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Did Southern Baptists really err in resolving to abolish abortion?

In the week that has passed since Southern Baptists adjourned their annual business meeting, a few moments from the two-day gathering continue to attract discussion including the adoption of a resolution supporting the abolition of abortion.

Several have released articles in the last several days offering explanations for their opposition to the resolution. As we brothers and sisters in Christ continue to work together to find the most effective way to end abortion, I offer this perspective as one who had no role in the crafting of the resolution but did vote for its passage and does not find it to be “deeply flawed,” as some have characterized.

I believe most Southern Baptists would agree that the end goal of abolishing abortion is the right goal and that anything we can do simultaneously on the way to reaching that goal is of genuine value as well. We should not be satisfied with incremental pro-life victories, but neither should we actively oppose them on the way to the ultimate victory of the war on unborn life.

A few thoughts:

1. The Committee on Resolutions could have edited the resolution and presented an improved version to messengers. Some said during the Annual Meeting and publicly in the days since the closing gavel that the language of the resolution on abolishing abortion was poor and troublesome. One committee member described the submitted resolution as a “lengthy and densely-worded document” that left her uncomfortable. A group of ethicists described the resolution as “well-intended but woefully flawed.”

If committee members felt that way, they could have taken the submitted resolution, improved its language, and presented it to messengers in a way that they felt maintained the spirit of “abolishing” abortion minus what they see as problematic aspects. The committee should have realized that this strong stance on abortion—this righteous disgust Baptists in the pews hold for the persisting evil of abortion—would resonate with messengers and draw their support. Instead, the nine-person group declined to entertain the motion and stopped short of presenting to messengers such a strong statement, instead presenting the resolution supporting the Hyde amendment.

While time constraints of the Annual Meeting do not provide a hospitable environment for thousands of Baptists to edit resolutions line-by-line, the meetings of the Committee on Resolutions do.

Did the committee simply not realize how deeply the heart of this resolution would resonate with average, everyday Southern Baptists like myself who are fiercely pro-life and ready to bring an end to abortion in our lifetime? It seems anyone in tune with rank-and-file Baptists could have predicted how this might go. A little foresight and familiarity with our people would have benefited the resolution process.

2. The adoption of this resolution does not mean Southern Baptists as a whole oppose incremental efforts to end abortion but does demonstrate a serious commitment to the end goal of abolition. Despite limited time for revisions from the convention floor, one amendment passed which did improve the resolution and kept it from flatly discounting incremental efforts to end abortion. The revision added the word “alone” to the sentence in the second “resolved” reading, “RESOLVED, that we will not embrace an incremental approach alone to ending abortion,” (emphasis added). Most Southern Baptists want a both/and approach to ending abortion. Yes, we want to abolish it. Totally end it. Yes, we also want to support efforts along the way to make abortion as inaccessible and infrequent as possible.

Consider the hypothetical substitution of other evils for abortion and ask yourself if we would not absolutely embrace a both/and approach, seeking to use incremental efforts and a goal of total abolition. If not already illegal, would we be content to only take an incremental approach to opposing sexual assault and not simultaneously work to eradicate it in every possible way? We would never suggest making a law that says it’s okay to rape someone as long as they are a certain age or as long as they live in a certain county. How about slavery? Thank goodness for those who sought the total abolition of slavery in our nation and did not settle with a mere reduction in the number of slaves permitted to be held. Thank goodness for those who fought to end completely the Jewish Holocaust instead of allowing a few concentration camps to remain in operation.

Some things are so horrific they deserve every challenge we can throw at them. The murder of pre-born babies is one of those things.

3. This resolution was right to characterize abortion as murder. That is the truth. Premeditated killing of another human is murder. Neither the location of the person, the size of the person, or the level of dependence the person has on another change the fact that taking a life is a sin. This resolution rightly reminds us that to have unequal scales of justice is wrong in God’s eyes. To hold a person who murders a 2-year-old child to one standard while having another standard for a person who murders a 15-week-gestation-baby is illogical, and it is wrong. When we hear news reports that someone has tragically killed their own children, we don’t sympathize with them and wonder what grief or difficult situation in their life led them to that “choice.” We don’t shield them from responsibility for their actions. Should we seek to minister to every person and call them to a redemptive relationship with the Lord Jesus? Yes, as evidenced by Christian involvement in prison ministry. But should we ignore the gravity of sinful decisions to avoid hurting the feelings of one who has hurt another? No. We must both promote truth and not impede God’s justice.

4. May the adoption of this resolution inspire us to find ways to cooperate in a Christlike manner to accomplish what we all desire to see in the elimination of abortion. In all our efforts, surely we can find a way as Christians who share a desire to see the end of abortion in our generation, to work together in a charitable way. In one piece written about the adoption of the resolution, a member of the Resolutions Committee described those supporting the abolition of abortion resolution at the Annual Meeting as the type of pro-life advocate that “wants to lie on the floor kicking and screaming like a child throwing a tantrum,” going on to compare them to The Office character Michael Scott.

This perspective and framing disappointed me when I read it. I don’t believe insulting the intelligence, decorum or strategical competence of fellow Southern Baptists paves a constructive path toward working together well in this critical issue.

Let’s unite in our shared desire to eliminate abortion in this generation. Let’s work together in both an incremental approach and a vision of absolute abolition to defend the inalienable right to life for every person formed by the very hand of God and deeply loved by Him.


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