The Southern Baptist Convention is poised to vote Wednesday during its annual meeting in Phoenix on a resolution to denounce the so-called “alt-right” movement and make clear the denomination’s opposition to white supremacy.
The initial resolution, introduced last month on SBC Voices by Dwight McKissic, a prominent black pastor from Texas, was rejected on Tuesday because some felt the language was too strong. Leaders within the SBC only reconsidered after facing intense backlash, The Atlantic reported.
Dr. Russell Moore, president of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and a critic of President Donald Trump, tweeted Wednesday that he is confident SBC members, called messengers, would vote in favor of McKissic’s resolution.
I fully expect that #sbc17 will enthusiastically pass the alt-Right as anti-gospel resolution.— Russell Moore (@Russell Moore) 1497450258.0
A vote on the updated proposal, with some changed language, is expected Wednesday afternoon.
McKissic’s original resolution affirmed that “there has arisen in the United States a growing menace to political order and justice that seeks to reignite social animosities, reverse improvements in race relations, divide our people, and foment hatred, classism, and ethnic cleansing.”
The pastor identified the “toxic menace” as white supremacy and the “alt-right” movement, urging his fellow Southern Baptists to reject “totalitarian impulses, xenophobic biases, and bigoted ideologies that infect the minds and actions of its violent disciples.”
After a proposal like McKissic’s is submitted, it goes before a committee whose members determine whether or not a resolution will be voted on by the entire body of messengers. All seemed to be going well at the committee meeting, until the panel rejected McKissic’s resolution.
If the resolutions committee decides not to hear a proposal, delegates are permitted to re-introduce it from the floor for a second consideration. So late Tuesday, McKissic did just that, but once again, it failed. And Southern Baptists across social media were not happy about it.
Here’s a sampling of the backlash:
When the cause is righteous, working towards precision AND empathy AND action is a worthy pursuit. Shutting down is not an option.— Jasmine Holmes (@Jasmine Holmes) 1497410436.0
We must be clear: We live in a time when equivocating on these matters furthers the sin of racism even to violence and death.— Thabiti Anyabwile (@Thabiti Anyabwile) 1497403566.0
#sbc17: If you don't think Christians ought to condemn the Alt-Right, then you need to see their disgusting emails that fill my inbox.— Karen Swallow Prior (Notorious KSP) (@Karen Swallow Prior (Notorious KSP)) 1497413237.0
Calling out and condemning alt-right groups is just basic Christianity. Its not couragious or genius. It's just Christian. #sbc17— John Starke (@John Starke) 1497414816.0
Relatedly, white supremacist and “alt-right” leader Richard Spencer tweeted his support for the SBC’s initial rejection of McKissic’s resolution.
So apparently the Southern Baptists Convention *didn't* denounce the Alt-Right after all. Interesting development! https://t.co/07RUvoUOTc— Richard 🦁 Spencer (@Richard 🦁 Spencer) 1497398904.0
After news about the ordeal reached many of the messengers, several SBC members advocated for McKissic’s motion to be reconsidered yet again.
“A group of us gathered around McKissic, and resolved that we were going to see what we could do with this,” Dave Gass, pastor of Grace Family Fellowship in Pleasant Hill, Missouri, told The Atlantic.
He said the resolutions committee’s main beef with the resolution was “a few key phrases that left a few things unclear.”
Gass said: “It wasn’t that they didn’t like the resolution. It’s that they didn’t like the wording of the resolution.”
Around 9 p.m. Tuesday, the body — frantic from the criticism it has been facing for several hours — reconvened for yet another vote on the resolution. SBC President Steve Gaines wanted to make it clear that “we decry, we come against every kind of racism that there is.”
When ballots went up for the third committee vote on the matter, Gass said it appeared there was not a single “no” vote in the room.
“The affirmative has it,” Gaines rejoiced. “Praise the living God.”
Earlier Tuesday afternoon, the SBC leaders affirmed a resolution “On the Importance of Moral Leadership,” similar to one passed in 1998, during the height of the scandal involving former President Bill Clinton and ex-White House intern Monica Lewinsky. The resolution, a veiled jab at President Donald Trump’s sexual impropriety in the past, commended “those leaders who choose not to meet privately with members of the opposite sex who are not their spouse” in an effort to encourage leaders “to avoid any suspicion of wrongdoing.”
“This resolution was originally approved by the SBC during a Democratic presidency and now we have an opportunity to remain clear and consistent in our convictions during a Republican presidency,” Tennessee pastor Micah Fries told the Religion News Service.
Just as the 1998 resolution did not include Clinton’s name, the 2017 proposal approved Tuesday does not directly name Trump or Vice President Mike Pence.
The presentation of both the “alt-right” and the “moral leadership” resolution at the SBC’s annual meeting this week — and the decision last year to call on Christians to stop displaying the Confederate flag — is noteworthy given Trump received support from 81 percent of white evangelicals during the 2016 presidential election.