Keeping up with the SBC Abortion Abolition Debate

Perhaps you are struggling to make heads or tails from the ongoing abortion debate in the Southern Baptist Convention. Here is a reference guide to catch you up to speed. In this post, we do our best to include all of the most relevant information, including a bit of back story. We plan to update this informational timeline as needed. If you are aware of something we’ve missed, please let us know.

In 2011, a small group within Trinity Baptist Church, a Southern Baptist church in Norman, OK, met to discuss supporting the Pro-Life Movement. T. Russell Hunter, a graduate student in history at the University of Oklahoma, led the discussion and brought with him the motivations and strategies of the abolitionists of chattel slavery. The first Abolitionist Society to abolish abortion was founded as a ministry within the SBC Norman, OK church as a result. A national movement known as Abolish Human Abortion (AHA) was started.

On January 22, 2014, producers Jon Speed (a NAMB church planting pastor at the time) and Marcus Pittman released the documentary Babies Are Murdered Here to expose both the truth about abortion and the single biggest failure of the Prolife movement, not calling abortion what it is . . . murder.

In 2015, Canadian Baptist Laura Klassen launched the international Christian anti-abortion ministry Choice42 to both connect online with abortion-minded women from all over the world and to help them to cancel their abortion appointments and to utilize active social media pages, viral videos, and media attention to educate the public on what abortion actually is and encourage people to boldly speak out.

In 2016, Southern Baptist Lindy Silk pleaded in vain with Tony Lauinger, the chairman for Oklahomans for Life to stop opposing her son, Joseph Silk’s bill to abolish abortion, the first of it’s kind, in Oklahoma.

In response to Donald Trump’s 2016 statement that there should be some punishment for a woman who procures an abortion, Al Mohler wrote, “here’s where the pro-life movement returns back to say, who is the guilty party in an abortion? It is the person who brings about the death of the child. The woman seeking the abortion is not without moral responsibility, but she is not herself bringing about the death of the unborn human baby. That’s the crucial issue here, and that’s why the pro-life movement has consistently sought to criminalize abortion at the level of the person performing the abortion. That is . . . a morally consistent argument and it has been consistent over time.” In so doing, his point was that New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof’s statement that, ““Trump’s comments about punishing women are worth pondering because they reflect the logical conclusion of equating a fetus with any other human being” is morally inconsistent.

Laura Klassen’s video The Magical Birth Canal went viral in June, 2018.

Animated by Joseph Silk’s abolitionist efforts in the legislature and Pastor Dan Fisher’s abolitionist campaign for governor in Oklahoma, T. Russell Hunter and other started Free the States, the first abolitionist lobbying group in the fall of 2018.

In February, 2019, Oklahoma Baptists were quick to express their support for abolitionist Senate Bill 13 and their frustration with the BGCO’s decision to oppose it.

Abolitionist pastor Derin Stidd made a motion at the June, 2019 SBC Annual Meeting saying,

“As a Southern Baptist, I was both grieved and disappointed to see Southern Baptist leaders in Oklahoma and Texas work against bills that would have saved these little human beings. Along those lines, I would like to make a motion that the ERLC of the Southern Baptist Convention do a study on how churches, local associations, and state conventions can work with all entities within their state; including legislators, governors, and local associations to promote, admonish, and encourage the immediate abolition of human abortion and reaffirm our commitment to a biblical view that all people are created in the image of God and our commitment as Southern Baptists to article 15 which speaks to the protection of the preborn.”

The motion was ruled out of order because the convention cannot direct a SBC entity to do something but only request that they do something. Since the motion did not include the word “request” it was ruled out of order.

In response, Matt Hawkins, the former Policy Director of the ERLC tweeted that he was very glad the motion was squashed like a bug and Joe Carter, the ERLC Communications Specialist at the time, published an article against immediatism the very next day.

About this time, Dave Hughey, pastor of Geyer Springs First Baptist in Little Rock, exhorted fellow pastors and leaders in Arkansas to unite in an effort to abolish abortion in their state. Pastor Hughey hosted Chet Gallagher, the assistant director of Operation Save America in the pulpit and supported abolitionist legislation in Arkansas.

The SBC leadership’s opposition in Oklahoma, Texas, and the Birmingham annual meeting were wake up calls to many within our convention. SBC pastors were connecting nationwide over the abolition vs. Prolife debate.

On October 31, 2019 Jon Speed and Marcus Pittman released Babies Are Still Murdered Here.

