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Baptists call for plan to make illegal aliens legal

By Frank E. Lockwood

This article was published June 16, 2011 at 4:17 a.m.

— Meeting in one of the nation’s most heavily Hispanic states, the Southern Baptist Convention on Wednesday called for the creation of “a just and compassionate path to legal status, with appropriate restitutionary measures” for illegal aliens living in the United States.

Convention delegates, known as messengers, debated whether to strip that language from a resolution titled “On Immigration and the Gospel,” which had been crafted by the Committee on Resolutions.

But attempts to delete the wording failed by a vote of 766-723.

The overall resolution then passed by a show of hands.

Two-fifths of Hispanic Southern Baptists in this country are here illegally, Baptist leaders estimated.

The resolution calls on 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.”

Baptists also voted to “deplore any bigotry or harassment against any persons, regardless of their country of origin or legal status.”

Baptists added a clause stating that the resolution should not “be construed as amnesty.”

Richard Huff, a Southern Baptist messenger from Tucson, Ariz., moved to strike any call for a pathway to legal residency.

If illegal aliens are allowed to stay, “we will be rewarding people who have broken the law,” warned John Killian, a messenger and pastor from Maytown, Ala. Accepting millions of illegal aliens is “a policy that’s completely unsustainable for our economy.”

Others warned that the measure was misguided.

“This is amnesty any way you phrase it,” said Wiley Drake, pastor of First Southern Baptist Church of Buena Park, Calif.

Paul Jiminez, chairman of the resolutions committee, defended the resolution.

“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?’”

Jiminez, a pastor from Taylors, S.C., called the proposal, which also called for securing the nation’s borders, “a realistic and biblical approach to immigration.”

Former convention President Paige Patterson said he was “not surprised” by the vigorous debate.

“This is a very difficult issue for every Southern Baptist. ... We are torn as a people on this issue,” said Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth.

“On the one hand, to us, an illegal immigrant is just another person that Christ loves and died for, and we feel enormous obligation to such people. On the other hand, we are notorious for believing in being law-abiding citizens andhaving a country of law. So anything that breaks the law of the land, unless it’s for an intensely moral issue of some kind, we’re going to be in opposition to it.”

Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission in Nashville, said he backs a pathway to legal status for illegal aliens but knows the issue is contentious.

“I will tell you this, 40 percent of the Hispanic Southern Baptists in this country are undocumented,” Land said.

“They come here to work. We’re aggressively evangelistic. We evangelize them. They get saved,” Land said. “When we’re talking about undocumented people, we need to understand that a lot of them are fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.”

Jason Noel, pastor at Eastside Baptist Church in Paragould, said he supports a pathway to legal residency.

“I think that’s compassionate. I think that shows common sense. I think it’s a fair way to treat people,” Noel said.

Eric Moffett, pastor of First Baptist Church in Pocahontas, backed the measure, calling it “a good chance for us to show our love for those who have come to our country.”

“Our first call as followers of Jesus is to help the helpless, to love the unloved and to be there for people in need,” he added.

The immigration resolution sparked the most debate Wednesday.

Other resolutions, supporting the Defense of Marriage Act, calling for “civil public discourse” and affirming “the reality of hell,” passed overwhelmingly.

A final resolution, denouncing a forthcoming edition of the New International Version of the Bible, which uses gender-neutral language in some instances, also passed.

Attendance at the Southern Baptists’ annual meeting was the lowest since World War II.

Front Section, Pages 4 on 06/16/2011

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RufustheRed says... June 17, 2011 at 5:34 a.m.

What are you? NUTS? we do not have enough tax dollars as it is and you want to add more people to the tax rolls. This just can not be. If they want to become citizens they must prove the can work and support themselves with steady employment. This just can not be.

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Reason says... June 17, 2011 at 6 a.m.

Sasha: I cannot follow your sentence structure. Are you saying that you do not want illegals on government assistance? I'm not aware of any government program of entitlements for illegals. Please explain?

I'm not familiar with Baptist Conventions and I fail to understand the dilemma about whether to follow God's law or man's law. Can a vote change God's law?

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benrose says... June 17, 2011 at 7:09 a.m.

Very well stated, Reason. As long as these doctrinal conventions continue to try to supercede God's law with man's legalistic political interpretations, God's people will continue to head directly to an extended stay in the desert wandering around wondering what went wrong.

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trouble06 says... June 17, 2011 at 9:18 a.m.

Reason, you may not be familiar with any government entitlement programs but they are there, SS, food stamps. I'm with Sasha. We don't have the money to support them any longer. Their anchor babies, the cost of educating, healthcare, they don't bother to learn our language, laws don't apply to them as they do for us. If they steal your identity it's not illegal. I bet if I stole your SS# and used it, my butt would be in jail. My sister worked at a manufacturing plant that employed illegals. They would work for an amount of time, leave for awhile, then come back under new name and new ID #. They still do that. Now they have E-Verify. I commented to a friend who works in the office of this plant, that it was good they had implemented E-Verify. She told me yeah, but there's ways around it. Go figure!!!!!!!

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Reason says... June 17, 2011 at 10:07 a.m.

trouble06: As produced no proof entitlements for illegals or illegals' being exempt from breaking our laws and certainly nothing you said addresses God's law. The children that are born in the United States are citizens and if you don't like them using your taxes....than they can use my tax dollars.

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trouble06 says... June 17, 2011 at 10:41 a.m.

Reason are you quite sure that illegals don't receive welfare? If they cross the border illegally then they have broken the law. God's law Knowing right from wrong. Breaking laws are wrong. Let them go back home and come back legally.

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RENEGADE says... June 17, 2011 at 11:18 a.m.

I finally got sick of reading all the garbage the liberals on here are spewing here I am..!!! Illegals are just that..illegal...and criminals..we don't "need " them here..I don't want them here and I am making it my life's mission to get rid of as many of them as I matter what it takes. A swift kick in the arse and a hearty goodbye is all the deserve..same goes for their supporters/enablers!

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trouble06 says... June 17, 2011 at 11:53 a.m.

Reason I'll save you the effort. You might should check on one of the reason Kalifornia is BROKE. Illegals DO RECEIVE WELFARE, HEATHCARE.

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Coralie says... June 17, 2011 at 12:43 p.m.

So now Southern Baptists are liberals?
It's a new day!

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