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SBC 17

Appointment of a task force to study how Southern Baptists can be more effective in evangelism and a resolution decrying “alt-right white supremacy” were among highlights of the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting June 13-14 in Phoenix.

In addition, messengers honored 15-term registration secretary Jim Wells with a resolution of appreciation after hearing a report he is in the advanced stages of cancer. Attendees of the SBC Pastors’ Conference preceding the annual meeting elected Florida pastor H.B. Charles as the conference’s first black president.

The unofficial total of 5,018 registered messengers, down from 7,321 last year, expanded representation on the Executive Committee to include four states or defined territories which had not previously qualified for representation under Bylaw 30. Southern Baptists also gave the EC authority to sell the SBC Building in Nashville and received a multimillion-dollar gift through the Cooperative Program from the Florida Baptist Convention stemming from the sale of its building in Jacksonville.

When registered guests, exhibitors and others were included, the count of those at the annual meeting was tallied, as of June 15, at 9,318.

Alt-right resolution

A resolution on “the anti-gospel of alt-right white supremacy” decried “every form of racism, including alt-right white supremacy, as antithetical to the Gospel of Jesus Christ” and pledged to pray “both for those who advocate racist ideologies and those who are thereby deceived.”

A vote to approve the resolution June 14 was followed by a standing ovation from messengers.

In its initial report, the Resolutions Committee declined to recommend convention action on a resolution submitted by Texas pastor Dwight McKissic condemning the white supremacist movements sometimes known as “white nationalism” or the “alt-right.” Two June 13 motions to consider the resolution on the convention floor each failed to achieve the requisite two-thirds majority. Amid ongoing discussion, however, the Resolutions Committee requested and was granted by the convention an opportunity to reverse its decision and present a resolution on alt-right racist ideology.

Resolutions Committee chairman Barrett Duke, in presenting the resolution, told messengers, “We regret and apologize for the pain and the confusion that we created for you and a watching world when we decided not to report out a resolution on alt-right racism.” The committee abhors racism, Duke said, adding the initial decision not to recommend a resolution condemning alt-right racist ideology did not reflect sympathy with that ideology.

Evangelism task force

SBC President Steve Gaines, who was reelected to a second term, recommended creation of the evangelism task force to study how Southern Baptists can be more effective in personal soul winning and evangelistic preaching. North American Mission Board President Kevin Ezell made a motion, later approved by messengers, that the convention authorize Gaines to appoint the group.

In the annual meeting’s final session, Gaines announced the members of the 19-person task force, including chairman Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. The group will report to the 2018 SBC annual meeting in Dallas.

Creation of the task force was in keeping with an evangelism emphasis in Gaines’ presidential address. “I want to encourage you to be a soul winner,” said Gaines, pastor of Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn.

A Tuesday-evening message by California pastor and evangelist Greg Laurie urged preachers to extend public invitations for people to follow Christ whenever they proclaim the Gospel. In his message, Laurie announced that Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, Calif., where he is pastor, has begun cooperating with the SBC.

Wells honored

The resolution of appreciation for Wells, recommended by the Executive Committee, expressed “deepest and most sincere gratitude to God” that Wells “has fulfilled the role as an officer of the Convention with godliness, integrity, kindness, and thoroughness, assuring that each duly elected messenger from churches that cooperate with the Southern Baptist Convention was properly certified and that each messenger’s ballot was accurately counted and reported in every balloted vote.”

Wells, who was first elected registration secretary in 2002, was not present at the annual meeting. The EC appointed his chief assistant Don Currence, minister of administration and children’s pastor of First Baptist Church in Ozark, Mo., as acting registration secretary. Messengers elected Currence as 2018 registration secretary on the second ballot from a field of five nominees.

Executive Committee report

Among 11 Executive Committee recommendations approved by messengers was one authorizing the EC “to continue studying the advisability of a sale of the SBC Building, and to sell the property upon such terms and conditions, and at such a time, if any, as the Executive Committee may hereafter approve.”

