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Southern Baptists: ‘Discontinue the display of the Confederate battle flag’ …

A Confederate battle flag flies at the grave of L.S. Axson, a soldier in the Confederate States Army in the U.S. Civil War, in Magnolia Cemetery in Charleston, S.C., on June 22, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Brian Snyder

(RNS) The Southern Baptist Convention, born in 1845 in a split over its support for slavery, has passed a resolution calling for Christians to quit using the Confederate flag.

“We call 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,” reads the resolution adopted Tuesday (June 14) at the convention’s annual meeting in St. Louis.

Former Southern Baptist President James Merritt, who said he was the great-great-grandson of two Confederate Army members, helped draft that language, which included striking a paragraph that linked the flag to Southern heritage: “We recognize that the Confederate battle flag serves for some not as a symbol of hatred, bigotry, and racism, but as a memorial to their loved ones who died in the Civil War, and an emblem to honor their loved ones’ valor.”

Outgoing Southern Baptist Convention president James Merritt, center, speaks to reporters about the SBC's new "Empowering Kingdom Growth" task force during a press conference in the Baptist Press newsroom. Merritt, pastor of First Baptist Church, Snellville, Ga., is the task force's co-chair, along with Carlisle Driggers, right, executive director-treasurer of the South Carolina Baptist Convention. With them is Morris H. Chapman, president and chief executive officer of the SBC Executive Committee. The news conference was held in St. Louis' America's Center during the SBC's 145th session. Photo by Kent Harville, courtesy of Baptist Press

Former Southern Baptist Convention President James Merritt, center, speaks to reporters during the SBC’s 145th session in 2002. Photo by Kent Harville, courtesy of Baptist Press

The Baptists considered the resolution almost a year after nine people were gunned down at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., by an alleged killer who posed for photos with the rebel flag. Pastor Dwight McKissic of Arlington, Texas, proposed the original language of the resolution in part to honor those victims.

After the shootings, South Carolina removed the flag from its Capitol and Oklahoma Baptist University recently stopped displaying the Confederate flag in a window of its campus chapel.


RELATED STORY: Southern Baptists invite black Baptist leader to drive home message on race


Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, gives a TED-style talk as a part of the Hispanic Baptist Pastors Alliance meeting in St. Louis. Photo by John Stroup, courtesy of Baptist Press

Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, gives a TED-style talk as a part of the Hispanic Baptist Pastors Alliance meeting in St. Louis. Photo by John Stroup, courtesy of Baptist Press

On Tuesday, Russell Moore, the denomination’s chief ethicist, welcomed the resolution.

“The Southern Baptist Convention made history today and made history in the right way,” said Moore, president of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. “This denomination was founded by people who wrongly defended the sin of human slavery. Today, the nation’s largest Protestant denomination voted to repudiate the Confederate battle flag and it’s time and well past time.”

But the passage of the resolution was a surprise even to some supporters.

“It was the most wonderful surprise, a complete denunciation of the flag because of what it represents and because of the Southern symbol that it is to African-American brothers and sisters in Christ,” said Alan Cross, a Southern Baptist minister from Alabama and author of “When Heaven and Earth Collide: Racism, Southern Evangelicals, and the Better Way of Jesus.”

Roger “Sing” Oldham, spokesman for the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee. Photo courtesy Baptist Press

Roger “Sing” Oldham, spokesman for the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee. Photo courtesy of Baptist Press

Roger S. Oldham, spokesman for the denomination’s Executive Committee, said the changes made to the resolution after a committee proposed it indicated that the messengers, or delegates, gathered in St. Louis wanted “to take one bold step rather than a series of smaller steps.”


RELATED STORY: National Cathedral to remove Confederate flag images


Some of the Southern Baptists at the meeting were upset with the resolution, and Paul Pressler, a retired judge from Texas and an architect of the conservative resurgence in the denomination more than 30 years ago, complained that he was not allowed to speak. Officials said time ran out before he could.

Jason Lupo, pastor of a Tallulah, La., church, said he wasn’t speaking against the resolution but he thought it should be removed from consideration.

“This is a political issue, not a kingdom issue,” he said. “And so I think the resolution needs to be removed completely and doesn’t even need to be dealt with.”

Another, who urged rejection of the resolution, wondered if it could lead to support for other moves of “political correctness” such as rejecting the U.S. flag that flew over slave ships or Southern Baptist heroes who were “avid supporters of the Confederacy.”

Resolutions Committee Chairman Stephen Rummage said Southern Baptist heroes “did so many things that are commendable” and are not covered by 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 it causes great harm,” he said.

