The Southern Baptist Convention's President Ronnie Floyd has called for the denomination's leaders to seize a "Bonhoeffer moment" by refusing to be silenced in the face of evil.
In his president's address to the annual meeting yesterday, Floyd drew on the example of the German theologian who stood up to the Nazi regime and was executed for his part in the July Plot to assassinate Hitler.
According to the SBC's Baptist Press, he told the 7,000-strong annual meeting: "The lostness has never been greater in our dangerous and hopeless world. Everyone, and I mean everyone, needs to rise up and lead."
Floyd, pastor of Cross Church in Arkansas, referred to current issues such as Islamic militancy, human trafficking, poverty and religious liberty. He quoted from The Cost of Discipleship, commenting that Bonhoeffer was correct to say: "Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act."
Floyd also used his address to challenge racism and prejudice, saying that "humanity's bearing of God's image is not contingent upon one's skin colour". He condemned abortion, describing it as "a glaring desecration of the unborn child's purpose and value".
He referred to the US Supreme Court's ruling on same-sex marriage, which is expected at the end of this month, saying that it could "alter our nation's belief and practice on traditional and biblical marriage, but also our historic commitment to religious liberty for all people". He called it a watershed moment, potentially fueling "the already sweeping wildfire of the sexual revolution".
Floyd called on churches to be faithful to God's revealed word, asking: "When other denominations and leaders are beginning to relax their message to be more politically correct, will we rise up in faithfulness to believe and stand on His Word and for Jesus' name?" He continued: "There is not one government, one Supreme Court, one court case, one editorial, one commentator, one liberal, one conservative, one world leader, one politician, one radical group, one demon or one of anything that can shut the doors Jesus Himself has opened for us."
Challenge to evangelism
In the light of recent figures indicating a decline in Southern Baptist numbers, Floyd also called for a renewed focus on evangelism. "Most of our churches may have the doctrine right, but we are in an intensive care unit on a spiritual respirator regarding the lack of evangelism," he declared. "We may have a reputation for being alive, but we are dead if our evangelism is dead."
He concluded: "I appeal to you, that if anything in our churches, Southern Baptist Convention entities, state conventions and associations is not accelerating the Great Commission locally, nationally and internationally, we need to rid ourselves of it now. The urgency is upon us."
At its annual meeting the SBC also passed a resolution opposing gay marriage, reaffirming a long-standing position of the denomination.
"The Southern Baptist Convention calls on Southern Baptists and all Christians of like-mindedness to stand firm on the Bible's witness on the private purpose of marriage, which is to unite man and woman as one flesh; and the public purpose of marriage, which is to secure the basis for the flourishing of human civilization," the resolution said.
It added that "Southern Baptists love our neighbors and extend respect in Christ's name to all people, including those who may disagree with us about the definition of marriage and the public good."
It also said that "Southern Baptists recognize that no governing institution has the authority to countermand God's definition of marriage" and that "no matter how the Supreme Court rules, the Southern Baptist Convention reaffirms its unwavering commitment to its doctrinal and public beliefs concerning marriage".
The SBC's Executive Committee had earlier voted to expel from membership Weatherly Heights Baptist Church in Huntsville, Alabama, under a bylaw barring from membership churches "which act to affirm, approve, or endorse homosexual behavior". According to Baptist Press, the Executive Committee decided to act because there was no time allotted for discussing the matter on the schedule during the annual meeting.
It is the second year in a row that a church has been expelled on these grounds; last year New Heart Community Church in California was ousted.