Baltimore | The Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting officially starts here June 10, but Baptists are already on their way to Charm City for pre-Convention festivities. Here’s our list of what to watch for over the next few days:
1. Southern Baptists will elect a new president, and their choice could point to the lasting legacy of Fred Luter, elected two years ago as the SBC’s first African American president. A victory for Maryland pastor Dennis Kim could mean Baptists have embraced Luter’s charge to bring more diverse voices to the leadership table. Electing Ronnie Floyd might mean they’ve taken to heart Luter’s pleas for revival, and believe that Floyd, who organized recent prayer gatherings for church leaders, is a president who can lead Baptists toward the repentance required for spiritual awakening. And a vote for Kentucky pastor Jared Moore, the youngest candidate at 33, could signify older Baptists recognize the importance of engaging the next generation of leaders.
All three have expressed their desire to help Baptists unify around the Great Commission and cooperative missions. Click here to read short profiles of each candidate, and link to their Baptist Press Q&A’s.
2. How much will numbers matter? Attendance at the Convention will likely be a hot topic before and after the final tallies come in – last year’s registration in Houston was uncharacteristically low for a southern city, and some think Baltimore’s messenger total could rival the decades-low point set in Phoenix in 2011. Low attendance might reignite conversation about an online meeting/voting process, which some bloggers have advocated for in recent years.
In another mathematical matter, the SBC Executive Committee will discuss whether to bring a recommendation to the floor to amend Article III of the Constitution, which governs how many messengers individual churches may send to the annual meeting. Some have questioned whether the amendment would inhibit participation from smaller churches, since it would increase the financial contribution required to send additional messengers (more than two). But Executive Committee President Frank Page has vowed not to do anything that will hurt small churches.
3. Same old culture war? The issues might be similar to those in recent years – marriage chief among them – but Southern Baptists tactics in the culture war seem to be shifting. Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore has encouraged Christians to embrace the strangeness of their beliefs and to avoid “more culture war posturing” for the sake of a “Christ-shaped counter-revolution.” At least two issues could put his encouragements to the test: A California congregation that recently split over whether to affirm same-sex lifestyles, and a proposed resolution on gender identity issues.
All that plus crab cakes, regular cake (courtesy of famed Baltimore baker Duff Goldman), and a special tour of the city highlighting favorite daughter Annie Armstrong. Check back here for frequent updates, or go to Facebook.com/IllinoisBaptist and Twitter.com/IllinoisBaptist. Thanks for traveling with us!