By J. Gerald Harris and Sharayah Colter
June 22, 2021
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Since 2019, “Resolution 9,” has become a household phrase among both conservative and moderate Southern Baptists, the former of whom have spent two years rallying support to address Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality (CRT/I) in a more biblical way in 2021, and the latter of whom have countered that Critical Race Theory does not pose a significant threat, is not taught in SBC seminaries, and is merely a distraction.
At the 2021 Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), the Committee on Resolutions, led by Chairman James Merritt, presented to Southern Baptists a new phrase now appearing in headlines across the nation: “Resolution 2,” and in so doing, suppressed any attempt to reject CRT/I.
Efforts to rescind Resolution 9 were ruled out of order because SBC governing documents do not permit a group of gathered messengers in one year to “undo” an opinion expressed by messengers in any other year, a Convention attorney explained during the Annual Meeting. Adopting a new resolution remains the chief option available to messengers who wish to express a different position than that of messengers from any previous year.
Adopting a clearer resolution is what a group of conservatives including representatives of Founders Ministry, G3 Ministries, and the Conservative Baptist Network, endeavored to do with a resolution they co-wrote, submitted, and released publicly May 19. More than 1,300 Southern Baptists signed on as co-submitters of the resolution, led by Georgia Pastor Mike Stone, to decry CRT and Intersectionality as incompatible with the Baptist Faith & Message (BFM). The 2021 Committee on Resolutions declined to bring the resolution out of committee for presentation to messengers, instead offering Resolution 2. Conservative Baptists have explained that without context, Resolution 2 says the right things, resolving that Southern Baptists “reject any theory or worldview that denies that racism, oppression, or discrimination is rooted, ultimately, in anything other than sin.” Resolution 2 stopped short, however, of calling Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality by name—something many Southern Baptists found unacceptable and lacking clarity.
Phil Roberts, director for international theological education with Global Ministries Fellowship and a Conservative Baptist Network Steering Council member, posited the question many Southern Baptists have asked in the days since the closing gavel of the 2021 Annual Meeting: Why did the SBC not denounce CRT by name?
“The Resolutions Committee has left me wondering why it is considered not Christian to identify a blatantly Marxist, racist concept like CRT by name especially when it has already been documented in SBC resolutions,” Roberts said.
Joe McGee, Consolation Association’s mission strategist in Baxley, Ga., agreed, pointing to the many other issues Southern Baptists have addressed with specificity throughout the history of the convention.
“We have always taken strong, convictional stands on issues like abortion and same-sex marriage, so why should we suddenly be concerned about offending the world when we resolve to oppose CRT as an analytical tool to help us understand the Bible?” McGee said.
Stone, who was narrowly defeated June 15 in the contest for SBC president, noted that even secular entities have begun speaking against CRT by name with increasing frequency.
“It is a failure on the part of this Convention’s leadership to not expect Southern Baptists to address an issue that secular school boards are addressing—that secular state legislatures are addressing,” Stone said.
Tim Rogers, pastor of At the Cross Fellowship in Monroe, N.C., found the Committee on Resolutions’ decision not to present to messengers the resolution led by Stone as an example of trying to please secular media outlets.
“As the chairman stated in one of his impassioned pleas, ‘We must remember that the world is watching,’” Rogers said. “While that is true, we must be cognizant that God is watching as well. It was very evident the committee did not want to entertain anything associated with the CRT/Intersectionality issue. When a resolution is presented to the committee with 1,300 signatures and that doesn’t make it to the convention for debate, it’s obvious the Resolutions Committee is an independent entity unto itself.”
Robert A. Pearle, pastor of Birchman Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, and Conservative Baptist Network Steering Council member, echoed Rogers’ sentiments regarding the resolution about CRT submitted by a record number of Southern Baptists.
“Southern Baptists came from all over the country to denounce Critical Race Theory as evidenced by a resolution signed by 1,300 messengers sent to the Resolutions Committee,” Pearle said. “The committee, however, denied the resolution, and the chairman angrily denounced messengers when asked why CRT was not even mentioned in their resolution. The committee failed to bring clarity to a watching world.”
Chairman James Merritt, pastor of Cross Pointe Church in Duluth, Ga., led his committee’s report and prefaced his remarks by stating that he was seeking to build unity and accord with the resolutions his committee agreed to present.
“We are here to build bridges and tear down walls, not to tear down bridges and build walls. One stick of dynamite can destroy a bridge, but it takes hard work to build a bridge,” Merritt said from the platform.
The chairman offered additional comments during the Committee on Resolutions’ press conference.
“I understand people’s concern about Critical Race Theory, but I refuse to be divided over that,” Merritt said. “Every problem is rooted in sin; and CRT is not in the Bible. For those who are upset about Resolution 2, I drove this resolution; and I am not going to judge what the 2019 Resolutions Committee did.”
Some Southern Baptists have countered Merritt’s logic, saying that the word “abortion,” is also not listed in the Bible but has served as the subject of many resolutions throughout Convention history. Among other topics fitting such a category of being named by resolutions committees but not listed by name in Scripture are predatory payday lending, the subject of a 2014 resolution, and Alt-right White Supremacy, the subject of a 2017 resolution.
While resolution committees often speak clearly and decisively on spiritual, moral, political, and ethical issues, some messengers left the convention wondering if non-binding resolutions are more problematic than helpful.
Longtime pastor of Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola, Fla., Ted Traylor, made a motion June 15 to consider discontinuing the Committee on Resolutions. The motion was referred to the Executive Committee for consideration with a report expected for the 2022 Annual Meeting.
Among other notable actions taken during the 2021 Annual Meeting was the passage of the strongest anti-abortion resolution in SBC history. After accepting a slight amendment offered from the convention floor, messengers adopted a resolution calling for the abolition of abortion, but only narrowly, with strong opposition from the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) and its supporters.
The resolution, submitted by William Ascol from Owasso, Okla., was not originally presented to messengers by the Committee on Resolutions. In response to a motion from the resolution’s author, Southern Baptists compelled the Committee on Resolutions to present for a vote the measure which encourages the “immediate abolition of abortion without exception or compromise.” The passage of the Resolution signals the most emphatic statement Southern Baptists have ever made collectively against abortion. A representative of the ERLC, Josh Wester, opposed the measure from the convention floor, however, saying that while it was aimed in the “right direction,” it was “the wrong resolution.”
Messengers ultimately disagreed, disregarding the advice of their ERLC and adopting the resolution by raised ballot vote. Passage of the staunchly pro-life resolution came just days before President Joe Biden’s press secretary, Jen Psaki, refused to affirm that a 15-week old unborn baby is a person. The Biden administration, which holds office today thanks in part to the work of Evangelicals for Biden, has positioned itself as the most pro-abortion administration in the nation’s history, proudly dismantling at every opportunity the gains made in the preceding administration, which conservative Christians regarded as the most pro-life in history.
Southern Baptists also adopted a resolution condemning attempts to rescind the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits taxpayer funding of abortion, a resolution noting Southern Baptist opposition to the Equality Act, and several others for a total of 10 adopted resolutions which can all be found at www.sbc.net/resource-library/resolutions.
The full text of the submitted resolution regarding CRT/I which the Committee on Resolutions did not take up, can be read at www.southernbaptistsagainstracism.org.