Archives For SBC president

The Briefing

EC exec. VP Augie Boto named interim president
August (Augie) Boto has been named interim president of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee. Meeting in Nashville April 4, the EC officers acted according to EC Bylaw 6 in tapping Boto for leadership following the March 27 retirement of former EC President Frank S. Page, who cited a “personal failing” in announcing his immediate departure.

Gaines names SBC Committee on Committees
Appointments to the Southern Baptist Convention’s Committee on Committees have been announced by SBC President Steve Gaines, pastor of the Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn. The Committee on Committees has 68 members, two from each of the 34 states and regions qualified for representation on boards of SBC entities. See the Illinois committee members.

China bans Bibles from online sellers
The Chinese government has banned online retailers from selling the Bible, moving in the wake of new rules to control the country’s burgeoning religious scene. It released a document outlining how it intends to promote “Chinese Christianity” over the next five years. According to the document, one of the government’s key objectives is to reinterpret and retranslate the Bible in order to enhance “Chinese-style Christianity and theology.”

Rwanda closes thousands of churches, arrests 6 pastors
An estimated 6,000 churches have been closed across Rwanda and six pastors arrested in a government crackdown that began March 1 with 700 closures in the nation’s capital of Kigali. The closures come as the Rwanda Governance Board (RGO) is conducting a national review of proposed new regulations controlling faith-based institutions for not complying with building regulations, safety and hygiene standards and pollution limitations. The six pastors, who reportedly tried to rally public support for the churches in Kigali, were accused of “masterminding” a plot to disobey the government.

For #MLK50, Christian schools launch $1.5 million in scholarships
Twenty Christian colleges, universities, and seminaries, including several Baptist seminaries and evangelical colleges such as Wheaton and Gordon, have raised $1.5 million in scholarships to offer minority students in Memphis. This is part of an initiative in honor of Martin Luther King Jr., who was assassinated there 50 years ago on April 4.

Sources: Baptist Press (3), New York Times, Christianity Today (2)

The Briefing

EC’s Frank Page resigns over ‘personal failing’
Frank S. Page has resigned as president and chief executive officer of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, effective March 27 over what is described as “a morally inappropriate relationship in the recent past.”

Southern Baptists face tricky election—again
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.

Billy Graham’s death leads 10,000 to pray for salvation
More than 1.2 million have visited BillyGrahamMemorial.org in just a month, according to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA). The online memorial features a link to a site with a clip of Graham inviting crowds at his crusades to make a decision for Christ, followed by a list of steps to pray to accept Jesus as their Savior. More than 113,000 have visited that site, StepstoPeace.org, in the month since Graham’s death, and 10,500 indicated they prayed to either profess faith for the first time or to renew lapsed faith.

Congress passes online, anti-trafficking bill
Congress has approved legislation designed to thwart sex trafficking by holding accountable online sites that facilitate the crime. The Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) would amend a 1996 anti-obscenity federal law to authorize the prosecution of websites that support the sale of people in the sex trade. The proposal would clarify trafficking victims have the right to bring civil action against online sites.

America falls in world happiness rankings
According to a recent World Happiness Report, the United States dropped four spots from last year—moving from 14th place to 18th in a survey of 156 countries taken from 2015 to 2017. The rankings are based on six key areas of well-being: healthy life expectancy, social support, freedom, trust, income, and generosity. Finland took first place, followed by Norway, Denmark, Iceland, and Switzerland.

Sources: Baptist Press, IB2news, Christianity Today, Baptist Press, Facts and Trends

SBC candidates

The slate of nominees for Southern Baptist Convention offices to be elected in Phoenix represent a push toward greater diversity in SBC leadership.

Walter Strickland, special advisor to the president for diversity at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, will be nominated for the role of first vice president (currently filled by Illinois pastor Doug Munton). Strickland also teaches theology and operates a consulting agency to assist churches and organizations with diversity-related issues.

“As our nation and our convention become more diverse, it is imperative that our leadership reflect the diversity that marks the Kingdom of God and Heaven itself,” said Georgia pastor James Merritt, who will nominate Strickland. “Beyond that we need people in leadership that reflect the best of Southern Baptists theologically, spiritually, and personally.

“Walter Strickland meets both of these needs perfectly and I am excited about nominating him for the position of first vice president at our upcoming annual meeting in Phoenix.”

Also to be nominated in Phoenix is Jose Abella, pastor of Providence Road Baptist Church in Miami, Florida. Abella, one of the preachers at this year’s SBC Pastors’ Conference, planted the bilingual congregation in 2010.

