By Lonnie Wilkey
During the Committee on Order of Business report on the opening day of the Southern Baptist Convention June 12, messenger Garrett Kell of Del Rio Baptist Church in Alexandria, Va., moved to replace the time allocated for Vice President Mike Pence to speak on Wednesday, June 13, with a time of prayer.
It has nothing to do with the vice president personally, he said. “We should pray for him.”
Kell expressed three concerns with the invitation to Pence that was announced on Monday, June 11.
The first issue is unity, Kell said, suggesting that minority brothers and sisters in the convention will be hurt by the decision to invite Pence. It gives the impression that political associations are more important than our relationship with them, he added.
Secondly, Kell continued, “the convention should be marked by things we have in common. It should not be marked by an alignment with a political administration.”
Finally, Kell said messengers should consider the safety of overseas workers. “The current administration provides a strong reaction and hostility in many areas of the world. This invitation puts our workers at risk,” he suggested.
Grant Ethridge, chairman of the Committee on Order of Business and a pastor from Hampton Roads, Va., spoke against the amendment.
While noting he understood Kell’s position, he said the convention aligns itself with no political party. “We align ourselves with Jesus Christ, King of Kings and Lord of Lords.”
Ethridge said the convention did not ask for Pence to speak. “The White House reached out to us,” he said. He noted that national leaders have spoken at annual meetings in the past. “This is keeping with precedent.”
The committee chairman cited numerous Scripture references exhorting Christians to respect the authority of government. “To not show hospitality to those in authority would be a bad testimony to Southern Baptists,” he said.
Ethridge, who was a member of the committee during President Barak Obama’s administration, stressed that it was not a political decision to invite Pence. “If the Obama White House had contacted us, we would have exercised the same judgement and welcomed them to the SBC. We respect the position regardless of who you vote for.”
The amendment failed by a show of hands vote and Pence will speak as scheduled.