Friday, June 24, 2011

SBC Look-back Part 3

You might be getting bored with this look at the Southern Baptist Convention. I can’t say as I’d blame you for that. I’m hoping this will be the wrap-up.

Before I hit the last two resolutions I want to comment on, here’s the info on officer elections. These officers have no “power” or “authority” but they do have a level of influence.

The SBC Constitution and By-Laws allow for the President of the SBC to be re-elected once, and it’s traditional that if he wants that re-election, he gets it. That’s dependent on not doing something colossally stupid, of course, but Bryant Wright of course has done nothing of the sort. So, it was expected that he would be re-elected. One individual felt that we needed a different president and chose to nominate himself. Generally, that goes badly, even if you would have been a good nominee if someone else said it. He lost.

Fred Luter, a pastor in New Orleans was elected First Vice President and Eric Thomas of Virginia was elected Second Vice President. Luter’s election is noteworthy because he is the first African-American in one of these three representative roles.

Now, the last two resolutions that I want to comment on.

The first is on religious liberty. There is a move toward laws that aim to restrict speech from criticizing religious belief. These are often framed as “anti-blasphemy” laws and claim to be about keeping people from speaking meanly or hatefully against other religions, but the ultimate effect is a chilling of freedom. Freedom of speech is crucial to freedom of thought and freedom of will: if you can’t speak freely, how will others be free to choose? How can you be free if you can’t speak freely?

We do need to be careful, though, that we are willing to allow the same freedoms we demand. We want to be free to speak our minds about other religious views and philosophies and so must allow those freedoms to others. Not doing so is both hypocritical and counter-productive. God and truth need advocates and proclaimers, defenders and teachers, but not violent men or repressors.

The second resolution was a bit of a surprise. The Resolutions Committee takes submissions and usually quietly puts to sleep most of those submissions. They may repeat what we said last year, be too convoluted, or have some other reason to be declined. Certainly we don’t shy away from controversy, do we?

Well, a resolution had been submitted criticizing the update to the NIV translation of the Bible. You may not know this, but the NIV was recently updated. Much of it is the same, but the changes stirred a little trouble as they approached a “gender-neutral” viewpoint. That’s a long discussion to have another day. Parts of that approach are acceptable: when Paul writes to the “brethren” and a translator renders that as “fellow believers,” I think that’s accurate. However, God chose to reveal Himself as Father so there are places where gender-specific terms are necessary to be faithful to the text.

The committee, however, felt that it wasn’t necessary to vote on this resolution or discuss it. I don’t know what their reasoning was, but the messenger who had submitted it didn’t want to let it go. So, he moved that the SBC overrule the committee and vote on the resolution anyway. Motions like that, like motions to amend committee decisions, often go nowhere. That was not the case this time. The motion to reconsider received more than the two-thirds it needed, and so the SBC considered and then passed the resolution.

So it’s mainly noteworthy for how it passed. The content was not very different from a resolution a few years ago when the TNIV was being marketed so it’s not too far beyond our normal viewpoints.

In all, the unusual thing from resolutions this year was the attempt to amend the immigration resolution and pulling this one from the “not forwarded” list.

That’s about the whole of it from this year. We’ll see in the next year whether or not the Executive Committee’s recommendations about seeking racial and ethnic diversity on SBC Boards and in employment in administration/management roles. I hope we do a better job with that, but we’ll see. I’m just cynical enough to think those recommendations need a wait-and-see.

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