by Gregg Boll
Originally published in the July 2017 Missions & Ministry Newsletter
At this year’s Southern Baptist Convention in Phoenix, Arizona, there was a controversial resolution regarding the “Alt-Right” movement. Allow me to share the non-media, unbiased version of what happened.
An African American Baptist pastor from Austin, Texas, asked from the floor to have his resolution condemning the AltRight movement accepted and presented to the whole convention for approval. The AltRight movement is a loosely organized group of people who advocate white supremacy and open disdain for people of other ethnicities, especially African Americans, mostly through social media.
The committee initially rejected the pastor’s request and chose not to consider his resolution, giving several procedural reasons. Still, every messenger sitting in the convention hall knew that the resolutions committee had made a huge mistake and that we could not leave Phoenix with any ambiguity about where we stand as a faith family with regard to race and the gospel.
This is when a wonderful display of everything good about our Southern Baptist polity sprung into action. In SBC life, we do not have a top-down, hierarchical form of governance. Rather, we have a bottom-up, grass-roots led denomination in which every local church sends messengers to the annual meeting to express their will and priorities to our elected SBC leaders. While we generally trust and follow the leadership of these elected denominational servants, occasionally the messengers speak from the floor to correct or amend something done by our leadership. That’s what happened this year in Phoenix.
After the resolution against AltRight was initially rejected, a host of pastors and other denominational leaders began working behind the scenes to revive the resolution and to see what parliamentary options were available for reintroducing it. By this time, the Resolutions Committee knew they had made an egregious error and requested through the Convention parliamentarian that they be allowed some time in the Wednesday schedule to present a rewritten version of the pastor’s Alt-Right resolution. Parliamentary Procedure stated that a super majority vote (2/3rd) of the messengers gathered was needed to allow the resolution to be considered in the next day’s convention schedule.
The vote was taken and every messenger in the building raised their hand, most shouting a hearty “Amen”, to allow the resolution to be considered. The following day, Wednesday, nearly 10,000 gathered convention messengers overwhelmingly voted to approve the Alt-Right resolution, stating unequivocally our belief that the gospel is for the salvation of every nation, tongue and tribe. Racism is antithetical to the gospel and no born-again, Bible believing Christian can claim to love God but hate his brother (I John 4:20). Southern Baptists spoke clearly to repudiate any semblance of white supremacy or racial hatred.
Southern Baptists are far from perfect, but we are working hard to repent of every form of racism and to love everyone without partiality.