ST. LOUIS — Calling on people to stop displaying the Confederate battle flag, the Southern Baptist Convention on Tuesday offered some of the strongest criticism yet of the banner by a major conservative religious group.
The group overwhelmingly approved a resolution at its annual conference acknowledging that the flag is perceived by many as a symbol of “hatred, bigotry and racism,” and urging people to take it down.
“We call on our brothers and sisters in Christ to discontinue the display of the Confederate battle flag as a sign of solidarity of the whole body of Christ, including our African-American brothers and sisters,” the resolution said.
Critics of the embattled banner took that as a huge victory.
“I am almost to the point of tears,” said the sponsor of the resolution, the Rev. Dwight McKissic, senior pastor of the SBC-affiliated Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas. The African-American pastor added, “I’m so happy that God has touched the hearts of those people, to realize that the kingdom of God is more important than that flag.”
The SBC resolution is not binding on its 15 million members. But the vote by the 7,200 members here represented a significant step for a group struggling to reach minorities and escape its roots in the racism of the Civil War South.
Moreover, the statement could reverberate far beyond this convention. The SBC is America’s largest Protestant denomination, and other conservative religious groups take their lead from them, said Derrick Lemons, a University of Georgia assistant professor of religion.
“This makes a huge statement on the use of the Confederate flag,” Lemons said. “(It’s) a huge confirmation of the Southern Baptist Convention to move away from the display of the Confederate flag.”
Read more at Southern Baptists: Take down the Confederate flag.