PHOENIX (BP)–A pledge to build “Kingdom families” founded upon biblical principles and mandates highlighted the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting June 17-18 in Phoenix.
The denomination held its first-ever “Kingdom Family Rally” June 16, a day before the convention officially began and the last day of the Pastors’ Conference. Messengers at the rally signed covenant cards pledging to follow “Seven Pillars of a Kingdom Family,” such as “Honoring God’s Authority,” “Respecting Human life” and “Serving My Church.”
The succeeding days saw Southern Baptists stand firm on other issues that affect the family.
An eight-member task force on ministry to homosexuals released its report, encouraging Southern Baptist churches to reach out to homosexuals while standing firm on the truth that homosexuality is a sin. Also, messengers adopted a pro-life resolution renouncing pro-choice statements by previous convention bodies and leaders, particularly those of the 1970s.
President Bush addressed the convention by a pre-taped message, the second straight year he has addressed messengers in some form. A handful of evangelicals, including Charles Colson, Jim Cymbala and John MacArthur, also delivered taped messages, thanking the SBC for its pro-family and biblical stances.
In business matters, messengers overwhelmingly defeated an effort to amend the SBC operating budget to restore a $125,000 reduction (out of $425,000) in funding for the Baptist World Alliance.
But the Kingdom Family Rally set the convention tone.
Dennis Rainey, executive director of Family Life Today, addressed the rally, telling messengers that the battle to protect tradition family values “is the most important battle Southern Baptists have waged since you struggled over the inerrancy of Scripture.” Rainey added that “[y]ou have won the battle for the Bible. If we lose the family, we will lose the church.”
Focus on the Family founder James Dobson and his wife, Shirley, addressed messengers via videotape. “We simply can’t let the institution of family be destroyed by the postmodernism that swirls around us,” James Dobson said.
Several thousand families pledged in writing to build their families upon the Seven Pillars: “Honoring God’s Authority, Respecting Human Life, Exercising Moral Purity, Serving My Church, Using Time Wisely, Practicing Biblical Stewardship and Sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
SBC President Jack Graham, who was re-elected without opposition by a single ballot cast by the convention, called the breakdown of the family the “greatest social issue of our time.”
The pillars were developed by the SBC Council of Family Life, which announced that “Kingdom Family Conferences” will be held in various locations beginning this fall. The first one will take place in Oklahoma City Aug. 11-12, followed by conferences in Wheat Ridge, Colo., Sept. 4-5; Brandon, Fla., Oct. 2-3, and Highland, Calif., Nov. 6-7.
“We can’t go back and unlive our past,” said Tom Elliff, council chairman. “But by the grace of God, from this moment on, we can be what God wants us to be — as a family.”
The task force on ministry to homosexuals was formed by LifeWay Christian Resources and the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission following the 2001 SBC meeting. Speaking in Phoenix, task force members said Southern Baptists can share the Gospel with homosexuals and reach out to them in other ways while not compromising the biblical truth that homosexuality is a sin.
Task force member Richard Land, president of the ERLC, told how years ago he reached out to homosexuals when he was pastor of a church in the New Orleans French Quarter. Saying it is “one of the loneliest” and “saddest” lifestyles he has observed, Land said there is “no crueler joke” than to call a homosexual “gay.” There were members of his church who had come out of the lifestyle, Land said.
“We can accept them and not accept their lifestyle,” he said, drawing a parallel between accepting an alcoholic but not accepting the behavior.
Singling out groups that say homosexuals cannot be saved, LifeWay President James T. Draper Jr. said such groups do not share the “spirit” or the “attitude” of the SBC. He said he finds the teachings of such groups “nauseating.”
Task force members said the Gospel must be proclaimed to all people, including homosexuals. Land said Southern Baptists must “practice lifestyle-blind evangelism” because “everyone needs the Gospel.”
In other noteworthy matters:
— Registration totals reached 7,077, with messengers representing all 50 states. Some 3,000 of those messengers used the SBC’s new Internet pre-registration system.
— Messengers passed eight resolutions, including ones renouncing all anti-Semitism, opposing same-sex “marriage,” supporting global AIDS humanitarian efforts, endorsing Operation Iraqi Freedom and reaffirming the biblical model of marriage. The resolution on abortion re-affirmed the denomination’s pro-life stance and renounced pro-choice resolutions from 1971 and 1974.