The 2016 resolution language is a sharp contrast from the denomination’s support of the Confederacy that was cited in an 1863 resolution, in the midst of the Civil War: “(W)e have no thought of ever yielding, but will render a hearty support to the Confederate Government in all constitutional measures to secure our independence.”

Merritt said Tuesday’s resolution was not about political correctness but more about a proper Christian witness.

“This flag is a stumbling block to many African-American souls to our witness,” he said. “And I rise to say that all the Confederate flags in the world are not worth one soul of any race.”

About the author

Adelle M. Banks

Adelle M. Banks, production editor and a national reporter, joined RNS in 1995. An award-winning journalist, she previously was the religion reporter at the Orlando Sentinel and a reporter at The Providence Journal and newspapers in the upstate New York communities of Syracuse and Binghamton.

52 Comments

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  • I sometimes wonder about Southern pride — what the Southerly prideful choose to honor. There are many things to appreciate about the South. My favorites are its ancient and beautiful wildlife, its enviable NASA facilities, its incomparable music, and its unforgettable food. When it comes to reasons for regional reverence, Southerners couldn’t have picked a better place to live.

    So why focus on an unconscionable chapter of history, a civil war perpetrated in defense of the indefensible “institution” of slavery, a most unholy war over inhuman dehumanization that was lost through what believers might righteously call the merciful grace of God?

    When I was growing up, I did some things I shouldn’t have done, things that hurt my family, friends, and others. I was caught doing most of those things, and admitted to most of the rest. I can’t even remember details about those sins. But there were a few things I never admitted to anyone, offenses against people who are no longer here, to whom I can no longer apologize. These are the sins that haunt me to this day.

    I hope the sins of the South are not so haunting that they can never be confessed.

  • I’m just wondering about one thing.

    How come no one said diddly about the flag on the roof of the General Lee when I was watching the Dukes of Hazzard?

    People are entitled to feel as they choose; I for one, will never take down my rebel flag. Life experience has taught me if you give someone an inch, they want a mile. Today this is offensive, tomorrow it’s something else.

  • Because there was more racism then, Fred. Yeah, we never should have suggested slaves be freed – once we gave that inch, they asked for a mile, with civil rights and actual voting by blacks. Things must be pretty bad for you.

  • “Things must be pretty bad for you”

    Only when I run into “people” like you that simply want to play the race and slavery card. In case you didn’t notice, slavery was outlawed OVER 150 YEARS AGO.

    You completely missed my point.
    I’m simply fed up with the left trying to tell me how to live my life and how I should think. If I decided to buy a vintage Dodge Charger and restore it to resemble the General Lee, I would have to keep it in a locked garage due to vandalism issues. I’d also have to worry about savages trying to assault me if I would drive it from here to there. This is what we call criminality.

    “Because there was more racism then?”

    Can you please point out an episode of the Dukes that had racism in it?

    One of my favorite characters on the show was Sheriff Little. A black cop in the small town South.

    It’s the left that’s going to get Trump elected. People are sick of their bs

  • To me Southern pride has nothing to do with a piece of cloth on a pole. Southern pride means. Hospitality, Showing kindness, The beautiful trees, Beaches, The Southern/soul food, Jst the laid back way of living.

  • It seems to me that slavery was and is an issue that Satan would support. The people of the south did not defend the legacy of the flag but did allow racists to use the flag as a symbol of racism. Racism is a tool of Satan to promote hate and inhumane actions and the flag is also become one of his tools.
    The issue is not one of political correctness but of Christian correctness.

  • Kudos to the SBC. I have often been very critical of this denomination, and likely will be in the future, but they’ve done a very good and right thing here.

    “And I rise to say that all the Confederate flags in the world are not worth one soul of any race.”

    Amen.

  • Slavery was beyond despicable, no question about that.
    I think we can both agree on that. Not much else. Former actor and Congressman Ben Jones is a supporter of the flag; that being said, he has condemned racism and the awful shooting in that Church.

    I obtained a Confederate flag as a Dukes of Hazzard decoration; it’s in my home. I condemn ALL violent criminals; they should be sent to the Satan you just mentioned.

  • “Can you please point out an episode of the Dukes that had racism in it?”

    Uh…the episodes with the car with the racist flag on it named after a blood soaked traitor who was fighting for a slave holding plutocracy ruling in the name of the god of white supremacy?

  • Funny, I used to watch the Incredible Hulk and the Dukes back to back on Friday nights.

    I never heard anyone back then mention any racism in regards to the show. Revisionist history garbage 30 years later.

