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Southern Baptists Condemn Alt-Right Movement At National Conference

Matt York / AP

Leaders of a national Southern Baptist conference voted to repudiate white supremacy and the growing “alt-right” movement Wednesday, reversing an earlier decision that had caused uproar internally.

“We had people outside this convention hall from the alt-right handing out flyers of why we should hate African Americans,” Charles Hedman, a pastoral assistant from Capitol Hills Church in DC told the conference. “I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but Twitter was filled with the alt-right calling the Southern Baptist heroes.”

The motion was approved unanimously.

“Racism and white supremacy are, sadly, not extinct but present all over the world in various white supremacist movements, sometimes known as “white nationalism” or “alt-right,” the motion read, calling racism and ethnic hatred “a scheme of the devil.”

The vote to adopt the resolution condemning the alt-right came after initially passing on a similar proposal presented by the Rev. William Dwight McKissic, a prominent minister from Arkansas.

The original motion, which he wrote about in a blog post in May, referred to a “growing menace to political order and justice that seeks to reignite social animosities, reverse improvements in race relations.”

The “toxic menace” of alt-right and white supremacy “must be opposed for the totalitarian impulses, xenophobic biases, and bigoted ideologies that infect the minds and actions of its violent disciples,” McKissic added.

But the motion was never considered because, according to one leader from the committee that decides which resolutions to consider, the motion contained wording that implicated conservatives, including those who don’t support the “alt-right.”

That decision, however, caused backlash among several religious leaders at the conference, as well as online. One pastor tweeted that any church that could not renounce the principles of white supremacy was “dead.”

The reaction prompted Barrett Duke, a Southern Baptist pastor who leads the committee considering resolutions, to apologize to the conference before the motion went for a vote on Wednesday.

“Let me begin by letting you know that we regret and apologize for the pain and the confusion that we created for you,” he said. “Please know that it wasn’t because we don’t share your abhorrence of racism, and particularly the vicious form of racism that has manifested itself in the alt-right movement.”

The new resolution, Duke said, was edited from the original version, but made sure that the conference would “speak with conviction but also with compassion.”

The resolution adopted Wednesday, seemed to strike a more conciliatory tone and noted actions by the Southern Baptist Convention against racism, like its condemnation of racism and slavery in 1995 and nomination of “individuals from a variety of ethnicities” including its first African American president in 2012.

“If we’re not careful about some issues that we care about, we run the risk of sounding like we hate our enemies and, as a result, we end up violating another set of biblical principles,” he said.

While repudiating racism, hatred and the alt-right movement, the motion adopted Wednesday also asked for members of the church, “that we earnestly pray, both for those who advocate racist ideologies and those who are thereby deceived, that they may see their error through the light of the Gospel, repent of thee hatreds.”

One pastor, David Mills of Athens, Georgia, requested that the resolution be a amended to include a study of “alt-right” and “alt-left” movements in the country to be brought as a report at the next meeting of Southern Baptists in 2018.

The request, however, was found to be “not in order” and ignored.

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