American Baptist Association Resolution, “Resolution.”

At the 92nd annual Messenger Meeting of the American Baptist Association in Daytona Beach, Florida, pastor Jason Carlton, and his church, along with 33 other signed-on churches brought a resolution to the body that should never have had to be offered in the first place.  It should never have had to be offered, because the reason for it should never have had to exist.  Bro. Carlton’s resolution for the American Baptist Association to disavow previous resolutions from 5 different meetings that occurred in the 50’s, 60’s, and even one in the early 70’s pertaining to racial segregation, was both a joy and embarrassment.  It was a joy to be part of the disavowing, and embarrassment that it had to be done.   To further the embarrassment was the fact that there was actual debate concerning the disavowing.

If I understood the arguments from those opposing the resolution, with no intention of disparaging anyone, they were unthinking at best and unspiritual at worst.

The most repeated argument that some men made honestly and genuinely was the premise that one generation cannot apologize for another generation, or that one messenger assembly cannot apologize for another messenger assembly.  On the technical merits of that argument, these men had a purely “associational” point.  For those who know and understand the nature of messenger body, and the nature of the messenger meeting, each meeting and each body are stand alone bodies unconnected to previous bodies, and non-binding to future bodies when it comes to resolutions.  In other words, each resolution, is only a resolution for the body of that specific year and no others.  Their point being that those were resolutions of previous messenger assemblies that had nothing to do with this one.  Now that would be a good point, if we lived in an “associational minded world.” It might be on point technically, yes, but we do not live in technically minded, associationally educated society.

The fact is that every messenger body, and every generation of messenger bodies serve as caretakers of the testimony of the American Baptist Association to the outside world.  Regardless of what is technically true, the American Baptist Association has a corporate identity that transcends all messenger meetings, that transcends all generations, that transcends all things we know and understand pertaining to the nature of associational meetings.

That being said, the very last printed words, the very last printed resolutions concerning racial segregation were egregious, wicked, and sinful.  Whatever anyone may say about previous bodies, previous generations, previous attitudes, is categorically irrelevant as long as those words were our last words on the subject. I praise God they are no longer the last printed words on the subject.

It has been a long overlooked duty of annual messenger bodies to address those sins upon the testimony of the identity known as the American Baptist Association.  I am thankful that, 1) these sins were brought to light, and 2) something was overwhelmingly done about them.

Some arguments though, were just flat disingenuous. Not well thought at best, stubborn at worst.  For anyone to be willing to denounce segregation but refuse to admit we ever wronged anyone is nothing short of prideful charlatanism. One cannot denounce it in the present, but refuse to disavow it in the past, and maintain any form of credible genuineness.  If it is wrong now, (and it is) then when it was practiced and encouraged, by nature it was wronging people then.  Regardless of what anyone thinks, it is categorically impossible to actually decry racial discrimination, but flatly refuse to apologize for it, and maintain any spiritual credibility.

The public identity, known as the American Baptist Association could never credibly decry and denounce racism in the present, while at the same time refusing to disavow the racist resolutions that existed in the past.  Spiritual integrity and credibility should be the left and right footprint underneath every sign in the world that bears the insignia of the ABA.

Now some have an aversion to proverbially throwing previous generations under the bus; and I do appreciate that sentiment and agree with it, when it is unnecessary. I have great, great respect for the forefathers of these meetings.  They have laid a worthy foundation, and paved a precious path for us to follow.  None-the-less, these forefathers were sinners, and it should be no surprise that they sinned.  However, it should also be no surprise that their theological descendants picked up on those sins, and have brought them to light. The same men that committed these sinful and egregious errors, are the same men that have passed down the great doctrines of the Bible, lived out missionary work, and structured a fellowship for us to enjoy.  It is no sin, to call their sin, sin.  In fact it is a glory and a joy, to confess and repent, as well as a necessity for the well-being of the testimony of the ABA.

