DALLAS With the passage of nine resolutions messengers at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention added their collective voices to the national conversation about issues affecting the church and the culture at large.
All nine resolutions passed on a show of ballots, but an amendment to the one on “Gender Identity” required a ballot vote. Criswell College President Barry Creamer, messenger from Lake Highlands Baptist Church in Dallas, supported the resolution but offered the amendment to change a five-word phrase that he called “unnecessarily provocative.”
The resolution committee disagreed with the substitution because the term Creamer offered, like the issue of gender identity itself, is ever evolving and subject to interpretation.
“In preparing this resolution the committee looked thoroughly at the issues at hand and feels that the resolution as originally presented effectively captures the message of Scripture,” resolutions committee member Sharayah Colter told Creamer and the messengers during discussion of the amendment. “Since the Bible is our sole authority and not the current scientific climate, we chose to limit the scope of the resolution to what is presented clearly in Scripture.”
The resolution, drawn in part from the “Nashville Statement on Human Sexuality” published early this year, addresses gender identity ideology and its rejection of binary human sexuality and its presumption that people can choose their gender.
The resolution pushes back against the rising tide of gender identity politics by affirming the “imago dei” in all humans and that God created humans male and female. The paragraph Creamer sought to amend says: “Whereas, individuals born with physical disorders of sex development are also created in the image of God with equal intrinsic worth, and are able to live abundant lives in joyful obedience to Christ…”
The word “intersexuality” was what Creamer recommended as a term to replace the phrase “physical disorders of sex development.”
“In the interest of speaking always with grace and savored with salt I find this language unnecessarily provocative,” Creamer said when offering the amendment from the floor.
“Ultimately, we just went back to Scripture and tried to capture the heart of Scripture as closely as possible,” Sharayah Colter told the TEXAN as amendment ballots were being counted.
When drafting the resolution only a few people on the eight-member committee were familiar with the term “intersexuality.” Committee research revealed the term is used to describe a medical condition in which a person’s sexual organs, genitalia and chromosomes do not fully develop as singularly male or female. But transgender rights activists—and even medical professionals—use the term to promote transgenderism and ideology of gender fluidity—the idea that a person’s sex is not defined by their physical biology but by their choice. Describing the physical condition instead of using a word that can be politicized better served the resolution’s purpose she said.
The amendment failed by a 13-vote margin of 175 in favor and 188 against and the resolution passed on a show of ballots with less than a dozen people voting against it. Far more messengers and guests were present than the 363 people who voted in the afternoon session.
Creamer told the TEXAN he was willing to vote for the original language and ultimately did when it resurfaced. He noted that most messengers are well aware of the drift in the culture on such issues.
“However, because we are so uncomfortable with where the culture is going, we withdraw from the spaces where those issues are being discussed and debated,” he said, referring to social media interactions and news coverage. “That withdrawal has two negative consequences, he noted. “It means we forfeit the issue in the public marketplace and it means we remain several steps behind in terms of terms, issues and debates,” he said, encouraging believers to get up to date on gender identity issues.
Surprised by the close vote, Creamer said, “I just wanted to register my minor dissent and give messengers an opportunity to process the issue of cultural engagement.” He is hopeful that Southern Baptists are giving significant thought to what it means to speak with grace to those who are outside the faith.”
The resolution calls on government officials to support policies that recognize the “God-given distinctions between male and female” and to allow people who espouse that truth in the church, teach it in their homes or discuss it in the public square to do so without repercussions.
But, most significantly, the resolution urges Christians to act graciously toward all people, sharing the truth of salvation in love, and remembering that all humanity bears the image of their creator God.
Sexual harassment resolution
Sexual harassment violates federal and state statutes but, more importantly, it is a violation of God’s command to “show proper respect” for all persons, according to the third resolution on “Sexual Harassment,” rebuking the demeaning, hurtful, and antagonizing nature of the acts.
Reminding messengers that the Bible condemns sexual sin in all its forms the resolution calls on churches to create personnel policies addressing the issue, to take seriously reports of sexual harassment within the church, and treat people with the “respect merited by persons created in the image of God.”
Prayer for victims of Harvey and church shooting
Two resolutions declare gratitude for SBTC and its member churches, the Southern Baptist Convention and the North American Mission Board for their quick, effective and compassionate response in the aftermath of the murders at First Baptist Church Sutherland Springs and Hurricane Harvey.
The resolution “On Prayer for Sutherland Springs” calls for the continuous prayer and support for the small community devastated by the murder of 26 people and wounding of 20 more as they worshipped at their church Nov. 5.
The daughter of Pastor Frank Pomeroy and his wife Sherri was among those murdered by a lone gunman and the resolution asks the convention to care for the pastor as tries to minister to his church family.
The SBTC, its member churches, SBC and NAMB came to the rescue of residents in southern and southeastern Texas following the unprecedented storm event and the resolution on “Hurricane Harvey” calls on churches to continue its ministry in the recovery work.
The resolution recounts the human loss caused by the storm but it also tallies the human compassion poured out on the region: SBTC disaster relief crews clocked 72,830 volunteer hours in the 54-county impact zone. While providing for physical needs the volunteers shared the gospel 2,187 times and reported 417 professions of faith.
The convention also served 295,691 meals and helped mud out 639 homes.
Financial aid poured into the convention from 47 states, Canada and an overseas APO address.
But the resolution states there is still work to do as people try to rebuild their “lives and livelihoods in the midst of difficult circumstances.”
Housing tax exemption
Once again, pastors may have to contend for their ministerial housing allowance as a federal judge in October declared unconstitutional the housing tax exemption that has been in place since 1921. The fourth resolution on “Ministerial Housing Allowance” recognizes the positive role pastors and their churches play in their communities and the financial relief the exemption affords pastors who might not otherwise be able to afford to stay in the ministry.
The resolution urges government officials to recognize those pastoral contributions and asks the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn the ruling. And all churches are asked demonstrate their value to the communities by providing volunteer services that exceed the tax benefit.
Centrality of Scripture
Recognizing the authority of Scripture for salvation and spiritual growth, the sixth resolution on the “Centrality of Scripture” asked the messengers to affirm that truth and commit to “live, teach, and preach the Word of God” and urge churches and families to scripture memorization and daily Bible study.
The eighth and ninth resolutions on “Appreciation for President Nathan Lino” and “Appreciation to Criswell College” commend the leadership of the outgoing president and the hospitality of host campus Criswell College.
Lino, pastor of Northeast Houston Baptist Church, served from 2016-2017 “with grace, energy, creativity, and integrity, demonstrating a Christ-like spirit” the resolution said.
Criswell College is supported by the SBTC convention. In passing the resolution messengers expressed gratitude to the school’s staff and area churches for their work in facilitating the annual meeting which was “characterized by evangelism, worship, and true Christian fellowship.”