Voices: Cooperation in disagreement: The way forward

For the last four years, I’ve been the director of Baptist studies at Abilene Christian University, helping provide seminary training for Baptist students across West Texas and beyond.

The need for cooperation is great, and the resources are relatively few. It was with interest, then, that I read Dustin Slaton’s article on the North American Mission Board’s refusal to partner with the Baptist General Convention of Texas, since the BGCT has not adopted the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message.

While I appreciated the heart behind Slaton’s work, I think it represents a kind of unity which actually should be avoided.

As a Baptist professor working in a world-class Church of Christ university, my work takes me into a West Texas world where the distinction between the Southern Baptist Convention and the BGCT is fairly thin, and due in no small part to the great needs. Cooperation is at a premium, though often a difficult conversation to have in a tradition built on congregational autonomy.

I say this to signal Slaton’s desire for unity is right. But cooperation comes in all sizes, and not all unity is desirable.

Differences of practice

In my own work, I have been a part of Baptist congregations and conversations which mused about the mode of baptism, about the role of contemplative prayer, and about the use of basic confessions Christians of all kinds (including the first Baptists) have employed for centuries.

Because of the plurality of Baptist church practice, these would have found a home in some places, but not all. For my money, these enrich the Christian life and have enriched my own, but I would not expect all churches would follow suit.

Within a congregation, differences of practice of this first kind can be sustained.

But differences of another kind become harder, because they are differences about what kind of church we belong to.

Some of these may be differences we hang on to that we should let go of and repent. But not all, for some differences signify we may belong just to different churches with different visions of what ministry looks like.

I say this because theology hangs together. What I say about the nature of God’s calling affects and is related to how I think about what it means to be a person whom God can call.

And what it means to be a person whom God can call is related to how I think the Holy Spirit works, what possibilities there are for our sanctification, and what it means to be God’s people together, the church.

Differences of identity

There are some disagreements which expand our ability to be a church together, like what kinds of prayer to use and whether we read and learn from Christians of other eras. But there are some kinds of disagreements which can be resolved only through the sacrifices of some churches ceasing to be what they are.

Slaton describes his congregation as a “dyed-in-the-wool Southern Baptist” one, such that the differences between the BGCT and the SBC for him are fairly thin. But this does not describe all churches within the BGCT, for the BGCT is comprised of those that hold to the 1963 Baptist Faith and Message and those that do not, those who hold open the pastorate to men and women, and those that do not.

To call to erase the distance between the SBC and the BGCT, then, is unintentionally, I think, asking for some of those in the BGCT to cease to be the churches they are.

The BGCT is capable of disagreement on important things, such as women’s ordination, because it is not asking all of those within it to be of the same kind of church. Within the BGCT, cooperation can occur between churches who disagree precisely because there is not an expectation they will be the same.

Partnering amid difference

Churches such as Slaton’s find themselves now in an impossible place, faced with a choice placed on them by the SBC. But this is not the only way.

One can hold to the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message, and my own church—which is not SBC—will join with you in disaster relief, and gladly. We will join with you in supporting the Texas Baptists’ Christian Life Commission, in supporting our publishing house, in congregational outreach and in many other ways. For it is our common love of Jesus which makes that possible.

And, more to the point, we can partner together—in our disagreement, not despite it—to plant new churches for the sake of the kingdom of God.

The way forward now may be for the BGCT to expand its resources at this point, to create alternate lanes to the demands of NAMB. But in an age of declining budgets, this seems unlikely, making a more interesting possibility appear.

Let us continue to support one another with or without new funds from denominational bodies, in our missions, in our church plants, in our relief efforts—but continue to do so in disagreement.

For to disagree need not mean we refuse to share resources. After their disagreement over John Mark and separation (Acts 15:36-41), we know Barnabas still was referred to by Paul as a brother and a co-laborer, though they no longer traveled together (1 Corinthians 9:5-6).

In Colossians, John Mark—the occasion for Paul and Barnabas’ disagreement and separation—once again is working together with Paul (4:10), meaning unity and separation are not two different paths, so long as mutual support and affirmation can remain, even if identical partnership does not.

If there is a way forward for Texas Baptists, this is it: not one which seeks to erase a distance, but one which acknowledges not all distinctions are bad, and support and cooperation can thrive even when disagreements are real.

Myles Werntz is director of Baptist studies at Abilene Christian University. The views expressed in this opinion article are those of the author.

Voices: Yes, I’m a children’s pastor, too

Scenario 1: Imagine, for a moment, being so caught up in being “right” that you miss an opportunity to show and be love.

Imagine creating so many parameters around people joining in the mission of God’s kingdom that you oust people based on power and your ability to do so.

Imaging thinking you have a say in how and who God calls and uses in church ministry.

Imagine thinking you matter more than the person next to you.

Scenario 2: Imagine if the women hadn’t been there on that first Resurrection Sunday to spread the good news.

Where were the men? Hiding.

Imagine Vacation Bible School not existing because Virginia Hawes was told, “Go home.” Yes, I’m talking to you, John McArthur.

Two hundred kids wouldn’t have heard the gospel of Jesus Christ at our VBS two weeks ago in Muleshoe. Dozens of youth volunteers wouldn’t continue to return each year because of the influence VBS had on their own lives as young children.

Imagine what your church would look like without the women who faithfully serve and listened to God’s call on their lives.

Imagine if they, too, “stayed home.”

Imagined vs. real

Thankfully, we don’t have to imagine the second scenario. God has called and will continue to call women. And those he calls, he equips—regardless of the circumstances surrounding the call.

The first scenario, however, happened last week as the Southern Baptist Convention met in Indianapolis. Unfortunately, it will continue to happen.

Today and every day, I stand in solidarity with so many of my pastor and minister friends—sisters in Christ and sisters in mission.

Know your worth. Go where you are welcomed. Preach on.

“Go, be free,” as Beth Allison Barr said.

I planned to post Beth’s words on social media when the Law Amendment passed at the SBC annual meeting. The amendment didn’t pass, however. In fact, it narrowly missed being passed.

Yet, the SBC still deemed a church in Virginia not to be in friendly cooperation with the convention. The reason? They had a woman pastor for children and women on staff.

Not a lead pastor, a women and children’s pastor. Although, if she were the lead pastor, that would be between her and God alone—not the business of any man or corporate body of believers, outside of her local church. And I gladly would support her calling to lead within the body of Christ in whatever capacity.

I’m a pastor

This decision hits close to home. I, too, am a children’s pastor. My title is minister to children and families, or children’s and family minister. The difference between “pastor” and “minister” here? There isn’t one.

Three years ago, my church ordained me after five years of faithful service. Thankfully, my church is distinctly separate from the SBC, or we would face the same fate as First Baptist Alexandria, Va.