With all of that said, I for one am resolved to be thankful for the resolution that was passed in Daytona.  I fundamentally believe that it was a change worth making.


12 comments on “American Baptist Association Resolution, “Resolution.”

  1. Elton Lanier says:

    Really? …….For the “sins” of our forefathers! A word of caution here, do not rest on your laurels but gird up your loins…… for the next assault will be coming from the rainbow flaggers wanting a written apology. CAUTION: Know where to draw the line. ☆☆☆☆☆ What you tolerate today… your children will embrace tomorrow.

    I do not embrace the old Jim Crow laws. They are archaic and were wrong, looking back from today.

    • Bro Lanier, – thank you for stopping by the blog to read the article. Our forefathers did sin by openly and resolutely discriminating against a people because of the color of their skin. There is no comparison between racial discrimination, and preaching against a sinful behavior. There will never be anything for us to apologize to the Homosexual crowd for, because their behavior is a sin we preach against, and are resolute against, not their skin colors. Dealing with the sin of homosexuality will never need to be repented of, because it will always be a sin in need of calling people out of; however the sin of racial bullying, racial demeaning, racial discrimination will always be sins that must be repented of.

  2. Clark Stephens says:

    Please post the resolution.

    • I’m sorry Brother Stephens, I did not make it home with a copy of the resolution. You may obtain one from the clerks of the meeting, or wait until the minute books are printed that will have a full copy of it. You may also contact Bro. Jason Carlton who is the pastor of Memorial Baptist Church in Dequeen, Arkansas.

  3. David Gregg says:

    I agree with you Bro. Jeff. My concern was legal aspects and I was only wanting it to be brought to the floor so we didn’t do something we would regret with two words. I voted against the alternate resolution because it did not address what had been done in the past. I voted in favor of the resolution even with my concerns. Now I wonder if our schools should denounce what they published in their papers. I’m sure they were read by many more more than our ABA books were and influenced more also. Just a thought.

    • Bro. David, thanks for reading the article and for your spirit. For me, and the way that I perceive things, I see a world of difference between an official resolution, sanctioned by a body known as the American Baptist Association, and personal opinion articles, and stances published by individual newspapers. I believe if those newspapers all answered to the messenger body for their sanctioned authority, then you would be on to something.
      However, that being said, those who did sanction such articles may on an paper by paper basis need to look at their own historical testimony and deal with it appropriately. As I understand things, the schools, and the papers, are not answerable to the national messenger body, but to their respective sponsors.
      Thank you for your comment and your thoughts.

  4. David E. Gonnella, Th.D says:

    I am happy to be able to express my opinion here – something that was not allowed in Daytona Beach where ha parliamentary trick was used to close off debate before opposing views could be given. This tactic was more worthy of the Southern Baptist Convention than the ABA.

    Allow me to first state that my church, Magnolia Springs baptist Church in Theodore, Alabama, is a place where anyone of any race, nationality or past sinful behavior may hear the gospel, be saved, be baptized, and enjoy membership. We believe and practice the principle that all of the Great Commission applies to all people.

    Having said that, I will be asking my church to vote on a resolution of repudiation, so that we can disavow the unfortunate and dangerous Resolution on Ethnic Reconciliation. Any church wanting a copy of our resolution to use as a guide for their own resolution may have one by simply asking.

    I will now list some of my objections to the Resolution on Ethnic Reconciliation.

    1. The very name betrays a politically liberal and un-Scriptural mindset. We do not reconcile with anyone on the basis of ethnicity, but only in Christ. “If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another . . .” -I John 1:7.

    2. This looking back and apologizing for the sins of others has a Jimmy Carter/Barack Obama flavor to it, and is in itself un-Scriptural. Where in the Bible are we commanded to confess and repent for what others have done? It is true that we have examples of people doing this during the Jewish Theocracy/ However, they did it voluntarily, and were not dragged into it by a resolution brought forth by others. “The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of he father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness o the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.” -Ezek. 10:20.

