BALTIMORE — An Arkansas megachurch pastor was elected Tuesday to lead the country’s Southern Baptists as the conservative denomination tries to turn around declining membership, church attendance and baptisms and faces increasing conflict with mainstream culture, especially over its conviction that gay sex is immoral.
Also on Tuesday, the nation’s largest Protestant denomination approved a resolution opposing the idea that gender identity can be different from biological sex.
The group declined to consider a motion made from the floor by one delegate asking that a Southern California church be disciplined for perceived support of homosexuality. Denomination officials ruled the motion out of order.
Article continues belowIn nominating the Rev. Ronnie Floyd for president, the powerful head of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, the Rev. Albert Mohler, told the crowd of 5,000 meeting in Baltimore, “The nation is embracing a horrifying moral rebellion that is transforming our culture before our very eyes.”
He warned of “direct challenges to our religious freedoms and churches” and said Floyd is the person who can “convey our message in the midst of the most trying times.”
Floyd received 52 percent of votes from delegates to the SBC annual meeting, beating out the Rev. Dennis Kim, the Korean-American pastor of a bilingual Maryland church, who received 41 percent of votes.
For 27 years Floyd has been the pastor at Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, where about 8,500 people worship each week at its several locations. He succeeds the Rev. Fred Luter Jr., who became the 15.7-million-member denomination’s first African-American president in 2012.
“It appears now that everywhere you look, everything you read and everything you hear is about the gay lifestyle. Satan has taken his tool of homosexuality, a gross and evil sin, and done a con job on the American culture, making it seem like all is okay when you are gay.
“I hope you are aware that what was once subtle has now turned into the rage of a lion as brazen and threatening as anything in our culture.
“I must sound the trumpet loud and clear, praying that we do not run in retreat, but march in the truth of God valiantly. This is not a skirmish or a conflict or a disagreement, but it is a war. The war they have declared against our culture has an agenda and we need to be aware of it.”
Later Tuesday, delegates passed, without discussion, a resolution on transgender identity that opposes hormone therapy, gender reassignment surgery and other efforts to “alter one’s bodily identity.”
According to the resolution, “God’s design was the creation of two distinct and complementary sexes, male and female.”
The resolution expresses opposition to government efforts to “validate transgender identity as morally praiseworthy.”