Archives For June 2018

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By Eric Reed

We could have talked about how SBC entities and churches handle allegations of sexual abuse. We could have talked about the value of women in the culture and their role in our churches and denomination.

We could have talked about the direction of international missions, the SBC Executive Committee’s guidance of missions giving, and the future of Southwestern Seminary after the departure of Paige Patterson.

And certainly we could have talked about the report from Steve Gaines’s evangelism task force, their recommendations, and the crying need to share Christ worldwide and to turn the decline in baptisms and membership in the SBC. 

But instead, we gave two hours of valuable floor time at the 2018 Southern Baptist Convention to non-Southern Baptist interests, parachurch leaders, and panel discussions. 

These were wasted moments.

Don’t get me wrong: We’re glad the ERLC hosted a panel outside the convention itself on the #metoo movement, and the seminary presidents said their schools are concerned about sexual harassment and proper reporting. But in the convention itself, there was no dedicated time for consideration of this critical matter.

A focus on stewardship is important and we appreciate the work of financial advisor Dave Ramsey. The Illinois Baptist runs his column in every issue. But did Ramsey and this topic really deserve so much attention when other issues have arisen in recent months?

The same is true for Ravi Zacharias. Apologetics are important in our era, and every believer should be prepared to share his beliefs with clarity and conviction. But is the platform of our denomination the right venue to tackle so great a subject? And at the loss of time from our meager two days together to address the matters decried online for weeks and in the hallways for days at the convention center?

And the issue of welcoming Vice President Mike Pence to speak can be argued from several angles. Given the comments by incoming SBC President J.D. Greear and others of his generation (and younger), it seems less likely that the platform of the SBC will be the place for a speech that too quickly turned from evangelical political interests to mid-term campaigning. That’s valuable time we won’t get back.

We missed the opportunity to really, deeply, and meaningfully address the renewal of evangelism, the seachange coming at SBC entities currently without presidents, and women—more than half our constituency—their role and our respect for them. The whole event ran late, and the time for helpful discussion was eaten up by outside interests. Almost all of the resolutions were passed without comment because there simply wasn’t time.

Surely the planners of the 2018 convention had no idea their well-intentioned focus on stewardship and issues not exclusive to Southern Baptists would be swamped by headline-making events within the denomination. But when that happened, some shift in the focus of the meeting would have been appropriate.

With all that’s happening within the SBC these days, our short time assembled together needs a laser focus. The rest can wait.

Eric Reed is editor of the Illinois Baptist newspaper.

Who cares?

Lisa Misner —  June 19, 2018 — Leave a comment

By Nate Adams 

Nate Adams IBSA exterior

Nate Adams

Though I grew up the son of a pastor and denominational worker, I was in my mid-30’s before I first attended a national Southern Baptist Convention. When the convention came to Indianapolis one year, a friend invited my dad and me to drive over and experience it with him. Though I was a Sunday School teacher and deacon in my church, I have to admit that my first thoughts at his invitation were, “Who cares? Who would want to take the time and spend the money attending what sounds like a large church business meeting?”

In fact, even after attending that first meeting, I came home thinking, “Well, that was kind of interesting, especially the big LifeWay bookstore and the exhibit area. But I don’t think it’s relevant enough to me or my church to go again.”

And so I didn’t, until the North American Mission Board invited me to join the staff there. That was 1997, in Dallas, and when I returned there this year it was for my 22nd consecutive SBC.

I think it’s probably healthy for me to remember that, as an Illinois Baptist layman, I didn’t find the annual SBC meeting particularly relevant, or at least worth the time and expense, until I joined the staff of the NAMB and now IBSA. But that’s when the phrase “who cares” stopped being a question for me, and started being the answer to a different question.

That different question became, simply, “Who decides?” Who decides who our missionaries are, and how our cooperative missions money is spent? Who decides how our national entities are led, and how we will speak to our culture? Who gets to decide Southern Baptist doctrinal positions, and how tomorrow’s pastors are trained?

What I’ve learned over the years is that the person who gets to weigh in on all those important questions and decisions is the person who cares. It’s the person who cares enough to attend the meetings, and to understand and participate in the process. The person who shrugs and asks, “Who cares?” doesn’t. The person who cares does.