Another recommendation approved by messengers granted EC representation to four regions even though they have too few church members to apply for EC representation under the provisions of SBC Bylaw 30. The recommendation amended Bylaw 18 to list the Dakotas, Iowa, Minnesota-Wisconsin and Montana as each being entitled to a single EC representative.

During the EC’s report, Florida Baptist Convention executive director Tommy Green presented a check for $3,156,500 to help fund SBC Cooperative Program ministries. The gift represented 51 percent of proceeds from the sale of the Florida convention’s building. EC President Frank S. Page said the gift brought 2016-17 CP Allocation Budget overage above last year’s surplus total.

Page’s report to the SBC included the launch of a convention-wide stewardship emphasis featuring a partnership with Ramsey Solutions, the organization led by radio host Dave Ramsey. The stewardship emphasis continued June 14 with a president’s panel discussion on stewardship moderated by Gaines.

Officers

In addition to Gaines and Currence, newly elected SBC officers included first vice president Walter Strickland, a leader of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Kingdom Diversity Initiative, and Jose Abella, pastor of Providence Road Church, a bilingual congregation in Miami. Recording secretary John Yeats was reelected to a 21st term.

Patterson was elected as the 2018 convention preacher.

Motions

Messengers made 11 motions. The only one to receive approval at the annual meeting was the proposal to create an evangelism task force. Two motions were ruled out of order, and eight were referred to SBC entities or committees.

Among motions to be referred were a proposal to study merging NAMB and the International Mission Board and a request that NAMB, the IMB and LifeWay Christian Resources consider expanding their trustee boards to grant broader representation.

A motion to let messengers consider defunding the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission was ruled out of order because it was made after the convention approved the 2017-18 CP Allocation Budget, which establishes the percentage of CP receipts distributed to each CP-funded entity.

In other news:

— IMB President David Platt said the board’s finances are on “stable ground” and urged messengers to focus on the “present work we are doing” rather than “past financial struggles.” The IMB presentation included a commissioning service at which messengers gathered around newly appointed missionaries to pray.

— In the NAMB report, Ezell said 732 new churches were planted by Southern Baptists in 2016 and 232 existing churches began cooperating with the SBC.

— The annual Crossover evangelism emphasis and the tandem Harvest America crusade yielded 3,549 professions of faith.

— A group of about 50 protesters gathered outside the Phoenix Convention Center June 13, asking the SBC to remove homosexuality and transgenderism from its “sin list.” The group distributed flyers that included the 2017 SBC logo and theme.

— Messengers approved changing the IMB’s fiscal year to Oct. 1-Sept. 30.

— The Global Hunger Relief Run June 14 allowed messengers and other annual meeting attendees to participate in either a 5K run or one-mile family-oriented fun run to raise money for hunger relief projects in North America and internationally.

— A full 80 percent of members elected to the 2017-18 Committee on Nominations have never served on an SBC board or committee, said Randy Davis, chairman of the Committee on Committees, the body which nominates the Committee on Nominations.

— All speakers at the June 11-12 SBC Pastors’ Conference were pastors of churches with approximately 500 or fewer in average attendance.

— All annual meeting attendees are asked to fill out a survey available at www.surveymonkey.com/r/sbcam17.

–Baptist Press

Vote Screen Shot 2017-06-14 at 5.06.07 PM copy

Messengers vote overwhelmingly to approve the Resolution On The Anti-Gospel Of Alt-Right White Supremacy on Wednesday, June 14 at the Southern Baptist Convention in Phoenix.

The chairman of the 2017 Resolutions Committee, Barrett Duke, opened his presentation of a resolution condemning “alt-right racism” with an apology: “We regret and apologize for the pain and confusion we created for you and the watching world when we chose not to report on the resolution on alt-right racism.”

