Magazine article The Christian Century

SBC Approves Family Statement

Magazine article The Christian Century

SBC Approves Family Statement

Article excerpt

At the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in Salt Lake City, 8,200 messengers (delegates) on June 9 overwhelmingly approved adoption of a statement on the family that affirmed their support for heterosexual marriage and their belief that the Bible says wives should "submit ... graciously" to their husbands. Also on June 9 messengers elected Paige Patterson, one of the chief engineers of the conservative takeover of the SBC, as president of the 15.9-million-member denomination.

The four paragraphs on the family approved at the SBC's annual meeting are now officially the 18th article in the "Baptist Faith and Message," a pivotal theological text initially adopted by Southern Baptists at their 1963 meeting and amended on only one occasion since. The text addresses such topics as God, the scriptures, evangelism and religious liberty. Three decades later, members of the nation's largest Protestant body said it was time to declare to Baptists, and society at large, what they have long believed is God's plan for the family.

The statement asserts that the husband is the provider, protector and leader of the family. "A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ," it states. Despite the strong approval given to adding the four paragraphs to the denomination's key declaration of faith, the article raised questions among some messengers. For example, Tim Owings of First Baptist Church in Augusta, Georgia, suggested that the amendment should say, "Both husband and wife are to submit graciously to each other as servant leaders." But after a brief debate on several biblical passages dealing with submission, Owings's amendment was soundly defeated.

The adopted article describes the family as "composed of persons related to one another by marriage, blood, or adoption." When Dennis Wiles of First Baptist Church of Huntsville, Alabama, suggested that the statement be expanded to include "diverse manifestations of the family"--including unmarried adults, childless couples, widows and widowers--his amendment also was debated overwhelmingly.

Asked at a news conference what message the article sends to women who work outside the home, Anthony Jordan, chairman of the special committee that drafted the statement, said: "I don't think we are trying to send any message, frankly.... It was not our purpose to try to address all of those issues. …

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