    By the same reasoning used in the”Resolution on Ethnic Reconciliation, I should demand an apology from all Americans not of Italian descent for the shameful way my Italian ancestors were treated when they came to America. I should also demand an apology from all those of British descent for running my Cajun ancestors out of Nova Scotia. I should further demand an apology from all Americans for the dispossession of my Choctaw ancestors who were moved from their home in Mississippi and sent to Oklahoma. And how about an apology from all those in the North for the Reconstruction, which visited great pain and injustice upon my Confederate ancestors?

    What was done was done and cannot be changed. We however, can do better and should do better. Were there some segregationists and even racists (and if you don’t know the difference, you should learn) in the ABA? Yes, there were and probably still are. A simple resolution disavowing racism and segregation as it applies to church relations would have been sufficient to state the principles of the majority of the ABA messengers. Such would have automatically disavowed all past resolutions to the contrary.

    3. There is danger in the statement in the Resolution on Ethnic Reconciliation, which says “We acknowledge that our association has caused pain to our brothers and sisters in Christ . . .” WHEREAS #7). This admission opens the churches of the American Baptist Association to a class action lawsuit, for it admits the infliction of pain. This is legally actionable on the churches, unless they publish a disavowal.

    How so? Understand that the American Baptist Association does not exist in any legal form. What does legally exist are the constituent churches. These could become a target for anyone wishing to seek reparations for the “pain” inflicted.

    4. This brings me to the idea of reparations. Those who brought forth the Resolution on Ethnic Reconciliation argued that apology should be made, and were willing to make such apology for all of us. However, they seem to have forgotten the Scriptural principle that restitution must also be made. We have yet to see the first of this.


    As much as I dislike to say it, our church must consider anyone coming from the sponsoring and co-sponsoring churches seeking support (missionaries, etc.) from our church to be under an initial cloud of suspicion for theological or political liberal tendencies. This does not mean that we will not support them, for we willingly support all those we are able to who are worthy. However, it does mean that they will be strictly questioned concerning their theology and political leanings.

    In closing, lest anyone be confused about my own position in these matters, allow me to quote from Volume Iv of my own work on Systematic theology:

    In America we have had the a problem with the idea of racially mixed congregations. This
    has produced the incongruity of Baptist churches that have spent multiplied thousands of
    dollars to send missionaries to evangelize, baptize, and gather into churches African people,
    and at the same time refusing to go across the street to evangelize, baptize, and gather into
    their churches the descendants of African people.

    Perhaps we should take our cue from churches in the first century. It was not an easy thing
    for Jews (Shemites) to gather into churches with Gentiles (Japethites), yet it was God’s will
    that they do so. Paul makes it clear that God had broken down the racial barriers between
    them as concerns religious matters (Eph. 2:11-19). In the New Testament church, they were
    no longer Jews or Gentiles, but Christians.

    • Bro. Gonnella, I am glad that you stopped by and read this article. Furthermore, I am glad that you have found a place to state your convictions, you are more than welcome to do so. I do believe your spirit to be honorable and sincere. Obviously we’re talking on the opposite sides of the issue. I have been unavailable for a while, and have some catching up to do. I will gladly give a thoughtful answer to the issues and concerns you have expressed when I have some available time.
      I will say though, that on cursory thought, none of the things that you mentioned, have anything to do with the primary purpose, intents, and concerns, that drove the resolution. I expressed, and do express, that while I may have had nothing to do with something my fathers did, as long as their last statement is on the books that I currently represent, I need to address that statement as a matter of testimony to the outside world.
      Having been entrusted with the testimony of the American Baptist Association in this generation, it is imperative that our printed pages on in-house issues reflect the true Biblical attitude, and before the resolution, they did not. Therefore as Caretakers of that testimony it was our responsibility to address those problems.
      If the Lord be willing, I will sit down and do a more thorough examination of your points and correspond here accordingly. God Bless.

