by Amy Carter Whitfield, AVP of Convention Communications, SBC
The last few weeks have been intense, and have sparked many conversations among Southern Baptists. It is important, however, to acknowledge that these conversations are not new.
In fact, we were having a similar conversation this month in SBC History. Twenty-five years ago, Southern Baptists passed a “Resolution On Racial Reconciliation On The 150th Anniversary Of The Southern Baptist Convention.” sbc.net/resolutions/89…
In the two decades that I’ve been a part of SBC life, I have heard people refer to this resolution more than any other one. It is pointed to as a milestone of sorts in our denominational history.
Some people refer to it with gratitude, talking about what it was like to be there. Some note that it was a turning point and opened the door for us to have a future that was different from our past. Some bring it up to ask if we are honoring its stated goals with our actions.
Others refer to it as a reason that subsequent resolutions on racism have been or are currently unnecessary. The argument has gone something like, “We’ve already spoken to this, we don’t need to keep saying it but should just refer to that statement instead.”
In a general sense, this isn’t always a wrong perspective about resolutions. Often it's determined that if an issue has been addressed, another resolution isn’t needed. That opinion doesn’t necessarily imply improper motives, and hearts can't be judged from procedural arguments.
However, it is important to note that the majority of messengers through the following years did believe other related resolutions to be appropriate, and in fact they passed several. sbc.net/resolutions/ab…
Regardless of how they talked about it, I've never heard a Southern Baptist say they disagree with the resolution. Whether pointing to it with pride or arguing that it sufficiently addressed the topic, everyone I've talked to has said they believe it was the right thing to do.
This is key, because we recognize that resolutions are statements by a particular group of messengers meeting in a particular city on a particular date. They are current expressions of opinion or concern, and they cannot communicate for future messengers.
But for a statement to be referred to over the last quarter century like this one has, repeatedly and with affirmation, one might infer that the messengers of 1995 spoke words that Southern Baptists of today would still vote overwhelmingly (if not unanimously) in favor of.
As such, I think it is helpful for us to reflect not just on the title, and not just on the usual summary statements, but on every word of the resolution. If this is one of our milestones, then it is important to know exactly what it said.
And for those like me, who weren’t Southern Baptist when this was passed, it is even more important for us to know these words, so that we can fully understand our history and be part of the vision that those messengers in 1995 cast for all of us.
So without further adieu, here is what the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Atlanta, Georgia, had to say on June 20, 1995:
WHEREAS, Since its founding in 1845, the Southern Baptist Convention has been an effective instrument of God in missions, evangelism, and social ministry; and
WHEREAS, The Scriptures teach that Eve is the mother of all living (Genesis 3:20), and that God shows no partiality, but in every nation whoever fears him and works righteousness is accepted by him (Acts 10:34-35),
and that God has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on the face of the earth (Acts 17:26); and
WHEREAS, Our relationship to African-Americans has been hindered from the beginning by the role that slavery played in the formation of the Southern Baptist Convention; and
WHEREAS, Many of our Southern Baptist forbears defended the right to own slaves, and either participated in, supported, or acquiesced in the particularly inhumane nature of American slavery; and
WHEREAS, In later years Southern Baptists failed, in many cases, to support, and in some cases opposed, legitimate initiatives to secure the civil rights of African-Americans; and
WHEREAS, Racism has led to discrimination, oppression, injustice, and violence, both in the Civil War and throughout the history of our nation; and
WHEREAS, Racism has divided the body of Christ and Southern Baptists in particular, and separated us from our African-American brothers and sisters; and
WHEREAS, Many of our congregations have intentionally and/or unintentionally excluded African-Americans from worship, membership, and leadership; and
WHEREAS, Racism profoundly distorts our understanding of Christian morality, leading some Southern Baptists to believe that racial prejudice and discrimination are compatible with the Gospel; and
WHEREAS, Jesus performed the ministry of reconciliation to restore sinners to a right relationship with the Heavenly Father, and to establish right relations among all human beings, especially within the family of faith.
Therefore, be it RESOLVED, That we, the messengers to the Sesquicentennial meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, assembled in Atlanta, Georgia, June 20-22, 1995, unwaveringly denounce racism, in all its forms, as deplorable sin; and
Be it further RESOLVED, That we affirm the Bible’s teaching that every human life is sacred, and is of equal and immeasurable worth, made in God’s image, regardless of race or ethnicity (Gen. 1:27),
and that, with respect to salvation through Christ, there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for (we) are all one in Christ Jesus (Gal. 3:28); and
Be it further RESOLVED, That we lament and repudiate historic acts of evil such as slavery from which we continue to reap a bitter harvest, and we recognize that the racism which yet plagues our culture today is inextricably tied to the past; and
Be it further RESOLVED, That we apologize to all African-Americans for condoning and/or perpetuating individual and systemic racism in our lifetime; and we genuinely repent of racism of which we have been guilty, whether consciously (Ps. 19:13) or unconsciously (Lev. 4:27); and
Be it further RESOLVED, That we ask forgiveness from our African-American brothers and sisters, acknowledging that our own healing is at stake; and
Be it further RESOLVED, That we hereby commit ourselves to eradicate racism in all its forms from Southern Baptist life and ministry; and
Be it further RESOLVED, That we commit ourselves to be doers of the Word (Jas. 1:22) by pursuing racial reconciliation in all our relationships, especially with our brothers and sisters in Christ (1 John 2:6),
to the end that our light would so shine before others, that they may see (our) good works and glorify (our) Father in heaven (Mt. 5:16); and
Be it finally RESOLVED, That we pledge our commitment to the Great Commission task of making disciples of all people (Mt. 28:19), confessing that in the church God is calling together one people from every tribe and nation (Rev. 5:9),
and proclaiming that the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is the only certain and sufficient ground upon which redeemed persons will stand together in restored family union as joint-heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:17).