    FYI there were more black actors on the Dukes than Seinfeld or Friends.

    If the show was so racist, then why would Don Colley (Sheriff Little) have starred in it for several episodes.

    The problem I have in 2016 is the left trying to tell me that if I own or watch something they don’t like, I’m the ss. They will get violent as well. That’s where I have a problem.

    You obviously didn’t like the show and there’s nothing wrong with that.

    I’ve worn t shirts honoring MURDERED cops. I’ve seen people look at me like I just stole $1,000 from them. I’ll wear what they want me to wear when they pay my bills and Cubs win the World Series and hell freezes over

  • Nevertheless…it was racist because of the racist flag on the car and that the car was named after a blood soaked traitor who fought for white supremacy, a slave owning plutocracy and race chattel slavery…regardless of what he thought he was fighting for. If he thought anything else, he was deluded.

    So what if it was unremarked upon at the time. So what if there Black actors in it. It’s remarked upon now. And we live in the now.

    Here’s an interesting post that mentions the Dukes of Hazzard.

    I’m a Black Southerner Who’s Seen Racism All My Life. Why Do I Stay Silent?
    By Issac J. Bailey
    July 01, 2015

  • Someone who reveres the flag of violent criminals condemns all violent criminals. Yes…if you say so. Don’t shoot me.

  • Shoot you? Didn’t you listen to the great Nancy Reagan in the 80s and just say no to drugs? I did! Like I’d ever do that unless I was lawfully and properly defending myself. I’ve got no desire to go to state prison.

    “The flag of violent criminals” smh

    I’ll destroy my Confederate- with a stipulation of course.

    Let’s ban all Muslim flags. After all, San Bernardino and Orlando massacres were caused by MUSLIM terrorists.

    According to your logic, everyone with a Confederate flag is a violent criminal, all terrorists must indeed be Muslim.

    Ban all Muslim flags, ban the Koran, and I’ll destroy my flag.

  • Recently I left the Southern Baptist church where I served alongside loving brothers and sisters in Christ for 25 years. I also serve as Chaplain of Murfreesboro Camp 33, Sons of Confederate Veterans and had requested the one time use of space at the church for our March meeting until we could find another meeting place (our camp had met at the Rutherford County Courthouse continuously since 1887 but was asked to leave after a REAL hate group had vandalized the Confederate monument and a plaque inside the historic Courthouse). The church’s ministerial staff voted to deny my request and the pastor later preached a sermon with the theme that “First Baptist Church welcomes everyone”. Evidently the 100 members of my SCV camp and their families, a number of whom remain unchurched, were not included in that welcome.

    Now that the SBC has passed the Confederate Battle Flag resolution, I have resolved to join a church in another denomination and likely I am not alone in this decision at a time when the SBC has been losing members for other reasons. The SBC has been my denomination for all 56 of my years but it will be my denomination no longer. Yes, I am one for whom “the Confederate battle flag serves not as a symbol of hatred, bigotry, and racism, but as a memorial to my three ancestors who fought armies that invaded their homeland to restore the Union, and an emblem to honor their loved ones’ valor.” I am profoundly disappointed with the “presentism” and apparent ignorance shown by the authors of the resolution and those who voted in favor of it. However, I have prayerfully forgiven each one of you and look forward to shaking your hands in the Kingdom of Heaven someday.

  • There are some supporters of the flag who have swallowed the lie that the Civil War was about “states’ rights” (what–the right to own slaves?).

    In fact, if you do a tiny bit of research, you quickly see that a majority of the states which seceeded from the Union–that is, which engaged in treason–cited support of slavery in their declarations of secession.

    The flag is nothing more than a symbol of hatred. Defenders of the flag reveal an enormous amount about themselves.

  • Using the same logic, because of Timothy McVeigh we should ban the American flag too.

  • “I’m simply fed up with the left trying to tell me how to live my life and how I should think. ”

    Gosh, as a gay man, I’m simply fed up with the right wing and conservative Christians telling me how to live my life and how I should think.

    So maybe the problem is neither left nor right, but people who have appointed themselves the arbiters Of what other people should think and how they should live their lives.

  • Well, FYI, this straight conservative doesn’t tell ANYONE how to live their lives, as long as no one interferes with mine.

    And if let’s say the cops didn’t kill the pos savage in Orlando, I would have been the first one to advocate breaking out Old Sparky.

  • Because that show was an insult to the intelligence of all southerners. Plus nobody wanted to put the kibosh on Catherine Bach and her short shorts.

