The president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board has apologized for his agency’s decision to file a legal brief supporting Muslims seeking to build a New Jersey mosque.
“I grieve how the amicus brief in the recent mosque case has been so divisive and distracting,” said David Platt during a meeting with Baptist state newspaper editors, who were gathered for their annual meeting Feb. 15. He was quoted by the Baptist and Reflector, a Nashville, Tenn.-based publication. “I apologize to Southern Baptists for how distracting and divisive this has been.”
The May 2016 brief was joined by 20 faith-based groups including the SBC Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty. It accused planning officials of discriminating against the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge, N.J.
Tennessee pastor Dean Haun resigned from the mission agency’s trustee board in January after learning about the brief, saying it did not mesh with the agency’s mission to reach Muslims with the Christian gospel. His church, First Baptist Church in Morristown, Tenn., put a temporary hold on Cooperative Program funds to the Southern Baptist Convention, while continuing to support work of the SBC-affiliated Tennessee Baptist Convention.
After Haun’s resignation IMB leaders revised their policy on amicus briefs to “speak only into situations that are directly tied to our mission.”
“I am confident that in the days ahead, the IMB will have better processes in place to keep us focused on our primary mission,” Platt told the Baptist editors. According to Baptist Press, Platt issued a similar apology to Baptist state convention executive directors holding their annual gathering at the same time and location.
The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, the agency assigned to represent Southern Baptists in religious liberty and public policy concerns, has also draw criticism for joining the brief but has not altered its position in favor of building the mosque.
A Texas megachurch led by former SBC President Jack Graham announced it will be withholding funds earmarked for the convention while the congregation discusses unspecified positions taken by ELRC leadership “that do not reflect the beliefs and values of many in the Southern Baptist Convention,” according to a Feb. 16 report in the Louisiana Baptist Message.
“I’m not angry at the SBC, and neither are our people,” the pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, told Baptist Message editor and former Baptist Press director Will Hall. “We’re just concerned about the direction of the Southern Baptist Convention, and feel the need to make some changes in the way we give.”