In November, 2019, Oklahoma Baptists amended and passed a resolution calling on the Oklahoma legislature to end abortion immediately.

Early in 2020, the ERLC published historical information regarding our convention’s Pro-life stance toward abortion while grassroots support for abolitionism was growing.

On January 22, 2020, Desiring God ministries published Scott Klusendorf’s article entitled Abortion Dies by a Thousand Votes; Why Prolife Advocacy isn’t Compromise which was answered by abolitionist James Silberman here.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma’s fifth bill of equal protection and justice for the preborn was killed in February, 2020 and the legislature was thoroughly rebuked by Oklahoma Baptist pastors who called for a PLEXIT (Pro-life exit). Oklahoma Baptists for Abolishing Abortion was established during this time and a conference was held. Interviews with Southern Baptist abolitionist pastors continued to grow support for abolitionism.

On June 9, 2020, Southern Baptists for Abolishing Abortion published a video of the Resolution on Abolishing Abortion. This resolution was written for submission at the 2020 annual meeting in Orlando which did not happen due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The release of our resolution gained grassroots support through thousands of signatures and several interviews. A couple of abolitionist conferences were also held that year at SBC churches and Oklahoman Southern Baptist pastors started Rescue Those to educate, equip, and mobilize the saints in the name of Christ to rescue the preborn being led to slaughter.

In October of 2020 a resolution to abolish abortion was submitted by Adam Cochrun and David Van Bebber that echoed the language of our Resolution to Abolish Abortion. The Resolutions Committee of the Missouri Baptist Convention did not pass the resolution out of committee, yet Cochrun, Van Bebber, and others were able to get the two-thirds vote needed to by-pass the committee and bring the resolution to the floor for debate. In response to this move, the MBC Resolutions Committee gutted all language from the resolution that called for the immediate end of abortion, repentance for complacency, and equal protection for the pre-born. This effort was headed up by State Rep. Dough Richie. (The link to this discussion can be found here at time stamp 32:09).

Pastor and former Oklahoma Baptist President Dr. Blake Gideon was leading the charge against abolitionism in 2019. After asking God to reveal truth to him and experiencing the betrayal of pro-life politicians, Gideon soon became a leader in the abolitionist movement. He initially expressed his frustrations with the Prolife movement here. The same man that signed the Oklahoma Baptist letter opposing Oklahoma’s abolitionist Senate Bill 13 in 2019 was rebuking legislators for voting against abolitionist Senate Bill 495 in 2021. He said at the February, 2021 Abolition Day Rally at the Oklahoma state capitol, “I stand before you today and say that I repent of writing that letter.” He later documented his journey toward abolitionism here.

Southern Baptist abolitionist John Jacob was elected to serve in the Indiana State House in 2021 and quickly joins Representative Curt Nisly in sponsoring a bill to abolish abortion in Indiana.

Abolitionists rally at the Missouri capitol building on March 10, 2021 to support Senator Mike Moon’s proposed abolitionist bill.

Leading up to the 2021 Convention, Pastor Tom Ascol caused a bit of a stir by writing an article promoting the Southern Baptist Resolution on Abolishing Abortion in which he claimed, “It is time for Southern Baptists to repent of their complicity in searing the conscience of a nation that has yet to cease the slaughter of unborn innocents.”

Abolitionist Southern Baptist pastors Dusty Deevers and Brett Baggett were interviewed on Free the States’ Liberator podcast to discuss the Southern Baptist Resolution on Abolishing Abortion that was finally introduced at the 2021 SBC Annual Meeting in Nashville.

At the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting, Tristan Clark, a messenger from Michigan made a motion (see page 163 of the 2022 Book of Reports):
“That the newly elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention establish a task force comprised of not less than one Southern Baptist pastor who is biblically committed to the end of abortion from each state of the union, with the purpose of researching, determining, and then reporting to the SBC messengers of the 2022 annual meeting the most effective strategies, avenues, and allocations of resources at our disposal to effect change such that the USA move beyond the regulation of abortion to the point of its abolition.”

