Messengers to the 2003 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting repudiated previous resolutions on abortion from three decades ago, while reaffirming their commitment to the biblical view of marriage and the family and to religious liberty.
In its morning session June 18 at the Phoenix Civic Center, the convention voted with unanimity or near unanimity to approve each of eight resolutions.
The resolutions adopted:
• Reiterated the SBC's opposition to the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion thirty years ago and expressed regret that previous actions had supported abortion.
• Renewed Southern Baptists' commitment to the biblical model of the family and the permanence of marriage.
• Reaffirmed absolute religious liberty in this country and abroad, including the right to convert from the religion of a person's birth.
• Renounced all anti-Semitism.
• Restated opposition to the legalization of same-sex marriage.
• Endorsed U.S. military action in Iraq as a "warranted action based upon historic principles of just war" and called for prayer for the rebuilding of that country.
• Supported humanitarian efforts to relieve the global AIDS crisis and encouraged Southern Baptists to act compassionately toward those with the disease.
• Expressed appreciation for the people of Phoenix, the Southern Baptists of the area, as well as all others involved in the proceedings of the annual meeting.
A lengthy resolution titled "On Thirty Years of Roe v. Wade" not only restated the SBC's belief the 1973 ruling was "an act of injustice against innocent unborn children as well as against vulnerable women in crisis pregnancy situations," but it said convention resolutions in 1971 and 1974 "accepted unbiblical premises of the abortion rights movement, forfeiting the opportunity to advocate the protection of defenseless women and children."
In 1971, SBC messengers approved a resolution that endorsed legislation that would permit abortion in the cases of "rape, incest, clear evidence of severe fetal deformity, and carefully ascertained evidence of the likelihood of damage to the emotional, mental, and physical health of the mother." The 1974 convention affirmed the 1971 resolution.
The messengers said in the new resolution on Roe v. Wade they "lament and renounce statements and actions by previous Conventions and previous denominational leadership that offered support to the abortion culture." The resolution also said, "… we humbly confess that the initial blindness of many in our Convention to the enormity of Roe v. Wade should serve as a warning to contemporary Southern Baptists of the subtlety of the spirit of the age in obscuring a biblical worldview."
"[O]n the thirtieth anniversary [of Roe v. Wade], we thought [the previous SBC actions] deserved our attention," Resolutions Committee chairman Mike Hamlet told reporters in a news conference. Hamlet is pastor of First Baptist Church North Spartanburg, S.C.
Messengers affirmed marriage as the union of a man and a woman in adopting a resolution opposing a growing movement to legalize same-sex marriage in the United States and other countries. Vermont legalized "civil unions" between same-sex couples in 2000, and California's legislature recently granted marriage-like rights to homosexual partners.
The Resolutions Committee "did not see a sense of conflict" in presenting the resolution at a meeting where an outreach to homosexuals was promoted, Hamlet said.
Russell D. Moore, a member of the committee and assistant professor of Christian theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., told reporters, "We believe same-sex marriage hurts homosexuals, and we love homosexuals enough to tell them the truth that the Gospel of Jesus Christ forgives every sin, including the sin of homosexuality, and it also can transform an individual. So we believe that this is actually a message of love to homosexuals."
In keeping with the meeting's emphasis on families, a resolution titled "On Kingdom Families" urged churches to strengthen marriages and homes through preaching, teaching, counseling, and "restorative church discipline."
In its resolution on religious liberty, the convention urged the federal government to advocate religious liberty overseas and to consider countries' policies on persecution and religious discrimination in making decisions on foreign aid. It also cited recent criticism of Southern Baptists and other evangelicals as intolerant because of their belief in Jesus as the only Savior.
Islamic regimes were not the targets of the resolution, Hamlet said.
"We believe in religious liberty for anyone and everyone," he said. "So that was a statement that applies not only to Islamic people but to all people. So it was not pointed just at Islam."
The resolution against what it described as a "rising tide of anti-Semitism across the globe" said Southern Baptists stand with Jews against violations of "our historic commitments to religious liberty and human dignity." It called anti-Semitism "contrary to the teachings of our Messiah and an assault on the revelation of Holy Scripture."
This was the first year of a new procedure, approved at the 2002 convention, allowing resolutions be submitted as early as April 15th but not later than fifteen days prior to the annual meeting. Eight resolutions were submitted in advance.
In addition to Hamlet and Moore, other members of the resolutions committee were Jim Butler of Mississippi; Craig Christina of Oklahoma; Penna Dexter and Brandon Thomas, both of Texas; J.D. Greear of North Carolina; Randy Hahn of Virginia; Dale Wallace of Alabama; and Calvin Wittman of Colorado.