Christian Leaders Refuse to Renounce White Nationalism at Southern Baptist Convention Meeting

Members of the clergy lay hands and pray over Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump at the New Spirit Revival Center in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, on September 21, 2016. The Southern Baptist Convention has not yet been able to to pass a resolution condemning white supremacy at its annual meeting. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

A resolution condemning white supremacy and the growing white nationalist alt-right movement was initially rejected at the Southern Baptist Convention's annual meeting this week, raising outrage from black members of the faith. The controversy illustrates the continued clash among evangelicals over President Donald Trump and the more radical, white nationalistic branch of his supporters.

Dwight McKissic, a prominent African-American preacher, drafted the resolution. It called white nationalism a "toxic menace" to the country and called on the church to "reject the retrograde ideologies, xenophobic biases and racial bigotries of the so-called 'Alt-Right' that seek to subvert our government, destabilize society, and infect our political system."

The committee behind new resolutions decided not to move the proposal forward on Tuesday, the first day of the group's 2017 meeting in Phoenix. Southern Baptist pastors from across the country gather annually to discuss their beliefs and practices.

The Committee on Resolutions decided the language was "inappropriate," committee Chairman Barrett Duke told The Arizona Republic. "The resolution just contained some significantly inflammatory language that we felt was over the bar," he said.

After the resolutions committee decided not to move the resolution forward, McKissic made a motion to allow additional time for the resolution to be considered. The motion failed, which led to wide-ranging criticism of the organization, especially from black Baptists.

The resolution touched on the church's racist history, as the Southern Baptists once prominently taught the "curse of Ham" theory, which the resolution describes as "echoing the belief that God through Noah ordained descendants of Africa to be subservient to Anglos" and "which provided the theological justification for slavery and segregation."

"The amount of work left to do in 'evangelical' (who knows that means anymore?) church is staggering," black pastor Thabiti Anyabwile tweeted. "Any "church" that cannot denounce white supremacy without hesitancy and equivocation is a dead, Jesus denying assembly."

Garrett Kell, a pastor at Del Ray Baptist Church in Virginia, told the Republic he was concerned about the day's developments.

"I'm disappointed that we as a convention could leave the illusion that we don't reject the racist ideologies held by many in the alt-right movement," he said.

The controversy comes at a time of a growing divide between evangelicals over politics. White Evangelicals strongly supported Trump, including Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr., who called him the "dream president" for evangelicals, pointing to his Supreme Court nomination and economic and immigration policies.

But Trump's comments about women, including the infamous Access Hollywood tape in which he brags about sexually assaulting women, rankled some anti-Trump evangelicals. While 81 percent of evangelicals are said to have supported Trump, according to exit polls, pre-election polling suggested 62 percent of non-white evangelicals supported his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.

Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, is an outspoken opponent of the president. "Most illogical is his support from evangelicals and other social conservatives," he wrote during the campaign. "To back Mr. Trump, these voters must repudiate everything they believe."