Response: For over three decades, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) has
worked tirelessly toward the goal of ending abortion, both through legislation, litigation, and ultimately working towards a culture where abortion is both unthinkable and unnecessary in our society. We deeply lament and oppose every legal effort to further protect or establish abortion in the United States, and we grieve the loss of lives for millions of preborn babies due to abortion.
The ERLC works diligently to represent Southern Baptist views before Congress in
Washington D.C., as they draft and pass legislation on these matters. We have long advocated for the including of the lifesaving Hyde Amendment and other important pro-life amendments during the appropriations process. The ERLC staff also work closely with other like-minded organizations through coalition letters and jointly working towards the end of abortion.
The ERLC is also pleased to work with our ministry partners on the state level through SBC
state conventions across the country. These men and women serve Southern Baptist churches faithfully and are valued colleagues in our battle to end abortion.
The ERLC works to change hearts, minds, and laws to save and protect the lives of preborn
babies and provide lifesaving support for vulnerable mothers. We should appreciate every
step that can be taken –– whether accomplished through legislative channels, court decisions, or cultural developments –– to save one additional preborn life. Until that day arrives, the ERLC will stand for life.

Several non-SBC abolitionists came to Nashville to assist in promoting the Resolution to Abolishing Abortion including Rusty Thomas, the director of Operation Save America and Jeff Durbin of End Abortion Now. With this additional help, the abolitionists were able to hand out almost seven thousand copies of the resolution as well as almost three thousand copies of Are You an Abolitionist?

The committee on resolutions declined to hear the resolution, instead presenting a Pro-life resolution on the Hyde amendment. During the discussion on the Hyde Amendment resolution, an amendment was proposed by pastor Josh Rice of Arkansas to strike the words “love, care for, and minister to women who are victimized by the unjust abortion industry” and replace them with “preach the gospel and urge repentance from all men and women guilty or complicit in the sin of abortion.” He said he was grateful for the resolution and shared its support for the Hyde Amendment, but said the language about women being victimized “interferes with the gospel by softening sin and, therefore, eliminating the ability of the law to tutor the need for confession and repentance. Let me be clear,” Rice said, “Women who obtain abortions, although their situation may be tragic and horrible, they are by the law murderers, and, therefore, should seek repentance and we should not be so arrogant to presume that their circumstance excuses their need for salvation from their sins.” Resolutions Committee member Dana Hall McCain responded with a tearful plea to the messengers to vote down the proposed amendment saying, “Before I entered into that task [of her own work counseling pregnant women who are considering abortion], I would have been very tempted to adopt language more in line with what you just proposed, and so I sympathize with the position that you hold. However, what the Lord has shown me sitting in those rooms across from broken women is that so many of them have been victimized by the sin of others, by generational sin, by parents who never took them to church and preached the gospel to them the way mine did to me. Yes, abortion is sin. … But I am also telling you that when we take a punitive and hard-hearted position toward women who are at a crossroads that usually a whole lot of people’s sin brought them to, we are not having the mind of Christ toward those women.” Rice’s proposed amendment failed. This was covered in the press here and here and by abolitionists here.

However, Pastor Bill Ascol made a motion from the floor of the convention that the Resolution on Abolishing Abortion be moved out of committee and to the floor for a vote. His appeal was heard and the vote well surpassed the required two thirds majority. The resolution was presented for a discussion and vote the next day.

That night, Pastor Bart Barber of the resolutions committee, took to social media to explain his reasons for opposing the Resolution on Abolishing Abortion. And the morning of the vote, Denny Burk and Andrew Walker did the same.

After some debate and a one word amendment, the resolution passed on the last day of the convention. During the debate, Midwestern Seminary Ethics Professor Alan Branch, ERLC Director of Content and Chair of Research in Christian Ethics Josh Wester, and San Antonio messenger David Norman spoke against the resolution. Pastor Brett Baggett and North Carolina messenger Sarah Hester spoke in favor of the resolution. Knoxville messenger Chris Garner offered his one word amendment to the resolution which passed. Pastor Ascol called the question, the debate was closed, and the vote passed with a more than 2/3 majority vote.

Oklahoma abolitionist pastors Chris Gore, Bill Ascol, Dusty Deevers, and Brett Baggett shared some initial thoughts on Facebook as messengers were exiting the convention hall, then Pastors Dusty Deevers and Jon Speed shared their thoughts on the passing of the resolution on Facebook later that night. Free the States discussed the resolution’s passing a week later on their podcast, calling it a “cataclysmic shot across the bow.”

Coverage of the resolution quickly began: Baptist Press, Baptist News Global, The Tennesseean, The Roys Report, CBS Birmingham, The New York Times, Faithwire, , Additionally, Wretched Radio covered it here, Alpha & Omega Ministries covered it here, Madison York of Free the States covered it here, and James Silberman covered it on The Federalist. Many pastors and church members were also discussing these things; some of them publicly through blogs, podcasts, and interviews.

