Thu | Dec 3, 2020

Devon Dick | Baptist World Alliance refuses to read resolution on reparations

Published:Thursday | August 1, 2019 | 12:00 AM

The Baptist World Alliance (BWA) refused to read a resolution on reparations on the day (July 10) of the 46th anniversary of the political Independence of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas from their colonial masters, Great Britain. The gathering of the BWA was held in the Bahamas.

The rationale given for the refusal to read the resolution on reparations was that the resolution committee deemed it ‘controversial’ and needed time for it to be studied. But many resolutions are controversial and still an organisation vote on it. In fact, resolutions should break new ground.

Furthermore, who needs time to study the issue of reparations which has been around for centuries? Planters got reparations in 1834 without study. Up to recently, France was getting reparations from Haiti. And who is going to conduct the study, and who is going to teach who? If persons do not understand the resolution, then what should have been done was to ask the mover and seconder of the resolution to explain the contents of the resolution. If the explanation is deemed inadequate, then it could be proposed that it be sent to a commission or committee for further study.

After the decision, or is it recommendation, of the resolution committee, there was a respectful plea to the president of the BWA, South African Paul Msiza, to read the resolution, to which he said yes. However, on the resumption of the meeting, after a meeting break, a constitutional expert said the resolution cannot be read based on Roberts’ Rules of Order. I did not know that Roberts’ Rules of Order could be used like that to reverse a presiding leader’s decision without a vote. Furthermore, my understanding of the rules of order is that a resolution can only be refused on the grounds that it is frivolous, rude and hateful, but never based on it being controversial. Additionally, isn’t the Bible the final authority in faith and practice for Baptists?

NOT FIT

In any case, since the chairman of the resolution committee had summarised the resolution in the presence of the council, and deemed it not fit, he placed it in the public domain, and it seemed that it should have been read to the BWA Council and allow the council members to classify it as controversial. By not doing so, the resolution committee disrespected the BWA Council members and disgraced the president of the BWA.

Furthermore, since the president is South African, out of respect for the South African experience, it should have been read. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Post-Apartheid South Africa had three main objectives, namely: to have those who committed crimes speak the truth; to grant them amnesty; and to pay reparations to the black South Africans. The only objective that has not been met is the third one, which was to pay reparations for black South Africans because of the threat of disinvestment in South Africa by the whites. It is déjà vu.

But what was in the resolution titled ‘Reparations for Slavery’? After the ‘whereas’, of which there were five providing the background, the resolution states:

“Be it resolved that the BWA, as a Christian Biblical Organisation, appeal to its member bodies whose ancestors were involved in the enslavement of others and other forms of oppression between the 15th and 19th Centuries of the Common Era, to make reparations to other member bodies whose ancestors were enslaved and exploited.

“And be it further resolved that there be an Intra-BWA dialogue, within the next quinquennium to discuss and decide upon the specifics of these reparations.”

What harm could have been done to read that resolution?

There is an elephant in the room.

Happy Emancipation Day to all my readers.

Rev Devon Dick is pastor of the Boulevard Baptist Church in St Andrew. He is author of ‘The Cross and the Machete’, and ‘Rebellion to Riot’. Send feedback to columns@ gleanerjm.com.