Archives For SBC Phoenix 2017

A sunset in the rearview mirror of car as a races down the road

I recall researching an article a few years back on the actions messengers took at certain conventions. Some years were marked by insightful and course-altering votes; others had no discernable effect. With the advantage of hindsight, we ask, What actions from the 2017 Southern Baptist Convention will have lasting impact on our denomination and the effectiveness of our work in the world?

The vote on alt-right racism will be remembered; and the appointment of a task force on evangelism has the potential to change our direction. But there was one motion that could produce even greater, meaningful change—if it makes it past the Executive Committee. And there’s a second that I want to suggest.

Modest proposal 1: Shall we merge the mission boards?

A couple of years ago, a messenger moved that a merger of the North American and International Mission Boards be studied. When his motion was ruled out of order for parliamentary reasons, the messenger pleaded that exploration of the issue not be delayed because of procedural rules. He cited the emerging financial crisis of the IMB and cuts in missionaries on the field that had just been announced as motivating factors. At the time, it was clear that NAMB had plenty of reserves, and a merger could fix the money crunch. But rules are rules, and the motion was dead.

Until this year.

A similar motion was made at the 2017 meeting in Phoenix. Here’s how Baptist Press reported it, in a list of motions that were referred to the Executive Committee:

“A motion by Harvey Brown of First Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C., requesting the president appoint a study committee to consider the feasibility of merging IMB and NAMB.”

There was no discussion this time around, or emotional pleading for the sake of missionaries on the field. And frankly, it seems some of steam has escaped on this topic.

IMB reported it is on firm financial footing. IMB President David Platt has weathered a couple of storms, and with the honeymoon over, he appears to be settling in for a long ministry focused on global missions. Platt still partners with NAMB, speaking at conferences about church planting in North America. But his heart beats for the peoples of the world.

And NAMB President Kevin Ezell has stopped making the offer, publically at least, for IMB to relocate from Richmond to Alpharetta. During Platt’s first year, Ezell said there was plenty of room at NAMB’s Georgia headquarters since his administrative staff had been radically downsized. Ezell still cheers for Platt’s presidency, but the pair aren’t making as many joint appearances. Maybe both have found their footing.

The question arises every decade or two: Is the distinction between “home” missions and “foreign” missions outdated (just as those terms are)? Should missions today be focused more on people groups and languages than geography—including in the United States? As the “nations” (translating ethnos as “nations” or “peoples”) have come to North America, should missionaries here share the gospel with them in the same ways they would back in their home countries?

And this: Should state conventions (again) lead church planting in their states, as the missions personnel most familiar with the nearby mission field and with the partner churches who can facilitate evangelistic church planting ministry?

Will one mission board focused on people groups, and state conventions focused on their own neighborhoods better achieve the evangelization of the world and the U.S.?

I can’t say for certain, but it’s a good time to explore the issue.

Modest proposal 2: Virtual messengers? In the next issue.

– Eric Reed is editor of the Illinois Baptist newspaper.

New task force to explore baptisms decline, ERLC complaints fail to materialize at Annual Meeting

Prayer begets

If we took a selfie in Phoenix, this would be it. Busy days framed by prayer are represented in this photo from the Phoenix Convention Center during the June 13-14 SBC Annual Meeting and the week of meetings, preaching, and witnessing that preceded it.

Debate over a resolution condemning “alt-right racism” took the spotlight, but lesser reported actions at the 2017 Southern Baptist Convention will address another serious issue facing the denomination, an ongoing decline in baptisms and membership. And a matter some anticipated would make headlines failed to produce debate, complaints against leadership of the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

SBC President Steve Gaines announced plans for a year-long study on evangelism in the denomination, and the presentation of a plan for more effective soul-winning by SBC churches and pastors. Gaines’ effort comes after another year of baptism declines and a decade of shrinking SBC church membership.

“I was not prompted by any man to get this done,” Gaines said in Phoenix, “but the Lord laid this on my heart to emphasize prayer last year, and to emphasize evangelism this year.”

The Memphis-area pastor, who was re-elected to a second one-year term, named 19 pastors, professors, and seminary presidents to a task force, which will bring

2018 convention in Dallas. Southwestern Seminary President Paige Patterson, a proponent of traditional personal evangelism, will chair the panel. And Illinois’ Doug Munton, pastor of First Baptist Church of O’Fallon will also serve.

Gaines asked North American Mission Board President Kevin Ezell to present the motion creating the task force. Ezell outlined the troubling situation among SBC churches: The SBC has seen a steady decline in baptisms since 1980; 80% of SBC churches baptized 9 or fewer people in the most recent report of Annual Church Profiles, 50% reported two or fewer baptisms, and 25% baptized no one.

“I don’t think any pastor in the room would say they don’t have a passion for the lost, but I do think there is a practice problem,” Ezell said.

After the Phoenix meeting, Gaines urged continued prayer for renewal in our churches. “We must make prayer, evangelism and discipleship the priorities of our lives. We must jettison our selfish agendas and focus on Christ’s Great Commission,” Gaines said.

The Gaines

Donna Gaines prays fervently for her husband, SBC President Steve Gaines, just before he preaches during the opening session of the Annual Meeting. Gaines made prayer the focus of his first one-year term, and announced evangelism as the emphasis of his second term.

ERLC reports as usual
An anticipated debate over the ERLC did not materialize at the convention. Leaders had worked since January to heal strained relations between ERLC President Russell Moore and some pastors who objected to his comments about candidate Donald Trump last year, and also to his stance on a controversial religious liberty case involving construction of a mosque in New Jersey.

