Pushing back against a cultural tide of
growing acceptance of transgender people, Southern Baptists adopted a statement
affirming the creation of “two distinct and complementary sexes.”
The resolution was passed overwhelmingly on June
10 as some 5,000 people attended the annual meeting of the nation’s largest
Protestant denomination and elected as president the Rev. Ronnie Floyd, pastor
of a northwest Arkansas megachurch.
The delegates, known as “messengers,” affirmed
“God’s good design that gender identity is determined by biological sex and not
by one’s self-perception.”
They added that they had compassion for people
with gender conflicts, called them “image-bearers of Almighty God” and
condemned “acts of abuse or bullying committed against them.”
But they went on the record to oppose gender
assignment surgery and cross-sex hormone therapies. They expressed their hope
that transgender people would “experience renewal” through a faith in Jesus.
Ross Murray, who runs the religion program at the
LGBT advocacy organization GLAAD, criticized the statement for being
“They want to both welcome people in and yet do
not want to recognize them as a full person and probably even more fully as a
child of God,” he said. “The Southern Baptist Convention is so much missing out
on the opportunity to connect with another part of God’s creation.”
In another cultural pushback, Baptists affirmed
“the sufficiency of Scripture regarding the afterlife” and criticized
best-selling movies and books that have focused on heaven and suggested
descriptions of it.
“Many of these books and movies have sought to
describe heaven from a subjective, experiential source, mainly via personal
testimonies that cannot be corroborated,” they said.
In the same session where the resolution was
passed, a messenger asked that “Heaven Is for Real” be removed “for theological
reasons” from LifeWay Christian Stores, which are affiliated with the SBC.
The Baptists, whose denomination was founded by
supporters of slave-owning missionaries, passed another statement marking the
50th anniversary of enactment of the Civil Rights Act.
It said they “lament and repudiate this nation’s
long history of racial segregation as well as the complicity of Southern
Baptists who resisted or opposed the dismantling of the evil of racial
hierarchy in our churches or society.”
Yet another resolution affirmed their opposition
to government sponsorship of casinos and lotteries and asked Americans of all
religious and political convictions to join in a call to end the practice,
which they say has amounted to “corrupt deals” and “broken dreams.”
They also rejected predatory payday lending,
calling those who are engaged in it to “consider the great damage they are
causing in the lives of vulnerable people and to adopt a just lending model.”
The Baptists suggested churches and employers
should provide other ways to solve short-term financial problems in their
communities, including financial stewardship classes.