“Jose is a loving picture of what Southern Baptists are working to become,” said Georgia pastor Michael Lewis in a news release about the nomination, “effective in an urban context, multiplying churches, reaching different generations, ethnicities and socioeconomic groups, all while being faithful to Scripture.”

A third SBC leader, John Yeats, will be nominated for office in Phoenix. Yeats is executive director of the Missouri Baptist Convention and will be nominated for his 21st term as SBC recording secretary.

First elected to the post in 1997, Yeats designed the process currently used to get information from the convention floor to the platform at the Committee on Order of Business, Baptist Press reported.

Yeats said he and his wife, Sharon, who serves beside him on the convention platform “are deeply honored by Southern Baptists to serve our Lord in this role.”

Steve GainesSteve Gaines, pastor of the Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church, will be nominated for a second one-year term as SBC president by his son Grant Gaines, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Jackson, Tenn. Gaines was elected last year after North Carolina pastor J.D. Greear pulled out of the race before a second run-off election.

For more information about the Southern Baptist Convention in Phoenix, go to sbcannualmeeting.net.

– From Baptist Press reports

Steve GainesIt seems a fair question, especially following the loquacious and public presidency of Ronnie Floyd. Steve Gaines, by comparison, is almost invisible. This is not a criticism of Gaines, that he would have a different style as Southern Baptist Convention president. That is to be expected. Each president makes his own way and leads from his own strengths. But Gaines’s style, working in a less public way that his immediate predecessors, leaves us wondering: What is Steve Gaines doing?

And we find ourselves hoping that he’s focusing on issues that we just haven’t heard about yet.

Floyd wrote. Floyd spoke. A lot. Almost every week Floyd published on his blog and in Baptist Press his thoughts on righting the denomination and meeting the culture conflict head on. He quickly assumed a statesman position for his two years in office, urging support for missions and the Cooperative Program. We in the local Baptist news media came to rely on his thoughtful, well-reasoned analysis of current events.

Gaines, on the other hand, has spoken for publication rarely. He offered a few comments in the election season and after the January inauguration, mostly encouraging Southern Baptists to pray for the Trump Administration. And in February he addressed Baptist newspaper editors and state convention executive directors in Los Angeles. Gaines spoke on Trump’s election, appointments, and early actions as president. And he urged prayer for revival in America. Gaines has themed the 2017 SBC Annual Meeting “Pray: For Such a Time as This,” following Floyd and his predecessor, Fred Luter, in bringing Southern Baptists to our knees for spiritual awakening.

But it’s his comment on the complaints about the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and its president Russell Moore that, we hope, gives a glimpse at Gaines’s work behind the curtain.

“I hope the kind of talk we have been hearing is not the direction in which we are going. I hope Russell will remain in his position and that we have reconciliation with a lot of people,” Gaines said in Los Angeles. His comment came almost simultaneously with the announcement by Dallas-area pastor Jack Graham that his megachurch, Prestonwood Baptist, would be holding in escrow its $1-million offering through the Cooperative Program. Graham expressed concerns about the direction of the SBC and the ERLC, in particular, after an election cycle marked by anti-Trump tweets, Moore’s ongoing concern for refugees, and the “friend of the court” support of a freedom of religion case, in which both the ERLC and the International Mission Board (IMB) opposed onerous government regulations placed on a New Jersey mosque.

Southern Baptists do not need another era of suspicion, doubt, and sometime demagoguery. Our mission cause is too important to withhold funding over ancillary anxieties. The reconciliation that Gaines spoke about requires behind-the-scenes diplomacy and skillful mediation. That’s what we might hope Gaines is doing, even if we never hear about it publicly.

-Eric Reed is editor of the Illinois Baptist

Inauguration news round-up

ib2newseditor —  January 20, 2017

small American flags in the background

Time: Trump held a very Godly inauguration
Christianity has been a part of the presidential inauguration since George Washington laid his hand on a Bible for the very first swearing-in. So, it was not unusual that Donald Trump sought to involve faith in his inauguration. But the ways in which the 45th President invoked God in unusually blunt ways in his inaugural address were. He quoted a Psalm of David from the Bible to buttress his policy. “The Bible tells us, ‘how good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity.’”

S. Baptist involvement in the inauguration
The participation of at least five Southern Baptist pastors in inaugural activities for President Donald Trump continues a tradition of prayer, Scripture, and references to God surrounding presidential inaugurations dating back to George Washington. In addition to Friday’s activities, a Saturday, Jan. 21 National Prayer Service at the National Cathedral in Washington will feature Arkansas pastor Ronnie Floyd, Texas pastors Jack Graham and Ramiro Peña and California pastor David Jeremiah.

