The voting members of the Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution calling for the “immediate abolition of abortion without exception or compromise” at its annual meeting.
The vote for the pro-life resolution, however, didn’t come without significant controversy and debate among voting attendees known as messengers.
According to Baptist News Global, messengers had already voted in favor of a similar motion outlining the convention’s opposition to abortion and dsupport for the Hyde Amendment, prohibiting the use of federal taxpayer dollars for abortions.
Before the 2021 annual meeting, the SBC had passed 27 pro-life resolutions since the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision. This resolution is the second pro-life resolution to be passed by this year’s messengers.
“(We) do state unequivocally that abortion is murder, and we reject any position that allows for any exceptions to the legal protection of our preborn neighbors, compromises God’s holy standard of justice, or promotes any God-hating partiality,” the resolution reads, in part.
“[B]ecause abolishing abortion is a Great Commission issue, we must call upon governing authorities at all levels to repent and ‘obey everything that [Christ] has commanded,’ exhorting them to bear fruit in keeping with repentance by faithfully executing their responsibilities as God’s servants of justice, and working with all urgency to enact legislation using the full weight of their office to interpose on behalf of the preborn, abolishing abortion immediately, without exception or compromise.”
The resolution drew no shortage of controversy, however, according to Baptist News, and was amended to soften language that some claimed made an incrementalist approach to abortion out to be sinful.
The resolution stated, before being amended, that “we will not embrace an incremental approach alone to ending abortion because it challenges God’s Lordship over the heart and the conscience, and rejects His call to repent of sin completely and immediately.”
“We humbly confess and lament any complicity in recognizing exceptions that legitimize or regulate abortion, and of any apathy, in not laboring with the power and influence we have to abolish abortion,” the resolution also said.
Tom Ascol, pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, Florida, strongly supported the resolution as originally written.
“It is time for Southern Baptists to repent of their complicity in searing the conscience of a nation that has yet to cease the slaughter of unborn innocents,” Ascol declared in a blog post for his organization, Founders Ministries. “[S]outhern Baptist churches and leaders do not have to wait to take stronger actions to abolish abortion from our nation’s land.”
Ascol was referring to annual meetings in 1971 and 1974 when the SBC passed and then reaffirmed, respectively, a resolution on abortion calling for Southern Baptists to “work for legislation that will allow the possibility of abortion under such conditions as rape, incest, clear evidence of severe fetal deformity, and carefully ascertained evidence of the likelihood of damage to the emotional, mental, and physical health of the mother.”
Ascol’s brother, William, serves as pastor at Bethel Baptist Church in Owasso, Oklahoma, and helped to spearhead the resolution’s passage, telling attendees of the meeting that Scripture “tells us to rescue those who are being taken away to death.”
In a presentation in support of the motion, William Ascol introduced a post-abortive woman and recalled her story of regret, repentance, and God’s mercy. The woman, Ascol said, now “lives with the trauma and the scar that she murdered her own children.”
“Can we not rise and stop the Holocaust?” Ascol asked.
Several messengers opposed the verbiage of the resolution.
Alan Branch, a professor Christian ethics at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, opposed wording in the resolution “because it advocates a particular political strategy” and would condemn “godly politicians” working within government to save at least some babies from abortion.
“This is a poorly worded resolution,” Branch said. “I thought about trying to amend it, but, as a seminary professor, it would take me too many hours to straighten it out here on the floor.”
“This resolution, while it is aimed in absolutely the right direction, is the wrong resolution,” said Josh Wester, director of research for the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. Wester pointed out that the SBC is no less “resolutely against abortion” and holds that it is a “heinous evil, a grievous sin.”
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