Nate Adams: Follow-up notes from New Orleans

Meredith Flynn —  June 28, 2012

By Nate Adams, IBSA Executive Director

I can usually measure the value of a meeting by the follow-up actions I note for myself as a result of it. If I don’t write anything down, the meeting was probably pretty pointless. If the meeting moves me to action or change, it may have been worthwhile.

So let me share with you a few of my follow-up notes from the recent Southern Baptist Convention in New Orleans, at least as they relate to the major issues discussed at this year’s annual meeting. You can read about these issues in the July 2 of the Illinois Baptist or at IBSA.org.

My notes about the informal name “Great Commission Baptists” as an alternative to “Southern Baptists” could be summarized simply by the phrase “wait and see.” Clearly a large number of churches feel that having an alternate name, even an optional one, is not a positive thing. But the majority that voted to endorse the alternate name gave those who wish to try it out a new tool to potentially reach people for whom the term “Southern” may be a barrier.

For now, I plan to “wait and see” how many churches embrace the new name, especially here in the Midwest. I suspect we will continue using the “Illinois Baptist” identity in our communications more than either of the others.

My notes about the various issues that have the Calvinist vs. Arminian theology debate at their root simply say, “stay above the fray.” Both outgoing President Bryant Wright and SBC Executive Committee President Frank Page served us well, I thought, when they essentially stated that the Baptist Faith and Message is big enough for both strains of theological thought, and that there is more danger in our heart attitudes about either position than in the doctrinal differences themselves.

Some time ago I came to the personal conclusion that Calvinist theology describes salvation more from God’s perspective outside time, and that Arminian theology describes salvation more from man’s perspective within time. I’m sure that those for whom that explanation is not sufficient will continue this centuries-old debate. I plan to try and stay above the fray of that argument, and pray it does not distract us from our far more important Great Commission task.

Finally, you may not think I need follow-up notes from the election of Fred Luter as the SBC’s first African American president. But I found I did. Tuesday night, just after Pastor Luter’s election, I attended a dinner with the African American Fellowship of Southern Baptists that included SBC entity executives and state executive directors like myself from all over the country.

Even during that dinner, I formed several follow up notes for myself: Don’t just sit with people you know – get to know some new African American brothers and sisters. Learn to understand and appreciate the history and the pain, the culture and the passions of African American churches and their leaders, especially those that have chosen to be part of the Southern Baptist family. Relax and enjoy different worship and preaching styles – God wants to speak to you through those too! Recognize how important it is to make sure African American leaders are participating in Southern Baptist life, both in key discussions and in key leadership positions. Develop more personal, not just professional, relationships with African American pastors and leaders.

As I said, I can measure the value of a meeting by the follow-up actions I note for myself. If the meeting truly moves me to action or change, it may have been worthwhile. My follow through on these notes has the potential to make this year’s SBC meeting truly worthwhile. I hope these notes for needed future action help you too.

Meredith Flynn

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Meredith is managing editor of the Illinois Baptist newspaper.