Southern Baptist messengers voted on seven resolutions at their annual meeting in Phoenix, Ariz., expressing support for undocumented immigrants, calling on President Obama to defend the federal marriage law, and agreeing to civil public discourse. Most were adopted without debate.
One resolution, titled “On Immigration and the Gospel,” raised a number of concerns among the messengers though.
It called upon Southern Baptist churches “to be the presence of Christ, in both proclamation and ministry, to all persons, regardless of country of origin or immigration status.” It also resolved to ask governing authorities “to implement, with the borders secured, a just and compassionate path to legal status, with appropriate restitutionary measures, for those undocumented immigrants already living in our country.”
The latter clause was discussed and debated at length. Some of the messengers wondered what “a just and compassionate path to legal status” would look like. Others took issue with the phrase “undocumented immigrants,” pointing out that such people were in the country illegally.
Paul Jimenez, the chairman of the Committee on Resolutions, addressed the overall intent of the resolution as questions began to arise about it.
“We want the messengers to know how thoroughly this resolution was discussed,” Jimenez said. “It is our intent and it is the spirit of this committee and hopefully it is reflected in this resolution that the churches of the Convention be called to Gospel ministry among the undocumented immigrants who are here.”
He continued, “It is our intent that his resolution speak first and foremost to the pockets of lostness – pockets that are growing exponentially, as we have heard in recent days, where we see the nations coming here to the United States of America and it is our desire that as churches see immigrants here among us that our first question is not, ‘What is their legal status?’ but the question first and foremost is, ‘What is their Gospel status?’”
Before a final vote was taken, Dr. R. Albert Mohler – president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary – weighed in on Twitter, saying, “Southern Baptists are at a crucial decision point. The immigration crisis demands a Gospel response before any political response.”
Eventually, the Convention added the clause “this resolution is not to be construed as support for amnesty for any undocumented immigrant” and the resolution was adopted.
Other resolutions passed during the June 14-15 meeting include:
Resolution #1, “On Religious Liberty in a Global Society”
It reaffirmed that the convention believes all people groups have religious freedom “to convert to another religion or to no religion, to seek to persuade others of the claims of one’s religion, and to worship without harassment or impediment from the state.”
Resolution #2, “On Protecting the Defense of Marriage Act”
It urged President Obama to reverse course by ordering the Department of Justice to fully defend DOMA.
Resolution #4, “On the Reality of Hell”
The denomination affirmed their “belief in the biblical teaching on eternal, conscious punishment of the unregenerate in Hell.” The resolution also urged Southern Baptists “to proclaim faithfully the depth and gravity of sin against a holy God, the reality of Hell, and the salvation of sinners by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone, to the glory of God alone.”
Resolution #5, “On Corporate Prayer and Repentance”
It calls for corporate prayer and repentance, urging Southern Baptists to seek “a life of genuine repentance, Kingdom-focused prayer times for sweeping revival and spiritual awakening, and consistent prayer for specific lost people, missions, and ministry.”
Resolution #6, “On Civil Public Discourse”
It encouraged civility in the public discussion of controversial issues and denounced “the speech or activities of any individual or group that brings shame upon the name of Christ and His gospel.” It also urged Southern Baptists “to speak biblically and authoritatively with conviction, kindness, and gentleness.”
Resolution #7, “On Appreciation”
This was passed in a spirit of appreciation for God’s providence, the hospitality of the people of Phoenix, local SBC churches, associations, committees and volunteers and the Lord’s grace in enabling the convention’s president, officers, various committees, musicians and other personnel to conduct the affairs of the convention with dignity and a Christ-like spirit.
Southern Baptists also condemned the actions of those who protest funerals, burn the Quran, and pray for the deaths of public officials, according to Baptist Press.