Messengers stop just short of Wal-Mart boycott
CAPE GIRARDEAU – Messengers overwhelming gave nine resolutions their stamp of approval Nov.1 at the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) annual meeting. The only point of contention came when messengers debated just how strongly worded a resolution expressing disappointment with Wal-Mart over its recent pro-homosexual activities should be.
Last month, Wal-Mart joined the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) according to the American Family Association (AFA). Wal-Mart gave the NGLCC $25,000 and has agreed to pay for two conferences scheduled by NGLCC. The AFA has also reported that Wal-Mart will soon offer “domestic-partnership benefits” to homosexual employee “partners.”
Debate went back and forth over whether to not to add an amendment that would call for a boycott of the world’s largest retailer. Rodney Albert, pastor of Hallsville Baptist Church and chairman of the MBC’s Christian Life Commission, said Missouri Baptists spoke against an immediate boycott, calling it “premature.”
“It pains me to speak against the amendment,” he said. “We would be going out there on our own and I’m not sure we’re able to carry the weight of that without other national organizations calling for a boycott. I’m not sure that all of us are ready to make the sacrifices to be true to a full-fledged economic boycott of Wal-Mart. We think the strong voice of Missouri Baptists speaking through this resolution gives us an opportunity to be very serious with Wal-Mart and gives our convention officials an opportunity to begin a dialogue with them and be very proactive.”
Those arguing in favor of the amendment said “dollars” was the only language Wal-Mart understands. Others speaking against a potential boycott argued that Wal-Mart is an important source of goods for churches. The amendment failed with only 30 to 40 percent voting in favor of the boycott.
Resolution 1, “On the sufficiency of Scripture in a Therapeutic Culture,” affirmed “Christian counseling that relies upon the Word of God rather than man-centered theories that are rooted in a defective understanding of human nature.” The resolution went on to allow that while there are legitimate conditions that merit medical treatment, “we reject the assumptions of the therapeutic culture that offers only a pharmacological solution for every problem.”
The second resolution passed by messengers dealt with opposition to Amendment 2, which passed Nov. 7 by a 51-49 percent margin. The amendment constitutionally protects cloning and embryonic stem cell research in Missouri.
Missouri Baptists had been fighting Amendment 2 for more than a year and the resolution language was familiar. The resolution encouraged prayer and fasting before the election, saying the initiative was “deceptive, pretending to ban human cloning when it really protects it… authorizes public funds for embryonic stem cell research… and allows payment to women for egg harvesting, making economically stressed women especially vulnerable to exploitation and health risks.”
Resolution 3 also passed with no discussion. It dealt with “recovering a biblical maintenance of church membership.” The MBC 2005 Annual Church Profile shows a total of 592,902 church members, although average worship attendance (including guests and children) totals only 187,654. The resolution calls on churches to evaluate their methods of maintaining church membership rolls, saying “continual reporting of inflated membership numbers creates a distorted picture of ministry, can breed integrity problems, and perpetuates a misunderstanding of the nature and significance of membership in the local church.”
Resolution 4 – the Wal-Mart resolution – passed easily and un-amended, although an amendment to include boycott language was proposed. The final language states that Missouri Baptists should “inform Wal-Mart of our biblical beliefs on marriage and our support of the constitutional ban on homosexual marriage, and our encouragement that Wal-Mart reconsider their policy which offends so many customers.” The resolution goes on: “We encourage the 2,100 Missouri Baptist churches and their members to exercise moral stewardship regarding the businesses they patronize.”
Fifth on the list was a resolution “In Support of Pregnancy Resource Centers.” It commended pregnancy resources centers as providing a biblical alternative to abortion and encouraged Missouri Baptist churches to partner with a local resource center to aid in their ministry.
Resolutions 6, 7, 8 and 9 were approved as a whole without discussion as time dwindled during the business session.
Resolution 6 focused on “Covenant Marriage” while Resolution 7 was “On Support and Appreciation for Bivocational Pastors.” Statistics show nearly 65 percent of Missouri Baptist pastors are bivocational. The resolution says “these ministers steadfastly fulfill their God-given calling to the Lord’s church in addition to the duties of non-church employment and family activities.”
The eighth resolution, “On Support of Old Bethel Baptist Church,” referred to the first non-Catholic permanent house of worship west of the Mississippi River, Old Bethel Baptist Church. The 200th anniversary of Old Bethel and its reconstruction was woven throughout the annual meeting.
Resolution 9 thanked Cape Girardeau for hosting the annual meeting.