My convention? It celebrated my ordination and invited me to serve in leadership positions. It continued to grow in me the heart of a pastor.

My church? It sees the call God placed on my life. The people foster in me a spirit of service as I grow into the pastor God created me to be.

Where does that leave us? With lots of work to do. There are far too many things that matter to focus on control and power. Quite literally, eternity is at stake.

Our task

When the body of believers gathers, it should be for the encouragements of saints and cooperation to bring people into the kingdom of God. The author of Hebrews tells us to watch out for one another, to provoke love and good deeds, to not neglect gathering together and to encourage one another as the day approaches (Hebrews 10).

Last week? The headlines swirled with arguments about a woman serving as a pastor and questions about IVF.

The first is something a convention of believers outside the local church has no business controlling. The second, well, IVF is a deeply personal decision and journey, one that is between patients and doctors and one, arguably, that should not be voted on by people who never have walked that road.

My charge: Do better. Because this isn’t it. And the people are watching.

Abby Manes is the children’s and family minister at First Baptist Church in Muleshoe. She is a proud [foster] mom and spends her time chasing kids, investing in her church and the surrounding community, and drinking good coffee. The views expressed in this opinion article are those of the author.

Voices: No one wants to be a refugee

Immigration is one of the most controversial issues in America today. Our policy toward refugees shouldn’t be. Although people sometimes confuse the words “immigrant” and “refugee,” they have very different meanings.

An immigrant is someone who moves from one country to another with the intention of settling there, perhaps to reunite with family or just seek a better life. A refugee is someone who is forced to leave their homeland because of war, violence, persecution or human rights violations.

Today, June 20, is World Refugee Day, and that distinction is worth noting. No one wants to be a refugee.

I didn’t want to be one when I left Iraq in 1982 because of the war with Iran and the persecution of Christians like me. I didn’t want to leave my family, my community or my country. I didn’t want to start all over again in a foreign land. I didn’t choose to be alone and confused in a new culture.

No one does.

But that’s the reality for people who have been forced to flee their homeland in order simply to survive.

The U.N. Refugee Agency last week reported at least 120 million people around the world had been forced from their homes, just because of their race, religion, nationality or political opinion. About one-third of these people are refugees. Most of the others have been “internally displaced”—forced to leave their homes without crossing borders.

Picture yourself a refugee

Picture yourself in a refugee’s situation for a moment. Perhaps you’ve had your home—including everything you own—burned to the ground by militant extremists. Maybe you’ve even seen your family members executed before your eyes. And you’re told, “Leave, or we’ll do the same to you.”

So these refugees take their children and leave, hoping to make it to a new country where they can start rebuilding their lives. The wait to enter a country like the United States legally—where 125,000 refugees can be admitted this year—can be long, even under the best of circumstances. I know people who have been waiting 14 years.

While they wait, often hoping to reunite with family, some are offered a chance to live in a nation where they have no family connections. They may be offered resettlement in a European country while their loved ones are in the United States, Australia or Canada, leading to yet another separation from family and emotional hardship until they are granted access to their desired country.

And if they finally make it there, they’re greeted by a population that doesn’t want them.

The food is foreign, the language is hard to learn, and the laws are different. Even if they understand some English, it takes years to become proficient in conversation.

On top of that, it’s hard to find a job because they’re not really qualified for much. Many who were doctors or lawyers in their home countries end up performing menial tasks because their credentials aren’t recognized.

People they meet may fear that they are terrorists—one of the most prevalent myths about refugees. But the truth is the vast majority of refugees in America want nothing more than to live in peace. In fact, most would prefer to be back home, if there was a home left.

My story has a happy ending, unlike millions of other stories about refugees. I was reunited with my family in the United States—even though it took 22 years for all of us to get here—and none of us were killed or injured.

This nation gave me a new start, the freedom I never had elsewhere, and a bright future for my family. But I’m grieved by the fact my refugee story is so incredibly rare.

Jalil Dawood is the founder of World Refugee Care, the pastor of the Arabic Church of Dallas and the author of The Refugee: A Story of God’s Grace and Hope on One Man’s Road to Refuge. This article appeared first in the Dallas Morning News and is republished by permission.

Editorial: Children’s ministry could return to VBS roots

You’ve seen reports about the steep decline in church attendance among younger generations—Millennials, Gen Z and Gen Alpha. You’ve witnessed with your own eyes the graying of worship services and the shrinking of Sunday school.

You’ve felt the ache of fewer children in the church.

And then there’s Vacation Bible School, that wonderful week that almost makes us forget we’re seeing fewer children in church. What if we could experience more VBS during more of the year?

VBS—happening in many churches right now—might benefit our children’s ministry more than we think. If we take a cue from its history.

VBS is popular

VBS has an obvious and immediate short-term benefit for our children’s ministries—high attendance.

First Baptist Church in Amarillo reported 1,753 children and adults for its first day of VBS. First Baptist Church in Waxahachie reported several hundred children and a waiting list. First Baptist Church in Muleshoe had 200 children. First Baptist Church in Plano had more than 300 children and volunteers.

That’s just four of thousands of Baptist churches—not to mention Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran and others—conducting VBS this month in Texas.

VBS is so popular, some churches are even charging for it. For example, Cornerstone Global Methodist Church in Houston is charging $25 per child for its June 19-22 VBS. Each child receives a t-shirt, drawstring bag, snacks and supplies.

Despite its marketability, VBS has humble roots.

VBS roots

VBS started as the idea of Virginia Hawes, “a compassionate doctor’s wife who sensed a need to get children off the streets of New York during the summertime.”

Children had few places to go and little supervision during summers in New York City. Hawes’ husband treated many of them for injuries sustained while playing in the streets. To provide a safer alternative, Hawes rented a beer hall on New York City’s East Side in 1898 and 1899, where she conducted Everyday Bible School.

In 1900, her pastor insisted she move Everyday Bible School to Epiphany Baptist Church, just a mile from the beer hall.

“After two weeks of meeting at the church, it became clear to Mrs. Hawes that children from the East Side would not attend at the church. She returned the school to a location near the beer hall for the rest of the summer.”

I didn’t know about Virginia Hawes or VBS’ history, until Abby Manes, preschool and children’s minister at First Baptist Church in Muleshoe, brought Hawes to my attention with her opinion article we will publish later this week. I am grateful.

When VBS started, it was every day for an entire summer. And it started in a beer hall.

What if our VBS returned to those roots? Or our entire children’s ministry?

Some things change

One thing that has changed significantly is VBS’s duration. Over time, VBS shrank—for practical reasons—“from the entire summer, to four weeks, to two weeks, and now one week.” VBS in some churches is a couple of days or a weekend.

