A Pathway reader recently sent me an email threatening to leave the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) because it promotes amnesty for illegal immigrants. I do not want anyone to leave the SBC and it does not support amnesty for illegal immigrants. However, given the action of the Resolutions Committee, a narrow, but shocking vote by the majority of messengers at the SBC’s annual meeting in Phoenix June 14-15 and the liberal media’s reporting of the action, I can understand the reader’s concern. When an SBC committee recommends an action putting Southern Baptists at odds with Scripture – and a narrow majority of messengers affirm it, it ought to raise concern.
I want to emphasize that the annual meeting was a wonderful time of fellowship. While differences of opinion always exist when we get 4,800 Southern Baptists in the same room, a sweet spirit permeated the Phoenix meetings. SBC leadership and all the committees are to be commended for their work. As for the Resolutions Committee, they are loved brothers and sisters in Christ who did a service for SBC messengers in bringing resolutions to the floor – with one exception: the immigration resolution. As a result, confusion and controversy needlessly surfaced.
I agree with parts of the resolution. For example, it reminds us to share the Gospel with illegal immigrants. It also urges the government to be fair and compassionate in dealing with them. These views are biblical.
Other aspects of the resolution were not. Nearly half of the messengers objected to the original resolution because it seemed to call for amnesty for illegal immigrants. Of course amnesty is not the “law of the land.” The United States has an immigration law that protects U.S. sovereignty and provides a path for citizenship that is equally applied to all immigrants. (See the story on page 17.) After a lively floor debate a surprising 51 percent of the messengers rejected an amendment that would have removed the controversial paragraph calling for a process for illegal immigrants to gain legal status. To me and about 49 percent of the messengers, that meant amnesty, putting the SBC at odds with the clear biblical teaching that we are to obey the government and its laws. I was stunned and many others were, too.
The vote sent blogs and the media into a tizzy. Has the SBC moved to the political “left?” The news media thinks so. A commentator on Fox News Channel’s Special Report program more than once declared that “Southern Baptists now support amnesty of illegal immigrants.” That word spread like wildfire across the Internet. In media circles, for the SBC, this is known as a public relations disaster.
Were messengers confused? Were they apathetic, rubber-stampers willing to let the committee do whatever it wanted to do? Interestingly, the resolution did not come from a messenger, but from the Resolutions Committee. This may surprise some Southern Baptists who think the Resolutions Committee exists solely to facilitate resolutions submitted by messengers. It made it seem to some, perhaps incorrectly, that the Resolution Committee had its own agenda. Maybe a review of how the Resolutions Committee is supposed to operate is in order. The SBC is a bottom-up denomination, not a top-down.
To the committee’s credit, it amended the resolution, adding that the resolution “was not to be construed as support for amnesty for any undocumented immigrant.” That satisfied about 75 percent of the messengers who approved the amendment.
Unfortunately, I, like the reader, remain uncomfortable with the amended resolution. It still calls for a “path to citizenship.” I repeat, the United States has a law that provides for a path to citizenship. So what needs to be created? The resolution also seems to promote behavior contrary to existing United States law.
Another troublesome aspect of this resolution is the use of the term “undocumented” immigrant. “Undocumented” is blatant leftist language. How far “left?” The liberal Associated Press, in its style book used by its editors and reporters, says the term “undocumented” is inaccurate and that the only proper description is “illegal.” “Undocumented” is also the language of choice used by the pro-amnesty movement. It looks as if we are trying to be politically correct instead of telling the truth.
Then there is the timing. Why did the Resolutions Committee feel this needed to be done in Phoenix, Ariz.? Anybody who follows the news knows that illegal immigration is an explosive issue in Arizona. The state of Arizona recently passed a law calling for its border to be secured and the rule of law to be upheld. It is being opposed by the Obama administration and it is currently the subject of a lawsuit working its way through the federal court system. So Southern Baptists were guests of Arizona and basically told them they were wrong. Was this really necessary? Some guests we turned out to be.
The Resolution Committee members are good people and had good intentions. We all make mistakes and should extend grace. But like ideas, mistakes have consequences and this one seems to have its share.
DON HINKLE / EDITOR