Of course, not every person who cares gets his or her way in the process. There were several times during this year’s meeting in Dallas when I couldn’t believe what was being said by a messenger from the floor, or when I even disagreed with what was being said from the platform. At least one of the votes disappointed me.

But now that all is said and done, I look back on the annual meeting of messengers to the 2018 Southern Baptist Convention, and realize that, once again, spirited discussion among Spirit-led believers has resulted in both specific decisions and general direction that are trustworthy, and good stewardship of our shared beliefs and resources, and accountable to the churches.

Somehow the miracle of voluntary, grassroots cooperation by diverse, autonomous churches working together through respectful, democratic processes – led us once again to a place of blessing. And that blessing is the opportunity to do far more together than any individual church can do alone.

To be candid, I occasionally go back to the question form of “Who cares?” and wonder how relevant some of what happens at the national SBC level really is to the life of the average Illinois Baptist church. I’m sure some people ask that same question of their state convention or even local associational meetings. But things are decided at all those meetings that impact the mission of God through all our churches and missionaries.

While I can, I want to be in on those decisions, as one of the people who cares.

Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association. Respond at IllinoisBaptist@IBSA.org.

The Briefing

SBC WRAP-UP: Greear, Pence, #MeToo draw SBC’s focus
At an annual meeting that saw what chief parliamentarian Barry McCarty called an “extra heavy volume of business” on its opening day, the Southern Baptist Convention elected J.D. Greear as convention president and heard an address by Vice President Mike Pence.

Local county condemns abortion, declares ‘unborn sanctuary’
The Effingham (Illinois) County Board passed a resolution declaring the county a “sanctuary for the life of unborn human beings.” It’s an issue causing an uproar among residents. The board passed the resolution Monday. It means the county is taking the stance condemning abortion, except if both mother and child are at risk.

4 in 10 LGBT Americans identify as Christian
Approximately four out of ten LGBT Americans identify as religiously unaffiliated, roughly equaling the percentage that identify as Christian, according to a new survey. A poll conducted May 24 to June 1 by BuzzFeed News and Whitman Insight Strategies of 880 LGBT Americans found that 39 percent of respondents did not have a religious affiliation.

Under pressure from VP, aid is sent to Christian, Yazidi communities in Iraq
The premier U.S. aid agency is poised to send millions of dollars directly to Christian and Yazidi communities in Iraq under a rarely used, streamlined funding arrangement after coming under pressure from Vice President Mike Pence.

Meet the World Cup stars who love Jesus
World Cup fever will be consuming the planet for the next month. As you learn the stories of the hundreds of athletes from nearly three dozen countries, hear them talk about their faith in their own words.

Sources: Baptist Press, WCIA news, Christian Post, Washington Post, Christianity Today

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Politics-packed speech met with outcry online

Dallas | Despite debate surrounding Vice President Mike Pence’s address at the Southern Baptist Convention in Dallas, the convention hall was packed Wednesday morning when he took the stage. Pence called the SBC “one of the greatest forces for good anywhere in America.” After a few more words of praise for Southern Baptists, he shared his brief testimony of coming to faith in Christ 40 years ago.

From there, his speech became more political, noting the Trump administration’s accomplishments during two years in office, including recent peace talks with North Korea. Pence received multiple standing ovations and even a few shouts of “four more years.”

On his and President Trump’s behalf, Pence asked Baptists to “continue in your calling with renewed energy. Stand and go and speak. Stand in the gap. Because in these too-divided times, I believe that your voice, your compassion, your values, and your ministries are more needed than ever before.”

As he neared the end of his speech, he requested messengers pray, noting it wasn’t politically motivated. “And on this one, I want to be clear, I’m not talking about praying for an agenda or for a cause. I rather like what President Lincoln said in his time when he was asked if he thought God was on the side of the Union Army. Our 16th President simply replied, ‘My concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side.’” Pence’s request was met with loud applause.

Read the transcript of his address at ChristianPost.com.

