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Southern Baptist Convention in uproar over whether or not to condemn the alt-right
Business Insider6/14/2017 10:05:00 AM

Beech Park Baptist Church/Facebook

PHOENIX (AP) — A national meeting of Southern Baptists will consider condemning the political movement known as the "alt-right" amid an uproar over the denomination's commitment to confronting prejudice.

Leaders of the faith group initially refused to take up a proposal that they repudiate the political group that emerged dramatically during the U.S. presidential election, mixing racism, white nationalism and populism.

Barrett Duke, a Southern Baptist leader who led a committee that decided which resolutions should be considered for a vote, said the resolution as originally written contained inflammatory and broad language "potentially implicating" conservatives who do not support the "alt-right" movement.

But the decision caused a backlash online and at the gathering in Phoenix from Southern Baptists and other Christians, especially African-American evangelicals. The denomination has been striving to overcome its founding in the 19th century in defense of slaveholders.

Thabiti Anyabwile, a black Southern Baptist pastor, tweeted that "any 'church' that cannot denounce white supremacy without hesitancy and equivocation is a dead, Jesus denying assembly. No 2 ways about it".

Southern Baptist leaders responded late Tuesday night with a dramatic call for attendees to return to the assembly hall, then announced they would take up the proposal after all on Wednesday. It was a highly unusual move for the denomination's tightly choreographed conventions, underscoring the sensitivity of the issue and the alarm among leaders that their initial rejection of the proposal would be viewed as an unwillingness to fight racism. In encouraging the meeting to reconsider, Steve Gaines, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, said he wanted to send the message that "we love everybody on this planet."

Associated Press/David J. Phillip

The initial proposed resolution came from a prominent black Southern Baptist pastor, the Rev. Dwight McKissic, who had submitted the suggested statement to Duke's committee before this week's gathering. When the proposal was not presented Tuesday, McKissic made a direct unsuccessful plea for reconsideration from the floor of the Phoenix meeting. He called the "alt-right" a symptom of "social disease," ''deceptive" and "antithetical to what we believe." His resolution condemned Christians who attempted to use biblical teachings to justify white supremacy.

The Southern Baptist Convention, based in Nashville, has 15.2 million members and is the largest Protestant group in the country. Leaders have repeatedly condemned racism in formal resolutions from the meeting and built new relationships with black Baptists.

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