The annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, held this year in Dallas, Texas on June 12-13, had the potential of being a raucous affair given all the turmoil in our Convention that took place in the weeks leading up to it. I am happy to report, however, that with a few exceptions, the meeting was a time of joy and praise for what God is doing through the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention.
To begin with, the Convention elected J. D. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh, North Carolina, to serve as president. I have provided specifics about the ministry of Dr. Greear and his church in a recent bulletin commentary, so I will not repeat it here. Suffice it to say, I believe we are in good hands going forward. In addition to Dr. Greear, the Convention elected A. B. Vines, pastor of New Seasons Church in San Diego, California, as first vice-president and Felix Cabrera, pastor of Iglesia Bautista Central in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, as second vice-president. This is a diverse body of officers that reflects the growing diversity in our Convention.
The Resolutions Committee reported out a fairly large number of resolutions for the messengers to consider this year. Sixteen separate resolutions were considered by the body, which can be found at http://www.sbcannualmeeting.net/sbc18/resolutions. I would encourage you to take a moment and review those, as each one speaks to some pretty significant issues in both our denominational life as well as our society (not to mention those areas where the two intersect). It is not unusual for there to be some discussion over the content or appropriateness of the Resolutions that are brought to the messengers, but aside from those two amendments (both of which were relatively minor), there was not any discussion.
On the day before the Convention was to be called to order, it was reported that Vice-President Mike Pence would be addressing the Convention in person on Wednesday morning. The announcement included information regarding the heightened security that would be required for the convention hall and warned messengers to expect up to a two-hour delay. As you might expect, the news of the Vice-President’s participation brought mixed reactions. Some were elated that a sitting Vice-President would address the Convention; others were concerned about the message such a speech would portray to the world about the mingling of church and state, as well as the disruption it would cause to the conduct of our business due to the logistical concerns. Sadly, the speech seemed to me to be more of a political speech. Motions were made to remove the Vice-President from the agenda (these were defeated, and rightly so, I believe – not because I was not concerned with the precedent, but because it would be improper at that point to disinvite a sitting Vice-President), as well as motions to prevent such invitations to be issued in the future (those have been referred to the Executive Committee, which will determine those at a later date).
With all the bad news that precipitated the Convention (Frank Page’s moral failings, Paige Patterson’s pattern of behavior, and the presidential election controversy), the opportunities for the SBC to shoot itself in the foot were plentiful. Thankfully, though, cooler heads – guided by biblical love and wisdom – prevailed. Being part of a denomination as large as the SBC (consisting of more than 47,000 autonomous churches with more than 15 million members) can be messy and frustrating at times, but the benefits (thousands of full-time missionaries around the world, commitment to biblical inerrancy [along with other important doctrinal distinctives], and a commitment to the Great Commission) more than make up for it. Just something to think about…