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Updated May 23, 2018

By The Editors

As with most things in Texas, this gathering of Southern Baptists promises to be a bit bigger than usual, both in attendance and in the scope and possible impact of the issues likely to be discussed.

Generation and direction: The two announced candidates for SBC president are markedly different, both in age and theology. While recent conventions have concluded with some attempt at conciliation and commitment to work together, this two-man race serves to highlight the differences. Its outcome will likely be interpreted as a shift in direction.

This presidential election is marked by an increase in campaigning by the candidates’ supporters. Young and Reformed J.D. Greear was the candidate who stepped aside two years ago, rather than force a second run-off election and risk deepening divisions between younger leaders beginning to take their place and their parents’ generation, and between Reformed Southern Baptists and those who would call themselves “traditionalists” on the topics of salvation and election.

The elder Ken Hemphill’s experience in a variety of SBC leadership roles positions him as a statesman candidate. A number of other SBC leaders support him as a defender of traditional theology and the Cooperative Program.

The need for assurance: Messengers will arrive in Texas feeling some fallout from Frank Page’s departure as head of the SBC Executive Committee due to personal moral failure. And David Platt announced his intention to step down as International Mission Board president earlier this spring. Both entities have search committees working to fill the vacancies.

The search for new leaders has generated conversation about diversity among denominational leadership. One pastor said it’s “imperative” that at least one of the two roles be filled by a minority candidate (see our report from MLK50 on page 10).

Diversity: The SBC’s process for nominating trustees for its entities is in the spotlight for a lack of diversity among this year’s nominees. According to the “SBC This Week” podcast, the announced group of 69 nominees to serve on SBC boards is made up of 58 men and 11 women; 67 are Anglo, one is African-American, and one is Asian-American.
Southeastern Seminary President Danny Akin tweeted in response to the report, “We have got to do better than this. Our trustee boards must reflect the WHOLE SBC.”

The report from the Committee on Nominations is still a work in progress (the group generally has to fill 5-10 spots that come open prior to the convention). Chairman James Freeman said the committee initiated measures at their March meeting to increase diversity, a decision that he said was reinforced by the social media discussion.

ERLC AND social justice: Racial justice and unity may be raised again in Dallas. Throughout his tenure, ERLC President Russell Moore has galvanized younger Baptists with his brand of compassionate activism. Others, though, bristled at his harsh words for supporters of then-candidate Donald Trump, and have since questioned whether the ERLC’s policies reflect the majority of the SBC.

Last year the convention voted on a Moore-led resolution condemning “alt-right racism.” Now Moore has raised the issue of race again at an April conference that ERLC hosted commemorating the life and death of Martin Luther King, Jr. The ERLC’s report to the convention is, like last year, near the end of the meeting agenda. Moore will be among the last leaders heard from before Baptists leave Texas.

Paige Patterson: The man who led the conservative reclamation of the SBC starting in the 1970s is scheduled to preach the convention sermon in Dallas and many are calling on him not preach the sermon. On May 23 at a special called meeting of the Board of Trustees at the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth he was removed as president and appointed president emeritus.

It comes after comments he made in 2000 about domestic abuse recently required a statement from the seminary offering clarification 18 years later. In the comments, which resurfaced last month, Patterson said his counsel to a woman being abused by her husband would depend “on the level of abuse to some degree.” He said he never counseled divorce, and at most temporary separation.

In the wake of the #MeToo movement, Patterson’s full statement is more stunning today. Fellow Texan Beth Moore, who will speak at an event for pastors’ wives in Dallas, was among the hundreds who tweeted in response, posting “We do not submit to abuse. NO.”

As the trustees met the Washington Post released an article about an incident at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary where Patterson was president in 2003. A former student said she told Patterson she had been raped and he urged her not to go to the police, but to forgive the student who was alleged to have committed the crime. Southeastern is investigating the report.

The cost of unity: Perhaps what will mark the Dallas convention isn’t which difficult conversations will be had, because there will certainly be some, but how we Baptists emerge from them. Will the meeting be marked by willingness to stand in unity because what unites us is the gospel? Or will our differences over the nature of gospel itself, and how God brings people to salvation, make the divide, largely generational, even clearer and wider?

Also read #SBCtoo: What we forgot to report may also be forgotten after the convention

– The Editors

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

New Places

By Van Kicklighter, Associate Executive Director, Church Planting

Of the three Go New Places commitments, the first is prayer (Pray, Partner, Plant). There is no more needed, yet neglected, activity in the Christian life than prayer. While this is true of us personally, it is also true of the missionary activity we call church planting.

