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On Religious Freedom And Evangelism In A Pluralistic Society

WHEREAS, Some persons and groups have asserted recently that efforts by Christians to evangelize others are inappropriate in a religiously diverse culture, even describing evangelism as a “hate crime”; and

WHEREAS, These persons contend that evangelism undermines a peaceful, pluralistic society and may lead to intolerance, bigotry, and even violence; and

WHEREAS, We believe that our nation’s founders envisioned a land in which there would be freedom of conscience to worship God or not worship God as a fundamental human right; and

WHEREAS, The biblical command to share one’s faith in Christ is consistent with (1) the freedom granted by our Creator (Acts 17:24-28), (2) the Great Commission given to us by Christ Himself (Matthew 28:18-20), and (3) the example of the New Testament believers (Acts 11:19-26, et al.); and

WHEREAS, Our Baptist forebears struggled, and in some cases suffered, bled, and died, to preserve religious freedom; and

WHEREAS, The religious freedom of American citizens to share their faith is protected by the Constitution of the United States; and

WHEREAS, This freedom is acknowledged even by the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights when it says in Article 18, “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance”; and

WHEREAS, The recently published Chicago Declaration on Religious Freedom (May 2000), endorsed by various Southern Baptist and other evangelical leaders, affirms as a basic freedom the right to share one’s faith; and

WHEREAS, The North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention has announced its Strategic Cities Initiative for evangelizing major population centers in this country; and

WHEREAS, The International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention coordinates global missions in obedience to the Great Commission.

Therefore, be it RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention, meeting in Orlando, Florida, June 13-14, 2000, commit afresh to personal evangelism; and

Be it further RESOLVED, That we affirm our God-given and constitutionally-protected right to make Christ known in a pluralistic society; and

Be it further RESOLVED, That the proclamation of the Gospel of Christ is a reflection of our love for both God and neighbor; and

Be it further RESOLVED, That out of respect for the value, dignity, and human rights of all people, we abhor the use of coercive techniques, dishonest appeals, or any form of deception in evangelistic outreach; and

Be it finally RESOLVED, That if our culture or even our government were to forbid us to proclaim the gospel, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).