Moore would not comment on recent published reports that characterized the conflict as unresolved, positioning it as a generational tug-of-war between older Southern Baptists and younger leaders new to their positions. One report also said the ERLC is having difficulty accessing the Trump administration. Southern Baptists have been represented by Texas pastors Robert Jeffress and Jack Graham at recent White House functions involving religious freedoms.

Moore told the Illinois Baptist at a news conference that he saw the annual meeting as a “family reunion” of people who together advance the gospel.

The ERLC report was the last item on the convention agenda, when attendance in the hall is usually low and time for questions is limited. One motion to defund the ERLC was ruled out of order, as the SBC budget had been approved early in the opening session.

Moore restated the ERLC’s commitment to represent Southern Baptists on issues of marriage and family, sanctity of life, and religious liberty. “We are committed to be the Paul Revere, going ahead, speaking to churches, speaking to the officials, speaking to the public square… speaking to the watching world with a different word,” Moore said.
Moore interviewed Chicago pastor Nathan Carter about his church’s lawsuit against the city, which has blocked their purchase of a building in the University District because of parking rules.

‘Alt-right’ and other resolutions
Moore was at the table at a news conference on the first day of the convention, when the chair of the Resolutions Committee, former ERLC Vice President Barrett Duke explained why the panel did not bring the proposed resolution on racism and the alt-right supremacy movement to the floor for a vote. Moore was reportedly involved in the late-night writing session that produced a new resolution on the issue. And he addressed the proposal as a messenger from the floor.

“Southern Baptists were right to speak clearly and definitely that ‘alt-right’ white nationalism is not just a sociological movement,” Moore later said, “but a work of the devil.”

The resolution “on the anti-gospel of alt-right white supremacy” urged messengers to “earnestly pray, both for those who advocate racist ideologies and those who are thereby deceived, that they may see their error through the light of the Gospel, repent of these hatreds, and come to know the peace and love of Christ through redeemed fellowship in the Kingdom of God, which is established from every nation, tribe, people, and language.”

Another resolution addressed “the importance of moral leadership.” That resolution was a repeat of one passed during the Clinton administration’s Monica Lewinsky scandal. When asked whether the resolution was directed toward the Trump administration, Duke pointed out that neither the 1998 resolution or this one mentioned the president by name. We need moral leadership at every level, he said.

The resolution urged messengers to pray “that God will help us and all our fellow citizens to embrace the biblical moral values that will honor our creation in God’s image and bring God’s blessing on our nation.”

Ten resolutions in all were passed.

  • One on gambling specifically named it as a sin.
  • A statement reaffirmed the doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement—which says Jesus took upon Himself in His death the divine punishment due sinners—“as the burning core of the Gospel message and the only hope of a fallen race.”
  • And a resolution on campus ministry “urged our fellow Southern Baptists to devote considerable prayer,” among other resources, to “evangelistic and discipleship endeavors” on college and university campuses.

More Midwest voices
The Executive Committee brought a $192-million Cooperative Program allocation budget for next year. Messengers approved it. They also granted permission for the EC to sell its current building in downtown Nashville, should they receive a good offer. A building boom in the city has made the property very valuable, as was the case with the massive LifeWay publisher’s facilities which were sold last year in order to downsize. Proceeds after relocation would go to missions, EC President and CEO Frank Page said.

Another motion brought more Midwest representation to the Executive Committee. Four regions were given representation, even though they have too few church members to apply under the provisions of SBC Bylaw 30. The recommendation amended Bylaw 18 to list the Dakotas, Iowa, Minnesota-Wisconsin and Montana conventions as each being entitled to a single EC representative.

With this Annual Meeting, Illinois representative Wilma Booth completed two four-year terms on the EC. She will be succeeded by Adron Robinson, pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Country Club Hills. And Sharon Carty, member of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Carlinville, will replace Charles Boling of Marion.

Messengers at the 2017 convention totaled 5,018.

The 2018 SBC will be held in Dallas.

-Eric Reed with additional reporting from Baptist Press

The Briefing

Immigration raids target Iraqi-American Christians
Chicago’s Iraqi immigrant community is bracing for raids by U.S. immigration officers after witnessing a sweep in Detroit, where federal agents rounded up more than 100 Iraqis, most of them Christians, and sent them to a detention center in Ohio, pending deportation. Federal agents took Detroit’s Iraqi-American community by surprise, showing up at a Chaldean church during Mass, at restaurants frequented by the Iraqi Chaldean community, and at homes bearing orders to arrest and deport residents.

Baptists deny CSB translation is ‘gender neutral’
Conservative Christian groups and intellectuals are rejecting a recent claim that the latest version of the Christian Standard Bible has been edited to be more “gender neutral.” The Atlantic published a piece on Sunday that claimed that the theologically conservative Southern Baptist Convention was embracing a more gender-neutral version of the Bible.

SBC Phoenix wrap-up: Alt-right resolution & evangelism draw focus
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. Attendees of the SBC Pastors’ Conference preceding the annual meeting elected Florida pastor H.B. Charles as the conference’s first black president.

Chicago records 300th homicide
Chicago recorded its 300th homicide over the Father’s Day weekend, just like it did last year. The somber milestone was reached around 2:30 a.m. Monday when a 33-year-old man was gunned down during a burst of violence that saw four people killed and 13 others wounded over just five hours Sunday evening through early Monday, according to data kept by the Tribune.

Catholics launch conversation about female deacons
Several progressive Catholic groups are launching an initiative aimed at giving lay Catholics and clergy across the U.S. a direct say on whether the church should ordain women deacons. Their actions follow the appointment of a panel of experts set up by Pope Francis to consider the controversial question.

Sources: World Magazine, Christian Post, Illinois Baptist, Religion News, Chicago Tribune

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