SBC resolution could shrink church membership rolls

Messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention turned back efforts to encourage Christians to remove their children from public schools and passed a resolution at their annual meeting in Indianapolis that could shrink church membership rolls significantly.

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INDIANAPOLIS—Messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention turned back efforts to encourage Christians to remove their children from public schools and asked Congress to defund Planned Parenthood in resolutions passed June 11.

Also among resolutions Southern Baptists passed at their annual meeting in Indianapolis was one that could shrink church membership rolls significantly.

A resolution calling on churches to “lovingly correct wayward members” to secure regenerate church membership was toughened with two amendments that encourage tighter definitions of “member” and is one of nine messengers approved.

Resolutions are simply statements that reflect the sentiment of messengers gathered at a particular annual meeting and have no weight of law for Southern Baptists. As Resolution Committee Chair Darrell Orman, pastor of First Baptist Church, Stuart, Fla., said however, when introducing the resolutions, these statements “speak to the nation.”

Other resolutions included:
•         Celebrating growing ethnic diversity within the SBC.
•         Encouraging Christians to participate in the secular political process, but warning against “potential problems of politicizing the church and the pulpit.
•         Affirming use of the term “Christmas” in public life.
•         Offering “wholehearted support” for a petition in California requiring the state to place a referendum on the ballot in November defining marriage as exclusively between a man and a woman.
•         Recognizing the centennial anniversary of the boys mission education group Royal Ambassadors.

The resolution on regenerate church membership drew two amendments that encouraged churches to tighten membership definitions. The original resolution called for “churches to maintain a regenerate membership by acknowledging the necessity of spiritual regeneration of Christ’s lordship for all members” and urged churches to “maintain accurate membership rolls for the purpose of fostering ministry and accountability.”

It also urged churches to “restore wayward members.”

Messengers adopted an amendment by Tom Ascol, prominent in the Calvinist Founder’s Movement in the Southern Baptist Convention, urging “the churches of the SBC to repent of any failure among us to live up to our professed commitment to regenerate church membership and any failure to obey Jesus Christ in lovingly correcting wayward church members.”

The amendment encouraged “denominational servants to support and encourage any church’s efforts to recover and implement this discipline of our Lord Jesus Christ …even if such efforts result in a reduction in the number of members that are recorded in those churches.”

Some messengers tried vigorously to amend the resolution against same-sex marriage to include admonition to withdraw children from public schools. Ron Wilson from Thousand Oaks, Calif., said if the convention was going to pass a resolution opposing same-sex marriage, they ought to encourage families to remove their children from public schools “which are the main training grounds for the teaching of same sex marriage.”

The committee did not “want to dilute the emphasis of this resolution by bringing in the corollary issue of the education system,” Orman explained.

The resolution on ethnic diversity encouraged nominating committees to “identify ethnic leadership” for service and encouraged them to “strive toward a balanced representation of our ethnic diversity.”

The Resolutions Committee declined to present statements on several submissions—the importance of doctrine for true unity; to encourage and appreciate women serving in SBC churches; online voting for the SBC; Cooperative Program education; opportunities for women in ministry; affirming the Baptist Faith & Message 2000; ordination councils; small churches; and support of Baptist schools.

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