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Open Boarder, Open Hearts – A Preacher’s Position on the Refugee Resolution

The Confederate Flag resolution has been the dominating take away from the Southern Baptist’s 2016 Annual Meeting in St. Louis, but there was another amazing resolution I hope does not get covered up by a flag.  This resolution was titled “On Refugee Ministry.”  Opening our nation to accept refugees has been a passion of mine for some time.  I have written twice on the support of accepting refugees.  One was our responsibility in Syria since we are directly involved in the conflict, and the second, was in praise of our government’s job of vetting refugees and our continued responsibility to minister to others.  I was overjoyed to learn that my denomination stood tall on this issue and cried with one voice to open our boarders, our churches, our homes, and our hearts to minister to the displaced in this world through war and tradgedy.

Again, this is an extradinary stand by denomination that I am still trying to process.  To help you to undestand my surprise, I must share that many, if not most of the resolutions, passed at the Southern Baptist Annual Meeting and the Goergia Mission Board Annual Meeting are boring.  We pass resolutions like, “Drugs are bad,” “Parents should be involved in children’s education and educate them in a Christian manner,” or “We should tell people about Jesus.”  The resolutions are often so obvious, avoiding controversy, that their passing is barely a blip on the schedule.  That is NOT so in 2016.

Again, to help you understand what a major resolution this is in Southern Baptist life, I need to share with you about us.  Southern Baptist is the largest Protestant denomination in the United States with over 45,000 congregations.  The Southern Baptist in recent history has been one of the most faithful block voting groups for Republican candidates and causes.

In fact, Donald Trump, as the presumed Republican presidential nominee, revealed the importance of the Southern Baptists, as well as other Evengeilical denominations, to the GOP when het met with evangelical leaders.  The group of evangelicals featured Southern Baptist President Dr. Ronnie Floyd as well as two previous Southern Baptist Presidents in Brother Jack Graham and Brother Ed Young.

Many Repubicans argued against the acceptance of refugees specifically those from Syria, and it had become clear that refusing refugees is becoming or has become the Republican position.  Early in the primary election process, Lindsey Graham was strongly in favor of accepting refugees.  Marco Rubio and Rand Paul were cautiously in favor it, but their support wavered, esspecially in light of the attacks in Paris as Marco Rubio, Rand Paul and even Lindsey Graham, fell in line with the other candidates, all saying it cannot be done safely so it shoudln’t be done at this time. Some were open to accepting Christian refugees.  On top of this, Republican governors across the county stood against President Obama’s refugee program.  The Republican position has become clearly established as against the accepting of refugees esspecially from Syria.

Our congregations are full of Republicans who would listen and be influenced by the Republican voices from the previous paragraph.  It would have been easy for our denomination to support the Republican line, and it would have been easier still, to just ignore the refugee crises all together to avoid controversy in our congregations.  This resolution, like the Confederate Flag resolution, will not be popular with many in the denomination.  I’m so glad my denomination did not choose the easier path.

The refugee crises is a complicated issue and leadership in the area is needed for Southern Baptist congregations.  My denomination did not shy away from the complicated issue.  We examined the situation and stated with a loud, clear voice; there are things in this world more important than even safety, and they are love, compassion, and the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Again, I was blown away by a resolution passed by my denomination.  I am thankful that we realize and state clearly that we should love people from all countries, all races, and even other religions.  We should minister to others even, at times, at the cost of our own personal safety.

I hope the Republicans take notice of the Southern Baptist’s leadership on this issue and rethink their position.  There might just be enough Southern Baptists and like minded evangelicals to bring victory to another party come November.

Twice this year Southern Baptist could have avoided difficult or painful topics.  One, in the Confederate flag, we have avoided for much too long, but this year, we dove into the complicated and painful in search for what it right and godly.  As for this pastor, I think the denomination found the moral truth in both situations.

Jesse Colbert

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