Something else that’s probably changed: I’m pretty sure VBS is sillier than it was in 1900.

VBS started as an interdenominational effort. Though denominations began developing their own curriculum during the 1920s, VBS still holds interdenominational appeal and in some places still is shared across denominations.

Another thing that hasn’t changed: VBS is still about engaging children with the Bible to teach them about Jesus and how to follow him.

But what if the location hadn’t changed? As good as VBS has been all these years, what if the last 100 years of VBS have been more like the two weeks at Epiphany Baptist Church than the months in and near the beer hall?

What if, instead of holding VBS in our buildings a few days out of the year, we took VBS back to where the kids are the rest of the time and offered it as often as we had people to lead it? One place is doing just that—Mission Arlington.

VBS where the kids are

During spring break and throughout each summer, thousands of volunteers from around the United States help Mission Arlington conduct Rainbow Express Bible schools in almost 300 locations between Dallas and Fort Worth.

I’ve been one of those volunteers. I’ve helped Mission Arlington conduct Rainbow Express at several locations in Arlington, Fort Worth and Grand Prairie. Many of those locations were tough places. They didn’t look or feel like the church where I was a pastor. Some of them were closer to “beer hall” than “Epiphany Baptist Church.” Jesus was in each one of them.

What if not just our VBS but our entire children’s ministry followed this model—taking Bible school to the kids where they are instead of expecting their parents or guardians to get them to us?

Something else about Rainbow Express: No bells and whistles.

Could simply being with kids where they are, caring for them as they are, telling them about Jesus simply and straightforwardly without all the fanfare—could that be enough? Mission Arlington’s track record says it can.

In 2023, Mission Arlington counted 17,846 students attending Rainbow Express and 326 people accepting Christ. More than 150 people have made decisions for Christ during Rainbow Express in just the last two weeks, Tillie Burgin, executive director of Mission Arlington, told me this morning.

Returning to our roots

VBS is wonderful. I’m all for it. I also know if we tried to pull off VBS with all the bells and whistles all summer long, we’d wear out our staff and volunteers, we’d increase our cost and liability, and it wouldn’t be as special.

So, what if we brought it down a notch—or two or three—so we could make VBS portable? What if we took our children’s (and youth) ministry to kids where they are instead of expecting them always to come to us? What if we went back to our roots—our New Testament and Gospel roots?

It would involve the whole church and would require a significant ongoing investment. It also would grow the whole church—numerically and spiritually.

Eric Black is the executive director, publisher and editor of the Baptist Standard. He can be reached at [email protected]. The views expressed in this opinion article are those of the author.

Voices: My view of the 2024 SBC annual meeting

I became a Southern Baptist by accident—providence, really—but I remain a Southern Baptist by choice and conviction.

Not only am I in doctrinal alignment with the SBC, but I am convinced the Cooperative Program is the absolute best option for like-minded local churches to leverage our resources to reach the world for Jesus.

After this year’s annual meeting, my commitment to the SBC is as strong as ever.

As committed as ever

First, I love the fellowship. I can see and enjoy old friends and new.

If all you know about the SBC comes from social media, you might think we are tearing each other apart and our meetings border on a brawl. But social media is not real life. While we have some malcontents in our midst, even in our disagreements, we mostly are agreeable in spirit.

Second, the fruit of our cooperation was on full display. We participated in the commissioning of 83 new international missionaries and heard inspiring reports from our North American Mission Board about record numbers of church plants and baptisms.

We heard from our six seminary presidents and were encouraged greatly that they are all doing well and growing. We heard how Cooperative Program giving is up, as are contributions to the Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong mission offerings. From platform reports to exhibit hall displays, I was reminded once again of why I am Southern Baptist.

Third, as you probably know, the annual meeting is a very long business meeting with some amazing worship and a couple of sermons built into the agenda. We conduct a lot of business during those two days. Some of it is mundane, but some of it makes headlines and can inflame emotion. I’ll give my take on a few of the weightier matters.

Weighty business

For one thing, as has happened for the last couple of years, a motion was made to defund the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. The motion, as in years past, was defeated soundly. A motion to have the president of the ERLC fired was ruled “out of order.”

Two somewhat contentious debates surrounded proposed resolutions. Resolutions are nonbinding statements issued at each annual meeting to address various issues of interest to Southern Baptists.

The first debate had to do with the resolution “On Defending Religious Liberty.” In case you are unaware, religious liberty is one of the defining marks of Baptists. We long have advocated for religious freedom for all. That’s why I was surprised at the impassioned debate about this one.

Some people actually opposed the resolution, arguing Christianity should be the official—or at least favored—religion by our government. Thankfully, the resolution passed overwhelmingly.

Another emotional discussion concerned the resolution “On the Ethical Realities of Reproductive Technologies and the Dignity of the Human Embryo.” You might have seen headlines declaring Southern Baptists now oppose IVF. That is inaccurate.

The resolution, which passed by a large margin, simply raises the concern of creating embryos that later will be destroyed. The resolution was in keeping with Southern Baptists’ long-time advocacy for all human life, beginning at conception.

Women in pastoral roles

Finally, the hottest topic leading up to the meeting, and the tensest debates on the floor, concerned the issue of women in pastoral roles and a vote on a proposed amendment to the SBC constitution. Much misinformation has been disseminated about this, and even many people in attendance walked away with differing perspectives. I’ll give mine.

Before I do, however, I’ll put my cards on the table. I am a complementarian in full agreement with the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, which states, “While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor/elder/overseer is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.”

There is, however, a full range of complementarianism, and I probably am somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. Many women serve on staff and hold leadership positions in our church. However, I believe the Bible teaches the office of pastor is limited to qualified men.

I know many disagree with me on this, and I respect their position. Some of them are good friends. I do not believe they are heretics or that they have rejected the authority of Scripture. I simply see them as having a different interpretation.

Frankly my greater concern is that of unqualified men serving as pastors in our convention. My observation after 31 years as a pastor and 6 years as a seminary professor is we are too quick to ordain as pastors those who simply “feel called” to the task. I believe our standards are too low.

Big-tent Baptist

But back to convention business. To amend the constitution requires a two-thirds-majority vote two years in a row. This year was the second vote on what has become known as the “Law Amendment” first proposed by a messenger named Mike Law.

It failed to pass, having received only 61 percent in favor. The proposal would have codified in our legal documents that churches who employ a female pastor of any kind would be deemed as “not in friendly cooperation” with the SBC. I voted against the amendment. I’m glad it failed.

But if I’m a complementarian, why wouldn’t I want it to pass? For one thing, I don’t think it’s wise or necessary to put such language into our governing documents, especially when our doctrinal statement is sufficient.

