Published: Fri, June 16, 2017
USA | By Kelli Rowe

Amid uproar, Southern Baptists condemn 'alt-right' movement

Southern Baptists raced against the clock Wednesday to take a stand against racism and alt-right white supremacy in the waning hours of their annual meeting in Phoenix.

The denomination initially refused to take up a resolution repudiating the movement that emerged dramatically during the US presidential election and mixes racism, nationalism and populism.

A national meeting of Southern Baptists will consider condemning the political movement known as the "alt-right" amid an uproar over the denomination's commitment to confronting prejudice.

Barrett Duke, who leads the resolutions committee, said it contained inflammatory and broad language "potentially implicating conservatives who do not support the "alt-right" movement".

Gaines, a Memphis, Tenn., pastor who easily won re-election Tuesday (June 13) as president of the Southern Baptist Convention, said he would emphasize spreading the gospel in his second one-year term. "Please know it wasn't because we don't share your abhorrence of racism and especially the particularly vicious form of racism that has manifested itself in the Alt-Right movement". Messengers adopted a resolution "on the anti-Gospel of alt-right white supremacy".

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"We are saying that white supremacy and racist ideologies are unsafe because they oppress our brothers and sisters in Christ", said Moore, who leads the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, the Southern Baptist public policy arm. "I'm grateful for your heart and I join you in wanting to mobilize pastors to lead their people to have Gospel conversations".

Many evangelicals of color have said they feel alienated by such high white evangelical support for Trump and have asked leaders to condemn those who support him who are racist.

The church planter "is a living picture of what we want to become as Southern Baptists", Lewis said, "working to engage in an urban context, multiply churches, reach different generations ethnicities and social groups, all while being faithful to scripture".

Duke again offered an apology, adding: "We come alongside you as our brothers and sisters in Christ".

Dwight McKissic, a black pastor from Arlington, Texas, introduced the resolution for the congregation to separate themselves from and denounce the alt-right. His resolution repudiated "retrograde ideologies, xenophobic biases and racial bigotries of the "alt-right" that seek to subvert our government". Steve Gaines, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, said he wanted to send the message that "we love everybody on this planet".

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The resolution touched on the church's racist history, as the Southern Baptists once prominently taught the "curse of Ham" theory, which the resolution describes as "echoing the belief that God through Noah ordained descendants of Africa to be subservient to Anglos" and "which provided the theological justification for slavery and segregation".

The heated debate on Tuesday night prompted the convention to draw up a new resolution, which was voted in on Wednesday afternoon. Members within the denomination also expressed worry that silence on the issue would be misinterpreted as support for white nationalism. "We're not intimidated or afraid to speak out, even though it brings up dirty laundry from the past".

McKissic, an African American who previous year successfully persuaded the convention to pass a resolution condemning public display of the Confederate flag, argued from the convention floor that by their support of slavery and segregation Southern Baptists in past generations "gave the theological license to the alt-right to do what they're doing right now". RNS photo by Adelle M. BanksThe Rev. Dwight McKissic, who authored a proposed resolution about the Confederate flag at last year's convention that was rewritten and passed, didn't understand why the resolution wasn't dealt with in a less confusing way.

The resolution comes on the heels of the US presidential election in which Donald Trump was voted into office, but it avoided pointed criticism of current political officeholders.

"Deeply, I apologize", Duke told McKissic. Probably we're more unified than I have seen for a long time.

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[Rev. Russell] Moore vehemently condemned candidate Trump.

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