During and after Pence’s speech, many Baptists expressed dismay with the content and tone of his message.

“Have mercy on us,” tweeted Paul Cooper, pastor of Marshall Baptist Church in Marshall, Ill. “#SBC18AM just became a political rally. Not the place for election speeches. Nothing wrong with campaigning- but not here.”

Newly elected SBC President J.D. Greear posted after Pence’s address, “I know that sent a terribly mixed signal. We are grateful for civic leaders who want to speak to our Convention—but make no mistake about it, our identity is in the gospel and our unity is in the Great Commission. Commissioned missionaries, not political platforms, are what we do.”

Chuck Kelley, president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary tweeted from a different perspective. “Vice President Mike Pence speaking to SBC! Why do things like this matter? It is good for people in power to know us. We may need them at some point. Also, we need to affirm evangelicals in politics. It is a tough calling.”

On Tuesday, a messenger brought a motion to replace Pence’s address with a time of prayer and reflection. The motion failed, but two other motions made on the floor asked SBC leaders to avoid inviting political figures to address future annual meetings.

Before his address, Pence’s visit continued to be a source of debate online, in hallway discussions, and at meetings scheduled around the Convention. There was a loosely organized effort on Twitter to invite messengers to gather on the other end of the convention hall during the vice president’s address for a time of prayer.

Prayer group

A small group met to pray during Vice President Mike Pence’s address in Dallas. Twitter photo

A photo posted on Twitter by SBC Voices shows about a dozen people at the prayer meeting.

Those opposed to Pence’s appearance said it could give the appearance that the Convention was endorsing one political party over another, would be disrespectful to minorities who feel the current administration doesn’t represent them, and could put international Baptist workers at risk.

However, in the packed convention hall, many messengers gave Pence repeated standing ovations for his campaign-like message.

 

 

 

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Dallas | J.D. Greear says his election does not indicate a generational shift in the Southern Baptist Convention. But the photos of Greear, 45, with his opponent Ken Hemphill and outgoing SBC President Steven Gaines, both in their 60s, might attest otherwise.

“What I don’t think this [election] represents is a passing of the baton where the older generation fades off into the sunset and the new, young generation is in charge,” Greear said after his landslide win. “We walk forward together,” he said a conciliatory tone.

Two years after he won the approval of many by stepping aside in a tight race with Gaines saying he wanted to avoid division in the denomination, Greear won this election by a 2-1 margin, taking 69% of the vote. With this overwhelming tally, Greear became the youngest president of the denomination in its 173-year history.

In the election, little mention was made of Greear’s reformed theology. In fact, much was made of his North Carolina church’s record of evangelism and sending missionaries to the field through SBC channels. His nomination speech seemed to take pains to assure those who might be concerned about a shift away from evangelism by the election of a Calvinist. Greear expressed his commitment to evangelistic renewal in the denomination in a subsequent press conference.

Greear takes office facing a challenging slate of issues not evident when he announced his candidacy five months ago. In addition to the continuing decline in baptisms and per capita Cooperative Program giving to missions by SBC church members, Greear faces the issues of unreported sexual abuse and moral failure by SBC leaders, the role of women in Southern Baptist leadership, the future of the Executive Committee, International Mission Board, and now troubled Southwestern Seminary.

In reporting Greear’s election, Christianity Today called the SBC presidency a “symbolic, visionary role.” Today, that description could not be more wrong. Greear will not only be the new face of SBC, he will be the first of his generation to assume the role at a most critical juncture in SBC history. Greear told his church that his service wouldn’t require any more of his time than his usual travel schedule as a nationally recognized and much sought-after speaker. It will be interesting to ask him in a year if that assessment was correct.

Digging out of this mess will take more time and effort than anyone imagined. And it will require true leadership.

-Eric Reed

 

JD Greear_web

North Carolina pastor J.D. Greear answers questions at a press conference following his election as president of the Southern Baptist Convention. BP photo

Dallas | On a contentious first day, messengers to the 2018 Southern Baptist Convention debated whether Vice President Mike Pence should address the Convention, heard a call for the removal of Southwestern Seminary trustees, debated nominations for SBC trustee boards, and disagreed about a variety of other issues.

