited the proliferation of “horrifically realistic” computer games, “death metal and shock rock” music and hate-filled Internet sites available to young people.
The resolution also identified television as a culprit in the increase in violent behavior among young people, citing a study recently released by the American Psychiatric Association that said exposure to television violence is tied to aggressive behavior in children, as well as “desensitization to anti-social behavior.”
The resolution expressed “outrage with an entertainment industry which promotes and glorifies violence, sexual promiscuity and other forms of immorality,” calling for the industry to “exercise restraint” in its depiction of violence and immoral conduct.
Southern Baptists were encouraged to “change the channel” on their own viewing habits of “violent and destructive entertainment” and to pass along to their children “clear standards of biblical morality.” The resolution also urged Christians to seek to minister to youngsters “who are at risk and evidence anti-social behavior.”
Messengers took aim at a nationwide in-school cable network that is broadcast to children in thousands of schools across the nation each school day.
Calling the Channel One Network an “unfortunate and erroneous educational strategy,” the resolution criticized the arrangement whereby the network provides televisions to classrooms for the privilege of broadcasting a daily 12-minute television program for students in grades six through 12. The network, seen by some 8 million students daily, offers reviews of movies, commentary by youth anchorpersons and advertising directed to the youth market.
“The use of the classroom for advertisement confers legitimacy on and is a tacit endorsement of the products, movies, programs and music advertised on the channel,” the resolution said, further bemoaning the use of classroom time to view the channel.
The resolution urged parents to shield their children from the “advertising assault of the network” and called on school administrators and community leaders to remove the network from their schools.
The convention spotlighted “a climate of growing and pervasive hostility toward religion in the media, the entertainment industry, the courts, the political system and the system of public education” in adopting a resolution on public discourse and the free exercise of religion.
“It is the duty of government to accommodate itself to the free exercise of religion,” the resolution stated. It called for Southern Baptists to seek “to reverse the trend of hostility toward religion” by working to open the public square for “the expression of deeply held religious beliefs.” The resolution was amended by adding a section critical of the growing imposition of land use restrictions on churches by local government.
Messengers lamented the decision by fellow Southern Baptist and U.S. President Bill Clinton in declaring June 1999 as “Gay and Lesbian Pride Month.” The resolution called the White House pronouncement “an offense to … [the] sensibilities and an affront to … [the] religious heritage and convictions” of millions of Americans.
The convention also acted with favor on an amendment to the resolution on the gay pride proclamation, voting 2,316 to 1,313 to call for the president “to rescind his appointment of an openly professed homosexual as U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg.” Clinton appointed businessman Frank Hormel to the post during the Memorial Day recess of Congress June 4.
With news reports detailing the discovery in Kosovo of mass graves allegedly containing the bodies of victims of Serbian ethnic cleansing, messengers endorsed a resolution to add their voice to those around the world in abhorring the atrocities.
The resolution declared “abhorrence of those governments and militant groups which support and commit such malicious violence.” The resolution called for “immediate action” against regimes that are guilty of such crimes and promised support “for groups and agencies working to bring peace and alleviate suffering among the victims of genocide and ethnic cleansing.”
Messengers rejected a motion by Norman Cates, Ocala, Fla., to reconsider their vote on the resolution.
Messengers expressed concern with a recent report from the American Psychological Association that suggested “adult-child sex” might be a positive experience for “willing” children.
Calling such behavior “a particularly heinous assault on the dignity of children,” the resolution said government officials should “reject and condemn” any thought that sexual relations between adults and children are anything but “abusive, destructive, exploitive, reprehensible and punishable by law.”
The resolution called on Southern Baptists to work to ensure that children are not at risk for sexual abuse and encouraged victims of abuse “to seek appropriate spiritual counseling” to aid them in their healing.
Messengers looked to the Apostle Paul’s instruction to pray for government leaders in 1 Timothy 2:1-3 in accepting a resolution that noted “a deficiency of biblical values” among some elected officials. The resolution said the lack of trust in God among leaders of the Old Testament nation of Israel contributed to the downfall of that nation, noting that “our nation desperately needs to turn back to God.”
The resolution as amended on the convention floor encouraged Christians “to put feet to their prayers” and register to vote.
The convention criticized a recent decision by the National Bioethics Advisory Commission to remove the ban on public funding of human embryo research, saying the procedure often leads to “the destruction of innocent human life.” It expressed hope that human stem cell research may be on the verge of a breakthrough that will allow the use of adult stem cells instead of embryonic cells for the treatment of disease.
In the resolution, messengers affirmed the Bible’s teaching that man is made in the image and likeness of God, saying the effort to remove the ban on funding was based on a “a crass utilitarian ethic.”
Messengers approved without debate a resolution that affirmed “the biblical teaching concerning the omnipotence, omniscience and immutability of God.” The resolution noted these biblical affirmations were under increasing attack “by those who would revise the church’s historic doctrine of God.”
“All across the world theologians are beginning to question the immutability, the changeless of God,” explained SBC President Paige Patterson. He noted there are those who believe that God is “surprised” at things that occur in the world. Patterson said the resolution would clearly underscore Southern Baptists’ embrace of the orthodox view of the power, knowledge and changelessness of God.
Southern Baptists’ “faithful support” of the Cooperative Program and mission offerings were commended in a resolution. The resolution noted the upcoming 75th anniversary of the Cooperative Program and urged SBC churches to increase missions giving to match a $750 million goal set by convention leadership. The resolution, which restated the priority of global evangelism and missions, noted the Cooperative Program had received record gifts for the last six consecutive years.
Other resolutions approved by the convention were:
A commendation to Lifeway Christian Resources for its development of curricula designed “to teach children and youth from a biblical perspective.” The resolution also asked Southern Baptist churches to explore ways they can support educational programs based on biblical principles.
— An affirmation of Christian schoolteachers and personnel, noting these individuals often serve in areas where they are the only adult witnesses of Jesus Christ and his redemptive love.
Of 29 resolutions submitted by messengers, the resolutions committee reported out 13 resolutions, combining several on similar subjects. Messengers also received and approved the customary resolution thanking the convention’s host city for its “gracious hospitality.”
Topics proposed in resolutions but not proposed to the convention included:
— Poverty and the Southern Baptist Convention World Hunger Fund.
— Autonomy of the local church.
— Prayer in school.
— The New Age movement.
— Organ donation.
— The renaming of Easter.
— Reasonable evangelism to all persons.
— Request to put God, prayer and the Bible back in school.
According to SBC bylaws, the Resolutions Committee is charged with preparing and submitting resolutions which “the Committee deems appropriate for adoption” and to report to the SBC “on all matters submitted to it by the Convention.”
Copies of proposed resolutions are accepted by the committee up to 30 days before the convention meeting, according to the bylaws.
As directed by convention bylaws, resolutions received on the first morning of the convention are sent to the Resolutions Committee for review. The committee is free to recommend resolutions to the full convention for consideration as submitted or as revised by the committee. The committee also may decline to act on any resolution.
The committee was chaired by Al Jackson of Alabama. Other members were Gerald Harrisof Georgia, Paul Kaneshiro of Hawaii, Pat Pajak of Illinois, Tim Boyd of Kansas, Ralph Justice of North Carolina, Greg DeMarco of New Mexico, Bobbie Patray of Tennessee, John Mark Caton of Texas, and Howell Burkhead of Texas.

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  • Dwayne Hastings