On June 16, 2021, Joe Carter published an article on The Gospel Coalition website entitled, The FAQS: What You Should Know About SBC Resolutions. On June 18, 2021, the ERLC published Key resolutions from the 2021 SBC Annual Meeting which incorrectly stated that nine resolutions had been passed (there were ten) and also listed “seven of which were related to ERLC concerns, issues, and legislative priorities.” Noticeably absent from the list was the Resolution on Abolishing Abortion. These errors have yet to be corrected.

On June 22, 2021, an article attributed to SBC ethicists Denny Burk, Alan Branch, Andrew T. Walker, Steve Lemke, Daniel Heimbach, C. Ben Mitchell, Jeffrey Riley, and Richard Land was published on Public Discourse, a Journal of the Witherspoon Institute entitled Why We Opposed an Anti-Abortion Resolution at the Southern Baptist Convention. We answered this with an article on this website and James Silberman answered with an article at Free the States. Andrew Walker and Denny Burk responded with tweets.

The same day, Prolife resolutions committee member Dana Hall McCain wrote against the resolution here which was answered by abolitionist James Silberman here. The next day, an article by Denny Burk was published on his own blog against the resolution while Prolifers Scott Klusendorf and Mark Newman published an article criticizing the resolution here which was answered by abolitionist Sam Riley here.

These articles opposing abolition were also answered in a Free the States’ Liberator podcast episode.

Historian Jeff Straub and Andrew Kaake of Equal Rights Institute both weighed in negatively. On June 25, Ligonier Ministries weighed in positively on the topic of the abolition of abortion with a YouTube video.

Later in the month, respected Southern Baptist historian Tom Nettles wrote favorably regarding the resolution and critically of the opposition in an article posted on Founders Ministries website. And abolitionist pastors involved in writing the resolution continued doing podcast interviews here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Pastor Derin Stidd gave a quick recap of the 2021 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting and discussed his acceptance of the position of assistant national director of Operation Save America on the July 12, 2021 episode of the Resisting Balaam podcast.

On July 29, 2021, the ERLC published an article by Josh Wester entitled, Why We Need a Comprehensive Approach to Ending Abortion in which he says abolitionism allows “the perfect to be the enemy of the good.”

Earlier in July, Southern Baptists for Abolishing Abortion and Rescue Those signed onto an abolitionist amicus brief submitted to SCOTUS for their consideration during the deliberation of the Dobbs case. With Scripture as its primary authority, this brief, written by Constitutional attorney Bradley Pierce, stood in stark contrast to the Roman Catholic brief signed onto by the ERLC. Pierce was interviewed about his amicus brief here and here.

On September 6, 2021, Denny Burk published an article on his blog entitled Abolitionism vs. Incrementalism: Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?

On September 23, 2021, Scott Klusendorf published yet another critique of our Resolution on Abolishing Abortion which we promptly answered here and Free the States answered here and here.

On September 28, 2021, Tom Ascol and Jared Longshore discuss abortion with C.R. Cali, the pastor of Sermon in the Park in Texas and a national leader in the effort to abolish abortion on Founder’s Ministries’ The Sword & the Trowel podcast. They discuss his book, The Doctrine of Balaam and how Christians should take our marching orders from the written Word of God rather than the secular culture when we think about and respond to the abortion holocaust that plagues America.

On October 8, 2021, Pastor Bart Barber labels abolitionists as “impatient idealists” on his personal blog.

During the fall of 2021, the Baptist state conventions in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Utah/Idaho, South Carolina all passed abolitionist resolutions at their annual meetings. While the Missouri, Kentucky, and Texas conventions had vigorous debates on the subject, their annual meetings’ abortion resolutions were decidedly not abolitionist. More on the Texas Convention here and here.

In Missouri, again, Cochrun, Van Bebber, Clay Lyons, Noah Oldham, and thirty other Missouri Baptists submitted a resolution on the Abolition of Abortion. The language matched the original language of our resolution submitted at the SBC Annual Meeting. Van Bebber and other abolitionists gathered in Jefferson City at the Missouri Baptist Building for a resolutions hearing where Dr. Timothy Faber, representing the Christian Life Commission of the Missouri Baptist Convention offered a counter resolution. Van Bebber and other Missouri Baptist Abolitionists including Clay Lyons made it clear that Abolition was not incrementalism and to affirm incrementalism was the opposite of the abolitionist position. The entire hearing was recorded by Van Bebber and can be heard here.