— Graham, pastor of Dallas-area Prestonwood Baptist Church, was re-elected president for another one-year term. Ron Zinn of Immanuel Baptist Church in Highland, Calif., was elected first vice president, while William Wagner, professor of evangelism and missions at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, was elected second vice president. John Yeats, editor of the Oklahoma Baptist Messenger, was re-elected recording secretary, while Jim Wells, director of missions to the Tri-County Baptist Association (Mo.), was re-elected registration secretary. All were elected without opposition.
Delivering his presidential address, Graham charged Southern Baptists to be salt and light in a lost world. “If we are going to make a difference, we of course must be different,” he said.
— President Bush thanked Southern Baptists for their prayers, adding that he shares many of the same values the denomination holds, such as “fostering the culture of life” and strengthening marriages and families.
— Messengers overwhelmingly defeated a move to restore reduced funding to the Baptist World Alliance in the 2003-04 SBC operating budget. While the change has yet to take effect, the budget will reduce funding to the BWA from $425,000 to $300,000.
Paul Pressler, who serves on the Executive Committee’s BWA study subcommittee, said the reduction was a compromise between Southern Baptists who want to totally defund the BWA and those who want to retain the current level.
— Crossover Arizona, an outreach to local residents, reported that 989 decisions for Christ had been made through June 18.
— International Mission Board representative Don Caswell, who was shot twice in Jibla, Yemen, in December but survived, appeared alongside his wife, Teri, and their two sons. They thanked Southern Baptists for their prayers and announced they intend to return to Yemen in August.
— Evangelical leaders from throughout the nation delivered videotaped “Kingdom Voices” messages intended to encourage Southern Baptists.
“I love the fact you have contended for the faith once for all delivered to the saints,” said one of the speakers, author and radio personality John MacArthur. “And through the years you’ve come out triumphant because of that commitment to the authoritative Word of God.”
Franklin Graham, Charles Colson, Hank Hanegraaff, Jim Cymbala, Joseph Stowell, Greg Laurie and Stephen Olford also delivered brief pre-recorded messages.
— Executive Committee President Morris H. Chapman asked Southern Baptist to fall on their knees and pray for a national “spiritual awakening.” Ken Hemphill, formerly president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, was introduced as the new national strategist for the SBC’s Empowering Kingdom Growth initiative.
— Chapman urged Southern Baptists to support the Cooperative Program, saying that “we need to be reminded of how valuable” it is and how it enables the denomination to reach “many more people for Christ together” than all the churches could do separately.
— International Mission Board President Jerry Rankin reported that missionaries baptized more than 421,000 new believers and planted more than 8,300 churches in 2002.
“God is at work with amazing numbers of baptisms and new churches being reported,” he said. Rankin added that Southern Baptists are giving in record numbers but “even those resources are not keeping pace” with the number of new missionaries.
— North American Mission Board President Robert E. Reccord announced that NAMB will hold a series of “Elevate” conferences next year designed for the 18-29 age group. The first one will be held Jan. 22-24 in suburban Dallas, followed by another one Feb. 19-21 in Charlotte, N.C.
— Presenting his entity’s report, Annuity Board President O.S. Hawkins challenged pastors and church staff members to stay healthy and “treat your body as the temple of the Holy Spirit.”
— Hawkins delivered the convention sermon, telling Southern Baptists to stand firm on Christ’s exclusive claims.
“If Southern Baptists do not make a certain sound on this issue, pray tell, who will in the 21st century?” he asked.
— Jay Johnston, LifeWay’s director of church ministry leadership, said LifeWay is prepared to develop resources that minister to families as part of EKG.
— Land, delivering the ERLC report, said he looks forward to an American society that affirms and practices “Judeo-Christian values rooted in biblical authority.” He added that such a goal has “to start with individuals, then families and outward to our nations. Most importantly, we have to do it God’s way.”
— Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr., head of the SBC Council of Seminary Presidents, said the SBC’s six seminaries are among the strongest and fasting growing in the nation.
Mohler addressed a question about the teaching of Calvinism at Southern Seminary and how it coincides with the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message. He said he sees “no conflict between” the BF&M and the seminary’s Abstract of Principles and that every faculty member is held accountable in teaching what the BF&M states.
He noted that Southern Baptists have always had different “streams” of belief concerning the relationship between God’s sovereignty and human freedom.
God “saves by the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and salvation comes to all who call upon His name,” he said. Mohler added that when addressing the issue he likes to quote 19th-century preacher Charles Spurgeon, who, when asked how he reconciles sovereignty and free will, said he would not “reconcile friends.”
Doctrinal discussions are “a sign of denominational health. Dying denomination don’t care,” Mohler said, while challenging Southern Baptists to learn and study the Gospel and to “take the Gospel to the ends of the earth.”