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The Southern Baptist Convention is severing its ties to white supremacists. During the organization’s annual meeting Wednesday in Phoenix, the convention officially passed a resolution to formally “denounce and repudiate” white supremacy and the alt-right movement.
The resolution states that members of the Southern Baptist Convention “decry every form of racism, including alt-right white supremacy, as antithetical to the Gospel of Jesus Christ” and refer to “racial and ethnic hatred as of the devil.” While leaders of the convention hesitated the day before to consider the resolution, its passage was met with support and a standing ovation from the convention crowd of about 5,000.
“We regret and apologize for the pain and confusion that we created for you and a watching world when we decided not to report out a resolution on alt-right racism,” Barrett Duke, the resolutions committee chairman, said to the convention. “Please know it wasn’t because we don’t share your abhorrence of racism and especially the particularly vicious form of racism that has manifested itself in the alt-right movement. We do share your abhorrence.”
Getting the resolution to pass, however, was an uphill battle, as many members of the convention were unswayed. The original resolution denouncing the alt-right was introduced by Dwight McKissic, an SBC pastor from Texas. In that version, McKissic wrote that the alt-right “must be opposed for the totalitarian impulses, xenophobic biases, and bigoted ideologies that infect the minds and actions of its violent disciples.”
In an interview with the Washington Post, McKissic said he felt motivated to write the resolution after taking notice of the amount of people in the organization who supported President Donald Trump. According to the Pew Research Center, the SBC is overwhelmingly white—85 percent to be exact—and a large majority voted for Trump.
“I wanted the Southern Baptist Convention to make it very clear we have no relationship to them,” he told the Post.
After intense back-and-forth between leaders, a revised version of the resolution was ultimately drafted and voted upon. Its passage is part of the SBC’s continued efforts to confront its troubled history with race. In the mid-1800s, the Southern Baptist association used scriptures from the Bible as a justification for slavery. It was not until 1995 that the Southern Baptists passed its first resolution apologizing for the organization’s role in supporting and perpetuating slavery and racial discrimination.
“We lament and repudiate historic acts of evil such as slavery from which we continue to reap a bitter harvest,” the resolution states. “We apologize to all African Americans for condoning and/or perpetuating individual and systemic racism in our lifetime.”
Since then, the association has passed more resolutions advocating racial equality, using scriptures from the Bible to support them. One resolution passed in 2016 urged members to discontinue using the Confederate flag, calling it a “symbol of hatred, bigotry, and racism.”