There are two compelling needs for prayer in church planting. The first is for us as Illinois Baptists to pray for the hundreds of places around our state where a new church is needed. I don’t understand how it works, but God is moved to open doors of opportunity in response to our praying about people who need to hear the Good News of Jesus. As we talk to the Father about lost people (prayer), He responds by giving us opportunities to share the gospel. We have 200 priority church planting needs (people and places) across the state. Would you commit to take one of these and consistently pray for the people who live there, that they will have an opportunity to hear the Gospel?

Second, we need Illinois Baptists to pray for the church planters who are already sharing the gospel and planting churches to help people grow into mature disciples of Jesus. Church planting is exciting, new, and dynamic; it is also hard, lonely, and sometimes discouraging. Church planters face spiritual opposition from the Evil One. They often work without resources. Too often, they are working alone. Even the Apostle Paul recognized the need to have people praying for him:

“Pray also for me, that the message may be given to me when I open my mouth to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel. For this I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I might be bold enough in Him to speak as I should” (Eph. 6:19-20 HCSB).

Will you commit to pray consistently for one of our church planters? I will be glad to help you connect with a church planter somewhere in Illinois.

Learn more at PioneeringSpirit.org

The Briefing

SBC President urges gospel-centered unity
Ahead of June’s Southern Baptist Convention in Dallas, SBC President Steve Gaines spoke highly of both candidates in the running to succeed him and encouraged Baptists to unite around a shared mission of reaching people with the gospel.

“J.D. Greear and Ken Hemphill are both Christ-like men who have led wonderful, evangelistic churches,” Gaines said of the two men who have been announced as candidates for SBC president. “…I urge all Southern Baptists to pray to our sovereign God and to ask him to have his way regarding the election for all the officers in Dallas, including who will lead us as our next president.”

Illinois Baptists named to national leadership roles
Becky Gardner, a member of Woodland Baptist Church in Peoria, is the newly elected trustee chair for Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and is believed to be the first ever female trustee chair for a seminary.

IBSA President Adron Robinson, pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Country Club Hills, was elected to the presidential search committee for the SBC Executive Committee.

Heroic pilot makes her church proud
The Southwest Airlines pilot who landed her plane April 17 after an engine failed mid-flight is also teacher and children’s ministry worker at her Baptist church in Texas.

Christian leaders defend Wheaton meeting
A gathering of prominent evangelicals at Wheaton College last week made headlines for what some said it was, and what its organizers said it wasn’t—namely, a summit for leaders who oppose President Donald Trump.

One GRAND Sunday baptism tally tops 350
Tim Krumwiede was so moved by his daughter’s recent baptism that he professed faith in Christ and was baptized the very same day. Read his story and two others from April 8, designated as a baptism emphasis Sunday in churches across Illinois.

Sources: Baptist Press (3), The Christian Post, Illinois Baptist

Greear and Hemphill

J.D. Greear and Ken Hemphill will be nominated for SBC President when the denomination convenes in Dallas.

 

The 2018 election for president of the Southern Baptist Convention looks a lot like what happened in St. Louis two years ago. But one thing is different about the race between J.D. Greear and Ken Hemphill—public campaigning is making a comeback.

Hemphill in particular has received support from some Baptist state executives, including Missouri’s John Yeats and Louisiana’s David Hankins, the latter who was part of the group that appealed to Hemphill to throw his hat in the ring. In a statement on his personal website, Hankins called Hemphill “thoroughly Southern Baptist” and noted his commitment to the Cooperative Program, Southern Baptists’ unified method of support for missions and ministry.

“Dr. Hemphill values and promotes the work of the LBC and the other state conventions and has been a lifetime advocate in word and deed of the CP, without which we cannot carry out our ministries,” Hankins wrote.

In announcing he would nominate Greear, Florida pastor Ken Whitten noted Greear’s own commitment to missions, while pointing to the 44-year-old’s ability to bridge the SBC’s generation gap.

“We bleed missions. We bleed evangelism, and we bleed the Gospel of Jesus Christ…J.D. Greear will give us the opportunity to impact another generation while continuing to honor the former generation of Southern Baptists.”

While endorsement statements, especially from nominators, aren’t out of the ordinary, more public forms of campaigning have been largely absent during the past several SBC elections. This year, however, some leaders are speaking more openly about which candidate they endorse, and the conversation has shifted to debating the propriety of SBC electioneering.

The Louisiana Baptist Convention drew fire from Greear supporters and others when it was reported that the convention initially hosted Hemphill’s campaign website, kenhemphill2018.com. After posts on some Baptist blogs expressed concern about the perceived use of Cooperative Program funds to facilitate a website for one candidate, Hemphill told Baptist Press the site wasn’t funded by CP dollars, but that it would be moved to an independent server to avoid “any impression that it was inappropriate.”

