Georgia Baptist messengers affirm variety of resolutions in 2017 meeting

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At the end of their 2017 annual Convention, messengers freely spoke on a variety of topics affecting society. JOE WESTBURY/Index

LAWRENCEVILLE — As Georgia Baptists began to close out the year in 2017 at their annual meeting at North Metro First Baptist Church, they went on record on several matters through the issuance of resolutions.

The statements reflect the opinions and concerns of those messengers present at that specific annual meeting but are non-binding on Georgia Baptist churches. Affiliated congregations are autonomous and are not required to follow the documents.

However, they do provide a historical look into the values of messengers in relation to shifting societal concerns.

This year five such resolutions were approved, in addition to the customary Resolution of Appreciation to the host church and the association – in this case Gwinnett Metro Baptist Association.

The other resolutions covered a variety of bases, including encouraging churches to adequately provide fulltime-staff protection benefits such as insurance, retirement, and housing reimbursement; religious freedom for adoption and foster care ministries; the moral crisis created by the consumption of pornography; human trafficking; and euthanasia and assisted suicide.

  • A Resolution on Church-Provided Protection Benefits was submitted by Jim Perdue, messenger from Second Baptist Church of Warner Robins where he also serves as pastor

The resolution, among other concerns, stressed the need for ministers to have adequate retirement savings of at least 10 percent of their compensation package to prevent them from becoming wards of the state in their final years. The document referenced how many Southern Baptist ministers and their wives live near-destitute conditions and depend on a small stipend from Mission:Dignity, a ministry of GuideStone Financial Services, because they are near or below the poverty level.

“Providing for God’s full-time staff members should not be the sole responsibility of the government, but also the responsibility of God’s church,” it noted.

It also encouraged congregations “to offer a church-provided life insurance protection benefit of a minimum of four times total compensation for each full-time staff member; and we encourage churches to support annually the Mission:Dignity ministry to help retired church workers and their widows struggling with financial hardships.”

  • A Resolution on Religious Freedom for Adoption and Foster Care Ministries was submitted by John Yarbrough, messenger rom Concord Baptist Church in Clermont.

The resolution made the case for restricting adoptions and foster care to heterosexual couples because “same-sex couples have directed lawsuits against faith-based providers simply because they will not compromise their beliefs that foster children and adopted children should be placed with heterosexual married couples according to the biblical model.” The document also noted that “the United States Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges, 135 S. Ct. 2584 (2015), recognized different views on this subject of same-sex marriage and upheld the right of religious dissent in word and deed,” but some states have failed to acknowledge the ruling.

“In at least three States (Illinois, Massachusetts, and California) and Washington, D.C., faith-based child-placing agencies have shut down rather than comply with

State policies that required them to compromise their sincerely held religious beliefs regarding the biblical view of the family.” The statement further affirmed that “faith-based child-placing agencies have the right to free exercise of religion under the U. S. Constitution and under well-settled principles of constitutional law, this right includes the freedom to abstain from conduct that conflicts with an agency’s sincerely held religious beliefs.”

The resolution stated that “Georgia Baptists appreciate the efforts recently made by the Georgia Senate Judiciary Committee that adopted Sen. William Ligon’s amendment to HB 159. This even-handed amendment would allow faith-based agencies, as well as secular mission-based agencies, to continue operating according to their mission statements, thus our free exercise of religion and freedom of association rights would be protected.”

  • A Resolution on the Moral, Social, and Public Health Crisis Created by Pornography was submitted by Tanya Ditty, messenger from Roswell Street Baptist Church in Marietta. Ditty serves as State Director for Concerned Women for America.

Ditty’s document cited the damage pornography causes to society, including low self-esteem, eating disorders, an increase in problematic sexual activity at younger ages, and an increased desire to engage in risky sexual behavior as young adolescents, as well as contributing to the hyper-sexualization of teens and children.

…[T]hat we call on Georgia Baptist churches to continue to expand efforts to teach the whole counsel of God regarding sexual purity, human dignity, biblical gender roles, and the dangers of pornography.

The Resolution called on “government authorities to enact and enforce laws that restrict all forms of pornography, particularly those that include and exploit women and minors; and we encourage Christian families to exercise deliberate care and concern for instructing our children how to wisely use online resources for good and to show appropriate discernment in protecting our children from harmful influences.”

It ended by resolving that Georgia Baptists “commend the good news that Christ is fully able to deliver and restore those who have fallen into sexual sin who look to Him in faith and repentance, and call our churches to foster a culture of grace, mercy, and restoration.”

  • A Resolution on Human Trafficking was submitted by Frank Cox, messenger from and pastor of the meeting’s host church, North Metro First Baptist Church in Lawrenceville.

Cox cited human trafficking as criminal activity that “knows no borders and preys on victims of any age, race, gender, or nationality, involving as many as an estimated 800,000 persons being transported from place to place each year into some form of forced labor, including about 17,500 persons who are trafficked into the United States each year; and it is estimated that as many as 45,000,000 persons worldwide are now being held in some form of slavery, including commercial sexual exploitation, forced labor, child labor, and forced organ harvesting, producing annual profits of over $32 billion”

Then, bringing the issues closer to home, Cox noted that “in Metro Atlanta, approximately 7,000 men pay for sex with 350-400 adolescent females each month, many of whom are generally first trapped in the sex marketplace at an average age of 12-14 years old, and who are typically purchased in the suburbs rather than in the inner city or near the airport.”

He further stated that “the average sex trafficker in the Atlanta area earns an average of $33,000 per week exploiting vulnerable females, both adult and underage, and both Georgia and Metro Atlanta are universally considered to have some of the worst sex trafficking problems in the United States.”

The resolution concluded by calling upon Georgia Baptists “to support public policies at the local, state, national, and international level which combat human trafficking; and that we encourage tougher penalties for those who sell and those who solicit in the sex trafficking industry.”

It also affirmed the important work of persons in law enforcement, education, medicine, counseling, and other professions who address human trafficking through their assigned responsibilities, and pledged “our prayerful support.

It concluded by affirming “the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ as the ultimate hope of truly changing the lives of the people who are participating in this victimization and helping the lives of those victims who have been exploited.”

  • The Resolution on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide was submitted by Josh Saefkow, messenger from Flat Creek Baptist Church in Fayetteville.

It maintained that all innocent human life must be respected and protected regardless of race, sex, age, or condition of dependency and regardless of manner of conception, and are persons of equal and immeasurable worth and dignity. The document then went on to affirm the biblical prohibition against the taking of innocent human life by another person, or oneself, through euthanasia or assisted suicide and that, “ in light of the fact that the end of life may be painful, we urge scientists and physicians to continue their research into more effective pain management.”

It then called upon “federal, state, and local governments to prosecute under the law physicians or others who practice euthanasia or assist patients to commit suicide.”

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