Archives For Columbus 2015

Yes, it is déjà vu all over again. A young, Reformed pastor with a solid following faces an older evangelist in an election that will determine the future of the Southern Baptist Convention. If this scenario seems familiar, that’s because it is.

The announcements by J.D. Greear and Ken Hemphill that they will both run for president of the SBC sets up a kind of repeat of the 2016 election. In that one, young-and-Reformed Greear represented the potential for a generational handoff and a firming up of Calvinist theology within the convention. But after a near tie that promised to be divisive, Greear withdrew from the election before a third balloting, giving the seat to Steve Gaines.

At issue: Will a rematch this time around be divisive? Comments by Gaines point to doubtful; comments by Richard Land say otherwise.

At 56, Gaines stood in contrast to the 42-year-old Greear for several reasons. In terms of age alone, Gaines may have been characterized as a spokesman for Baby Boomers, while Greear clearly had the ear of his generation, X. As successor to Adrian Rogers, Gaines led Memphis-area megachurch Bellevue to increase Cooperative Program giving and was known for his traditional views on evangelism and salvation. In a three-man race, with New Orleans pastor David Crosby covering much of the same ground as Gaines, North Carolina’s Greear performed well, but not well enough to avoid a run-off. Greear surely earned the respect of many of the older crowd when he deferred to Gaines. The emotional moments on the convention platform in St. Louis were marked by tears and hugs.

“The Convention essentially said, ‘See you in two years,’” one Illinois Baptist reporter summarized, and so we will. Greear announced his intent to run a second time on January 30, now that Gaines is finishing his term in office. Two days later, Hemphill announced his intent to be nominated for the presidency.

At 69, Hemphill is of Gaines’ generation, albeit a decade older. As a leader in the area of church growth at the Home Mission Board (precursor to the North American Mission Board), former president of Southwestern

Seminary, pastor, and evangelist, Hemphill swims in the same stream theologically as Gaines. (In his announcement, Hemphill said if elected he will continue Gaines’ emphasis on revival and evangelism.) And Hemphill has been a strong supporter of the Cooperative Program. The church where he is currently a member gives 10% of its undesignated receipts to missions through CP, in contrast to the 4% given by Greear’s church, The Summit. (The church gives substantially more than 4% to a number of mission causes under the banner “Great Commission giving,” press releases and news reports point out.)

As he exits the stage, Gaines told Baptist state newspaper editors meeting in Galveston last week that he will essentially stay out of the politics of this race. Gaines said he would handle the election as “fairly and neutral” as possible. “I pray it won’t be contentious. I believe God will give us good leadership in the days to come.”

His comments came after Richard Land, former president of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, framed the election as pitting “the John Calvin wing” against “the Billy Graham wing,” in Land’s words.

“This is about the gospel and whether or not the gospel is for everyone, not just the elect,” Land, 71, told OneNewsNow. Land publically endorsed Hemphill. Now we wait to see who else will take sides, and there may be plenty willing to queue up. Remember the controversial rap video in which many well-known SBC leaders endorsed Greear in 2016.

So, what we have now appears to be a rematch—in terms of generation, theology, and mission giving through CP. But beyond age and soteriology, there’s the matter of ascendency. Greear’s star is on the rise, while election at this stage in Hemphill’s life would cap a 50-year ministry career. And there’s a possible Platt after-effect. Of the same age-group and ideology as Greear, David Platt’s resignation as president of the International Mission Board after four years could create a vacuum and a need for a voice like his. Or it might make older messengers at the Dallas Convention nervous about tapping another young man they might perceive as a “whippersnapper.”

With the election in June, it promises to be an intriguing three months.

– Eric Reed


SBC President Ronnie Floyd delivers the President’s Message at the 2015 SBC Annual Meeting in Columbus, OH.

“We are on the battle ground, not a playground…the alarm clock is going off our in nation,” declared SBC President Ronnie Floyd in his message to the Convention this morning. “Now is not the time to push the snooze button. Now is the time to lead.”

Floyd left no room for confusion, making it clear where Southern Baptists stand on today’s major cultural issues. “Southern Baptists, we stand believing the Bible is God’s infallible, inerrant, authoritative and final word in all things. That’s who we are and that’s what we believe.”

He recited a litany of current issues the world faces—persecution of Christians by the terrorist groups ISIS and Boko Haram and some governments; the imprisonment of American pastor Saeed Abedini in Iran; same-sex marriage; broken marriages and homes; racism; and abortion.

“Now is the time to lead,” Floyd repeatedly told Baptists meeting in Columbus.

He immediately addressed the forthcoming U.S. Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage, warning it “could be a watershed moment in our nation’s history…This decision could add more fire to the already out-of-control sexual revolution.”

“America, we stand believing marriage is between one man and one woman in covenant for a lifetime!” Floyd declared. “We stand for biblical and traditional marriage. We do not need to redefine what God has defined.”

He told pastors, “This a Bonhoeffer moment for every pastor in the United States…we will not bow down nor will we be silent. We will hold up and lift up God’s authoritative truth on marriage. While we affirm our love for all people, we cannot deviate from God’s Word.”

Then he addressed Supreme Court. “The Supreme Court of the United States of America is not the final authority, but the Bible is the final authority and God’s Word and on this book we stand.

Quoting the late pastor and anti-Nazi dissident Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Floyd stated, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

He also decried the current racial tensions in the United States. “I call on all leaders and Christians today to decry all racism and prejudice denouncing as sin against God and sin against one another.”

Floyd also called on Southern Baptist churches to wake up, quit their infighting, and come together.  “The Bible tells us in Revelation 3:7-8 that Jesus opens doors that no one is able to close. The church at Philadelphia was small and marked by obedience to Jesus Christ. It is not about the size of the church or your town, it is about your leadership to the commands of Jesus Christ.

Urging churches to rise up for the Lord, he said, “We can do what God has called us to do even in the face of spiritual warfare and cultural opposition. Now is the time for churches to lead and stand…We need a Jesus revolution in the United States! It is time for us to gather as Southern Baptists to lead the next great awakening.”

The time is now, Floyd said. “I really believe if the 59 presidents that came before me could speak to us about the times we are living right now they would agree now is our most defining hour as Southern Baptists….fixed by a sovereign God as a moment of destiny.”

David_Platt_PastorsConference“The more we aggressively take the gospel into other cultures,” said International Mission Board President David Platt, “the more forcefully we will face the adversary on his doorstep….And let us be sure, he will not go down without a fight.”

Preaching the final message of the 2015 SBC Pastors’ Conference, Platt said, “Unreached people are unreached for a reason…all the easy ones are taken.”