“If anyone got the impression the website was funded with CP money,” the candidate said, “I’m sorry, because I would never do anything to erode confidence in CP giving.”

Campaigning was also an issue during the lead-up to the 2016 election between Greear and Memphis pastor Steve Gaines. That spring, a member of Greear’s church produced a rap video parody to Run D.M.C.’s “It’s Tricky.” Ashley Unzicker’s video about the intricacies of leading the SBC featured several SBC leaders, including International Mission Board President David Platt and Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore, rapping the song’s repeated refrain, “It’s tricky.”

North Carolina’s Biblical Recorder newspaper reported critics of the video said it functioned like a campaign ad, and the leaders who appeared in it were endorsing Greear for the presidency.

The buzz around the issue of campaigning could serve as a new way to operate when it comes to SBC elections, said one Baptist blogger. Iowa pastor Dave Miller, who edits SBC Voices, put forth some guidelines for “limited campaigning” in a recent blog post. In it, he wrote Baptists need to be honest about the convention’s political nature.

“There are actually people who will get upset if you say that the SBC is a political organization, as if that is somehow antithetical to being spiritual. But we get together and have meetings where we make motions and vote and hold elections. That, my friend, is called politics. Hopefully, those politics can be done by the fruit of the Spirit not the works of the flesh, but it’s still politics.”

Check back here for more updates on the Southern Baptist Convention June 12-13 in Dallas. Read both candidates’ introductions on Baptist Press here: 

-J.D. Greear to be SBC president nominee again
-Ken Hemphill to be SBC president nominee

-Meredith Flynn

 

Petition aims for Billy Graham holiday
A North Carolina man has garnered more than 115,000 signatures to an online petition effort to name a holiday in honor of evangelist Billy Graham. Kyle Siler addressed his Change.org petition to President Donald Trump and other lawmakers, noting that Graham, who died Feb. 21, “preached the gospel to more people in live audiences than anyone else in history.”

Mississippi poised to enact nation’s earliest abortion ban
Gov. Phil Bryant is expected to sign legislation approving a ban on abortions in Mississippi after 15 weeks gestation. The ban would be the earliest in the U.S., lowering the state’s current ban by five weeks.

Pastors challenge housing allowance ruling
A group of pastors and religious leaders have filed an appeal to protect the minister’s housing allowance, which was declared unconstitutional last year. Judge Barbara Crabb of the Western District of Wisconsin ruled last year that the housing allowance violates the Constitution’s Establishment Clause—which bans government-established religion.

Mohler answers ‘ask anything’ questions on campuses
Southern Seminary President Al Mohler’s dialogue with university students is based on two overarching questions: Does God exist?, and Does he speak? “If I didn’t have that assurance, I wouldn’t dare stand up in front of an audience…to talk about how we can ask and answer the biggest questions of life,” Mohler said at UCLA during the second stop on his Ask Anything Tour of college campuses.

MLB team hosts anti-porn seminar
The Kansas City Royals took a break from on-the-field spring training to hear from Fight the New Drug, a non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness about the harmful effects of pornography.

The Briefing

Court rules against bakers
Sweet Cakes by Melissa shut down after a heavy fine was levied against its owners for not participating in a same-sex wedding ceremony. Aaron and Melissa Klein took their case to court, but on Dec. 29, the bakers lost in the Oregon Court of Appeals.

Former fire chief gets partial court victory
Kelvin Cochran, the former Atlanta fire chief terminated for writing a devotional book in which he advocated a biblical view of marriage and sexuality, won a partial victory in court Dec. 20, when a judge decided the city rules under which he was fired are unconstitutional. In other religious liberty issues related to the case, however, the judge ruled against Cochran, Baptist Press reports.

Kasich approves Down syndrome abortion ban
Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed a law Dec. 22 prohibiting abortions in cases where prenatal tests reveal Down syndrome or if there’s “any other reason to believe” the genetic condition exists. North Dakota and Indiana have similar laws, although the Indiana measure has been blocked by a federal judge, CNN reports.

New data explores evangelical diversity
One in three people who identify as evangelical is nonwhite, according to 2017 research. The numbers rises to four in 10 of those who are evangelical by belief, reports Christianity Today in its analysis of research on diversity and the church.

The year’s most popular passages
The most popular Bible verse around the world in 2017 was a command to be strong and courageous, according to Bible app YouVersion. Joshua 1:9 was the most shared, bookmarked, and highlighted verse by the global YouVersion community, The Christian Post reports, while in the U.S., Romans 8:28 topped the list.