After what the original proponent of such a resolution called “a 24-hour roller coaster,” the committee brought a resolution. Messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention approved it Wednesday afternoon, then gave their action a standing ovation afterward.

The resolution as approved was written by the Resolutions Committee working “until two in the morning,” Duke said.

Dwight McKissic, an African American pastor from Arlington, Texas, first raised the issue of white supremacy and the “alt-right” movement. But on Tuesday afternoon, the committee declined to present McKissic’s statement in the packet of resolutions offered for messengers’ approval.

McKissic objected.

He wanted the SBC “to make it very clear that we have no relationship with them. I thought it would be a slam dunk,” he said. But the committee concluded the language in his draft was not clear and could be inflammatory.

A subsequent vote to bring the statement out of the committee failed to get a required two-thirds majority.

After a dinner break, a messenger from Washington D.C. approached a microphone, was recognized, and pleaded with SBC President Steve Gaines for McKissic’s statement to be brought for a vote, so that Southern Baptists would not be characterized as racists.

In the Twitterverse, the volleys began. And in the Phoenix Convention Center, time stood still.

While Twitter pundits asked why Southern Baptists did not make an anti-alt-right statement, messengers engaged in procedural moves to bring a statement to the floor.

One messenger urged President Steve Gaines to explain where Southern Baptists stand on the issue of race. Gaines, who because of the denomination’s polity and autonomy does not speak for all Southern Baptists any more than any other pastor, responded with his own church’s deep investment in race relations and ministry to ethnic peoples in racially troubled Memphis. “There is no white race, or black race—only the human race,” he said, declaring God’s love for everyone.

Then he led a half hour or more of prayer and worship.

“I like how he took back the room. Good pastor!” a fellow pastor from Illinois observed.

Two hours later, after evangelist Greg Laurie preached and the International Mission Board commissioned new missionaries, the outcome of the vote was announced.

It failed, again.

The motion to bring McKissic’s resolution for a vote received 58% approval, again short of required two-thirds majority. In the meantime, the committee realized its mistake and began writing a resolution denouncing racism in all forms, and “alt-right racism” in particular.

That resolution recounts the SBC’s actions of the past two decades, seeking forgiveness for racism in its history and pursuing reconciliation, the election of African Americans to key leadership, and the election of H.B. Charles as Pastors Conference President on Monday.

Charles told the Washington Post, “I’m glad we picked up the fumble…It could have had a really bad effect on our witness.”

“We were certainly aware that there was a public discussion,” Duke said of the social media posts. “We were aware that this was a conversation that was taking place not only within Southern Baptist life, but outside Southern Baptist life and that concerned us.

“We certainly don’t want a watching world to think that we harbor or sympathize with those absolutely vicious forms of racism represented in alt-right ideology. We don’t.”

The resolution went through ten editions, Duke said, “but we were glad to do it…We believe we carried the heart of what Bro. McKissic wanted to do into the heart of this resolution,” although Duke said not much of the actual language McKissic first submitted remained.

McKissic was in the audience at a news conference following the final vote. Afterward, Duke expressed a personal apology, and the men shook hands. “I’m glad things have developed as they have, for the kingdom of God’s sake. I think we’re back to a good place after a 24-hour roller coaster ride.” Although he was not pleased with the process, McKissic called the vote “a courageous stand.”

— Eric Reed in Phoenix

Dwight McKissic by Van Payne

Texas pastor Dwight McKissic moved to bring his proposal on the “alt-right” to messengers at the Southern Baptist Convention Tuesday June 13. BP photo by Van Payne

After a series of floor votes and behind-the-scenes discussions in the late evening, convention leadership announced Tuesday night that messengers will be given opportunity to consider a resolution originally proposed by a Texas pastor condemning the “alt-right” movement. Debate over the resolution, which is a statement of messengers’ opinion but non-binding on Southern Baptist churches, threatens to draw attention away from SBC President Steve Gaines announcement that he wishes to name a committee to focus on soul-winning, and possibly shift the spotlight away from Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore.