But I’m also a big-tent Baptist. While I will not ordain a woman to be a pastor, I don’t think we need to cut ties with every church that has a female children’s or women’s pastor. Of course, our tent does have boundaries, and we always will disagree as to how tightly to bring in our stakes.

Over all, I left the annual meeting encouraged and inspired. I understand not everyone feels like I do. But we are Baptists. Some of the votes went my way; some did not. That’s the way it goes. We have a system, and the system works. I look forward to our future, as I believe it is bright.

Mike Miller is the senior pastor of Central Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Texas. The views expressed in this opinion article are those of the author.

Commentary: FBC Alexandria signals opportune time

I write today to express support and gratitude for the congregation and leaders of First Baptist Church of Alexandria, Va., considering their recent public dismissal from the Southern Baptist Convention.

First Baptist Alexandria has been a beacon of gospel ministry and a faithful congregation in the evangelical, global orthodox family for decades.

In the complex ministry environment of our nation’s capital, they also have not capitulated to the winds of progressive ideology as have many other “tall-steeple” churches, nor have they bowed the knee to country over kingdom in an effort to lift up party over the person of Jesus Christ.

They have served the kingdom faithfully both locally and globally and have been a catalyst for gospel expansion.

Gratitude for First Baptist Alexandria

I and the ministries I serve have benefited from their generosity of spirit. I can attest that thousands of people in North America have found new life in the gospel and a renewed engagement in the church family because of First Baptist Alexandria.

When the Lord opened the door to launch the Fresh Expressions movement in the United States nearly 15 years ago, First Baptist Alexandria was by our side. From 2012 to 2016, they hosted what would be foundational gatherings for our movement and set the course for gospel work that eventually would spill over into nearly 100 regional or national denominational families in North America.

They gave of their time, talents and treasures to seed that work, have done the same for others and will continue to do so in the days ahead.

I remember quite distinctly when the leadership of more than 30 denominational bodies gathered in 2016 to lay hands of blessing upon an evangelical charismatic Anglican, Bishop Graham Cray, who had been pivotal in working with us to develop Fresh Expressions work in America.

Afterward, someone remarked to me, “That kind of thing doesn’t happen in a typical Baptist church.”

Indeed, that is true of most. We owe a debt of gratitude to First Baptist Alexandria.

A vast fellowship

It is not surprising SBC messengers would oust First Baptist Alexandria, as doing so is consistent with the doctrinal stances and theological culture evident in the SBC.

After all, they made the same motion last year toward Rick Warren and Saddleback Church—other stalwarts of the global evangelical movement—for having a female teaching pastor who preaches roughly 25 percent of the time.

Now apart from the SBC, First Baptist Alexandria and churches like them need to know they are not alone.

In associations like the Ascent Movement, of which I am part, and other evangelical fellowships around the globe, there are thousands upon thousands of leaders and churches that support women in the life of church leadership in pastoral roles.

In fact, the Capetown Commitment of the Lausanne Movement, widely recognized as the global evangelical family of faith, makes room for such in their Confession of Faith and Call to Action.

In many parts of the globe, it is the movements that embrace the gifts and calling of women where the gospel is growing in power. FBC may have lost the SBC, but the truth is, they may be gaining much more.

My expectation is, in time, First Baptist Alexandria will experience growth in gospel vitality and power as a result of these circumstances.

A biblical witness

As was made clear in the public written response to the SBC, as well as Pastor Robert Stephens’ remarks during his opportunity to address the messengers in Indianapolis, the posture of First Baptist Alexandria is based on sound scriptural reasoning provided within the written witness of the Bible.

Throughout the world, the Holy Spirit clearly is blessing such approaches, and there is no “grievance” of the Spirit in taking such stands.

As I stated in reference to a person’s written response and Pastor Stephens’ remarks, “If you are going to go out, at least go out with good exegesis.”

In fact, it’s the same conservative interpretive method any of us who attended evangelical Bible colleges or seminaries were taught.

A few weeks ago, in response to Al Mohler’s continued perspective that the lifting up of women in ministry is a slippery slope into other progressive postures, Andy Miller III of Wesley Biblical Seminary—which holds to inerrancy—offered the perspective that if you consider the dialogue of Scripture instead of just the monologue of Scripture, you can see why solid evangelicals exegetically arrive at the support of women in ministry.

Or, as Julio Guarneri noted in a recent written update to the Baptist General Convention of Texas: “We do not believe the topic of women in ministry is a matter of scriptural authority. We believe it is an issue of scriptural interpretation.”

Women in ministry is not an issue such as current debates on human sexuality, where one clearly must import evidence into the text of Scripture. Scripture contains support for women leading in ministry, even if it does not contain such support in every circumstance.

This also is not a matter we should lay at the feet of the “autonomy of the local church.” Autonomy itself is a slippery slope and is a weak tie in binding a people together. After all, how compelling is a vision to “join one another” in “doing what you want?”

An opportune time

Applying nonlinear dynamics and chaos theory to the ouster of First Baptist Alexandria, as much as the SBC may wish for these exits to serve as a warning, they likely are to do the opposite.

Already, I am aware of more churches who will be more emboldened in their affirmation of women leaders.

I also suspect even some soft complementarians now will determine we are not in an age when we can afford to separate from fellow evangelicals over an issue many solid, Scripture-affirming leaders, theologians, missionaries and others around the evangelical world support.

For those of us coming from an SBC heritage of some kind, we are in an opportune moment of sorts. Saddleback may have signaled the beginning of this moment. First Baptist Alexandria has demonstrated the intensity of this moment.

Now is the time for those of us who believe women are called into ministry and those of us who believe this is a matter of scriptural interpretation to step into this moment.

Will we carry out the mission of God with only half the people of God fully engaged, or will we move forward, re-center the Great Commission and invite all those who are faithful to the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ into carrying out the call of the gospel in a time when the need for the gospel to go forth and go deep is as important as ever?

Chris Backert serves as the senior director of Fresh Expressions North America and the Ascent Movement.

