Savannah, Ga - A group of over 300 church leaders from around the country met in Savannah last week to discuss an ongoing problem in their churches. The gathering, made up of mostly independent, fundamentalist churches, discussed everything from liberalism to bus ministries. But one issue that came up frequently during the week was that of the "age of accountability." The "age of accountability" is a doctrine that teaches that children are not accountable for their sins until a certain age. But for many individuals the exact time of this age is often disputed.
"It is obvious that a child as young as six cannot be held accountable for their sins" stated Mark Horne, pastor of New Falls Bible Church in New Falls, West Virginia. "Prior to the age of six all children have no sin accounted to them. In effect, they don't sin."
But several disagreed with Horne's position.
"I would say that the age of accountability goes up even higher, maybe even to eleven or twelve" stated Everett Colley, pastor of Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church in Athens, Georgia. "I've got two boys at home, one seven and one ten, and it's obvious that they don't understand the difference between right and wrong. I don't see how they could be counted as sinners yet."
Numerous informal debates were held regarding the issue over the course of the week until finally a general meeting was called to discuss the issue.
"We knew we had to get everyone together and finally settle this thing" said Charlie Benton, the moderator of the conference and pastor of Chestnut Road Freewill Baptist Church in Savannah. "We called a general meeting of all the delegates on Thursday and stated that the issue was going to be discussed and debated on Friday."
Friday came, and starting at 8AM the subject went round and round. Numerous positions were presented, with the average age of accountability being proposed as 12. But it was when one delegate in particular, Rev. Hue Cresswell, pastor of Lilly of the Valley Bible Church in Thomasville, Alabama spoke that the tone of the debate began to change.
"Friends," began Cresswell, "we have yet to take into account the rebellion of many of our teenagers. So many of them get caught up in smoking, drinking and dancing in their early years. What of them, I ask you? It happens time and time again! And it can't be bad parenting can it? I would say that the age of accountability is much much higher than we think. That's why all of these teenagers act like pagans. They just don't know what they're doing. They don't know right from wrong!"
Cresswell's impassioned speech was followed by numerous responses of "Amen!" from the audience and ultimately changed the course of the issue. The debate went on for another three hours until finally a consensus was reached. The proposal was drafted and voted upon.
"This delegation of pastors has voted unanimously and in one accord" stated Benton who announced the results. "The age of accountability is hereby stated and agreed upon to be ten years and eight."
Applause and sounds of "Amen" sounded as the results of the vote were announced.
"I'm so happy we got this settled" stated Horne. "There are going to be some very happy parents when I get back to New Falls and tell them the good news."
"This is a blessed event" stated Cresswell, whose fervent speech prompted the move. "For so long Christian parents have struggled as to why their kids act so bad. Well now we know that they just don't know any better."