But they also came together to elect officers, including J.D. Greear, who was elected SBC president in a landslide victory. The pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham received 68.62% of the vote to Ken Hemphill’s 31.19%. The election of Greear, 45, could be perceived as a turn toward a younger generation of Baptist leaders, and the Reformed theology many of them embrace. Greear, however, expressed a different view at a press conference following the election.

“What I don’t think this [election] represents is a passing of the baton where the older generation fades off into the sunset and the new, young generation is in charge,” he said. “We walk forward together.”

Related: The Christian Post reports on J.D. Greear’s 6 priorities for the SBC

Voters in Dallas also approved 16 resolutions and commissioned 79 International Mission Board missionaries to the nations, but only after the major issue of the day—Pence’s planned address Wednesday—had been discussed numerous times on the convention floor.

Garrett Kell a messenger from Del Ray Baptist Church in Alexandria, Va., brought a motion to replace Pence’s address with a time of prayer and reflection. The motion failed, but two other motions made on the floor asked SBC leaders to avoid inviting political figures to address future annual meetings. And Pence’s visit continued to be a source of debate online, in hallway discussions, and at meetings scheduled around the Convention.

Multiple motions also were made to dismiss trustees of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, who terminated President Emeritus Paige Patterson following weeks of controversy over his comments about women and domestic abuse, and his handling of sexual assault allegations at the two SBC seminaries he has led as president. The Committee on Order of Business announced the removal of the trustees would be put to a messenger vote at 2:45 p.m. Wednesday.

Other SBC officers elected include: AB Vines, pastor of New Seasons Church in San Diego, first vice president; Felix Cabrera, pastor of Iglesia Bautista Central Oklahoma City, second vice president; John Yeats, executive director of the Missouri Baptist Convention, recording secretary; and Don Currence, minister of music at First Baptist Church of Ozark, Mo., registration secretary.

Tuesday evening concluded with an International Mission Board sending celebration and a message from evangelist Ravi Zacharias. “It’s a miracle in our times when the finger of God is in all of history,” he preached. “When God moves the masses…when he says, ‘Child of mine you don’t have to go 10,000 miles anymore. They are outside your door.’”

-Lisa Sergent, with reporting from Baptist Press

Pence to take SBC stage Wednesday
The announcement that Vice President Mike Pence will address the Southern Baptist Convention June 13 met with some pushback from Baptists who say his appearance ties the denomination to a particular political party, and to divisive rhetoric that goes against the mission of the church. But a motion to replace Pence’s address with a time of prayer failed on the convention floor Tuesday.

Related:

  • At a panel discussion in Dallas, former SBC President James Merritt said the #metoo movement is a “wakeup call” for pastors.
  • Christianity Today reports that women—and the church’s response to abuse—are garnering “unprecedented attention” at this year’s annual meeting

Masterpiece baker: ‘My religion can’t be hidden’
Back at work at his Masterpiece Cakeshop, Jack Phillips views his faith in a new light after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled he was within his rights when he refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. Phillips says he’s learned his faith—while deeply personal—can’t be hidden from view.

Ex-LGBTQ Christians rally against bill criminalizing same-sex change
California Assembly Bill 2943, which would ban faith-based efforts to counsel members of the LGBTQ community, will be up for debate before the state’s Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday. If passed, the bill will criminalize “sexual orientation change efforts” by making it illegal to distribute resources, sell books, offer counseling services, or direct someone to a biblically-based model for getting help with gender confusion and homosexuality. Ex-LGBTQ activists and ministry leaders are working to make sure the bill is voted down.

Jockey praises ‘Lord and Savior’ after win
After winning the Belmont Stakes, Mike Smith, the jockey riding Justify in Saturday night’s race, told reporters, “First off, I want to thank my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.” Justify led all the way in New York’s Belmont Stakes on his way to becoming racing’s 13th Triple Crown winner. Smith, 52 and a devout Christian, is the oldest jockey to win the Triple Crown.

Sources: Illinois Baptist, Christian Post, Christianity Today, Colorado Public Radio, CBN (2)