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States spotlight sanctity of life, religious liberty

NASHVILLE (BP) –- The sanctity of human life and defense of religious liberty remained the most often addressed concerns among many state Baptist conventions during their annual meetings as messengers penned resolutions endorsed by fellow Southern Baptists.

Resolutions calling for an end to the funding of Planned Parenthood gained support in eight state Baptist conventions this year, with others declaring the sanctity of human life. Pro-life concerns remained on the minds of messengers in light of undercover videos released by the Center for Medical Progress allegedly showing Planned Parenthood executives discussing the sale of baby parts obtained through abortion.

Identifying Planned Parenthood as the single largest abortion provider in the nation, the resolution approved by Oklahoma Baptists, for example, called on policymakers to redirect taxpayer funds to more reputable medical providers of women’s health. Other state conventions joining in the call for defunding Planned Parenthood included Alabama, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, Utah-Idaho and West Virginia, with sanctity of life statements passed in Arkansas, Georgia, Kansas-Nebraska, Southern Baptists of Texas Convention and Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia.

Last summer’s Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage led messengers in Kansas-Nebraska, Louisiana, New Mexico and Tennessee to voice objection, while resolutions in Arkansas, Nevada, New England, Oklahoma, Utah-Idaho, Baptist General Association of Virginia and Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia affirmed the sanctity of marriage. Appeals for a defense of religious liberty also arose in resolutions passed in Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention and Baptist General Association of Virginia.

Tennessee Baptists worded their resolution by stating that “no governing institution has authority to negate or undermine God’s definition of marriage” and that “the religious and conscientious liberties of individuals and institutions should not be infringed upon as a result of living according to deeply-held biblical convictions about marriage.”

In a year when the Southern Baptist Convention celebrated the 90th anniversary of the Cooperative Program, resolutions were approved in seven state conventions expressing appreciation for the funding mechanism for worldwide ministry, including Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, New England, Nevada, Ohio and South Carolina.

Ohio Baptists encouraged increased CP giving to “keep and put more missionaries on the field, facilitate church planting, fund evangelism in our state and around the world, [and] assist in equipping churches to be healthy.”

Several state conventions added references to the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message in their governing documents or guidelines. Mississippi Baptists approved the first reading of a constitutional amendment specifying the current BF&M as their doctrinal guideline. Tennessee Baptists now require members of boards and committees to act in accordance with the statement of faith while Florida Baptists affirm it as the theological foundation for convention ministries.

In Kentucky and Utah-Idaho state conventions, congregations that affirm, approve or endorse homosexual behavior will not be considered cooperating churches, with the latter adding the requirement that they complete the Annual Church Profile.

Michigan Baptists adopted a new constitution and bylaws, addressing requirements of a cooperating church that involve the state convention’s vision, mission and doctrinal statement, credentials, submission of an Annual Church Profile and contributing to the Cooperative Program.

Louisiana Baptists approved guidelines for disaffiliation of any local congregation no longer in agreement with beliefs and practices of the state convention.

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  • Tammi Reed Ledbetter