Archives For Southern Baptist Convention

By Meredith Flynn

Evangelism

DOOR TO DOOR – Kyle Walker (left), vice president for student services at Southwestern Seminary, and his wife Lauren (kneeling), share the gospel in Fort Worth during the Crossover evangelistic outreach prior to the SBC annual meeting.

Taking the gospel to the world is a critical task—one that will require Baptists to work together, reported a task force appointed by outgoing SBC President Steve Gaines. The group, named by Gaines at last year’s annual meeting, presented their report in Dallas, where it was adopted by messengers.

Before the vote, the task force concurrently submitted to messengers a list of 12 evangelism affirmations and denials, based on and supported by Scripture. The report also includes several recommendations for individuals, churches, pastors, SBC entities, and the denomination as a whole—all meant to renew evangelism.

“We wanted to take the opportunity to provide a clear set of principles in terms of things we believe Southern Baptists can heartily affirm as it comes to speaking about evangelism,” said task force chairman Adam Greenway, “and with clarity saying things we do not believe evangelism entails.

“One of the most important things we can give to our convention of churches, and to a watching world, is a clear statement about…where Southern Baptists stand on the issues related to evangelism.”

The task force, which met throughout the year to develop the report, was created to study how Baptists can be more effective in evangelism, amid continually declining baptism numbers across the SBC. Doug Munton, pastor of First Baptist Church in O’Fallon and a member of the task force, said the group noted the element of personal responsibility inherent in evangelism. “We need to be intentional and purposeful,”

Munton told the Illinois Baptist. “I was glad to hear our convention talking about evangelism. The evangelism task force work will be, I pray, a helpful step.”

The report, available in full at BPNews.net, alludes to differences in theology in the SBC, but also calls Baptists to unify around the Great Commission given to all Christians.

“We affirm that the Scriptures teach that gospel conversations should seek to include both clear presentations of the ‘good news’ of salvation and genuine invitations for all people to receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord,” the group wrote in one of the affirmations. Following it, the group denied “that gospel conversations are merely general talk about spiritual things and that an evangelistic invitation may only be extended by a singular methodological approach.”

The task force recommended the SBC Executive Committee put a “Baptism Day” on the denominational calendar. Illinois is among the states who have celebrated a statewide baptism emphasis—more than 400 people were baptized this spring on One GRAND Sunday.

Pat Pajak, IBSA’s associate executive director of evangelism, said the report was a great reminder of Baptists’ mission to share the gospel and disciple people who come to faith in Christ.

“Anything we do that reignites a passion for evangelism is a good thing,” he said. “It’s so easy to get distracted by doing good things, busy work, administrative duties, and daily church work that we neglect the Great Commission. And, in eternity, the most important thing will not be if the newsletter was attractive, the calendar was up-to-date, the deacon meetings were on time, the piano was in tune, or the building was clean.

“What will count for all eternity is did we, as believers, share the good news of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection with others?”

– With additional reporting by Baptist Press

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Trillia Newbell, left, director of community outreach for the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and Matt Chandler, pastor of Village Church near Dallas, were part of the B21 panel discussion,. BP photo

The church’s handling of abuse and the #MeToo moment were major topics prior to the SBC’s Annual Meeting and at two panel discussions adjacent to the convention itself. Within the official meeting, actions were limited to passage of two resolutions on the role of women in ministry and an apology to abuse victims, some explanation in reports from seminary presidents, and a motion from the floor asking if a woman could be elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention.

All this comes on the 100th anniversary of women first being elected as voting messengers to the annual convention, and more important, following weeks of controvery surrounding the handling of abuse cases on two SBC seminary campuses, and remarks about women by former Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Paige Patterson. Also former President of Southeastern Seminary where some of the allegations arose, Patterson was first removed from the SWBTS presidency by the full board of trustees, which promoted him to president emeritus with salary and benefits. A week later, as more allegtions emerged, the seminary trustees executive committee fired Patterson from that role and withdrew the offer of housing on the Southwestern campus.

Against this backdrop, messengers arrived in Dallas to find the topics of women and abuse allegtions handled mostly in ancillary panel discussions.

“You need to be trained in this like you’ve never been trained in this,” Matt Chandler, pastor of The Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas cautioned ministry leaders at a luncheon sponsored by B21. “Most of these men who’ve done this are narcissists and are going to come off as great guys,” he warned. He warned that pastors should make what is meant by submission clear in their sermons. “Every time you talk about submission you need to add the caveat about spiritual, physical, sexual, emotional abuse, because these guys are using this.”

In the B21 panel discussion and another by the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, the debate assumed a theological position of complementarianism, meaning men and women serve complementary roles in marriage and leadership.

