Southern Baptists will be gathering next week for their annual convention. Among the issues they plan to address: sexual abuse and racism. But it's how they plan to deal with those issues that is drawing the concern of some.
Church leaders and lay people called "messengers" will gather next week (June 11-12) in Birmingham, Alabama, to consider, among other things, amendments to the Southern Baptist Convention's constitution that are meant to address charges in the media of child sexual abuse at SBC churches. Also to be considered will be the formation of a standing committee that will investigate such claims and recommend actions that could lead to breaking ties with some churches.
Messenger Rob Chambers says that committee is what's sticking in the craw of some Southern Baptists.
"[It's] kind of like the tail trying to wag the dog," he tells OneNewsNow. "Churches say We're going to handle our own issues and deal with this in our own way, and we have our own mechanism for vetting pastors. [So forming this committee] goes against the very tenet of being Baptist."
As for accountability, Chambers says safeguards are already in place to keep predators away from church children.
"Pastors, teachers, Sunday School teachers, daycare workers are already compelled by state law to report any suspected abuse," he notes. "So how is a level of bureaucracy going to compel them any more than the state statute already does?"
The racism component, according to Chambers, is less clear. Baptist Press reports leadership has already adopted a proposal that "would only deem a church in friendly cooperation that 'has not acted to affirm, approve, or endorse discriminatory behavior on the basis of ethnicity.'"
Chambers suspects liberal voices within the SBC are likely targeting churches that support President Donald Trump's immigration policies. "It appears that it's moving in that direction – more toward social justice, more toward open borders, no wall or the opposition to funding of a border wall," he offers.
The SBC messenger detects what he calls "the flavor of an expansion of social justice" within America's largest Protestant denomination.