Letters: Against Pride Month and TBM name change

Against Pride Month

America’s rulers “cast away the law of the LORD and despise the word of the Holy One.” “Truth is fallen in the street.” “Hear the word of the LORD, ye rulers of Sodom! Give ear unto the law of God, ye people of Gomorrah!” (Isaiah 1:10; 5:24; 59:14 KJV)

“God created man male and female.” “Know ye that He hath made us, and not we ourselves.” “Whatsoever God doeth, it shall be forever. Nothing can be put to it, nor anything taken from it.” (Genesis 1:27; Psalm 100:3; Ecclesiastes 3:14 KJV)

“Sin is the transgression of God’s law.” “The men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the LORD exceedingly.” “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind.” “A man shall not put on a woman’s garment.” “Saith the LORD, oh, do not these abominable things that I hate!” (Genesis 13:13; Leviticus 18:22; Deuteronomy 22:5; Jeremiah 44:2,4; 1 John 3:4 KJV)

“Knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death,” “suffering the vengeance of eternal fire”—“Sodom’s example”—are Americans “ashamed when they commit abomination? Nay, not at all ashamed!” “They declare their sin as Sodom” with rainbow flags, parades, drag queen story hours/shows for children, “church” celebrations, Pride Month. (Isaiah 3:9; Jeremiah 6:15; Romans 1:32; Jude 1:7 KJV)

“Pride goeth before destruction.” “Though hand join in hand, the proud shall not be unpunished.” (Proverbs 16:5,18 KJV)

“Ah sinful nation!” “Saith the Lord GOD, Sodom hath not done as thou hast done. Thou art corrupted more in all thy ways,” “inventors of evil things”—LGBTQ+’s ever-growing alphabet, they/them singular pronouns (“My name is Legion”), child mutilations, male mothers, trans-species. (Isaiah 1:4; Ezekiel 16:47-48; Mark 5:9; Luke 8:30; Romans 1:30 KJV)

“Saith the LORD, ‘Shall not my soul be avenged on such a nation as this?’” (Jeremiah 5:28-29 KJV).

Michael W. Ellis
Belton, Texas


Opposing TBM name change

I find it inconsistent for the Southern Baptist Convention rightly to disqualify women as pastors yet support a name change of the venerable Texas Baptist Men to nongender-specific Texans on Mission.

I have supported TBM financially but will not support this surrender to the feminist agenda.

M.F. Fanelli
Duncanville, Texas

Voices: Am I denominationally homeless?

Nearly 25 years ago, the Southern Baptist Convention passed a revision to its Baptist Faith and Message that limited the “office” of “pastor” to “men.”

At the time, I defiantly proclaimed the convention would not get rid of me that easily. But when First Baptist Church of Alexandria, Va., was ousted from the convention on the first night of this year’s meeting, I was prepared to write an article acknowledging I now was denominationally homeless.

But then something remarkable happened. The so-called “Law Amendment” was defeated, and I was thrown into utter confusion about my role in the denomination that has been my home for nearly my entire life.

Fool’s gold

One media outlet framed the vote as a possible victory for proponents of local church autonomy, but, as an outsider to the national meeting, I don’t see it that way.

For one thing, further reporting seems to suggest messengers who voted against the amendment did so mostly on procedural grounds, not because they think forbidding women from being a pastor “of any kind” is wrong.

After all, an overwhelming majority of messengers still voted to disfellowship a church that had a woman as a “pastor to children and women,” in spite of the fact one could construe such a position as not only permissible but wise and probably necessary for a church that size.

And let’s not forget, although the amendment failed, it still garnered the support of a substantial majority of messengers.

For another thing, Baptists still are not dealing honestly with the issue of language verses function.

Can messengers really police the functions women perform in Southern Baptist churches? Do they really have the time and the expertise to evaluate job descriptions to see whether a woman is doing pastoral tasks—especially since certain Southern Baptist leaders refuse even to consider clarifying what those tasks might be? And is that even their job?

A predictable outcome

In spite of the failure of the Law Amendment, the actions taken by the SBC the last two years constitute an almost unmitigated disaster. Not only has the convention defied the teachings of Scripture—while claiming to champion faithfulness thereto—and its own polity, but this turn of events was entirely predictable.

Article VI of the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message is clear there are only two “offices” in the church. That, in and of itself, is a problematic position to take, but we’ll leave that issue aside for now. Rather, we should observe the way many Southern Baptists talk about this issue is in direct contradiction to their own confession.

Everyone who works with a woman in ministry—regardless of her title—knows she functions as an officer of the church. It doesn’t matter whether you call her a “director,” a “minister” or a “pastor,” she functions with the authority of her calling, and she clearly is not a deacon. So, what is she?

This question was bound to bubble to the surface, but Southern Baptists have made things so much worse by doubling-down on the false narrative that acknowledging the calling of women to pastoral ministry confuses gender roles and undermines God’s vision for the family.

That false narrative adds urgency to the fight, and it also justifies—even if wrongly—the caricatures of critics who refuse to take the arguments made by Southern Baptist leaders at face-value.

Rather than dealing honestly and empathetically with the questions of biblical faithfulness raised by the SBC, its critics cast the debate entirely in terms of a male-dominated, politically conservative denomination trying to manipulate its founding documents so as to oppress women and ignore their pleas for justice.

The whole conversation has become a toxic waste dump of mutual suspicion and interminable enmity.

An unappetizing choice

So, I am left with an unappetizing choice. I could leave the SBC and thereby remain faithful to my convictions. But where would I go? If God moves me on from my current church position, how would I fulfill my calling? How would I help my wife put food on our table and keep a roof over our heads, much less prepare for retirement?

More to the point, how would I help Southern Baptists confront the many other challenges faced by the 21st-century church?

Maybe that is not my job anymore. Maybe a denomination that explicitly defines itself in terms of its complementarian identity has shown me the door, and I’m just too stupid or too stubborn to walk through it. But I hate giving up, and I don’t want this once-proud powerhouse of gospel missions to decay into a haunt for sub-Christian ideologies and endless disunity.

Or I could stay and fight. I could speak prophetically to a convention corrupted by generations of political, cultural, social and other factors beyond my control—all while trying to be fairer to the people I critique than other critics have been.

But how could I do that while remaining faithful to the many women whom Christ has called into his service? How could I look the women who populate my classes in the face—women of remarkable gentleness, faithfulness, intelligence and courage?

How could I claim to be faithful to my own wife as she seeks to fulfill her calling in how she leads, serves, counsels and (occasionally) preaches? Indeed, how could I be faithful to the women who already have been burned by the SBC, some of whom are my friends?

More fundamentally, how could I be faithful to my own convictions? Even if I speak prophetically, I am still identifying with a denomination whose beliefs are out of step with my own. I still would be identifying with an organization whose employment practices are, in my view, both unbiblical and unwise.

How can I stay and retain the integrity of my soul? How can I engage the impossible task of rescuing the SBC from itself without losing myself in the process? Surely Christ calls us to self-denial and self-mortification (See Matthew 16:21-27), but is this kind of self-abandonment what he has in mind?

In the end, I cannot tolerate a system in which complementarian men are assumed to be misogynists. I know too many who are not. But neither can I ignore the corruption that has swallowed the SBC whole, nor can I ignore the unbiblical subordination inherent in complementarian thought.

I do not know where this angst will lead me. All I can do is reach out for the hand of Jesus and follow him wherever he leads.