Again in 2021 at the Missouri Baptist Annual Meeting the resolutions committee disregarded the resolution signed by over thirty Missouri Baptist Abolitionist and instead presented an incrementalist resolution labeled as an Abolitionist resolution.   State Rep. Dough Richie, this time with the support of the Christian Life Commission of the Missouri Baptist Convention opposed the Resolution on the Abolition of Abortion when the messengers attempted to move it out of committee. When Van Bebber, Cochrun, and other Abolitionist attempted to modify the Christian Life Commission abortion resolution, Richie, Faber, and others spoke out against this praising the prolife movement and refusing to repent for supporting the regulation of murder. This discussion can be viewed here at the 40:50 time stamp. Cochrun discussed this on both the Free the States Podcast and on the TAG You’re It Podcast.

Southern Baptist pastors continued promoting abolitionism through conferences.

On December 1, 2021, Brightrider Media released a full length documentary on the rise of abolitionism in Oklahoma as well as the five tenets of abolitionism. Directed by Nathan Weisser and produced by Brett Baggett and Dusty Deevers with Rescue Those ministry, all Southern Baptists, the film A Storm Comes Rolling Down the Plain helped crystalize abolition in the minds of many believers.

On January 7, 2022, Tom Ascol appeared on Free the States’ podcast to talk about the growing rise of abolitionism in the Southern Baptist Convention and his embrace of abolitionism.

In February, 2022, the ERLC published an interview with Richard Land regarding the history and future of our Convention’s stance toward abortion.

On April 7, acting president of the ERLC Brent Leatherwood was quoted as saying, “Despite the philosophical and legal differences individuals like me will have with her, Judge Jackson’s confirmation is a history-making moment. We should appreciate it as such. If we lose the ability to do that, we lose something that makes America an exceptional nation. Leatherwood also wrote that he prays “that as she joins the nation’s highest court, she will decide cases about human dignity, religious liberty and protection of the family based on the fundamental principles of our country.” He was criticized for these comments by many Southern Baptists because of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s pro-abortion views as well as several of her other anti-biblical views. This was a topic of discussion on this Liberator podcast episode and Tom Ascol tweeted, “This!?! From @ERLC funded by SBC churches! This judge can’t define a ‘woman,’ gave slaps on the wrist to child sex abusers, advocates for the murder of babies, & is celebrated by NARAL. And we should ‘appreciate’ her appointment? We should weep! #changethedirection” and in response to Erick Erickson’s tweet in support of Leatherwood’s comment, “If you are a Christian defending the ERLC expressing ‘appreciation’ for a Molechite being appointed to SCOTUS as ‘loving your neighbor’ you definitely need to get off twitter & begin reading your Bible to learn what genuine love is. Start with Romans 12:9. #changethedirection”

On May 2, 2022, Ronnie Rogers, the pastor of Trinity Baptist Church, Norman, OK, where abolitionism started, posted an article on his personal blog entitled, Why I Am an Incrementalist/Eliminationist and Not an Abolitionist. This was answered with two video responses from Pastor Blake Gideon on May 3 and from Free the States on May 5.

On May 4, 2022, for the first time in any state, a bill of abolition was passed out of committee in Louisiana with a 7-2 vote. This was due largely in part to the efforts of Southern Baptist pastor Brian Gunter who was convinced of abolitionism at the 2021 annual meeting in Nashville. Gunter was interviewed about this bill and his efforts here.

Tom Ascol and Graham Gunden discussed the abolition of abortion, the ERLC, and Tim Keller on Founders Ministries’ May 10 episode of The Sword & the Trowel podcast.

On May 12, 2022, National Right to Life released an open letter to state lawmakers that stated,

“As national and state pro-life organizations, representing tens of millions of pro-life men, women, and children across the country, let us be clear: We state unequivocally that we do not support any measure seeking to criminalize or punish women and we stand firmly opposed to include such penalties in legislation.”

