BALTIMORE 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 Tuesday as 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 inconsistent. “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 other action:
• 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.
• The Baptists, whose denomination was founded by supporters of slave-owning missionaries, passed another statement marking the 50th anniversary 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.”
• A resolution affirmed their opposition to government sponsorship of casinos and lotteries and asked Americans to join in a call to end the practice, which they say has amounted to “corrupt deals” and “broken dreams.”
• They 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.
• They prayed Wednesday that the Supreme Court would rule in favor of the Green family, the evangelical owners of the Hobby Lobby craft chain that challenged the contraception mandate in the Affordable Care Act.
“God, we ask for a favorable, favorable ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States for the cause of religious liberty,” prayed the Rev. Ronnie Floyd, incoming president of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Steve and Jackie Green, who attend a Southern Baptist church in Oklahoma, were honored during the annual meeting and given a standing ovation. They have been heralded by conservative Christians for challenging the mandate that they believe would require them to cover abortion-inducing drugs as part of their employee insurance plans.
• The SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission honored Saeed Abedini, an Iranian-American pastor who has been imprisoned in Tehran for his house church work. His award was accepted by his wife, Naghmeh Abedini, who has worked for his release.
• As the meeting concluded Wednesday, representatives of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests passed out fliers outside urging the denomination to take stronger steps to safeguard children from abuse and prevent cover-ups of clergy sexual offenders.
Roger “Sing” Oldham, spokesman for the SBC’s Executive Committee, said Southern Baptists are regularly reminded they are responsible for reporting child abuse accusations. “The Southern Baptist Convention remains clear and unambiguous in its condemnation of sex abuse of any kind and views molestation of innocent children as particularly heinous,” he said.
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