Wade Berry is pastor of Second Baptist Church in Ranger and resident fellow in New Testament and Greek at B.H. Carroll Theological Seminary. The views expressed in this opinion article are those of the author.

Voices: Erasing the space between BGCT and NAMB

On TobyMac’s 2022 Album, Life After Death, he reunites with his DC Talk bandmates on the song “Space,” a song about people, once close, who now are separated by some disagreement.

The first verse identifies the situation that led to the separation, while the rest of the song asks the question: “What do we do with this space between us? How can we start to erase this space between us?”

It concludes with the hopeful sentiment, if love keeps no record of wrongs, then “we’re never too far gone.”

Last Wednesday morning at the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting, I had the opportunity to pose a question to Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board. It was one for which many Texas Baptists have been seeking a definitive answer for a long time.

Will NAMB partner with churches who are singly-aligned with the Baptist General Convention of Texas to plant churches in Texas?

Dr. Ezell’s response was similar to what we had heard before: NAMB only partners with churches who are connected to a state convention that affirms the Baptist Faith and Message 2000.

A simple perusal through the responses that came through articles and the scourge known as “social media” showed Texas Baptists neither were surprised by nor happy with the answer.

Erasing the space

It may come as a surprise, then, that I was thankful for Dr. Ezell’s answer.

I was thankful—and satisfied—with his answer, because the real question I was asking him was not if NAMB would partner with BGCT churches. We already knew, or at minimum had assumptions about, that answer.

The primary reason I spoke in the presence of 10,000 people for a terrifying three minutes was simply to get to the final 14 seconds, and ask: “Will you personally commit to figuring out a better way forward so that a BGCT church like mine, who is also a dyed-in-the-wool Southern Baptist, can work with NAMB for the sake of God’s kingdom?”

Like in TobyMac’s song, the initial task was to identify the issue. Texas Baptist’s view of the issue has been voiced in BGCT executive reports, Baptist Standard articles and in my initial remarks on Wednesday morning.

In our minds, the current situation is clear, and the more vocal among us have voiced our collective Texas-sized angst in various forms. But, the critical task before us now requires our utmost prayer and attention.

How to do it

I’m thankful Dr. Ezell’s answer to my ultimate question has been to initiate a conversation about the distance between NAMB and the BGCT. Immediately following his report, he reached out via text. Since then, we have had, and will continue to have, ongoing dialogue, which I have faith will help us answer the ultimate question, “How do we erase this space between us?”

How can NAMB and Texas Baptists work to repair the relationship that has grown increasingly distant over the past 30 years? I want to suggest five essential elements that must be present if any solution is to be found.

1. Prayer.

You knew I would start here, and you already know the centrality of prayer in any spiritually motivated task. So, I’ll save my limited word count for the other three. (Psalm 107:28-30)

2. Repentance.

Marriage counselors will tell you, for a couple to move past a specific issue in their marriage, both parties must acknowledge their own responsibility for their part of the argument. Typically, there is some measure of responsibility on both sides.

As Texas Baptists (hopefully) approach discussions with NAMB around this issue, we both must have an attitude of repentance for our part in developing the current situation.

Jesus says in Matthew 18:15, “If your brother sins against you, go tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won your brother.”

But, likewise in Matthew 5:23-24, Jesus says, “If you remember your brother has something against you … go and be reconciled to your brother.”

Texas Baptists, we cannot sit entrenched, piously adjusting our halos, waiting for NAMB to take full responsibility for the space between us. We must approach with hearts of repentance for our own part in creating this space.

3. Humility.

This second essential is a natural outgrowing of repentance but takes it a step further. If Texas Baptists are going to have the opportunity to work with NAMB in the future, we cannot approach the subject with an air of superiority. We must admit there are certain things about NAMB’s position we do not know and certain circumstances we cannot control.

James 4:6 reminds us, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18). If this is true, then we most definitely can expect our efforts to erase this space to fail if we approach without humility.

4. Temperance.

I’m not talking about abstaining from alcohol, although I highly recommend it. I’m referring to the more general definition, which says: “moderation in action, thought, or feeling; restraint.”

When applied to the topic at hand, temperance would encourage us to carefully moderate our emotional reactions. It’s easy to hit send on some angry words on a Facebook comment. Yes, we all saw those. It might seem freeing to join the social media trolls in venting about NAMB or the SBC on an X thread. We saw those, too.

Matthew 12:36, where Jesus says, “I tell you that on the day of judgment people will have to account for every careless word they speak,” should be motivation enough to temper our words. If Texas Baptists hope to erase the space between us and NAMB, then some among us will need to check our tones.

5. Negotiation.

Finally, this space will be erased only if we’re willing to negotiate with those on the other side of the gap.

“My way or the highway” is the wrong way. 1 Corinthians 10:24 says, “No one is to seek his own advantage, but rather that of his neighbor.” Can you imagine the outcome if Texas Baptists and NAMB both approached the table with that attitude? The space would be erased.

We are at a pivotal moment in the history not only of Texas Baptists and NAMB, but Texas Baptists and the Southern Baptist Convention. The two parties have powerful erasers in their hands.

We either will erase the space between us and be reunited in a collective goal of reaching our state with the gospel of Christ. Or we will make the space permanent by completely erasing the missional relationship we have enjoyed for decades.

My genuine belief and hope is we’re not too far gone. I hope we can erase this space between us, before it’s too late.

Dustin Slaton is senior pastor at First Baptist Church in Round Rock. He serves on the BGCT Executive Board and as an adjunct professor at Howard-Payne University, New Braunfels Center. He’s a graduate of Ouachita Baptist University and a two-time graduate of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. The views expressed in this opinion article are those of the author.

Commentary: How Baptist is the SBC?

The Southern Baptist Convention’s recent resolutions against Palestine, widely regarded as profoundly anti-Christian, have ignited a critical reevaluation of the SBC’s theology and principles.

Despite the moral failure of forming in defense of slavery, the SBC grew to become the largest Protestant denomination in the United States, emphasizing evangelism, missionary work and biblical inerrancy. Historically, the SBC has shaped American religious and cultural life, advocating for various social and moral issues.

Their stance on Palestine is another moral failure.

Modern parallels of historical failures

Despite their longstanding support for Israel, in recent years, the SBC has intensified its pro-Israel stance, prioritizing it over Christian principles of justice, mercy and reconciliation. This shift is deeply troubling theologically.

Foundational to Baptist tradition are Jesus Christ’s teachings urging followers to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).

The SBC’s unwavering support for Israel and Zionism mirrors their past backing of slavery, which they justified using biblical verses, thus contradicting core Christian principles. This stance neglects the plight of Palestinian Baptists and Christians, aligning with the SBC’s historical legacy of siding against justice.

