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Messengers double at Dallas meeting

ATTENDANCE RISES — Messengers to the 2018 annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention June 12-13 in Dallas nearly doubled in number compared to last year’s annual meeting in Phoenix. Unofficial estimates, including family and visitors who attended the open sessions, were pegged at nearly 15,000 people. (BP photo)

Story:

DALLAS (BP and local reports) – Messengers from member churches of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) elected North Carolina pastor J.D. Greear as the new convention president and heard an address by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence during their 2018 annual meeting June 12-13 in Dallas.

The unofficial messenger registration total of 9,637 was up 92% from last year’s 5,015 messengers at the annual meeting in Phoenix, and marked the highest number of messengers since the 2010 annual meeting in Orlando.

Elections

Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., received 68.6% of the vote for president in the June 12 election.

The only other candidate was Ken Hemphill, special assistant to the president at North Greenville University, which is affiliated with the South Carolina Baptist Convention. A former president of Southwestern Seminary in Ft. Worth, Hemphill received 31.2% of messengers’ votes.

Greear will replace Steve Gaines, pastor of Bellevue Church in suburban Memphis, who had served two terms as president and was ineligible for reelection.

A.B. Vines, pastor of New Seasons Church in San Diego, Ca., was elected first vice president. Felix Cabrera, pastor of Iglesia Bautista Central in Oklahoma City, was elected second vice president.

John Yeats, executive director of the Missouri Baptist Convention, was reelected as recording secretary, and Don Currence, minister of children and administration at First Church in Ozark, Mo., was elected registration secretary.

At a press conference following his election, Greear said his priorities as president will include Gospel focus, diversity, evangelism, church planting, collegiate ministry, and engaging younger Baptists in the SBC’s cooperative mission.

He also said women should “sit at the seats of influence” in the convention and that Southern Baptist entities and churches must be “safe places for women to report abuse.”

‘Force for good’

Pence’s address on June 13 called Southern Baptists to pray for America, and he commended the SBC as “one of the greatest forces for good” in the world.

The vice president drew multiple standing ovations as he spoke of the sanctity of human life and the country of Israel, among other issues.

Prior to Pence’s appearance, messengers made two motions to amend the convention’s agenda to exclude the vice president’s address. The first attempt was defeated by messenger vote, and the second was ruled out of order because the convention had already dealt with the issue.

Two motions referred to the SBC executive committee in Nashville for action sought to prevent secular political leaders from addressing future SBC annual meetings. A point of order Wednesday expressing opposition to Pence’s address was ruled “not well taken” by the chair.

Patterson situation

Responding to the May 30 firing of Southwestern Seminary President Paige Patterson by the school’s trustee executive committee, there several motions and messenger questions.

Among the accusations that led to Patterson’s dismissal were comments he made over the years about women that were deemed offensive by some observers, and how he handled reports of alleged rapes while president of Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., and later at Southwestern Seminary.

Some messengers apparently felt the trustee executive committee overstepped its bounds in firing Patterson. Following debate on the convention floor, messengers defeated a motion that would have removed all trustee executive committee members from the board immediately.

A separate motion was referred for action to Southwestern Seminary, asking that the full trustee board reconsider Patterson’s firing.

Some messengers also apparently felt the trustee executive committee overstepped its bounds. Following debate on the convention floor, messengers defeated a motion that would have removed all trustee executive committee members from the board immediately.

A separate motion was referred to Southwestern Seminary asking the full board to reconsider Patterson’s firing.

Patterson voluntarily stepped down from his previously-scheduled commitment to preach the convention sermon at the Dallas meeting. Kie Bowman, a Southwestern Seminary trustee who does not currently serve on the executive committee, was selected at last year’s convention to be the alternate convention preacher for this year, and he delivered the convention sermon after Patterson withdrew.

Meanwhile, interim Southwestern Seminary president Jeffrey Bingham told messengers during his report to messengers that his priority is to “create a safe environment and a campus culture that protects and cares for the victims of abuse.” He also expressed confidence in the seminary’s trustee executive committee.

Women’s issues

On the heels of the Patterson issue and numerous other complaints about the treatment of women by the SBC, two resolutions addressed the dignity and protection of women. One resolution was “on the dignity and worth of women on the one hundredth anniversary of women as messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention.” The other resolution dealt with abuse.