    But ify ou ever noticed for a show taking place in rural Georgia, there was virtually nobody of color on that show. Go figure.

  • Blame the KKK for besmirching the reputation of your seditious traitor flag. They took the confederate flag as their own symbol.

    As for the Dukes of Hazzard, I think the childish nature of the show and the popularity of the redneck action genre at the time allowed it to skirt by under the NAACP radar. Funny thing is I remember when it aired The Jeffersons was it’s lead in.

  • In the words of President Reagan there you go again.

    So sick of the race card.

    I guess Sheriff Little was a white Irish guy?

    You obviously didn’t like the show- nothing wrong with that.

    My problem is when savages tell me something should be banned because they find it offensive. The minute ANYONE tells me how to live my life, then can expect a very hostile response.

  • I thought the Jeffersons was a hilarious show.

    I enjoyed most of the Norman Lear shows.

    Garry Marshall produced several excellent shows, too.

  • I will say that Catherine Bach was one of several ladies of CBS of the 1970’s who ushered in my puberty. Loni Anderson and Lynda Carter being the others.

  • Sheriff Little was not a regular character. An occasional recurring one at best. But the cast and guest stars were almost uniformly white.

    I watched the show when I was little. Had a chance to see it recently in rerun. It holds up like a cardboard box in a rainstorm.

    But the producers of the show kept things so ridiculous that it was barely considered a show for adults. No southerner really comes off well on it. Plus let me reiterate the importance of Cathetine Bach and her microscopic shorts. So it avoided a lot of potential criticism. .

    “Savages”?

  • I don’t see anyone telling people how to live and think. People are still free to be Nazis, still free to join the Klan, still free to fly the flag all they want. What does matter is that symbols of racism and hatred shouldn’t be displayed on effects of government or other public service that tax dollars pay for. When I go to my local government office or agency for whatever reason I shouldn’t have to look at symbols of the traitors who wanted to keep my people as slaves. Much like someone of the Jewish faith shouldn’t be forced to conduct business under the Nazi flag. I’m sure there are still descendants of Nazis who view their ancestors as valorous and heroic. It’s the same concept.

  • I don’t know of any municipal, state, or federal government agency that flies a Muslim flag (I wasn’t aware there was a flag to represent all of Islam, either…)

  • Yes SAVAGES! Thats 1 of many terms I use when anyone tries to tell me how to live my life. I also use that term when they want to assault me and or vandalize my property. That’s criminality- therefore the term savages.

  • ooookay. To be honest, I am finding the discussion of the merits of the Dukes of Hazzard to be far more fruitful than that of the Confederate flag. You want to fly it over your property, feel free. 1st Amendment is not to protect ideas people like, but the ones they don’t. But it doesn’t belong on a state flag or in national symbols.

    “Southern heritage” is a load of revisionist tripe Southerners have been feeding themselves for the last 150 years. Its based on a half-baked view of history with deliberate omissions and misrepresentations. The flag became a symbol of white supremacy whether you want to admit it or not. You might as well be arguing that a big swastika on a car is really a homage to the Hindu or Christian symbols where it came from before its use in the 1930’s.

  • Tell that to Ben Jones. He’s laughing all the way to the bank.

    And he was a Democrat, no less.

  • In regards to your first sentence, you’ve been very fortunate.

    I have worn t shirts honoring murdered police officers; I’ve also seen other people wearing similar pro law enforcement items.

    I’ve also seen them harassed for wearing said items. This is where I have a problem. One day, there’s going to be a confrontation and it’s not going to end well.

    One can peacefully protest all they want. It’s when you start harassing and threatening people going from point a to point b while minding their own business that’s a problem.

    Let’s take the flag out of the equation. Last year chick fil a opened a restaurant just north of Herald Square in NYC. I had no problem with anyone protesting peacefully outside.

    There were a handful who started harassing customers inside. There are perps and should be treated as such. WTH gives them the right to tell someone where to eat?

  • Bob Jones aka Cooter is just trying to keep his trickle of royalties going. Especially after TV Land dropped the show last year.

  • Protesters aren’t making public policy that must be followed by the masses. You don’t have to listen to them if you don’t want to and the customers and/or business owners are free to call the police to have belligerent people escorted off the premises. But if you get into it it’s no different than those belligerent anti-choice protesters who harass people seeking the services of abortion clinics. i don’t see swaths of them being arrested even when the police are called.

  • So it’s automatically my fault if I get into it with one of them. It’s ok for them to assault me when I’m minding my own business ?

    Not in my world. Someone assaults me or my family because of where I choose to eat or what clothes I choose to wear are PERPS and should be treated as such.