During the Indianapolis convention, the SBC passed resolutions that starkly contrasted with their stated values. Of particular note was a resolution denouncing “anti-Israel activism” and affirming “solidarity with Israel.”

This highlights the SBC’s consistent pro-Israel stance over the years. By aligning with the Israeli government and settlers, the SBC continues to echo their rhetoric, potentially disregarding Palestinian aspirations for statehood and self-determination.

Theological error and ethical inconsistencies

These resolutions lack a biblical Christian perspective, condemning Hamas without addressing broader historical and geopolitical aspects. They fail to advocate for repentance, forgiveness and Christ-like reconciliation, rejecting “moral equivalence” and failing to acknowledge the suffering of all parties, particularly Palestinians.

True justice and lasting peace are found in Christ’s reconciling work, demanding humility, compassion and solidarity with the marginalized. The SBC’s resolutions contradict Jesus Christ’s radical teachings, lacking calls for enemy-love, forgiveness and nonviolent peacemaking that should define the church’s prophetic witness.

By uncritically affirming the just war tradition and endorsing the state’s right to wield the “sword,” the SBC conflates earthly nationalism with the kingdom of God.

Impact on Palestinian Christians

The SBC’s resolutions blatantly ignored Palestinian Christians and churches, callously neglecting them amid dire struggles against severe hardship, apartheid, occupation, ethnic cleansing, terror, genocide and discrimination.

This deliberate abandonment begs the question: Why harbor such deep animosity toward them? This stance not only repeats historical injustices, but also disregards international law and human rights abuses.

Over the years, Israeli attacks on Gaza have resulted in significant damage to Christian sites and properties, including churches and schools. The Gaza Baptist Church and its library, for instance, have been bombed and damaged multiple times.

The SBC’s resolutions also conveniently ignore the plight of Palestinian hostages, many of whom are Christians, focusing on Israeli hostages while disregarding the thousands of Palestinians languishing in illegal detention and facing torture. This double standard undermines the SBC’s moral authority.

Reclaiming the true spirit of Baptist Christianity

The recent actions of the SBC betray Baptist principles. Historically, Baptist churches have had a complex and varied relationship with justice and resistance against injustice.

While Baptists have been strong advocates for religious freedom and, in many cases, social justice, they also have supported and justified oppressive systems, such as slavery and segregation.

This contradictory legacy makes the SBC’s fervent support for the Israeli government’s occupation of Palestine even more troubling, as it appears to repeat past mistakes of siding with power over the powerless. Labeling opposition to Israeli policies as “antisemitic” ignores the systematic dehumanization of the Semitic Palestinians.

To realign with Christian principles, the SBC must reconsider its recent resolutions. This requires advocating for a just solution that respects the rights of all parties, especially Palestinian Christians.

Future generations and global implications

The SBC risks alienating a younger, globally aware generation that is critical of injustice. Young Christians, especially students, are seeking communities that reflect values of justice and equality.

The SBC’s stance on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict may lead to declining membership as congregants look for authentic Christian communities. Supporting policies that perpetuate oppression and conflict not only undermines Christian moral authority but also harms interfaith relationships.

Baptist tradition demands advocating for all oppressed, regardless of nationality or religion. It is crucial for the SBC to remember being Baptist means championing the marginalized and oppressed. This commitment transcends politics and strikes at the core of our faith. The SBC must pursue a Christ-centered, prophetic response that goes beyond political expediency.

This authentic spirit of Baptist Christianity requires confronting the moral lapses of our leaders and reclaiming our prophetic voice. The future of our faith hinges on this moment, demanding decisive action.

We implore the SBC to reconsider this resolution and commit to sacrificial love, forgiveness and the pursuit of true peace.

How can the SBC possibly defend its alleged commitment to justice and Christian principles while shamelessly endorsing a stance on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict that utterly betrays and abandons the suffering and rights of Palestinian Baptists and Christians?

When the SBC abandons its principles, siding with power over the powerless, what does it truly represent?

Jack Nassar is a Palestinian Christian based in Ramallah. He holds an MA in political communications from Goldsmiths University in London and possesses expertise across sectors, driving positive change. The views expressed in this opinion article are those of the author.

Editorial: It’s time to examine denominational connections

Who does your church connect with, and why?

If your church hasn’t had this conversation in a while, you should. Regardless of anything else, it can be a healthy conversation to have and a matter of good stewardship.

I used the word “connect,” but the technical term for Baptists is “cooperate.”

For churches cooperating with the Southern Baptist Convention—in Texas and elsewhere—the 2024 SBC annual meeting gives additional reason to have the conversation.

The point was made crystal clear at least twice during the convention that the SBC and its entities expect cooperating churches to adhere to the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message. If your church has not adopted the 2000 statement or does not have “a faith and practice that closely identifies” with it, there are a couple of things you need to know.

No women pastors

First, you need to know you will be expected not to employ a woman as a pastor of any kind—even though the proposed amendment to write that into the SBC constitution failed.

Churches have been voted out of the convention during the last two consecutive SBC annual meetings precisely because they employ a woman as a pastor of any kind. Each of the votes passed by a wide margin.

Discussion during this year’s meeting related to the proposed amendment and the vote to remove First Baptist Church of Alexandria, Va., made abundantly clear that Southern Baptists absolutely mean what the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message says: “the office of pastor/elder/overseer is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.”

In other words, to have a faith and practice that closely identifies with the SBC’s adopted statement of faith means your church will not have a woman pastor—senior, associate, executive, worship, youth, children’s, senior adult, recreation, media and technology, women’s. Not any.

Though some wanted it made clear women leaders are valued and that their church does employ women as ministers.

So, if your church cooperates with the SBC and you employ a woman as a pastor of any kind, you will need to change her title to minister, find other employment for her or expect to be deemed “not in friendly cooperation” with the SBC during some upcoming SBC annual meeting.

NOTE: After publishing this editorial, some pointed out First Baptist Alexandria was not disfellowshipped because they employ a woman as a pastor for children and women, but because the church espouses egalitarianism rather than complementarianism. While technically true, it also is true Saddleback Church was disfellowshipped for employing a woman as teaching pastor, and the Law Amendment was less than 5 percent shy of passage.

2000 Baptist Faith and Message

Second, you need to know your church will be expected to adopt and hold to the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message if you want to enjoy full cooperation with the SBC.

Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board, made that clear when answering a Texas Baptist pastor’s question following the NAMB report June 12.

NAMB has accepted money gladly from First Baptist Church of Round Rock for decades without ever asking what statement of faith the church adopted, the church’s pastor Dustin Slaton said. He asked if his church’s investment can be reciprocated.

