By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
BRENTWOOD – Simply put, neither the Southern Baptist Convention nor the Tennessee Baptist Convention are building mosques.
Yet, the false rumor that Southern Baptists are building mosques is running rampant on social media, particularly Facebook. TBC staff have received multiple inquiries regarding the rumor which is based on an article written for The End Times website, a self-described “news satire and parody site.” The title of the article written by The End Times editor Scott Alan Buss was “Southern Baptist Convention Launches Mosque Building Program to Promote ‘Religious Liberty’ and ‘Niceness.’ ” Attempts to contact Buss were unsuccessful.
“Neither the convention nor any of its entities promotes building houses of worship for any other religious group,” according to Frank Page, president of the SBC Executive Committee in a statement provided to the Baptist and Reflector.
“This controversy stems from a satirical website that falsely characterized an amicus (friend of the court) brief filed by the Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission as an endorsement of building mosques.”
During the recent SBC annual meeting in St. Louis, ERLC President Russell Moore responded to a messenger’s question about how a Southern Baptist could defend the right of Muslims to build mosques.
Moore told messengers, “What it means to be a Baptist is to support soul freedom for everybody.
“When you have a government that says, ‘We can decide whether or not a house of worship is being constructed based upon the theological beliefs of that house of worship,’ then there are going to be Southern Baptist churches in San Francisco and New York and throughout this country who are not going to be able to build.”
In a personal blog he posted on June 8 prior to the annual meeting, the SBC ethics/religious liberty advocate made it clear that he was speaking directly to a religious freedom issue.
“Moreover, the idea that religious freedom should apply only to Christians, or only to religious groups that aren’t unpopular, is not only morally wrong but also self-defeating. A government that can tell you a mosque or synagogue cannot be built because it is a mosque or a synagogue is a government that, in the fullness of time, will tell an evangelical church it cannot be constructed because of our claims to the exclusivity of Christ.
“Those voices (though a distinct minority, to be sure) that claim to be Christian but seek to restrict religious freedom for others are perhaps unknowingly on a campaign to destroy religious liberty. They would set the precedents that will be used to destroy churches, and they will give the opponents of religious liberty the charge that the issue isn’t about freedom at all but about seeking government approval of one’s religion.”
Page stressed that the SBC “promotes the planting and building of soul-winning Baptist churches that proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ as the one and only means of salvation. Actually, we encourage churches to plant and build other [soul-winning Baptist] churches.”
TBC Executive Director Randy C. Davis echoed Page. “The Tennessee Baptist Convention does not build mosques or houses of worship of any other denomination or religion,” he stressed. “Our focus is on the convention-adopted Five Objectives and chief among those objectives is reaching with the gospel of Jesus Christ the 3.65 million Tennesseans who currently have no relationship with him.” See Randy Davis’ Clarity column.
Those Five Objectives include seeing at least 50,000 Tennesseans annually saved, baptized, and set on the road to discipleship by 2024; having at least 500 Tennessee Baptist churches revitalized by 2024; and planting and strategically engaging at least 1,000 new churches by 2024. The other two objectives focus on seeing increased giving through the Cooperative Program and the Golden Offering for Tennessee Missions, two primary sources for funding missions in Tennessee, across North America and around the world.