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There was one point during the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Phoenix when three thoughts of mine collided:

• How can this many people make a well-informed and well-reasoned decision?

• In the social media era, how can we make it possible for even more people to participate on a level that young adults have come to expect?

• And, then, how can we continue this very expensive system of having fewer and fewer people travel halfway or more across the country to attend?

The collision came late on Tuesday, when young messengers were pleading for the crowd in the hall to consider the weight of public opinion (read: Twitter) in their debate over alt-right racism. (“What will the people out there think of us?”) In my head, I could hear old people saying, “Who cares? This is not their decision, it’s ours—Southern Baptists—and in particular the ones who paid to travel to Phoenix to speak up and to vote.” (Maybe it was just me, speaking on behalf of old people.)

But to the young messengers pleading on behalf of the masses, it was important, because they are used to the hearing from the masses on every issue: like, heart, thumbs up, smiley face, colon/capital P tongue-sticking-out. (Yes, my emoticon reference is dated.)

Executive Committee President Frank Page told the messengers, proudly, that the Convention is an anomaly: “This is a deliberative body, the largest openly deliberative body that still exists,” Page said. “But know that the Executive Committee also deliberates carefully at multiple levels dealing with each of the issues before they’re ever presented to you, from small groups to medium-size [groups] to the large plenary sessions. Our Executive Committee members are not rubber-stampers. They ask questions, they deliberate, they discuss and sometimes disagree. So know that we hold your trust carefully and we count it to be precious.”

That’s an uneasy balance for Baptists whose theology makes us accustomed to voting on almost everything—even changing the light bulbs.

The first national Baptist body in the U.S. was the Triennial Convention, founded in Philadelphia in 1814. They met every three years. When Southern Baptists broke off in 1845, they chose to meet every year, and to include as many people as possible by sending messengers rather than electing representatives. (It is a small but important distinction.)

But technology and airline costs are pressing on our expectations: Remembering conventions with 15,000 and more regularly in attendance, we want more participants than the 5,000 who flew to Phoenix. And technology would make that possible. Yet, we do not want our denomination making knee-jerk statements at every cultural twist and turn. Theology doesn’t demand an annual meeting cycle or populist group-think.

I know these impulses seem to be in conflict: more participation, and more-reasoned debate. But watching the clock tick as debate on an unexpected resolution took time from discussion on the decline in baptisms and a renewed call to evangelism, it became clear that a relatively few people in a distant city can make reactionary decisions. Next time, the outcome might not be so positive.

(Editor’s Note: Modest Proposal 1 on merging the mission boards can be read here.)

-Eric Reed

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

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


In a border town of Turkey, a Syrian family who fled from the civil war struggles to find food and shelter. IMB photo by Jedediah Smith

In a border town of Turkey, a Syrian family who fled from the civil war struggles to find food and shelter. IMB photo by Jedediah Smith

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

The International Mission Board’s pictures of the year show “light in the darkness” around the world. In the Philippines, hard hit by a typhoon just over a year ago; in Turkey, where a Syrian family tries to escape civil war (right); and in the Dominican Republic, where church planting efforts reach across geographical and cultural divides. See them all and more at

Almost 9.5 million people heard the gospel through the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in 2014, and more than 1.6 million of those trusted Christ. “Our hearts overflow with gratitude to God for all He has done and is doing, and we are eager to keep pressing forward as He continues to open doors,” BGEA’s chief executive officer Franklin Graham wrote recently, The Christian Post reported.

Also from The Christian Post: Houston Baptist University will create a Center for American Evangelism, spearheaded in part by apologist Lee Strobel and directed by author Mark Mittelberg.

“I’ve been there, done that and I’d love to share with you a few reasons why, even though I’ve failed, I’m doing it again,” Trillia Newbill writes about her resolve to read the Bible in 2015. Read about the four step plan she chose at

Most of us make and break them every year, but can New Year’s Resolutions actually be harmful? Author (and Billy Graham’s grandson) Tullian Tchividjian says yes, in this interview with Religion News Service. “When it’s up to you to go out and get the love you crave, create your own worth, or work at becoming acceptable to those you want to impress, life gets heavy,” Tchividjian told writer Jonathan Merritt. “New Year’s Resolutions are a burdening attempt to fix ourselves and make ourselves more lovable.”

The current basketball season has gone “in the opposite direction” L.A. Laker Jeremy Lin anticipated, he posted on his blog at the beginning of this year. But despite his slump, Lin—a known Christian—said he wants to live with more joy in the coming year. “…[T]hrough it all, I’ve been learning how to surrender the results to God, how to walk by faith and not by sight, how to be renewed through times of prayer/Scripture and how to fight for a life of joy in the midst of trials.”



IBSA ANNUAL MEETING | Messengers in Springfield approved five resolutions this morning without discussion, four of which are online at The resolutions covered human exploitation, the preservation of marriage, appreciation for WMU’s 125 years, and gaming expansion in Illinois.

Wes Hahn, chairman of the Resolutions and Christian Life Committee, and committee member Bruce Kugler also recommended a fifth resolution on personal evangelism.

Committee chair Wes Hahn is pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church in Bridgeport

Committee chair Wes Hahn is pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church in Bridgeport