Muslims angry imam to participate in prayer service
A popular Washington-area imam’s decision to issue the Muslim call to prayer at Trump’s inaugural prayer service has sparked a heated debate among American Muslim community leaders and activists over the appropriate ways to engage with a president, who they say has repeatedly disparaged Islam. Mohamed Magid, a Sudanese-American imam, is the only Muslim leader listed on a lineup packed with Evangelicals and other faith leaders who are scheduled to participate in the National Prayer Service at the National Cathedral.

SBC Pres. Gaines pens Christian response to inauguration
Today Donald J. Trump became the 45th President of the United States. As you know, Mr. Trump won a highly volatile election last November. Some see him as a candidate of much-needed change, readily resonating with his Reaganish slogan, “Make America Great Again!” Others see Mr. Trump as a less than desirable candidate for the highest office in the land. What are Southern Baptists to do?

Three S. Baptists nominated for cabinet positions
Three Southern Baptists — Tom Price, Scott Pruitt, and Sonny Perdue – have been nominated to serve in cabinet positions for the Trump administration. Price, a regular attendee at Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., has been nominated as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. Pruitt, a member of Tulsa-area First Baptist Church in Broken Arrow, Okla., has been nominated as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. Former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, was announced Jan. 18 as Trump’s choice for agriculture secretary.

Presidents who mentioned God in inaugural address
Every U.S. President has mentioned God in their inaugural address, even if speaking of the Lord in their own way, fitting with the times. With thanks to Bill Federer in America’s God and Country, consider this sampling of mentions.

Sources: Time, Baptist Press Washington Post, Baptist Press (2), Christian Post

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We live by God’s surprises,” said Helmut Thielicke. The German pastor was speaking in times more trying than ours, but in the darkest days of WW2, he could see the hand of God at work—and was amazed by it.

Dare we say the same of the year just past?

We were surprised by events we witnessed. In their unfolding, we sought the reassurance of God’s sovereignty. Here are some noteworthy moments for Baptists in Illinois—some heavy, some light—and what they may say about the year before us.

– The Editors

SBC candidates: Unity matters

What the U.S. presidential election may have lacked in civility, the 2016 election for Southern Baptist Convention President more than made up for in grace. When a close vote forced a run-off between Steve Gaines and J.D. Greear, the election seemed poised to divide Baptists over matters of theology and generation.

Instead, the candidates talked the night before the third vote was to be taken, and one bowed out, urging his supporters to vote for his opponent.

“It’s time for us to step up and get involved, to keep pushing forward and engaging in the mission with those who have gone before us,” North Carolina pastor Greear posted in support of Tennessee pastor Gaines. “It’s time to look at what unites us.”

On paper, this decade’s SBC presidents are a diverse bunch, not united by much in terms of their backgrounds and interests:

  • Atlanta-area pastor Bryant Wright (2010-2012), who recently spoke out in favor of ministering to refugees
  • Dynamic New Orleans preacher Fred Luter (2012-2014), elected as the SBC’s first ever African American president
  • Ronnie Floyd (2014-2016), pastor of a multi-site church in Arkansas and a prolific blogger who led the denomination toward a laser-like focus on prayer
  • And Gaines, elected in 2016, who has espoused traditional Baptist theology and his own intense focus on evangelism.

What does unite them is a logical progression in the things they have called Baptists toward: For Wright, it was a return to Great Commission principles. Luter’s presidency was marked by impassioned pleas for spiritual awakening and revival. And Floyd called Southern Baptists to their knees—for themselves, their churches, the denomination, the nation, and the world.

Gaines announced he will continue the emphasis on prayer at the 2017 Southern Baptist Convention in Phoenix. It may be a sign that the desire for unity, despite differences in age, theological perspective, and communication style, is actually, in Greear’s words, “what unites us.”

A new missions paradigm

After a season in which budget shortfalls and personnel cuts seemed to limit the future potential for Baptist missions engagement around the world, International Mission Board President David Platt continued to preach a message to the contrary.

“Limitless” is the word Platt has used to describe the mission force needed to take the gospel to places without it. To achieve that goal, he has said, the SBC has to think differently about missions and missionaries than we have in the past.

“Let me be crystal clear: the IMB is still going to send full-time, fully-funded career missionaries just like we’ve always sent,” Platt said during his report at the 2016 Southern Baptist Convention in St. Louis. “They are the priceless, precious, critical core of our mission force.”

But the IMB’s emerging strategy is to put around those missionaries a “limitless” force of students, retirees, and professionals—people who, to borrow Platt’s words, are willing to leverage their jobs and lives so that more might hear and respond to the gospel.