Among the Catholic and Progressive Evangelical signatories is the signature of Brent Leatherwood, acting president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. That evening, Leatherwood tweeted, “I joined a pro-life letter along with more than 70 other leaders in the pro-life movement to all state legislators across the country, not just one state. Here’s the gist: Ban abortion. Save lives. Protect mothers. Go after the abortionists.” The next day, Tom Ascol called for Leatherwood’s dismissal as did others. The Southern Baptists for Abolishing Abortion sent out a mass email blast calling for accountability from the ERLC trustees. Leatherwood and his co-host opened their next podcast by mocking Tom Ascol’s mistake (He called Leatherwood by the wrong name in a tweet) and his criticisms by saying “the only way to respond to stuff like that that’s not serious is to laugh about it” as “joyful warriors.” Leatherwood’s only other public response was to make light of Ascol’s name mistake on twitter. Ascol replied, “Well, I did confuse @LeatherwoodTN with a friend of mine & called him ‘Glenn.’ So, apologies for that, but, hey, ‘Brent’ & @ERLC, I wish you would respond to my substantive critique of your flawed “pro-life” approach in your horrible open letter. Asking for 14+million friends.”

On May 13, 2022, Denny Burk published an article entitled Why Pro-Lifers Support Laws to Punish Abortionists but Not Mothers.

On May 14, 2022, Denny Burk published another article on his blog entitled An Appeal to Southern Baptists To Support the Pro-life Cause in which he criticized abolitionism and concluded with the following: “If you support the pro-life cause and plan to be a messenger to the SBC convention in Anaheim next month, please be ready for a debate on any abortion resolution that may come up. Be ready to recognize the difference between pro-life language and Abolitionist language, and raise your ballot in favor of the pro-life cause. Send a resounding message that you wish to be a part of the long pro-life effort to save whatever lives we can on the way to total abolition of the scourge of abortion.”

On May 15, 2022, Conservative Baptist Network steering committee member Sharayah Colter published an article entitled Many rightly believe a woman is morally culpable in choosing to kill her children—born or unborn on her personal website responding to Burk’s May 13 article and to the May 12 National Right to Life letter.

On May 15, 2022, David French published an article on his blog entitled, For Abortion Abolition, Against Abortion ‘Abolitionists’.

On May 15, 2022, SBC presidential nominee Bart Barber added a statement on abortion to his FAQ’s. Southern Baptist abolitionists David Van Bebber and Adam Cochrun responded on their Tag, You’re It podcast featuring Dusty Deevers and C. R. Cali responded on his Resisting Balaam podcast.

On May 16, 2022, American Reformer published an article by Pastor Chris Bolt entitled, The ERLC’s Moral Doublespeak on Abortion.

On May 17, 2022, Ascol published a Founders Ministries article entitled Toward a Principled Pro-Life Ethic in Post-Roe America in which he addressed Burk’s most recent article as well as Leatherwood’s signature on the National Right to Life letter. Along with his co-host Graham Gunden, he also discussed the abortion issue with Allie Beth Stuckey on The Sword & the Trowel podcast and discussed abortion with Jeff Schreve on American Family Radio’s Real Truth for Today.

On May 17, 2022, we published a response to both of Denny Burk’s most recent articles as well as the David French article here.

On May 17, 2022, Richard Land published an article against abolitionism entitled, What’s The Best Way To Be Pro-Life?: A Southern Baptist Debate.

On May 17, 2022, Free the States’ Liberator Podcast told the story of the death of the Louisiana abolition bill at the hands of prolifers.

On May 18, 2022, Pastor Michael Cox published an article on his blog entitled The Pro-Life Divide Among Southern Baptists: Incrementalism v. Abolitionism in which he states, “Attempting to save lives by incremental approaches might well have saved some lives. But 60 million or so lost lives indicate that the incremental approach failed these babies. So, whatever strategies were tried before were not enough. No argument defending the Incrementalist strategy succeeds in justifying not taking a stronger [abolitionist] stand immediately, and Southern Baptists should have done so from the outset. I cannot defend the Incrementalist position biblically any more than I can defend the early Southern Baptist stance on slavery, because each is virtually indefensible.”

News outlets started covering the Southern Baptist debate over abolitionism vs. Prolifeism. National Review on May 17. Christianity Today on May 19. The Christian Action League of North Carolina on May 20.

Published on May 26 and May 31, T. Russell Hunter and James Silberman interviewed their pastors Blake Gideon and Dusty Deevers to discuss the recent abortion debate in the SBC on Free the States’ Liberator Podcast.

On May 31, 2022, Tom Ascol and Graham Gunden interviewed Bradley Pierce, President of Abolish Abortion Texas, Executive Director of the nonprofit Foundation to Abolish Abortion and Vice President of Heritage Defense on Founders Ministries’ The Sword and the Trowel podcast. They discussed the recent abortion bill (813) in Louisiana, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the SBC and their involvement in shutting down that bill, as well as his amicus brief filed in the Dobbs case.