    Some witch removed a rebel flag from a guys truck in SC recently. That’s called criminal activity. I wouldn’t shed a tear if she got a good old fashioned Southern a s s kicking in prison.

  • No one said it’s automatically your fault for anything, what I said was your idea of perps can easily be applied to anti-choice protesters who harass people going to abortion clinics but the difference is that it isn’t and those people rarely get arrested for their criminal activity.

    You’re right, no one has the right to touch another’s property without permission but some people go about hoping someone will snatch that flag from their truck so they can parade it on youtube. The fact of the matter is that if someone went around parading the Nazi flag in public and someone snatched it off their truck most people would say they deserved it. That’s how people look at a confederate flag. It carries the same sentiment.

  • In regards to your last two sentences, not everyone looks at the flag that way. As for the Nazi flag, people can do what they want on private property. I’m also no fan of law breaking pro lifers and their actions. They are no better than Lydia and her father.

    Lydia is a perp and so is her father.
    They’re lucky no one came after them with a gun. They may not be so lucky next time.

  • Your view of the confederate flag largely depends on which side of the equation your people fell on.

    And you’re right, private property is private property. I would never condone anyone defacing the property of someone’s home.

  • What some people call “PC”, I call civility — which I believe is essential to civilization.

    What some people call “moral decline”, I call the social contract. Not the adult type. The de-self-centering, learn-to-share, 2-year-old type.

    What I see dividing our country is otherization. “Us” vs. “Them”. When we’re not actively, hostilely, sometimes even violently opposing each other, we are relentlessly, unyieldingly competing against each other — all the time — rather than collaborating with each other.

    Collaboration seems to be regarded as capitulation these days. So we ignore our unity, our commonalities. We deny our shared needs, our shared goals. We disparage the entire concept of sharing. To us, collaboration and sharing are vices, not virtues.

    We have convinced ourselves that “We” are better than “They”. We’re more important. Our values are superior. Our goals are more worthy. We deserve more. In fact, we deserve all.

    I believe this self-righteous “Us” vs. “Them” narcissism has been growing in direct proportion to the equalizing of civil rights in our shared country, and has accelerated greatly and shamefully since the election of our first black President, and even more so since marriage equality became the law of the land. After all, sharing includes respect, and “We” cannot abide that. We view sharing respect as “oppression”. We view the increasing loss of our “traditional” privilege over others — whites over blacks, men over women, straights over gays, rich over poor, Christians over other-believers — as infringing on our rights and freedoms, as government tyranny, as an unholy war against our values.

    “We” angrily fight to defend what we consider ours and ours alone. We call our fight “patriotic”, “our sacred duty”, “God’s will”.

    “We” are throwing a nationwide political, economic, religious, corporate, antisocial tantrum. Share? No. No! NO!

    And whom are “We” seeking to lead us? One who “shares our values” and “fights for us”. One who will help us forge and force a new covenant: Us and only Us. This is our destiny. This is our future.

    This is “Our” movement. We’re having our movement in public. And it stinks.

  • Oh yes there is sooooo much “civility” in falsely accusing people of racism just because you disagree with their views. Not sharing a person’s views does not make them wrong and you right by default.

  • Did I call you a racist? Nope. Did the article? Nope.
    Presumptuous? Based on your last post, I’d say Yep.
    Insensitive? Based on your previous post, You bet.
    Uncivil? More like unnecessarily offensively defensive, based on your accusation of accusations which existed only in your made-up mind.
    I’ll just refer you back to my first 2 posts and leave it at that.

  • Was I speaking about you? Nope.
    Was I speaking about this article? Nope.
    Presumptuous? Hell Yes!
    Pro-racist? Considering that you support a negative view of that flag shared by white supremacists, I’d say yes.
    Intolerant? You’re a social “just us” warrior, that answers itself.
    Judgmental? Considering that you presume to believe that my mind (which apparently you claim to be able to read) is “made-up” I’d say Roger That.

  • Now how about WE start over and you say something that proves to me you are an intellectual equal with an opinion worth discussion, shall WE?

  • Sorry you started this and you are going to stick around. Leave now you concede defeat.

  • Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.

    Isaiah 5:20

  • I am a Southern Baptist and I will display the Confederate Battle Flag as I see fit regardless of what Russell Moore or anyone in the Convention says or decides on. If they want to take the Southern Baptists in the direction that the Presbyterians have gone then so be it. Political Correctness is a poison that I will not partake of. My church doesn’t have to remain Southern Baptist. You people have been brainwashed.

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