The Resolutions Committee, a group of one-time appointees led this year by former ERLC vice president Barrett Duke, brought nine resolutions to the floor. They included statements on prayer and repentance, the morality of political and church leaders, the nature of atonement, and “the sin of gambling.” But the committee did not bring for a vote a statement proposed by Arlington, Texas pastor Dwight McKissic condemning actions of the alt-right political movement.

“Our decision not to report that resolution out is not an endorsement of the alt-right,” Duke said at a news conference following the afternoon session. “There are aspects of people who identify as alt-right, certainly, a lot of views and their intentions, we would adamantly, aggressively oppose.” He said the committee chose not to bring McKissic’s motion for a vote after hours of discussions over broad language that they characterized as problematic and possibly inflammatory.

As he did in a previous convention to debate use of the confederate battle flag, McKissic took to the floor. He asked the messengers to amend the rules and bring his proposed resolution for a vote. That vote failed to get a two-thirds majority.

Later, in the evening session, another messenger from Washington D.C. cited unnamed media reports about conventions failure bring the “alt-right” statement back for a vote, and made an impassioned plea for another opportunity for messengers to see McKissic’s statement. The messenger said he “feared” the SBC was being called racist because they did not vote on the alt-right statement. A second balloting to bring the resolution to the floor received only 58% of the vote, again short of the two-thirds majority. But messengers’ considerable interest in the issue convinced the Resolutions Committee to revisit the matter.

The Committee will bring a resolution addressing the alt-right movement at 2:45 p.m. (PT) today. The statement is expected to address the sin of racism. It comes as the SBC continues efforts to bring non-whites into leadership. Coming three years after New Orleans pastor Fred Luter served as the SBC’s  first African American President, messengers elected African American pastor and professor Walter Strickland as first vice president on Tuesday and Hispanic pastor Jose Abella as second vice president. The SBC Pastors Conference on Monday elected African American pastor H.B. Charles of Jacksonville, Florida as its president.

SBC President Gaines had asked for time on Tuesday to announce plans for a year-long study on evangelism in the SBC, and presentation of a plan for more effective soul-winning by SBC churches and pastors. Gaines’ effort comes after another year of declines in baptisms and worship attendance, and a decade of shrinking SBC church membership.

The ERLC’s annual report is the final item on the agenda today. Yesterday, Moore characterized the annual meeting as a “family reunion” of people who together advance the gospel. Although there was a motion for messengers to be allowed to address concerns about the ERLC, the motion seems likely to be referred or dismissed entirely. Moore did not speak to recent national reports that his relationship with the both SBC leaders and the Trump administration remains strained. And as attention turns to the “alt-right,” it appears less likely messengers will have time, or a parliamentary vehicle, to discuss the ERLC.

See what others are saying:

Southern Baptists, Racism, and the Alt-Right: It’s Time to Make This Right, Plain, and Clear

Southern Baptists are about to vote on a proposal to condemn white supremacy

Southern Baptists Grapple Over Calls to Condemn Alt-Right

Southern Baptist Convention in uproar over ‘alt-right’

A Resolution Condemning White Supremacy Causes Chaos at the Southern Baptist Convention

Southern Baptists grapple with morality, white nationalism in the Trump age

Southern Baptist Convention Resolution Denouncing ‘Alt Right,’ White Nationalism Hits a Snag

Messengers OK 9 resolutions, to vote on ‘alt-right’ proposal

— Eric Reed in Phoenix

A motion from the floor of the Southern Baptist Convention to defund the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission will be ruled on prior to the ERLC’s Tuesday report. It will probably be ruled out of order for technical reasons. If so, the opportunity to debate the ERLC’s positions during the 2016 presidential election and in a high profile religious liberty case involving a New Jersey Islamic group will be over, for this year.