On June 1, Grace Family Church of Houston published an article by Pastor Aaron Wright entitled The High Place of Moral Culpability in answer to Burk and others who say aborting moms should not face criminal prosecution.

On June 2, 2022, while not without qualifiers, Al Mohler states, “A woman who seeks an abortion, looks up how to get an abortion, takes herself to an abortion provider and simply demands an abortion…. she should be held as complicit in either the death of her unborn child or the effort to secure such a death,” signaling a departure from his 2016 statement.

News outlet coverage of the SBC abortion debate continued: Christian Post on June 8.

The June 10 episode of Free the States’ Liberator podcast was devoted to a discussion of the upcoming Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting in Anaheim, California, June 14-15. Special attention was given to the election of the convention president and the Resolution on Equal Protection of the Laws for Preborn Children that was submitted to the resolutions committee.

In a June 10 interview with Ryan Fullerton and Josh Abbotoy, (starting at the 46:20 mark) Tom Ascol discussed the abortion debate in the SBC and how he arrived at his current position.

On June 14, 2022, The SBC 2022 Annual Meeting’s Committee on Resolutions published their disposition toward our Resolution on Equal Protection in the Annual Meeting daily bulletin (on page 17) as follows: “While the Committee believes that the Southern Baptist Convention messengers would agree with some aspects of this resolution, the Committee believes Resolution #7 addresses these concerns in a way that takes note of the present historic moment in which we await the ruling on the Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization case presently before the Supreme Court.” In spite of the committee’s decision to decline the resolution, thousands of copies were placed in the hands of the messengers at the entrances and exits during both the pastors conference and the annual meeting by Southern Baptist abolitionists.

On June 15, 2022, Baptist Press went live on Facebook with a Resolutions Committee Press Conference in which Dana Hall McCain was asked about Resolution 7 considering a lot of pushback from the floor regarding the ERLC’s leadership. McCain said, “as a committee, we want to reflect what we think the majority of Southern Baptists think and feel on this issue. We try to capture that and help them express that. . . . We put together what we felt like was the best expression of where the majority of Southern Baptists are today.”

At the 2022 SBC Annual Meeting in Anaheim, CA, messenger Jacob Jackson of Covenant Life Church in Richmond, VA made a motion to “request that the SBC would take the necessary steps to equip, fund, and support sidewalk missionaries as a recognized, sanctioned, and supported ministry of the Southern Baptist church.” His motion was seconded and forwarded to committee.

At the 2022 SBC Annual Meeting, Pastor John Jones III of Cadet, MO made a motion that the messengers “instruct the IMB to allow medical autonomy to career missionaries by not mandating them to receive vaccines that go against their consciences, especially vaccines created in or tested in aborted fetal tissue. It is continually more evident that these cell lines have been collected in very ungodly ways, one example from the Judicial Watch press release August 3, 2021, since we regard ourselves as completely pro-life as Southern Baptists, it should not be a problem to allow our missionaries to keep their conscience clear concerning these matters and allow them to choose countries that do not require these vaccines or look for alternative vaccines when they are available.” His motion received a second and was forwarded to committee.

At the 2022 Annual Meeting, Josh Scruggs, messenger from Bethlehem Baptist Church, Jacksonville, North Carolina made a motion that the messengers “abolish the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.” Speaking for the motion, Scruggs referenced the ERLC’s signing on to the National Right to Life open letter to state lawmakers. Messenger Josh Abbotoy of Houston, TX also referenced the open letter when speaking for the motion. The vote occurred the next day and did not pass.

At the 2022 Annual Meeting, Messenger Dana McCain of the resolutions committee moved to adopt Resolution 7: On Anticipation of a Historic Moment in the Pro-Life Movement which included the statement, “whereas beginning with our 1989 Resolution ‘On Encouraging Laws Regulating Abortion,’ we have supported laws in the various state legislatures that have brought us incrementally to the threshold of a moment of great victory in the pro-life cause.” Before any debate or discussion could take place, messenger Rob Collingsworth from Redemption Story Church, Ft. Worth, TX called the question. Though Collingsworth told chairman Ed Litton he believed he got out of order in the microphone line, his motion to call the question was allowed to stand and better than 2/3 of the messengers voted to move Resolution 7 on to a vote. The majority of the messengers passed the resolution without any discussion, debate, or proposed amendments. Messenger Janice Wright of Houston, Texas moved that our Resolution on Equal Protection of the Laws for Preborn Children be brought out of committee and to the floor for a vote. Chairman Ed Litton did not allow her to speak to her motion. Less than 2/3 voted in favor of her motion and it failed.

