Running 45 minutes ahead of schedule on the second day, those keeping the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting on track didn’t do the usual thing – advancing the schedule to allow more time for business (or lunch).
Instead, they got down to the serious business of prayer.
Clustered in small groups across the convention hall, Baptists prayed for personal and national revival, and for spiritual awakening in churches and in a denomination “that often seems to have lost its first love,” said Frank Page, president of the SBC Executive Committee.
It wasn’t the only time messengers were called to prayer and repentance during the Baltimore gathering. A powerful message by Francis Chan had resulted in a similar prayer moment a few days before.
“We need the next great spiritual awakening,” said new Southern Baptist Convention President Ronnie Floyd, who succeeds New Orleans pastor Fred Luter. Floyd, pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, received 51.62% of the vote in a three-candidate race with Maryland pastor Dennis Kim, who leads a large, mostly Korean congregation and Jared Moore of Kentucky, who ran on a “small church” platform.
Little debate: The Baltimore meeting was relatively quiet, with less than usual debate over reports by the SBC Resolutions Committee and Committee on Order of Business, which handles motions submitted by messengers. Of the 17 motions brought to the committee, six were referred to convention entities for further study and 10 were ruled out of order. Only one – a motion to pray for the persecuted church – was acted upon on the convention floor. It was adopted by unanimous consent, and Committee Chairman David Smith led the convention in a prayer for the Nigerian girls kidnapped by a terrorist group in their own country.
Sexual issues: The Resolutions Committee proposed nine measures to messengers. Each was adopted without much discussion, including a resolution on transgender identity that affirms “gender identity is determined by biological sex and not by one’s self-perception.”
The Convention took no action on a California church whose pastor announced he is attempting to find “a third way” to deal with members who are avowed homosexuals, neither affirming nor condemning their lifestyle. A motion to discipline New Heart Community Church of La Mirada was ruled out of order, because it would direct officers of the SBC to act outside the scope of their duties as defined in the constitution and bylaws.
Young, but sparse attendance: Like at the last few annual meetings, younger Baptists were more visible again in Baltimore. But they seemed to congregate at meetings hosted by equipping ministries like Baptist21 and 9Marks, rather than in the main convention hall.
The Baltimore meeting had 5,294 registered messengers. Next year’s meeting in Columbus, Ohio, – a second consecutive convention in a non-Southern city – could mean similarly low attendance, but Floyd said he will issue a “Call to Columbus” to bring Baptists to Ohio for the purpose of praying together.