Kate Shellnutt, Houston Chronicle, June 15, 2011
On Wednesday, the Southern Baptist Convention adopted a resolution supporting government efforts to provide paths to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and pledged that churches work toward just treatment of people regardless of legal status, Baptist News reported.
White evangelicals, a category that includes many Southern Baptists, don’t generally take a positive position on undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. They are three times more likely to say “better border security” should be the focus of the immigration issue than they are to prioritize “creating a path to citizenship,” according to research by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.
Despite concerns that the resolution supported amnesty, Southern Baptist leaders defended a more open stance toward immigration.
The text of the approved resolution reads, in part:
RESOLVED, That we ask our governing authorities to implement, with the borders secured, a just and compassionate path to legal status, with appropriate restitutionary measures, for those undocumented immigrants already living in our country.
RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention … call on our churches to be the presence of Christ, in both proclamation and ministry, to all persons, regardless of country of origin or immigration status …
… RESOLVED, That we deplore any bigotry or harassment against any persons, regardless of their country of origin or legal status …
The language of the first clause was so controversial that the vote split 51.31 percent in favor and 48.43 percent opposed. The convention ended up adding the clause “this resolution is not to be construed as support for amnesty for any undocumented immigrant.”