Southern Baptists denounce Confederate flag
Religion | Delegates to the denomination’s annual convention urge members not to fly what many consider a racist symbol
by Leigh Jones
Posted 6/15/16, 04:22 pm
The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, overwhelmingly approved a resolution Tuesday calling on their 15.3 million members to stop displaying the Confederate flag.
SBC president Ronnie Floyd urged delegates to the denomination’s annual convention in St. Louis to think about the issue from a spiritual perspective.
“I believe the issue of racism is from Satan and his demonic forces of hell,” he said. “It is an assault on the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Despite support among SBC leaders for the change in wording, some convention-goers expressed surprise at how many delegates agreed.
“It was the most wonderful surprise, a complete denunciation of the flag because of what it represents and because of the Southern symbol that it is to African-American brothers and sisters in Christ,” Alan Cross, a Southern Baptist minister from Alabama, told Religion News Service.
As part of the resolution, delegates also approved removing a sentence from an earlier version that said some people choose to fly the flag as a memorial to ancestors who died during the Civil War.
Russell Moore, president of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, cheered the change.
“The Southern Baptist Convention made history today and made history in the right way,” he said following Tuesday’s vote. “This denomination was founded by people who wrongly defended the sin of human slavery. Today, the nation’s largest Protestant denomination voted to repudiate the Confederate battle flag, and it’s time and well past time.”
Although long considered divisive and racist, the Confederate flag finally fell out of favor last year after accused mass-murderer Dylann Roof posted to social media a photo of himself posing in front of it. Roof faces the death penalty for killing nine parishioners at Mother Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., on June 17, 2015, in a racially motivated rampage. After the shooting, South Carolina lawmakers voted to remove the flag from the statehouse grounds in Columbia. Other Southern institutions and organizations followed suit.
Former SBC president James Merritt helped draft the denomination’s resolution and said it had nothing to do with political correctness, as some critics claimed.
“This flag is a stumbling block to many African-American souls to our witness,” he said. “And I rise to say that all the Confederate flags in the world are not worth one soul of any race.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Leigh lives in Houston with her husband and daughter. She is the news editor for The World and Everything in It and reports on education for WORLD Digital.