COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The Supreme Court's impending ruling on same-sex marriage is prominent on the radar at the Southern Baptist Convention's annual meeting, which concludes today at the Greater Columbus Convention Center.
Retired Gen. Doug Carver, the Southern Baptist Convention’s chief of chaplains, leads a salute to veterans Tuesday at the group’s gathering in Columbus, Ohio.
The Rev. Ronnie Floyd of Springdale, pastor of the multicampus Cross Church, declared his stand during his president's message Tuesday morning. "As a minister of the Gospel, I will not officiate over any same-sex unions or same-sex marriage ceremonies. I completely refuse," he said.
"This is a Bonhoeffer moment for every pastor in the United States," Floyd said, referring to German Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, author of The Cost of Discipleship and an outspoken critic of Nazism. "While some evangelicals may be bowing down" to cultural change, "we will not bow down, nor will we be silent.
"The Supreme Court of the United States is not the final authority, nor is the culture itself, but God's Bible is the ultimate truth, and on this truth we stand."
The subject is the focus of a presidential panel today, "The Supreme Court and Same-Sex Marriage: Preparing Our Churches for the Future." Floyd's panelists include Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.; Russell Moore, president of the denomination's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission; former gay atheist Rosaria Butterfield, author of The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert: An English Professor's Journey into Christian Faith and the forthcoming Openness Unhindered; and Baptist pastors Ryan Blackwell of San Francisco and Matt Carter of Austin, Texas.
Floyd was elected as president of the 15.5 million member denomination last year. He was re-elected Tuesday to a second one-year term and was unopposed.
On Tuesday afternoon, the 5,300 registered attendees, or messengers, passed nine resolutions.
They called for racial reconciliation, through increasing racial and ethnic diversity in membership and staff and by becoming ambassadors in their local communities. They resolved to "prayerfully call on the Supreme Court" to uphold the right of citizens to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman. They spoke up for "the sanctity of human life," with attention to abortion, the elderly and the terminally ill. They also spoke out against pornography.
The last two resolutions called for prayer and support for persecuted Christians worldwide, and for pressure on North Korea to cease persecution and human-rights violations of its citizens.
Resolutions are not binding on churches or individual Southern Baptists, since the denomination has no hierarchy and supports the autonomy of individual churches. But they express the mind of the denomination and stands on issues Baptists see as most pressing.
"They're important," said Steve Gaines, president of the resolutions committee, who is attending his 30th annual meeting. "These things go down in writing and Baptists will refer back to them in years to come. ... They give a general statement, and many times a specific statement, of where we are comprehensively as Baptists."
Resolutions can also show the denomination's progression of thought over time. Baptists of decades ago who advocated segregation probably could not have imagined one day voting for racial reconciliation.
David and Becky Ferron of Detroit left the morning session pushing a stroller with baby Emmalee, the youngest of their six children. The messengers from Merriam Baptist Church in Garden City, Mich., are attending their first annual meeting. David Ferron said he came primarily because Columbus was close. "I wanted to experience it."
Becky Ferron, a Baptist since age 8, appreciated Floyd's message. "He's standing firm," she said.
Attorney Taniya Jimenez was also attending her first annual meeting, along with husband Maxsy and others from First Baptist Church in Orlando, Fla., pastored by former Arkansan David Uth. Jimenez migrated to the Baptist church last November and is "digging right in" by attending the meeting. But the church is "one body regardless of denomination," she said, enthusiastically recalling a recent six-mile prayer walk attended by Christians from a variety of Orlando churches.
Jimenez and Bonnie Walton were among a group of women taking pictures of each other outside the "prayer room," a curtained-off area between the convention floor and the exhibit hall. Walton, a messenger from Pinecrest Baptist Church in Portsmouth, Va., prays with people she knows through peacewithgod.net, an online ministry staffed around the clock and sponsored by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
Over lunch in the convention hall's food court, Memphis evangelist Phil Glisson chatted with the Rev. Matthew Gullion, a church planter in Fort Wayne, Ind., about ways to stop the church's declining membership and annual baptisms, which have dwindled to 1940s levels, a time when the U.S. population was much smaller.
Gullion, attending with his wife and two young daughters with identical French braids, works at recruiting young people into ministry and looking for evangelical methods to which the younger generation will respond. His congregation's worship band, Our Fragile Existence, has begun traveling a bit for youth events on Friday and Saturday nights, he said.
Glisson still believes in old-fashioned revivals, and makes a living speaking at them. But he advocates "trot-line ministry: many hooks in the water."
On Tuesday night, Floyd presided at an intense, emotional prayer meeting as part of his call for another "Great Awakening" in American Christianity, beginning with prayer.
Today, messengers will hear reports from many Southern Baptist entities, including mission boards. Last month, the International Mission Board made waves by dropping a ban on missionaries who have a "private prayer language."
The meeting is being live streamed at sbc.net.
A Section on 06/17/2015
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