Dwight McKissic

What was hottest story in Phoenix? Southern Baptist confusion or final vote slamming alt-right? (updated)

What was hottest story in Phoenix? Southern Baptist confusion or final vote slamming alt-right? (updated)

So in the end, what was the big news story at the Southern Baptist Convention in Phoenix?

Was it the resolution slamming the alt-right that "messengers" from churches in America's largest Protestant flock passed or the strange timing of the action to pass it?

Was it the painful chaos after SBC leaders decided not to send the original resolution to the floor for debate, a decision raising myriad issues about Southern Baptist tensions linked to race and politics in the age of Donald Trump? Or was it the successful protests from many younger pastors -- white and black -- demanding a chance to speak to America about this issue?

The answer, of course, is all of the above.

As always, journalists faced the challenge of crunching that complex reality into as few words as possible, in a form that average readers could understand. Clearly, it helped to have a veteran religion reporter on hand to do this work (or someone who spoke fluent Southern Baptist).

Here is the good news: The Associated Press produced a punchy, highly accurate report from Phoenix, which means that your average newspaper reader had a chance to get the basic facts. Note the sequence of news elements at the top of this report (produced by an AP reporter on the scene, and veteran religion-beat pro Rachel Zoll in New York):

PHOENIX (AP) -- Southern Baptists on Wednesday formally condemned the political movement known as the "alt-right," in a national meeting that was thrown into turmoil after leaders initially refused to take up the issue.
The denomination's annual convention in Phoenix voted to "decry every form of racism, including alt-right white supremacy as antithetical to the Gospel of Jesus Christ" and "denounce and repudiate white supremacy and every form of racial and ethnic hatred as a scheme of the devil."

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Ongoing drama of Southern Baptists and race: Who was there to cover alt-right debate in Phoenix?

Ongoing drama of Southern Baptists and race: Who was there to cover alt-right debate in Phoenix?

For quite a few hours now, the most popular article at The Atlantic website has been Emma Green's strategic piece with this double-decker headline: 

A Resolution Condemning White Supremacy Causes Chaos at the Southern Baptist Convention
At its annual meeting, the evangelical denomination initially declined to consider a statement of its opposition to the alt-right.

Look for this right there on the website's front page, under the advertisement for "The Handmaid's Tale."

I'm waiting for the update on that timely piece and I have no doubt that it's on the way. It appears to me that her piece was a key domino in this coverage.

It has been a remarkable day, watching journalists tune into the 2017 gathering of the Southern Baptist Convention. Better late than never. In this day of tight travel budgets, and fewer slots for trained religion-beat professionals, it's appears that there are few journalistic boots on the ground there in Phoenix (see Julia Duin post here), in terms of mainstream media.

But you know what? It's hard to tell, with the SBC streaming the main proceedings and with a waterfall of #SBC17 tweets pointing reporters, those with the eyes to see, to all kinds of voices and perspectives.

The pre-convention buzz centered on the fate of the Rev. Russell Moore, leader of the convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. Instead, the story of the convention turned out to be a bumbling, but ultimately convicting, SBC effort to deal with race and one of the hottest of hot-button labels in current American life -- "alt-right." The end result was a major win for the convention and, in particular, the SBC's growing number of black church leaders -- who are among Moore's strongest supporters.

Moore stood to deliver a sure-fire soundbite for the night. Look for this in news coverage tomorrow.

Basically, he said the resolution in question has a number on it -- 10. Then he added that the alt-right has a number on it -- 666.

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