During the ERLC report, acting ERLC president Brent Leatherwood was asked the following by Pastor Brian Gunter, “Is it really your position that the mother who willfully kills her own child by abortion is never guilty before God and she should never face any consequences under the law?” Leatherwood answered, “You’re not going to get me to say that I want to throw mothers behind bars. That is not the view of this entity. That is not the view of this Convention. It is not the view of the Pro-life movement. That was proven yet again today.” After Leatherwood’s update on the ERLC, messenger Paul Thompson of Twin Falls, ID who is running for the Idaho State Senate, asked Leatherwood, “Will you please not write letters to the state of Idaho to reduce the efforts and to eliminate the opportunity that we could speak for the preborn and that, not mothers, but that murderers can no longer murder children in my state.” Also, during the ERLC questions, Arkansas messenger Wes Brown referred to Kevin Smith’s ERLC message saying, “The previous speaker rightly referred to willful abortion as a sin. . . . Is it a sin before God by the mother who willfully participates in it And if so, which law of God did she break?” to which Smith replied, “The Ten Commandments -‘Thou shall not kill,'” made a face, shrugged his shoulders, and sat down.

At the 2022 Annual Meeting, the ERLC was criticized by several in person and on social media for the promotional material being distributed for their January 2023 Stand for Life event which utilized the tagline, “Making Abortion Unnecessary.” Elizabeth Graham, Vice President of Operations and Life Initiatives for the ERLC took time during the ERLC report to explain the rationale for using the phrase, and Brent Leatherwood did the same when fielding a question, but still the question was raised by messenger Jared Moore to stop using the tagline because it, “implies that it’s necessary. I think you should change it. If a mother sees that, she’s gonna’ think it’s necessary -unless she talks to y’all. It could cost babies’ lives.”

At the 2022 Annual Meeting, three seminary presidents were asked where they stood on criminalizing abortion for all parties involved. Jason Allen of Midwestern avoided directly answering the question as did Danny Akin of Southeastern. However, consistent with his recent statement on The Briefing, Albert Mohler of Southern Seminary answered the question as follows, “We understand homicide is the death or the killing of a human being. An unborn baby, I believe from the moment of conception until natural death, is a human being deserving of that protection. The law has means of making discernments and distinctions in agency, and that means moral responsibility, and in context. How we make that apply in a question of abortion where, even in terms of a miscarriage things may be difficult to define, I believe the law is capable of making those distinctions. In the same way we have different degrees of murder, we have different kinds of indictments possible, and criminal charges. So, in other words, I believe that there are many cases in which, demonstrably, there is not just an abortionist who should face criminal consequences, but a woman seeking an abortion. So, that is something that we believe the law should pursue.”

On June 17, we highlighted the ready acceptance of the 2022 SBC Annual Meeting messengers to hear Resolution Committee Chairman Bart Barber and messenger Griffin Gulledge’s arguments in favor of Resolution 5: On Support for Consistent Laws Regarding Pastoral Sexual Abuse which appealed to lawmakers for consistent laws, called for fair and just measures, a sharpening of the state’s sword, to uphold due process, to protect the innocent, and to punish evildoers who prey on others. These arguments sounded very similar to what abolitionists have been saying about the abolition of abortion. This resolution was submitted by Pastor Gulledge who also submitted the 2021 resolution on the Uyghur genocide which said, “this Convention condemn the actions of the government of the People’s Republic of China and of the ruling Chinese Communist Party against the Uyghur people and other ethnic groups, and we stand together with these people against the atrocities committed against them,” and called “upon the Chinese Communist Party and the People’s Republic of China government to immediately cease all genocidal actions against the Uyghurs and restore to them their full religious liberty, as well as put an end to their captivity and systematic persecution and abuse.” Similarly, the 2022’s annual meeting passed Resolution 3: On the War in Ukraine which called “upon Russian President Vladimir Putin to cease hostilities immediately, withdraw the Russian military, and end this war of aggression against Ukraine and her people.”

3 thoughts on “Keeping up with the SBC Abortion Abolition Debate

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