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Putting God’s Kingdom first
June 30, 2003
By Michael Foust

Baptists pledge to build 'Kingdom families' at 2003 annual meeting

A pledge to build “Kingdom families” founded upon biblical principles and mandates highlighted the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting June 17-18 in Phoenix.

The denomination held its first-ever “Kingdom Family Rally” June 16, a day before the convention officially began and the last day of the Pastors’ Conference. Messengers at the rally signed covenant cards pledging to follow “Seven Pillars of a Kingdom Family,” such as “Honoring God’s Authority,” “Respecting Human Life” and “Serving My Church.” The succeeding days saw Southern Baptists stand firm on other issues that affect the family.

An eight-member task force on ministry to homosexuals released its report, encouraging Southern Baptist churches to reach out to homosexuals while standing firm on the truth that homosexuality is a sin. Also, messengers adopted a pro-life resolution renouncing pro-choice statements by previous convention bodies and leaders, particularly those of the 1970s.

President Bush addressed the convention by a pre-taped message, the second straight year he has addressed messengers in some form. A handful of evangelicals, including Charles Colson, Jim Cymbala and John MacArthur, also delivered taped messages, thanking the SBC for its pro-family and biblical stances.

In business matters, messengers overwhelmingly defeated an effort to amend the SBC operating budget to restore a $125,000 reduction (out of $425,000) in funding for the Baptist World Alliance.

But the Kingdom Family Rally set the convention tone.

Dennis Rainey, executive director of Family Life Today, addressed the rally, telling messengers that the battle to protect tradition family values “is the most important battle Southern Baptists have waged since you struggled over the inerrancy of Scripture.” Rainey added that “[y]ou have won the battle for the Bible. If we lose the family, we will lose the church.”

Focus on the Family founder James Dobson and his wife, Shirley, addressed messengers via videotape. “We simply can’t let the institution of family be destroyed by the postmodernism that swirls around us,” James Dobson said.

Several thousand families pledged in writing to build their families upon the Seven Pillars: “Honoring God’s Authority, Respecting Human Life, Exercising Moral Purity, Serving My Church, Using Time Wisely, Practicing Biblical Stewardship and Sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

SBC President Jack Graham, who was re-elected without opposition by a single ballot cast by the convention, called the breakdown of the family the “greatest social issue of our time.”

The pillars were developed by the SBC Council of Family Life, which announced that “Kingdom Family Conferences” will be held in various locations this fall. The first one will take place in Oklahoma City Aug. 11-12, followed by conferences in Wheat Ridge, Colo., Sept. 4-5; Brandon, Fla., Oct. 2-3, and Highland, Calif., Nov. 6-7.

The task force on ministry to homosexuals was formed by LifeWay Christian Resources and the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission following the 2001 SBC meeting. Speaking in Phoenix, task force members said Southern Baptists can share the Gospel with homosexuals and reach out to them in other ways while not compromising the biblical truth that homosexuality is a sin.

Task force member Richard Land, president of the ERLC, told how years ago he reached out to homosexuals when he was pastor of a church in the New Orleans French Quarter. Saying it is “one of the loneliest” and “saddest” lifestyles he has observed, Land said there is “no crueler joke” than to call a homosexual “gay.” There were members of his church who had come out of the lifestyle, Land said.

Singling out groups that say homosexuals cannot be saved, LifeWay President James T. Draper Jr. said such groups do not share the “spirit” or the “attitude” of the SBC. He said he finds the teachings of such groups “nauseating.”

Task force members said the Gospel must be proclaimed to all people, including homosexuals. Land said Southern Baptists must “practice lifestyle-blind evangelism” because “everyone needs the Gospel.”

In other noteworthy matters:

* Registration totals reached 7,077, with messengers representing all 50 states.

* Messengers passed eight resolutions, including ones renouncing all anti-Semitism, opposing same-sex “marriage,” supporting global AIDS humanitarian efforts, endorsing Operation Iraqi Freedom and reaffirming the biblical model of marriage. The resolution on abortion re-affirmed the denomination’s pro-life stance and renounced pro-choice resolutions from 1971 and 1974.

* Graham, pastor of Dallas-area Prestonwood Baptist Church, was re-elected president for another one-year term. Ron Zinn of Immanuel Baptist Church in Highland, Calif., was elected first vice president, while William Wagner, professor of evangelism and missions at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, was elected second vice president. John Yeats, editor of the Oklahoma Baptist Messenger, was re-elected recording secretary, while Jim Wells, director of missions to the Tri-County Baptist Association (Mo.), was re-elected registration secretary.

* Crossover Arizona, an outreach to local residents, reported that 989 decisions for Christ had been made through June 18.

* Chapman urged Southern Baptists to support the Cooperative Program, saying that “we need to be reminded of how valuable” it is and how it enables the denomination to reach “many more people for Christ together” than all the churches could do separately.

* International Mission Board President Jerry Rankin reported that missionaries baptized more than 421,000 new believers and planted more than 8,300 churches in 2002. (BP)

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