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.
On Tuesday, leaders initially declined to push forward an anti-racism statement submitted by a prominent black pastor.
Then, as significant pressure began to build online and at the convention, the resolutions committee drafted another version which passed late Wednesday.
Charles Hedman of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. said some pastors told him they would leave the denomination if the convention failed to speak out against white supremacy.
The new statement denounces "every form of racism, including the alt-right white supremacy as antithetical to the Gospel of Jesus Christ."
Dr. Russell Moore, president of the Baptists' Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, introduced the statement to the meeting explaining, "We are saying that white supremacy and racist ideologies are dangerous because they oppress our brothers and sisters in Christ."
— ERLC (@ERLC) June 14, 2017
Southern Baptists have several explanations for why the initial resolution failed.
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."
The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission noted that many Baptists, as well as Americans in general, are unfamiliar with the movement. It cited a 2016 Pew Research Center survey which shows that 54 percent of U.S. adults say they have heard "nothing at all" about it.
Southern Baptists define alt-right as an umbrella term for various nationalist and populist groups associated with white identity politics.
Nationally, Christian leaders such as Ed Stetzer, executive director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism at Wheaton College, and popular authors Beth Moore and Jen Hatmaker praised the Baptists for taking action.
We should take a couple of minutes to memorialize the Lord's work of grace in this and hear His call to wider and deeper love and unity. https://t.co/CPmYPPjE0O
— Thabiti Anyabwile (@ThabitiAnyabwil) June 14, 2017
— JenHatmaker (@JenHatmaker) June 14, 2017
— Beth Moore (@BethMooreLPM) June 14, 2017
But some African-American faith leaders across the country were quick to condemn the new resolution, noting that William McKissic, the black pastor who submitted the first resolution, was not consulted on the second.
They also noted that the resolutions committee has just one person of color. Theologian Ekemini Uwan called the resolution "a symbolic gesture empty of any practical justice implications."
In other words: the resolution is a symbolic gesture empty of any practical justice implications. White supremacy will continue unabated.
— M.DivA (@sista_theology) June 14, 2017