He and his church want to partner with NAMB and the BGCT to plant complementarian, “genuinely Southern Baptist churches in Texas.” Since First Baptist Round Rock and the BGCT hold to the 1963 Baptist Faith and Message and not the 2000 version, this won’t happen, as we reported in May.

After repeating what a NAMB spokesperson communicated to the Baptist Standard the end of May, Ezell told Slaton, “I would love for you to consider, for your state convention to adopt the Baptist Faith and Message 2000.”

So, if your church wants to cooperate with the SBC and has not adopted the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message, you will need to adopt the 2000 statement of faith and partner with a state convention that has done the same to receive money from NAMB to plant a church in your state.

If your church is not going to adopt the 2000 statement and neither is your state convention, then you need to know the SBC’s cooperation with your church will be limited—at least, via NAMB. You are free, however, to hold to a different Baptist statement of faith, such as the 1963 version, and you are free to keep sending money to the SBC and its entities.

Making decisions

The SBC has made it clear who it will cooperate with and why. Is your church as clear? It should be.

Maybe your church has a century-old relationship with the SBC, like First Baptist Church of Alexandria, Va., who was voted out June 11.

If your church hasn’t examined its relationship with its ministry partners in a while, it may be on autopilot. It’s good stewardship to examine the relationship. You need to know what the relationship expectations are and whether you will or want to meet them.

Perhaps your church adheres to the 1963 Baptist Faith and Message and nothing has changed about your faith and practice in, well, decades. Your church may have principled reasons—such as autonomy of the local church—or theological reasons for not adopting the 2000 statement, or it may have none.

You need to know what your church’s faith statement is and why it’s that statement and not another one. Knowing where your church stands helps evaluate your ministry connections. You may determine nothing needs to change. Or it may be time to find new connections.

If your church believes women can be pastors, or it doesn’t; if your church holds to the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message, or it doesn’t; the Baptist General Convention of Texas (Texas Baptists), GC2 and Ascent are just three possible connections to know about.

Some will say this is divisive. But it isn’t divisive to know who you are and why and to connect with those who will enable God to work in and through you best. Those seeking God’s glory ought to want the best connections possible.

Eric Black is the executive director, publisher and editor of the Baptist Standard. He can be reached at [email protected]. The views expressed in this opinion article are those of the author.

Commentary: SBC resolutions on war, Oct. 7 fail biblical test

(RNS)—A lifelong Baptist in the Middle East, I have found myself in agreement with many of the resolutions coming out of the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Indianapolis this week.

The resolution on the integrity of church leaders, the importance of the separation of church and state, and the call on church organizations to walk in the light and refrain from nondisclosure agreements all strike me as Christlike, and I and others in my corner of the Baptist world would happily sign on without any problem.

But two of the resolutions Southern Baptists approved—one concerning the idea of just war and another titled “On Justice and Peace in the Aftermath of the October 7 attack on Israel”— not only are contradictory, but are disappointing and dismaying.

Just war

In the first resolution, the drafters justify the necessity of war for defensive reasons, correctly calling for “discrimination between combatants and civilians,” so that “civilians may not be deliberately targeted for attack.”

In addition, “war must be fought with proper proportionality and the scale of death and destruction must be proportional to the scale of peace and justice at stake in the conflict,” and “military personnel should adhere to the principle of military necessity.”

Given everything we have seen in the last eight months in Gaza and the West Bank, this resolution debunks any attempt at calling Israel’s military action just.

The Israeli government’s actions have resulted in the starvation of an entire population, as well as deliberate attacks on schools, humanitarian workers, ambulances and journalists. These clearly are not in sync with the above-mentioned conditions for just war.

Unjust war

More astounding in light of the just war resolution is the second resolution, whose drafters appear to have taken a chapter from the Israeli military playbook and applied it without seeking the counsel of fellow Christians or even fellow Baptists in the Middle East.

The resolution fails in what it says but more in what it fails to say. It ignores the larger context of the conflict, which has seen 75 years of refugee status without the right of return, 57 years of occupation and 17 years of an illegal siege of Gaza. It didn’t just start on Oct. 7, as the resolution seems to want us to think.

Since Oct. 7, more than 5,000 Palestinians, including Christian Palestinians, have been detained by Israel without charge or trial, yet Southern Baptists focused solely on the Israeli hostages.

The Israelis, meanwhile, have engaged in civilian hostage taking, administrative detention and indiscriminate destruction of homes, businesses, universities, hospitals and houses of worship. The Israeli offensive action has gone far beyond its initial defensive justification, killing thousands of innocent Palestinians and displacing hundreds of thousands of others.

Christians in Gaza

This suffering—all publicly available information—did not earn a single word of recognition from Southern Baptists, not even the attacks on Gaza’s Christians, which have resulted in the loss of 3 percent of their already tiny population.

The Baptist church in Gaza, established by Southern Baptist missionaries, has been destroyed by Israeli missiles. Palestinian Christians who have taken refuge in churches have been left to die without the ability to get medical treatment. At the very least, Southern Baptists in Indianapolis could have offered words of compassion and solidarity.


But more disturbing than what was ignored are the Oct. 7 resolution’s claims about the rise of antisemitism—much of it, of course, properly antiwar-ism, anti-Israelism and anti-occupation-ism. It failed to mention the increase in hate speech and hateful crimes against Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims.

Palestinian and pro-Palestinians have been bullied and fired from their jobs for expressing support for justice and a cease-fire, both in the Middle East and in the United States, where three Palestinian students, graduates of the Friends Quaker school in Ramallah, were shot at because they wore the Palestinian traditional kaffiyeh.

Southern Baptists apparently have swallowed the pro-Israeli narrative that protests at American universities were pro-Hamas, not anti-war. While some instigators made rare pro-Hamas comments, the protests were pro-peace and pro-cease-fire. There is nothing wrong with supporting the rights of Palestinians to self-determination.

Compassion needed

Most Christians in the Middle East ache with the pain of every death and destruction of any of our neighbors, whether Israeli or Palestinian. We hoped that, of all people, Christians in the United States would understand this pain. We hoped our fellow Christians would follow the Prophet Amos’ call for “justice to roll on like a river” and Micah’s call to all of us to “love mercy.”

Instead, our fellow Baptists’ words have poured salt on a deep wound. Showing compassion to Israelis killed and taken hostage on Oct. 7 is correct and biblical, but so is the need to show compassion to Palestinians who have suffered and continue to suffer. This one-sided resolution fails on all the tests of biblical principles and must be revisited.

Daoud Kuttab is a member of the Amman Baptist Church and publisher of Milhilard.org, a news site dedicated to the Christian community in Jordan and the Palestinian territories. The views expressed in this opinion article are those of the author.