Southern Seminary President Al Mohler said, “If you want to be a patriarchal abuser, complementarianism is an idiology you can grasp onto… Let’s just own this.” Mohler condemned “the distortion of complementarianism to justify predatory and abusive behavior (as) heresy and sin.” He also stressed that complementarianism doesn’t mean every woman is supposed to be submissive to every man.

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A panel discussed preventing and dealing with sexual abuse in the church June 11 at the Cooperative Program stage in Dallas. BP photo

At the same session, James Merritt, pastor of Cross Pointe Church in metro Atlanta said, “I don’t know of anything that Scripture prohibits within our denomination that a woman can’t do,” he said. “A woman can be president of the Southern Baptist Convention…. I don’t know of any position a woman cannot hold biblically. Outside the position of elder, I don’t know of any position of authority a woman cannot hold in the church.”

Merritt noted, “I think sometimes we complementarians go into a Pharisee mode of going beyond what the Scriptures teach, and I think it’s a good wake-up moment for us today.”

Southeastern Seminary President Danny Akin told B21 attendees his school did something historic by electing a woman to chair the trustees. “Becky Gardner is one of the most godly, competent women that I’ve ever met. There’s no sense in which you can make a biblical argument about it. She’s not serving as an elder, a pastor, or an overseer. She’s serving as an administrator.” Gardner is the wife of Joe Gardner, an IBSA zone consultant and director of missions at Metro Peoria Association.

But there’s much the local church can do.

Russell Moore, president of the ERLC, said to be careful when using spiritual language such as grace and mercy. “In almost every abuser in a church context I’ve ever seen…[he] wants to identify himself as King David and says we need to forgive this, and move on, ‘I need to continue on the same place where I was before.’”

Moore said the church needs to be bold and say, “That is not what grace is as defined by the gospel of Jesus Christ. You cannot use the grace of God in order to harm and to destroy Jesus’ flock.”

Several of the panelists noted that some churches fear public reports of abuse can ruin their witness in the community. “This is not a public relations issue to be managed,” stated Moore.

“Jesus does not need you to rescue his reputation by covering up sin.”

Kimberlee Norris, sexual abuse attorney with Ministry Safe, said background checks are not enough. She recommended adding to the background checks “training, screening, and appropriate policies that address grooming behaviors.”

Some of the most poignant advice come from ERLC Outreach Director Trilla Newbell, herself a survivor of sexual abuse. She appeared as a panelist at both events. Newbell advised pastors and churches to think ahead about how to handle such incidents. “It is incredibly important that we have (reporting) procedures already developed so that women in your midst, and men, know that they are already safe,” said Newbell, “so that they know you have already been thinking of this. So that they know that they will be loved.”

Wasted moments in Dallas

Lisa Misner —  June 21, 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.

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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.

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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

 

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)

Motion to replace VP with time of prayer fails on the floor

Controversy arose Monday when the Southern Baptist Convention’s Order of Business Committee announced Vice President Mike Pence had been added to the Wednesday morning schedule. Debate online and in the convention hall centered on the appropriateness of having a political figure speak at time when the country and the denomination itself is experiencing so much disunity.

Garrett Kell, a messenger from Del Ray Baptist Church in Alexandria, Va., brought a motion to replace the Vice President’s address with a time of prayer. The motion called Pence’s addition to the schedule a source of disunity with minority brothers and sisters that suggests alignment with a particular political party and puts SBC workers around world at risk. Kell asked messengers to consider Romans 14:19.

Committee on Order of Business Chair Grant Ethridge responded to the motion. “The Southern Baptist Convention aligns itself with no political party. Our loyalty is to King Jesus, Lord of Lords,” Ethridge said to applause in the convention hall. He explained that the White House reached out to the convention and that Pence’s appearance was keeping with history. “Many political figures have reached out to us in the past.”

Ethridge, pastor of Liberty Baptist Church in Hampton Roads, Va., referred to a list of Scripture passages to support his position. “1 Timothy 2:1, 3; Romans 13:1, Titus 3:1. 1 Peter 2:17 to me really sums it up. In Acts 25:11, Paul even says, ‘I appeal to Caesar.’”

He went on to say he felt messengers should respect the position of the office and that had he been chair when the previous administration was in office, he would have welcomed them to speak if they had requested it.

Concluding, Ethridge said, “We encourage the messengers to extend a biblical, Christ-like welcome to the Vice President of the United States.’

Messengers overwhelming voted against the motion to replace Pence’s address, and approved the Order of Business for the Annual Meeting.

Multiple motions to change the SBC bylaws to disallow requests by or invitations to political figures were presented during the first schedule Introduction of New Motions time Tuesday morning. There will be a second opportunity for messengers to bring new motions to the floor at 3:45 p.m. The Committee on Order of Business will review the motions and determine which meet the convention’s guidelines to be eligible for a vote.