Southern Baptist Convention Kicks Off Annual Meeting in Dallas

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott addressed the convention Tuesday and said America faces a crisis as some people try to "silence the faithful and remove God from the public square"

Thousands of people from across the country are in Downtown Dallas this week for the Southern Baptist Convention's annual meeting.

This year's event comes as the church faces sharp criticism - both internally and externally - over the role of women in their organization and how some church leaders have handled cases of alleged domestic abuse.

Much of the controversy centers around Paige Patterson, who was recently ousted as the President of the Southwest Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth.

He initially came under fire after a clip of him speaking in 2000 began widely circulating online. In it, he said the proper response of a wife to domestic abuse "depends on the level of abuse to some degree."

He later apologized for the remarks. But then, in late May, the Washington Post published an account of an alleged rape victim, who claimed Patterson encouraged her not to report her incident to police and to forgive her alleged rapist instead.

Patterson disputes that account, but did cancel his scheduled appearance at the SBC meeting.

Meeting attendees, which the SBC calls messengers, have already introduced several resolutions about women and domestic abuse that will go before the full body over the next two days.

Among them, a condemnation of all forms of domestic abuse, which also calls on congregations and pastors to abide by laws that mandate the reporting of sexual assault and abuse.

The topic was largely absent from the official opening of the meeting Tuesday, which instead focused on faith, prayer and worship.

The congregation heard from Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who thanked them for their prayers following the Santa Fe High School shooting and for their relief efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

He also decried what he called the war on religious liberty, encouraging the SBC to help lead the nation out of crisis.

"One thing that we all know is that the onslaught against religious liberty is going to continue to come in the coming years," Abbott said. "And now, more than ever, we need your help to respond to this challenge."

Vice President Mike Pence is scheduled to speak at the meeting Wednesday.

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