by David Closson
June 25, 2021
This is part two of a three-part series highlighting significant resolutions passed by the Southern Baptist Convention this year that apply a biblical worldview to critical cultural and political issues. Read part one.
Last week, America’s largest Protestant denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), held its Annual Meeting for the purpose of hearing updates from its entities, electing new leaders, and passing resolutions.
Dozens of resolutions are submitted at every annual SBC meeting. Only a handful are accepted by the Resolution Committee and brought to a vote. If a resolution passes, that means the SBC is collectively agreeing to publicly affirm the statement contained in the resolution. Resolutions are traditionally in response to various cultural developments, social ideologies, or legislation under consideration by the United States Congress. One of the prominent resolutions passed during the 2021 convention was to oppose the Equality Act, a piece of legislation passed by the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this year.
If passed into law, the Equality Act would undermine religious liberty by gutting the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and elevating the contested categories of sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes under federal law. Given the Biden administration’s aggressive support for the legislation, Southern Baptists believed it was necessary to go on record in opposition to one of the most dangerous pieces of legislation proposed in Congress.
You can read all of the resolutions passed by the SBC here. Read the resolution on the Equality Act, reprinted here:
WHEREAS, All persons are created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27), are made to glorify Him (Isaiah 43:7), and, based upon these truths, possess inherent dignity; and
WHEREAS, God’s design was the creation of two distinct sexes, male and female (Genesis 1:27; Matthew 19:4), which designate the fundamental distinction that God has embedded in the very biology of the human race; and
WHEREAS, The Bible gives us clear instruction and boundaries with regard to what constitutes God-honoring expression of human sexuality (Genesis 2:24; Hebrews 13:4; 1 Corinthians 6:9; Romans 1:26-27); and
WHEREAS, Southern Baptists resolved in 2014 “On Transgender Identity” that, “The Fall of man into sin and God’s subsequent curse have introduced brokenness and futility into God’s good creation,” and therefore, as a result some are tempted to question God’s gift of sexuality; and
WHEREAS, The Equality Act seeks to revise the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by adding a prohibition of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity; and
WHEREAS, The First Amendment of the Constitution prohibits the Congress from making any law prohibiting the free exercise of religion; and
WHEREAS, Congressman Chuck Schumer and Senator Ted Kennedy wrote that “governments should not substantially burden religious exercise without compelling justification” in the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA), which President Bill Clinton signed into law after the act passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in the Congress; and
WHEREAS, If enacted, the Equality Act would explicitly exclude RFRA claims in relation to the Equality Act and would explicitly permit the government to place substantial burdens upon religious exercise without having to demonstrate any compelling justification in order to do so; and
WHEREAS, This change in the status of the right to free exercise enjoyed by all Americans, if it were to take place, would bring sweeping and historic changes to religious liberty with devastating effects to this foundational freedom; and
WHEREAS, Faith-based charities whose core religious beliefs about human dignity, sexuality, gender, and marriage shape their ministry policies would be forced under the Equality Act to choose between freely exercising those core religious beliefs or abandoning their ministries; and
WHEREAS, This sort of governmental punishment against faith- based charities for serving the common good according to their cherished beliefs would be unprecedented; and,
WHEREAS, The Equality Act would coerce healthcare providers to participate in and provide abortions, hormone therapies, and other procedures which may violate their deeply held religious beliefs; and
WHEREAS, The Equality Act would undermine the bipartisan, nearly half-century old Hyde Amendment, which protects federal taxpayer dollars from funding abortion; and
WHEREAS, The Equality Act would undermine decades of hard- fought civil rights protections for women and girls by threatening competition in sports and disregarding the privacy concerns women rightly have about sharing sleeping quarters and intimate facilities with members of the opposite sex; and
WHEREAS, By departing from our foundations of civic tolerance this divisive legislation would undermine the ability of Americans who disagree to work together for the common good; now, therefore, be it
RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Nashville, Tennessee, June 15—16, 2021, extend love and compassion to those who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender and invite all members of this community to trust in Christ and to experience renewal in the gospel; and be it further
RESOLVED, That we proclaim that Christ offers forgiveness of sin for those who turn from their sins and believe on Christ; and be it further
RESOLVED, That we believe effective Gospel ministry to individuals who consider themselves part of the LGBTQ community requires that we speak to them and about them with respect and Christlike love, while holding firmly to our biblical convictions on these issues; and be it further
RESOLVED, That we, therefore, encourage our fellow Southern Baptists to engage discussion of the Equality Act and related issues with this in mind; and be it further
RESOLVED, That we strongly oppose the Equality Act and urge Congress to reject this dangerous legislation, which represents one of the greatest threats to religious liberty in our nation’s history; and be it finally
RESOLVED, That we affirm the role of churches in providing compassionate care, biblical truth, and restorative hope to men, women, and children, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, while joyfully celebrating God’s good design in sexuality as clearly expressed in Scripture.
With this resolution, the Southern Baptist Convention is taking a stand for a biblical understanding of human sexuality, much like they did in the 2014 Nashville Statement. The Equality Act is pro-abortion, threatens the opportunities and safety of women and girls across our nation (especially in sports), and is a direct threat to American religious freedom. Because of these implications, Southern Baptists rightly identified the legislation as “one of the greatest threats to religious liberty in our nation’s history.”
Finally, the resolution makes it clear that Southern Baptist churches desire to love their neighbors who identify as LGBTQ and see them place their trust in Christ. The resolution also affirms the necessity of having gospel-centered conversations about LGBTQ issues in our homes and churches.
In conversations about contentious issues, our approach as Christians ought to be guided by Ephesians 4:15 where Paul encourages us to “speak the truth in love.” In their resolution on the Equality Act, Southern Baptists strike the right balance by telling the truth about a dangerous piece of legislation while encouraging Christlike love to those in the LGBT community.