The newly redesigned IMB website reflects the strategy, with buttons for people in a variety of categories to search for opportunities overseas. There are needs for business consultants, healthcare professionals, construction engineers, and more. The IMB also offers training resources for churches to equip and mobilize members for missions, both short-term and longer.

Global mission “is not just for a select few people in the church, but for multitudes of Spirit-filled men and women across the church,” Platt said in St. Louis.

A year ago, when hundreds of IMB missionaries moved back home, the chances of getting the gospel to some of the world’s darkest places seemed dimmer. Now, with a strategy focused on everyday people like the ones who sparked a gospel fire in the New Testament, the opportunities seem endless. Or, limitless.

If I had a hammer

We’ll hear it a lot in the new year. On Halloween night in 1517, disgruntled priest Martin Luther nailed his 95 complaints on the church door in Wittenberg and started an ecclesial revolution. We’re likely to hear about it from all corners, including events at our seminaries, panels at the Southern Baptist Convention in Phoenix, and bus tours of Germany. And we may have a few serious discussions about the theological direction of the SBC. Look for Reformation@500 in the pages of the Illinois Baptist throughout 2017.

Read Cloudy with a chance of surprises, pt. 1

Fractured alliances

ib2newseditor —  July 11, 2016

Fractured alliances

As the national political conventions approach, it’s time for evangelicals to decide. For some, it’s a choice they’d rather not make.

With the national conventions for both major American political parties just days away and the nominees all but a foregone conclusion, the only remaining question is how voters in November will react to this most unusual presidential election.

Christian voters in particular have yet to coalesce behind either candidate, although a June meeting between presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump and nearly 1,000 evangelicals signaled things may be changing, at least for some conservative leaders.

And Trump’s announcement of an evangelical advisory committee, including several Southern Baptists, reverberated around the Twitter-sphere, shaking the unified front Baptists had shown just days before at the 2016 Southern Baptist Convention in St. Louis.

The divide is growing between conservatives who support Trump over Hillary Clinton’s liberal ideals, and those who say they won’t vote for the businessman-turned-reality TV star with a penchant for saying whatever is on his mind. Along with the differences among Christians, some pundits see a growing split between the traditional “religious right” and the Republican party.

“In the coming weeks, we are going to be learning a great deal more about the presidential candidates,” forecasted Southern Seminary President Albert Mohler in a recent edition of his Briefing podcast. “But it’s also increasingly true that we’re going to be learning a great deal about ourselves as evangelical Christians in America.

“Perhaps we’d better brace ourselves for what we’re going to learn.”

Meeting the Donald

On June 20, Donald Trump met in New York City with nearly 1,000 Christian leaders, including immediate past president of the Southern Baptist Convention Ronnie Floyd and newly elected president Steve Gaines, along with several other Southern Baptists.

The gathering, emceed by former Republican candidate Mike Huckabee, included a Q&A time with Trump, who has won over conservative voters in the primaries even as Christian leaders have decried his volatile speaking style and confession last year that he wasn’t sure he had ever asked God for forgiveness of his sins.

Following the meeting, Trump named a 25-member evangelical advisory board, which includes Floyd and at least seven fellow Southern Baptists. Floyd is among the members of the board who say their participation doesn’t constitute an endorsement of the candidate, rather “as an avenue to voice what matters to evangelicals,” he told The Christian Post.

Floyd also cited several key issues that compelled him to participate on Trump’s advisory board, including Supreme Court appointments, the sanctity of human life, religious liberty, Israel and the Middle East, and racial tension.

But many Christian and conservative leaders took issue with the meeting and the participation of those appointed to the advisory board. Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and a recent Trump target on Twitter, took on the seeming divide between Trump’s public persona and his coziness with evangelicals:

“If you wondered why younger, theological, gospel-centered evangelicals reacted (negatively) to the old guard Religious Right, well, now you know,” Moore tweeted June 21, following up with, “If character matters then character matters.”

Moore wasn’t the only voice to question the authenticity of Trump’s relationship with Christians. Writing for The Federalist online, film critic Rebecca Cusey described reading through the meeting transcript, “thinking maybe Trump might exhibit some charm, some thoughtfulness in a smaller setting that is lost on the large stage, something that would explain why people who profess to believe in Jesus would be so taken in by Trump.

“Sadly, no. The transcript is shocking in its pandering: of Trump to evangelicals, yes—we expected that—but also in their pandering to Trump.”

Floyd acknowledged the widespread criticism, blogging a few days after the meeting that his short time out of the office of SBC president had been in some ways more difficult than leading the denomination for two years. He listed several Bible characters who had opportunity to speak into the lives of national leaders, including Old Testament prophet Daniel.