There have been no official statements about the ERLC by SBC leaders yet. And ERLC President Russell Moore indicated ruffled relationships have been smoothed. “The Southern Baptist convention leadership is unified, probably more unified than I have seen in a long time,” he said at a press conference for the Resolutions Committee Tuesday afternoon. “We love each other and we work together….This meeting isn’t just a business meeting. This very much is a family reunion of people who are working together for the advancement of the gospel.”

Moore did not comment on a Wall Street Journal report that characterized his relationship with both SBC leaders and the Trump administration as strained, while omitting the ERLC’s recent conciliatory efforts. Moore’s team hosted a dinner for Baptist newspaper editors, pledging greater availability to the press. At the same time, the ERLC team is attempting to spend more time with rank-and-file Southern Baptists.

Moore’s official report is the last item of business on Wednesday, leaving little time for follow-up questions.

–Eric Reed in Phoenix

Messengers adopt statements on moral leaders, gambling

Messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Phoenix adopted nine resolutions on Tuesday afternoon, but they chose not to reverse the decision of the resolutions committee in order to bring a controversial statement about “alt-right” to the floor for a vote.

The usual motions on appreciation for the host city, prayer, the Reformation, and such were approved without comment, but a statement that wasn’t brought out of committee produced lengthy discussion between its author and the team that refused to bring it for a vote.

Arlington, Texas pastor Dwight McKissic submitted a resolution asking messengers to condemn the “alt-right” political movement as racist and inciting ethnic cleansing. The committee was not comfortable with some of the language in McKissic’s draft.

Chairman Barrett Duke, former vice president of the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission who now serves as executive director of the Montana state convention, said the committee spent hours discussing McKissic’s proposed resolution. “There are elements in that resolution that we agreed with, concern about racism and those who foment racism,” Duke said in a news conference following the afternoon business session. But, “it was difficult to look at that resolution and not see that someone might misunderstand.”

One concern was how the resolution was written, Duke said. “We didn’t see that there was a way we could speak to the number of issues in that resolution.” Another was the possibility that the statement would raise questions about the SBC’s biblical position on race. “You can look at the convention and see that we’re reaching out to other races,” Duke said. “About 20 percent of our churches are non-Anglo churches.”

Messengers did not see the text of McKissic’s proposed resolution. A motion to bring it the floor failed to get a required two-thirds majority. Later, a messenger asked that McKissic’s motion be brought to the floor. That would require additional time for a report from the Resolutions Committee, again requiring a two-thirds majority.

A ballot vote to allow more time to deal with the matter on Wednesday is being counted.

Motions about morals

Messengers approved two resolutions about moral issues. One of them called for higher moral standards among leaders. It was based on a resolution adopted during the Clinton administration’s Lewinsky scandal. The 2017 version mentions no leaders by name, but says all “leaders should set a positive example for every American citizen by living and serving according to the highest moral and ethical standards.”

“There was no need to single out president Trump or anyone else,” Duke said. “We believe the resolution stands on its own without bringing any other characters into it.”

Without naming Vice President Mike Pence, the resolution commends “those leaders who choose not to meet privately with members of the opposite sex who are not their spouses in order to ensure that they leave no room for temptation to lead them astray…” Pence was criticized in March when it was reported that he followed Billy Graham’s example never to meet alone with female staff members, or dine with women without his wife present.

And a new statement on gambling seems important at this time, as gambling expands and several states are considering expanding gaming venues. “The resolution on gambling calls it the ‘sin of gambling,” Duke said. “We looked back and we noticed that we had never in the past actually labeled gambling sin in that explicit way.”

The resolution speaks to the culture at large, but it also addresses Southern Baptists, whose opposition to gambling may be wavering as forms and venues for gaming proliferate.

