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.”
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