Archives For Southern Baptist Convention

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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.

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

 

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.

Evans: We’re experiencing the passive wrath of God

Dallas | “We’re living in a day where we’d rather offend God and fear the culture than offend the culture and fear God,” James Merritt proclaimed to those gathered at the 2018 SBC Pastors’ Conference in Dallas.

The conference, which precedes the Southern Baptist Convention, kicked off Sunday evening June 10, with three speakers: Merritt, pastor of Cross Pointe Church, Sugarloaf, GA; Juan Sanchez, pastor of High Point Baptist Church, Austin, TX; and Tony Evans, pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship, Dallas, TX.

Merritt, spoke from Romans 1:16, urging pastors not to be ashamed of the simple: 1) message of the gospel; 2) might of the gospel because it is the power of God; or 3) saving ministry of the power of the gospel.

Sanchez cautioned pastors, “We are not made to live in isolation…yet pastors are some of the most isolated people. Brothers, we need deeply rooted gospel relationships if we are to fulfill our calling.”

He encouraged them to remember, “Our confidence is in the Lord Jesus Christ who lived and died and rose again. The Lord chooses to use us and to him be the glory forever and ever amen.”

No matter what discouragement pastors might face, Sanchez reminded, “Our confidence is not in our building. It’s not in our city. Our confidence is in Jesus Christ.”

It was local pastor Tony Evans that roused the audience. Evans based his messaged on 2 Chronicles 15:3-6. “It’s a summary of why the world we live in today is the way it is,” he said. “It gives us a picture of chaos.”

He contrasted the chaos of the world then with that of our world today. “Family chaos, international chaos, urban chaos. It says there was social chaos comprehensively.”

“God determines in a society what he is going to do by the presence or absence of his people, Evans declared. “What you and I are experiencing today is the passive wrath of God.”

He described what God did then and what he said God’s doing now. “God troubled them with every kind of distress… He’ll use the distress to bring our undivided attention back around to him again to pray for revival.

But there is a solution if churches choose to address it. “If God is your problem, only God is your solution to the chaos.”

The SBC Pastors’ Conference continues Tuesday, June 11 and can be viewed online at http://live.sbc.net/.

Baptist Press | With hopes of catalyzing “a fresh wave of evangelistic passion,” the Southern Baptist Convention’s evangelism task force has finalized its recommendations to the convention and will release them a week before the SBC annual meeting in Dallas.

The task force, appointed last June by SBC President Steve Gaines, held its third and final meeting May 14-15 at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. In addition to adopting its recommendations unanimously, the 19-member group elected Southern Baptist Theological Seminary administrator Adam Greenway as vice chairman. Southwestern Seminary President Paige Patterson is chairman.

“We finalized several affirmations and denials regarding biblical evangelism that we believe will be readily embraced and adopted by the messengers of the SBC at our upcoming meeting in Dallas,” Gaines, pastor of Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., told Baptist Press in written comments. “We also set forth several recommendations that relate to Southern Baptists on multiple levels. We believe these will strengthen and enhance our evangelistic efforts as we move forward to reach our world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Greenway, dean of Southern’s Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Ministry, said the meeting “was characterized by constructive conversations about our report and recommendations.”

“The evangelization of the world remains our top priority as a convention of churches, and the prayer of all of us serving on this task force is that God will use our efforts to help bring us together by renewing our passion for and increasing our effectiveness in bringing people to Christ,” Greenway told BP in written comments.

Dr. Doug Munton, Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church of O’Fallon, Illinois

Task force member Doug Munton (left) said he is “encouraged by the brothers on the evangelism task force. They love the Lord, the SBC and the Gospel. It is my prayer that we see renewed passion for evangelism and the work of the Great Commission.”

The task force “has worked hard and prayed hard,” Munton, pastor of First Baptist Church in O’Fallon, Ill., told BP in written comments. “We know that we need a fresh wave of evangelistic passion, but we also need the presence and power of God. We won’t get it all right, being imperfect members of an imperfect convention in an imperfect world. We do pray we bring encouragement to the SBC to refocus our attention and energy on reaching the lost with the Gospel.”

The task force is scheduled to report Wednesday morning, June 13, at the SBC annual meeting.

Gaines thanked Southern Baptists for their prayers on behalf of the task force and requested continued prayer “for the SBC as we renew our commitment to take the Gospel to all people everywhere.”

-From Baptist Press, BPNews.net