Baptists support legalization but not `amnesty'

June 16, 2011

(RNS) Southern Baptists adopted a resolution Wednesday (June 15) that
supports a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants but clearly
states they reject "amnesty."

After heated debate at their annual meeting in Phoenix, the Baptists
approved a statement that called for secure borders and "a just and
compassionate path to legal status, with appropriate restitutionary
measures" for illegal immigrants already in the U.S.

Some delegates said the language on "legal status" was tantamount to
amnesty, prompting an almost equally divided vote over whether to remove
it. In response, officials added language that said: "This resolution is
not to be construed as support for amnesty for any undocumented

After Tuesday's election that put an African-American pastor in the
denomination's No. 2 leadership position, and plans to increase ethnic
diversity, the resolution emphasized the church should minister
regardless of a person's immigration status or country of origin.

"The intention ... is to point us all toward thinking about those
who have come into the United States from other nations," said Paul
Jimenez, a South Carolina pastor and chair of the resolutions committee.
"To ask the question first, not `What is your legal status?', but `What
is your gospel status?"'

In a separate and unexpected vote, delegates expressed "profound
disappointment" with the 2011 translation of the popular New
International Version of the Bible, saying its use of gender-neutral
language has made it an "inaccurate translation of God's inspired

The meeting was attended by 4,814 registrants, the lowest number
since 1944.