Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette: Let Confederate flag go, gathered Baptists urge

Members of the Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution Tuesday to discourage churches from flying the Confederate flag, after a panel discussion and a speech from the president addressing race relations.

More than 7,000 attendees, known as messengers, are gathered in St. Louis for the denomination’s annual meeting, which concludes today.

The resolution originally asked churches to “consider prayerfully whether to limit, or even more so, discontinue” displaying the flag, but an amendment from an attendee offered a firmer stance.

The final resolution calls on church members “to discontinue to the display of the Confederate battle flag.”

This resolution sparked some contention but eventually passed.

Jason Lupo, a pastor at Lamar Baptist Church in Louisiana, spoke in favor of removing the resolution from the docket because he said it’s a political issue, not a “kingdom issue.”

But the resolutions committee affirmed its support of the resolution.

“We are talking about one particular symbol that is used by some and is perceived by many as a symbol of racism and that causes great harm,” said Stephen Rummage, chairman of the resolutions committee.

Resolutions are not binding on individual Southern Baptists or churches, which are considered to be autonomous. But they are a way for Southern Baptists to express the mind of the denomination and to take a stand on issues they consider important.

President Ronnie Floyd, senior pastor of Cross Church in Northwest Arkansas, said in his presidential address Tuesday that bigotry is a national problem, as shown by riots in Ferguson, Mo., the killing of nine at a church in Charleston, S.C., a year ago, and this week’s massacre in Orlando, Fla.

He said that events like these that are based on bias can be prevented through the church.

“I believe the issue of racism is from Satan and his demonic forces of hell,” Floyd said.

Floyd appealed to listeners for more church and convention unity to address racial discrimination.

“We are not black churches, white churches, Hispanic churches or Asian churches,” he said. “We are the church of Jesus Christ.”

Floyd also said more political discussion on racial discrimination is needed if the problem within the country is to be corrected.

“The silence of both parties has been deafening,” he said. “This cannot be.”

Members of the panel on racial unity, which included Fred Luter, the first black Southern Baptist Convention president, said that racial tension is an matter of sin.

“We don’t have a skin problem in America; we have a sin problem in America, and it starts with the churches,” Luter said.

Luter was convention president in 2012 and was re-elected in 2013.

David Um, a pastor at Antioch Baptist Church in Boston and a Massachusetts Institute of Technology chaplain, reiterated these statements and said that the students he teaches are blind to their personal bias.

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