NEW ORLEANS — Messengers of the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in America, went on record Wednesday to oppose any attempt by gay rights activists to frame same-sex marriage as a civil rights issue.
On the last day of their annual meeting, Southern Baptist messengers overwhelmingly adopted a resolution that denounces "the effort to legalize 'same-sex marriage' as a civil rights issue since homosexuality does not qualify as a class meriting special protections, like race and gender."
The resolution, titled "'Same-Sex Marriage' and Civil Rights Rhetoric," was a direct response to President Obama's personal affirmation of gay marriage and recent federal lawsuits against the Defense of Marriage Act, according to the Resolutions Committee spokesperson.
"This was a specific statement regarding the use of rhetoric that we find to be a misappropriation, certainly with people who read a lot of history that talks about the godly Christian influences of the Civil Rights Movement," Kevin Smith, pastor of Watson Memorial Baptist Church, Louisville, Ky., and assistant professor of Christian preaching at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, told reporters Wednesday.
In May, the president had announced during an ABC News interview that he finally decided to support marriage for gay and lesbian couples after years of pondering over the issue.
The Department of Justice has also argued in Perry v. Schwarzenegger that the Defense of Marriage Act – which defines marriage as between a man and a woman and protects states from being forced to recognize gay marriage sanctioned in other states – is unconstitutional.
Dr. Richard Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, which advocates for Southern Baptist values on Capitol Hill, said Wednesday that the nation is heading toward the culmination of the debate on same-sex marriage. He pointed out that 32 states have voted to affirm marriage as between a man and a woman, and he predicted that same-sex marriage will also fail in Maryland, Minnesota, Maine and Washington.
"The score is 32 for traditional marriage and zero for same-sex marriage," he said.
Land, who is also the executive editor of The Christian Post, argued that the opinion of the American public will make the Supreme Court, even the liberal justices, think twice on the gay marriage issue.
"If they are convinced that a majority of Americans are opposed against same-sex marriage, I think they are going to be very reticent about trying to repeat the mistake the court made with Roe and cram this down the throats of the American people," said Land.
"I think it is important the largest Protestant denomination in the United States made it clear where they stand on this issue and made it clear that they are offended by the attempt to use civil rights rhetoric to argue for same-sex marriage."
Despite their opposition to same-sex marriage as a civil rights issue, Southern Baptists wanted to express their love to those engaging in the homosexual lifestyle. The eight-paragraph resolution called on those affiliated with the denomination to stand against "gay-bashing" and to "engage in compassionate, redemptive ministry" for homosexuals.
The following is the full text of the resolution on same-sex marriage as a civil rights issue:
ON "SAME-SEX MARRIAGE" AND CIVIL RIGHTS RHETORIC
WHEREAS, Marriage is a covenant relationship and an institution established by God rather than simply a human social construct (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:4–6; Ephesians 5:22–33); and
WHEREAS, Southern Baptists have consistently affirmed our support of the biblical definition of marriage as the exclusive union of one man and one woman; and
WHEREAS, The Scriptures indicate that all sexual behavior outside of marriage is sinful; and
WHEREAS, All people, regardless of race or sexual orientation, are created in the image of God and thus are due respect and love (Genesis 1:26–27); and
WHEREAS, The Department of Justice has argued (Perry v. Schwarzenegger) that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional claiming that DOMA unfairly discriminates against homosexuals; and
WHEREAS, For the first time in history the President of the United States has publicly voiced his personal support of "same-sex marriage"; and
WHEREAS, While homosexuality does not present the distinguishing features of classes entitled to special protections, like the classes of race and gender, we acknowledge the unique struggles experienced by homosexuals in some parts of society; and
RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana, June 19–20, 2012, oppose any attempt to frame "same-sex marriage" as a civil rights issue; and be it further
RESOLVED, That we deny that the effort to legalize "same-sex marriage" qualifies as a civil rights issue since homosexuality does not qualify as a class meriting special protections, like race and gender; and be it further
RESOLVED, That we encourage Southern Baptists everywhere to fight for the civil rights of all people where such rights are consistent with the righteousness of God; and be it further
RESOLVED, That we express our love to those who struggle with same-sex attraction and who are engaged in the homosexual lifestyle; and be it further
RESOLVED, That we stand against any form of gay-bashing, whether disrespectful attitudes, hateful rhetoric, or hate-incited actions toward persons who engage in acts of homosexuality; and be it further
RESOLVED, That we affirm that pastors should preach the truth of God's word on human sexuality, marriage, purity, and love with all boldness and without fear of reprisal; 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 for the forgiveness of sin.
In addition to the gay marriage resolution, messengers of the SBC also approved eight other resolutions:
– Resolution on "Appreciation," which expresses appreciation to God and all those who helped with this year's annual meeting.
– Resolution "200 Years of Baptist Ministry in Louisiana," which celebrates the 200th anniversary this year of the first Baptist churches in Louisiana.
– Resolution on the "Sinner's Prayer," which affirms that "repentance and faith involve a crying out for mercy and a calling on the Lord" and the "Sinner's prayer "as a biblical expression of repentance and faith." However, the resolution notes that the prayer is "not an incantation that results in salvation merely by its recitation."
– Resolution on the "Cooperation and The Doctrine of Salvation," which affirms The Baptist Faith and Message as sufficient for understanding the doctrine of salvation. The resolution was approved in the wake of resurging debate between Calvinists and non-Calvinists in the Convention.
– Resolution on "Protecting Religious Liberty," which denounces the HHS mandate in Obama's healthcare plan and calls on the Obama Administration to protect the religious freedom of military chaplains to express their views on homosexuality.
– Resolution on "Biblical Scholarship and The Doctrine of Inerrancy," which affirms the "direct creation and historicity of Adam and Eve" and a "literal, space-time fall of mankind into sin."
– Resolution on "Affirming Human Needs Ministry and Community Involvement by Local Churches," which encourages local churches to engage in needs of community.
– Resolution on "African American Contributions to American Baptist History," which acknowledges the role of African Americans in Baptist work in the United States, including that of Fred Luter Jr., the first African-American president of the Southern Baptist Convention.