More than 5,000 Southern Baptists gathered in Houston for prayer, networking, and debate on a number of policy resolutions.
The most prominent resolution concerned the recent decision by the Boy Scouts of America to allow openly gay boys and teenagers to become Scouts — although gay Scout leaders are still prohibited.
Wes Taylor is a pastor from Palatka, Florida, and an Eagle Scout. He spoke on the convention floor before the vote.
“Homosexuality obviously is clearly unacceptable in God’s sight. It is directly opposed to everything that Scouting stands for and I am disappointed in Scouting.”
The resolution passed overwhelmingly. It criticized the Boy Scouts and affirmed the denomination’s belief that homosexuality is immoral.
Like other religious groups, Baptist churches are big sponsors of scouting units.
But since each Southern Baptist church is independent, the decision whether to cut ties with the Boy Scouts is up to each church.
Nevertheless, the resolution expressed support for those churches that do decide to leave the Scouts, and it says those churches might consider alternate ways to minister to boys.
Charlie Dale is a member of Indian Springs First Baptist Church in Alabama.
He opposed the resolution, saying boys who think they are gay are probably confused and maybe even victims of abuse.
Those boys would still be welcome in a Baptist church, he says, so why not the Scouts?
“I don’t think we should hold the Boy Scouts to a standard we would not put on our own churches. Such a boy needs our love. So let’s bring him in, show him what real Biblical manhood is about. And love him.”
Another resolution passed calling on churches to conduct background checks on staff and volunteers, to prevent the sexual abuse of children.
The convention also included workshops, a Christian book fair, and information booths on theological training and financial planning.
It was the first convention for Kristi Hart of Minnesota. She and her husband just started a new church outside of St. Paul.
“I love it, this has been so much fun this week. I’ve gotten to meet so many new people, and hear so many awesome stories of ministry across the country.”
Hart and her husband are known as “church planters,” Baptists who open new churches in underserved areas.
She says it was helpful to swap stories and hear tips from other church planters in other parts of the country.