On Tuesday, Flag Day, leadership of the second largest Christian denomination in the United States voted overwhelmingly to reject the Confederate flag. Once a pro-slavery denomination aligned with the Confederacy, the Southern Baptist Convention voted to condemn the familiar battle flag of the Confederate States of America in a movement sparked by a black SBC pastor from Arlington, Texas, in the weeks after the massacre of nine black parishioners at a church in Charleston, SC.
The resolution reads: “We call our brothers and sisters in Christ to discontinue the display of the Confederate battle flag as a sign of solidarity of the whole Body of Christ, including our African-American brothers and sisters.”
Founded in 1845, the SBC is the second largest Christian denomination in America behind Catholicism. While SBC resolutions are not binding for member churches, the membership typically falls in line with leadership directives. The denomination originated in a split in the U.S. Baptist church over issues related to slavery in the run-up to the Civil War. According to Wikipedia:
Slavery in the 19th century became the most critical moral issue dividing Baptists in the United States. Struggling to gain a foothold in the South, after the American Revolution, the next generation of Baptist preachers accommodated themselves to the leadership of southern society. Rather than challenging the gentry on slavery and urging manumission (as did the Quakers and Methodists), they began to interpret the Bible as supporting the practice of slavery and encouraged good paternalistic practices by slaveholders.
They preached to slaves to accept their places and obey their masters. In the two decades after the Revolution during the Second Great Awakening, Baptist preachers abandoned their pleas that slaves be manumitted.
After first attracting yeomen farmers and common planters, in the nineteenth century, the Baptists began to attract major planters among the elite. While the Baptists welcomed slaves and free blacks as members, whites controlled leadership of the churches, their preaching supported slavery, and blacks were usually segregated in seating.
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