Two motions on protecting churches from sexual predators were referred for action to the SBC executive committee, as was a motion asking the executive committee to study biblical authority for a woman to serve as SBC president.

All six SBC seminary presidents addressed the issue of sexual abuse and misconduct during their reports.

Two seminary presidents, Chuck Kelley of New Orleans Seminary and R. Albert Mohler Jr. of Southern Seminary in Louisville Ky., said the institutions they lead believe the Bible’s teaching on gender precludes women from service in some faculty roles, but added women do hold teaching and administrative roles at both seminaries.

ERLC report

During the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) report, ERLC President Russell Moore announced the ERLC will partner with LifeWay Research, a survey subdivision of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention in Nashville, to conduct a study on the extent of abuse in churches.

Beyond the convention floor, a panel discussion in the exhibit hall considered “sexual abuse in the church,” and the ERLC sponsored another panel discussion on Gospel sexuality in a #MeToo culture.

Two actions by messengers dealt with ERLC. A motion was defeated that would have defunded ERLC by shifting its portion of the 2018-19 Cooperative Program Allocation Budget to the International Mission Board.

Later, ERLC trustee chairman Trevor Atwood, lead pastor of City Church in Murfreesboro, Tn., moved that the Committee on Nominations’ report be amended to grant a second term to trustee Dan Anderson, pastor of Prairie Hills Southern Church in Augusta, Kn., which the committee had proposed to deny him.

Messengers approved Atwood’s amendment before adopting the Committee on Nominations report.

IMB/NAMB

At a Tuesday evening commissioning service, the International Mission Board (IMB) sent out 79 new missionaries and led messengers in prayer for all 11,700 people groups in the world.

During the IMB report, departing president David Platt urged Southern Baptists to focus on the work of missionaries on the field rather than the board’s search for his successor as he transitions back to local church ministry.

The North American Mission Board (NAMB) report included presentation of a report by a disciple-making task force appointed two years ago by NAMB and LifeWay Christian Resources.

In addition, NAMB President Kevin Ezell reported that the board’s church plants are healthy and effective overall, with plants 67 percent ahead of established churches in their attendance-to-baptism ratio.

In other news

  • Southern Baptists memorialized the mass shooting last summer at First Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, that left 26 worship attendees dead. First Church pastor Frank Pomeroy spoke at the June 10-11 SBC Pastors’ Conference, and his wife Sherri addressed the June 11 Pastors’ Wives Conference. The Pomeroys also appeared at NAMB’s June 11 Send Luncheon.
  • An evangelism task force appointed last year by outgoing SBC President Steve Gaines presented a report that included eight recommendations to help Southern Baptists at all levels of convention life become more effective in evangelism.
  • The 38 resolutions submitted to the Resolutions Committee marked the highest total since 1997. The 16 resolutions adopted by the convention addressed sexual purity among Christian leaders, gun violence, and the proper use of social media among other topics.
  • The Crossover evangelism emphasis preceding the annual meeting yielded a record 4,229 professions of faith, including 2,339 at the June 10 Harvest America crusade with evangelist Greg Laurie.
  • Gaines, in his presidential address, encouraged Southern Baptists to renew their belief in the supernatural God. “God’s supernatural power is greater than any problem Southern Baptists have… Stop talking about how big your problem is and start talking about how big your God is,” Gaines said.
  • The SBC executive committee continued to promote a partnership with personal finance author and speaker Dave Ramsey to help teach believers principles of biblical stewardship. Ramsey addressed the SBC annual meeting June 12 and participated in the president’s panel on stewardship June 13.
  • Interim SBC executive committee president D. August Boto reported that despite numerous indicators of health in the SBC, there are also causes for concern. A “simple” remedy that would yield “gigantic” increases in Cooperative Program receipts and souls won to Christ would be for every Southern Baptist to witness and tithe, he said.
  • Texas Gov. Greg Abbott greeted annual meeting attendees, thanking Southern Baptists for their prayers and support following a shooting at Santa Fe (Texas) High School last month, Hurricane Harvey last year, and the Sutherland Springs shootings massacre in late 2017.
  • Recording Secretary John Yeats and Registration Secretary Don Currence both were reelected without opposition.

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