      • David E. Gonnella, Th.D says:

        Brother Haney:

        I thank you for this forum and only wish that the exchange of ideas could have been allowed in Daytona Beach. perhaps those who put forth the resolution feared a free discussion of the issues.

        Thank yo also for reading my comments. I look forward to your more detailed response.

        I do hope that you will reread my comments. You say, “none of the things you mentioned have anything to do with the primary purpose, intents and concerns that drove the resolution.”

        It was never my intention to judge heart motives. I will grant that those who put forth the resolution probably meant well. My comments relate to the language of the resolution, the fact that it was unnecessary and even potentially harmful.

        This was a dead issue for most, and a dying issue for the rest. The ABA has done well in moving toward a more Biblical viewpoint as concerns racial relations in our churches and seminaries. In fact, one seminary which had been racially segregated as recently as 10 years ago (to my personal knowledge) is no longer so.

        It was not necessary to risk splitting the ABA and rubbing the noses of some of our brethren in a statement that they find objectionable. There is much anger now even among many who practice an open policy concerning races in their churches. Many of these are small churches that could not afford to sent their pastors to the national meeting.

        You may have noticed that, in the New Testament there is not one statement condemning slavery. However, there are principles laid out that, if followed, would make slavery obsolete among the followers of Jesus Christ. I wish those who put for the resolution had taken the long view, and allowed the Word of God and time to work this difficult issue out.

      • Bro. Gonnella,

        I appreciate the dialogue and will follow up on all the points and considerations that you have made. (Time has not allowed that yet). I will say to your statement “the fact that it was unnecessary” is the entirety of the sum and substance of the issue between us. The fact that our only printed statements to the outside world concerning our position were so egregious is in fact what made it “necessary.” We cannot allow a printed position to the outside world stand uncorrected and unaddressed for the sake of our testimony as a public identity. That, and that alone is why the resolution had to be made. Saying we’re sorry for what those who carried our name before us is not “liberal political thinking” in the least, it is a responsible response to the sins of racism, and misuse of the scriptures by those who were wearing our jerseys. To not say we’re sorry because “liberals do that” is like saying, “we can’t eat pizza, because Obama likes it.”
        The other quick thing I would say is is that we aren’t reconciling based on “ethnicity” we were acknowledging a sin committed by the identity we all bear. Saying your sorry for having a racist policy is the same as saying your sorry because you cheated someone, or you were mean to someone, or whatever. The “reconciling” would have been offered on the basis of the fact that we are in Christ regardless of whatever the “wrong” was, because we are Christians, our group had a “wrong position”, and our resolution just said that. Quite honestly I have an extremely tough time trying to figure out why people see more in it than that, and exactly why that’s a problem – to just say, “we’re sorry, we were wrong, we make it right, put in in the book.” – All other consequences fall where they fall.
        I do not mean to sound arrogant, super spiritual, or cavalier when I say this . . . I am proud to be associated with the American Baptist Association, and will be so for as long as the Lord leads . . . however, keeping it from splitting is not the highest agenda. To borrow from a personal hero of mine and paraphrasing he said, “We don’t have to come together . . . the ABA doesn’t have to survive . . . I don’t have to pastor the church I pastor . . . and I don’t even have to live. . .” but I will not, compromise the Word of God, or knowingly compromise on the integrity of our testimony to outside world.
        Brother I believe you are looking at it through a microscope when regular reading glasses will do. There is nothing liberal about any of it, there is nothing dangerous about any of it, there are no “legal” ramifications to it whatsoever.
        I do respect your feelings and thoughts, and look forward to further dialogue. I hope that you understand what I am saying, as I will try to have a better understanding of what you are saying.

  5. Cathy Wallace says:

    I am glad to see this as it more accurately shines the light of God’s love for all people! I was raised in ABA churches but left as a young adult due to things that I saw as contrary to Jesus teachings. I still visit ABA churches with relatives.

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