Ronnie Floyd is the first candidate to toss his hat in the ring for the next Southern Baptist Convention president. Although, in keeping with tradition, Floyd’s nominator actually did
the tossing: Southern Seminary President Al Mohler announced last month he will nominate Floyd for the convention’s top elected post at the annual meeting in Baltimore.
No one else has allowed his name to be brought forth so far. This unusual across-the-aisle nomination, and a potential single-candidate race, has several implications for Southern
1. The Calvinism debate doesn’t have to result in a hostile takeover for either camp. Mohler’s well-known and well-documented theological perspective is different from what is known of Floyd’s. In an open letter announcing the nomination, the seminary president and leading Reformed thinker lauded Floyd as a unifier. He specifically mentioned the theology talk that has dominated conversation over the past several years, pointing to Floyd as a leader who can move the SBC toward a common goal of reaching the world for Christ.
Mohler’s nomination of Floyd is likely the kind of unifying event SBC Executive Committee President Frank Page had in mind when he appointed an advisory committee to study how the two “sides” can work together.
2. The generation gap may be narrowing. Mohler has the ear of many young Baptists, as a seminary president and proponent of Reformed theology, whose adherents tend to skew younger. He is in the unique position of being able to steer 30-somethings toward active participation in Southern Baptist life, without being a 30-something himself. His nomination
of Floyd indicates he’s willing to guide young leaders away from a concentration on divisive issues and toward goals we can work on together.
3. With revival as the goal, Baptists are ready to rally around the Great Commission. Current SBC President Fred Luter made revival and spiritual awakening his platform during his two years of leadership, aiming to stem the decline in baptisms. “Fred Luter has led us so well as he has unified and inspired us,” Mohler wrote in his nomination letter. “Our next president needs to unify and inspire us for our next steps together.”
Floyd chaired the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force, which presented a comprehensive strategy in 2010 to push funding to areas of the country (and world) that are less churched and often more urban. More recently, he organized two prayer gatherings to guide pastors and leaders toward personal and corporate revival.
“Pastors believe the Great Commission can be fulfilled in their generation,” Floyd blogged after the prayer meeting in Atlanta. If he’s elected in June, he’ll be charged with communicating that vision to a multigenerational, theologically diverse denomination.
Meredith Flynn is managing editor of the Illinois Baptist.