The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), the largest Protestant denomination in the United States, recently held its annual meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, and among the items of business addressed were various resolutions establishing the sense of the assembled participants on current issues. Unlike many denominations, the SBC believes in and stresses the autonomy of the local church, so these resolutions, although they may speak to the general sense of the denomination as a whole, are not necessarily reflective of a particular local congregation.
I experienced this first hand when we lived in Valrico, Florida, just outside of Tampa. My family and I were searching for a local church after moving to the area from a company assignment in Germany, and the first church we attended was very traditional in its presentation and style of worship. The church we eventually called home was dramatically different, with a large auditorium rather than an ornate church sanctuary, contemporary music and creative arts for worship, and a casually dressed pastor who oftentimes used pop culture to set themes for his sermon series. One would never have guessed that these two stylistically different churches, mere miles apart, were part of the same denomination.
Over the past year or so, the Southern Baptist Convention, perhaps more so than any other denomination, has found itself struggling internally over the questions raised by the candidacy and presidency of Donald Trump. The issues raised by his rise to power date all the way back to 1998, when the SBC passed a “Resolution on Moral Character of Public Officials" in the wake of President Bill Clinton’s infidelity with young intern Monica Lewinsky.