— Eric Reed in Phoenix

 

Michael Allen is one of two Chicago preachers at Pastors Conference

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Chicago’s Uptown Baptist Church pastor Michael Allen preaches at the copy of Spurgeon’s pulpit, on loan to the 2017 SBC Pastors Conference from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. (BP photo/Matt Miller)

(Editor’s note: An informal survey of five people in a hotel shuttle van in Phoenix—all who coincidentally had lived in Chicago until a couple of years ago—reported Michael Allen’s sermon was well received by attenders at the conference. And they said they felt well-represented. Here is the Baptist Press summary of the sermon.)

“There is an obsession these days with leadership and not followership,” said Michael Allen, pastor of Uptown Baptist Church in Chicago, Ill.

“Yet, there are at least twice as many scriptural references to followership than there are to leadership.”

Preaching from Philippians 3:17–4:1, Allen said those verses show that there are two imperatives to followership: 1) In verse 17, Paul exhorts the people to join in — to become like him as he follows Christ. 2) In the same verse, Paul says to pay attention, or to scope out other saints who are already living according to the example of other saints.

“Paul is not talking about a program for your church,” he said. “He’s talking about following godly people. It’s not about borrowing a sermon or a song you got at a conference but by being influenced by those who are worthy of being imitated.”

Allen said that when he was called to preach 27 years ago, he was part of the college and career class taught by Susie Hawkins at First Baptist Church in Fort Lauderdale. He asked the pastor, O.S. Hawkins, how he knew he was called to preach.

Hawkins looked him in the eye and said “Michael, if you can do anything else in the world and be happy, then do it. But if you can’t be happy unless you’re preaching, then it may very well be that God has called you to preach.”

Allen, who at the time worked as a field service computer technician, said he had listened to Hawkins for years exposit whole chapters of the Bible. He watched O.S. and Susie relate to each other, and he watched as they raised their daughters to be fine wives and mothers.

“He’s always left me with some kind of personal encouragement,” he said.

“So now, I always try to give a word or a touch of encouragement to others. … Be a Paul to someone else. No one becomes a great leader without first being a great follower.”

The other Illinois pastor who preached in Phoenix is David Choi. Read about his message here.

Gaines pledge .and prayerJPG

Steve Gaines prays for America following a recognition of veterans Tuesday morning prior to delivering his presidential address.

Southern Baptist Convention President Steve Gaines delivered a more personal presidential address than his recent predecessors, choosing to focus on prayer and the devotional life of the pastor rather than the state of nation or the declining baptism and membership numbers of the denomination.

“This past year I emphasized prayer everywhere I went; this next year I am going to emphasize soul-winning everywhere I go,” Gaines said, recounting his preaching engagements with state conventions and seminaries. Gaines said he will announce later in the SBC Annual Meeting his desire to appoint a soul-winning task force to explore ways Southern Baptist to be more effective.

LifeWay released the annual compilation of Annual Church Profiles from SBC churches last week. It showed a 4.89 % decline in baptisms and a half-percent decline in membership to 15.2 million members.

“How in the world are we going to make it?” Gaines asked, echoing pastors in need of spiritual encouragement and renewal. “We’re going to make it by doing things God’s way.”

Preaching from Acts, Gaines urged pastors to seek new strength from prayerful encounters with God. “We minister to the Lord in worship, prayer, and fasting,” he said, ticking off a three-stage process. Next, “he ministers to us through the anointing of the Holy Spirit. After we have ministered to the Lord and he has reciprocated, we are to minister to others with the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Gaines pointed to Paul and others in the book of Acts as examples of men whose evangelistic work flowed from their prayer life. “If you will tell the old, old story of Jesus and his love, there are (people) who want to hear it….

“Nothing, nothing, nothing can stop the gospel.”

Gaines’ sermon was less of a state-of-the-union address, and more an exhortation punctuated by prayer and worship. Gaines and his daughter led worship after the message.

As Adrian Rogers successor at Bellevue Baptist Church in metro-Memphis, Gaines is completing his first one-year term as SBC President.

— Eric Reed in Phoenix