Graham addresses homosexuality, budget decisions

PHOENIX ? Homosexuality, staff cuts at the International Mission Board, family roles of men and women, the Southern Baptist Convention’s decision to reduce funds to the Baptist World Alliance, and political involvement were among the topics posed to SBC President Jack Graham, during a press conference, June 17, after he was elected to serve Southern Baptists a second term.

“The outreach to the homosexual community is certainly of keen interest in our time. It’s obviously a huge cultural issue,” said Graham, pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, when asked about Southern Baptists’ Task Force on Ministry to Homosexuals. The taskforce is a joint-effort by the SBC’s LifeWay Christian Resources and Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission seeking to develop resources for hurting individuals. The eight-member taskforce was formed after the 2001 annual SBC meeting in New Orleans.

“We as Southern Baptists believe that a person can experience freedom ? sexual purity in their life ? and freedom. We do not believe that people are captured by a way of life that does not please God. A person can come out of that lifestyle,” Graham said, referring to a report by the taskforce at the meeting.

“There can be a past tense experience and the cleansing experience of the blood of Christ, the forgiveness of God.”

Because there is so much “volatility on this issue,” Graham clarified that Southern Baptists are not “angry or full of hatred” toward homosexuals.

Southern Baptists “oppose the homosexual lifestyle, but we lovingly and compassionately seek to bring people to faith and forgiveness in Jesus Christ. We want every person to know that Jesus loves them, and that the message of the gospel is for every person,” he said.

When asked about Southern Baptists’ involvement in the secular political arena, Graham acknowledged “support for the policies and the principles” of the Bush administration for the upcoming presidential election.

“We certainly want to encourage the people in our churches to register to vote, to be informed voters, to know the issues, and to be involved in the process,” he added. “Being salt and light includes cultural engagement on moral issues as well as spiritual issues. We believe the Bible is clear on these issues, whether it be an abortion issue or the issue of race.”

“I once heard that the church plays water boy in the game of life,” Graham said. “But I am glad that Southern Baptists are not playing water boy in the culture, but rather, we are in the game. We’re on the field. And we are representing a vast arena of conservative people across this nation.”

Answering a question on the comparative roles of men and women, Graham said Southern Baptists believe men and women have different roles and responsibilities in life and in the family.

“I believe the [breakdown and fracturing of] the family is the greatest social issue of our time,” Graham said, adding that such problems are evident inside the church as well as out.

While Southern Baptists acknowledge that men and women have equal standing with God concerning their personal relationship with Jesus Christ, they also acknowledge that men and women, as well as parents and children have different responsibilities in the family, he said.

Graham said the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 addresses this matter in a way that is both biblical and practical.

Critics of the BFM 2000 have recently set their sights on staff layoffs at the SBC’s International Mission Board after IMB officials cited a downturn in the economy as the underlying cause for such action. Citing a two-year trend since 2001 of 100 missionaries being appointed per month, Graham is not worried about the future of the historic missionary-sending body.

“I have a great deal of confidence in our International Mission Board. Southern Baptists are deeply devoted and committed to world missions,” he said, believing the “best days of the International Mission Board [to be] before it.”

The SBC’s decision to reduce its funding of the Baptist World Alliance from $425,000 to $300,000 per year results from “Southern Baptist not being heard or properly understood on our viewpoints on the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and other issues I am not exactly prepared to talk about today.

“We are struggling with that relationship at this point and endeavoring to work things out. There are issues at stake that are very serious issues for Southern Baptists.”

Facing a $650,000 deficit, the BWA reduced its 2003 budget by 20 percent, to $1.6 million. However, the SBC’s contribution reduction will affect the BWA’s 2004 budget year.

In looking to the future, Graham said he considers his election as Southern Baptists’ 52nd president a “calling from God” and “a sacred trust.” He wants to spend his second year as SBC president encouraging young pastors to remain closely involved in the SBC in hopes of continuing a trend he said shows that “participation in Southern Baptist life is strong.”

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