“What if Daniel had refused to acknowledge King Nebuchadnezzar and acted like he was too righteous to relate to him?” Floyd asked.

Similarly, Richard Land, who preceded Moore as president of the ERLC, asked critics of the Trump meeting what they would have the advisory team do instead of participate when asked.

“Would they really have us spurn the opportunity to give spiritual counsel and advice to Mr. Trump and his team?” Land wrote in a column for The Christian Post. “How would that be obedience to our Saviour’s command to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world?”

Fractured alliances 2

 Weighing other options

Some evangelicals are looking to Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton as an alternative to Trump, in spite of her policies on abortion and LGBT issues that run counter to traditionally-held conservative views.

Thabiti Anyabwile, in a column for The Gospel Coalition, said in May he planned, for the time being, to vote for Clinton. “…However we might evaluate her as a leader or her platform as a vision for America, we could say more or less the exact same things about Trump—with one glaring exception,” wrote Anyabwile, pastor of Anacostia River Church in Washington, D.C.

“We have no way of predicting Trump’s behavior from one hour to the next. None. Except to predict that the behavior will be vile and repulsive for any person who cares about civility, truth, and the dignity of the office.”

Deborah Fikes, executive advisor to the World Evangelical Alliance, gave Clinton her endorsement in June, saying of Trump, “…I worry that allowing religious and ethnic intolerance here in America will undermine our ability to have a prayer of fighting it around the world.”

Still, Trump has branded himself as the candidate most invested in religious liberty and other Christian concerns. So far, a majority of voters agree: A June poll by CBS found Trump leads Clinton among evangelical voters by a margin of 62% to 17%.

However, as Religion News Service’s analysis of the poll pointed out, Trump’s 62% is lower than the percentage of white evangelical voters who favored George Bush (79%), John McCain (73%) and Mitt Romney (79%) in the last three elections.

Gallup polling from May found the two candidates neck and neck among those who identify as “Protestant” or “Other Christian”—36% had a favorable opinion of Clinton, and 38% had a favorable opinion of Trump. Both candidates’ numbers were slightly lower among the “Highly religious”—35% for Clinton and 37% for Trump.

For those voters who don’t foresee an appealing option for November, Christian and conservative leaders have floated other ideas, including third-party candidates, write-in voting, and abstention. Alan Noble, a professor at Oklahoma Baptist University, wrote for Vox that “unless a third-party candidate with broad appeal emerges, evangelical Christians would be better served by abstaining from that vote and shifting their energy toward electing people to Congress and local and state governments who have the opportunity to restrain whichever candidate is elected as needed.”

But many Christian leaders have been vocal about getting out the vote, even for candidates that are less than ideal. On his tour of state capitals, evangelist Franklin Graham has urged Christians to vote, but hasn’t endorsed specific candidates. Graham has instead warned against inactivity, citing a statistic that reports 20 million evangelicals did not vote in the 2012 presidential election.

In Springfield, Graham told several thousand gathered in front of the Capitol, “Our job as Christians is to make Christ felt in every [area] of life—religious, social, economic, political.”

Keep the lines open

No matter who believers support in the election, said Wheaton College’s Ed Stetzer, the rhetorical tone should be loving.

“In years past, I generally had to encourage evangelicals to avoid scorning fellow evangelicals who voted Democrat. Now, perhaps we need exhortation to avoid scorning those who vote for Donald Trump….Rather than looking down with scorn on evangelical Trump supporters, perhaps we should sit down with them, listen to them, and hear their concerns.”

Mohler prescribed similar action in his June 22 podcast, urging Christians to think through the issues at hand.

“In this difficult political season, evangelicals must not demonize one another as to how we’re thinking through these issues, but I must plead with all evangelicals that we must indeed think through these issues carefully and faithfully, and think very biblically and candidly.”

To fail to remember oneness in Christ and fall instead into factions and camps could result in a loss of the unity achieved during the recent Southern Baptist Convention, wrote Pastor Ted Traylor following the meeting with Trump, which he attended. At the June 14-15 convention in St. Louis, Baptists united around one presidential candidate, Steve Gaines, after another, J.D. Greear, bowed out prior to a second run-off election.

Now, as Baptists consider another election, Traylor, pastor of Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola, Fla., advised them to think carefully in a blog post titled, “What I learned from a conversation with Donald Trump.”

“There has been much vitriol on social media about the Trump meeting within the tribe of Southern Baptists. We left our convention last week in unity. Demonizing each other over secular politics will quickly destroy what we saw and hailed as God-given unity. We are in the Gospel business.

“However, as we render to Caesar what is his we must be wise, kind and discerning.”