Pence appearance, Greear election were among top storylines at this year’s annual meeting
Editor’s Note: Visit baptistandreflector.org for complete coverage of the SBC annual meeting.
By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
DALLAS — Though an attempt was made to exclude the vice president of the United States from speaking to Southern Baptist Convention messengers, Mike Pence addressed the convention in the June 13 morning session.
Pence’s appearance was one of several highlights during the annual meeting held June 12-13 in Dallas. The meeting drew 9,637 messengers, including 615 from Tennessee. Tennessee trailed only Texas (2,036) and Louisiana (718) in number of messengers. It was the largest attended convention since 2010.
Messengers elected a new slate of officers including J.D. Greear as president, turned down an effort to remove the executive committee of the board of trustees of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, adopted resolutions affirming women and decrying abuse of any kind, and turned away an effort to defund the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
Southern Baptist Convention President Steve Gaines announced on Monday, June 11, that Pence would speak. During the opening session on Tuesday, June 12, messenger Garrett Kell of Del Rio Baptist Church in Alexandria, Va., moved to replace the time allocated for the vice president 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.
During his address, Pence affirmed Southern Baptists for their gospel witness and observed that the SBC “has become one of the greatest forces for good anywhere in America.”
J.D. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., received 68.62 percent of the votes (5,410 votes) cast for president. Ken Hemphill, a North Greenville University administrator and former Southwestern Seminary president, received 2,459 votes or 31.19 percent.
Other officers include A.B. Vines, pastor of New Seasons Church in San Diego, first vice president; Felix Cabrera, pastor of Iglesia Bautista Central in Oklahoma City, second vice president; John Yeats, executive director of the Missouri Baptist Convention, recording secretary; and Don Currence, minister of children and administration at First Baptist Church in Ozark, Mo., registration secretary.
Messengers debated, then defeated a motion by Tom Hatley of Immanuel Baptist Church in Rogers, Ark., that messengers dismiss Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s trustee Executive Committee.
Hatley, a former International Mission Board trustee chairman, said his proposal was based on his perception the SWBTS trustee Executive Committee acted with “haste, lack of proper investigation,” apparent disregard of the seminary’s founding documents, and failure to allow seminary President Paige Patterson to respond to accusations against him.
Patterson was terminated May 30 from his employment at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he had served as president since 2003. The previous week, the seminary’s trustees moved him to president emeritus status on the same day allegations surfaced that he mishandled a sexual assault report during his 1992-2003 presidency of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Since late April, Patterson also has been under fire for statements he made in the past about domestic violence and women’s physical appearance.
Former SBC President Ronnie Floyd spoke against the motion, asking messengers to look past whether these trustees made the right or wrong decision and recognize that adopting a motion to remove trustees “would destroy our own system of government.”
Messengers to the 2018 Southern Baptist Convention affirmed the dignity and worth of women, denounced all forms of abuse and called for sexual purity among Christian leaders in adopting 16 resolutions on June 12.
Passage of the resolutions on women, abuse, and pastoral purity by nearly unanimous votes late in the afternoon session came after months of disclosures of sexual abuse and misconduct by male leaders had rocked Southern Baptist and other evangelical churches and institutions.
Adoption of the measures also came in the wake of the May 30 termination of Paige Patterson at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary following his alleged mishandling of the reported rape of a female student and criticism of his advice to a woman abused by her husband.
The resolution on women recognized May 15 as the 100th anniversary of female messengers to the SBC meeting and honored “the immeasurable contribution of women to our cooperative mission of Great Commission work.”
Messengers also continued to address racial reconciliation by adopting a resolution renewing the SBC’s “public repudiation of racism in all its forms,” including “the curse of Ham” teaching that God determined the descendants of this son of Noah would have dark skin and live in subordination.
In a measure on immigration, messengers again requested reform — as they had in 2011 — that secures the borders and provides a pathway to legal status “with appropriate restitutionary measures.” The resolution also calls for “maintaining the priority of family unity.”
Messengers also approved resolutions that:
- Affirmed the “full dignity of every human being.”
- Called for “caution and wisdom in our media and social media” communications.
- Encouraged government authorities to establish policies that would curtail gun violence while functioning according to the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment.
- Urged pastors and churches to be informed of the dangers of opioids and to minister to those impacted by opioid abuse.
- Pledged to pray for Arab Christians in the Middle East and around the world.
- Mourned the February death of evangelist Billy Graham, a Southern Baptist, and celebrated his life and ministry.
- Thanked God on the 100th anniversary of GuideStone Financial Resources.
- Voiced gratitude to God on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
- Offered thanks to God for 50 years of ministry through Southern Baptist Disaster Relief.
- Expressed gratitude to God, as well as Southern Baptists in the Dallas area and all others who helped with this year’s meeting.
Messengers also passed a multi-subject resolution that reaffirmed commitment to the trustworthiness of the Bible and “unswerving belief” in the one true God, continued to call for Southern Baptists to welcome refugees into their churches and homes, and urged church members to pray about adopting or fostering children.
Because of time constraints at the close of the June 12 afternoon session, messengers approved 14 of the resolutions with one vote. Revisions were offered from the floor on the resolutions on abuse and human dignity, and the committee received them as friendly amendments. Messengers approved all the resolutions in votes that appeared nearly unanimous.
Among those serving on the Resolutions Committee was Willie McLaurin, special assistant to the executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board.
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Two actions by messengers dealt with the ERLC. A motion was defeated to defund the ERLC by shifting its portion of the 2018-19 Cooperative Program Allocation Budget to the International Mission Board.
Later, ERLC trustee chairman Trevor Atwood moved that the Committee on Nominations’ report be amended to grant trustee Dan Anderson a second term, which the committee had proposed to deny him. Messengers approved Atwood’s amendment before adopting the Committee on Nominations report.
Twenty motions were presented during the meeting, most of which were referred to the appropriate SBC entity or ruled out of order. Two motions were made by Tennessee Baptists — a motion by Brent Lay of Englewood Baptist Church in Jackson that the Executive Committee recommend a program assignment for church revitalization was referred to the Executive Committee and a motion by Phillip Bethancourt of Redemption City Church in Franklin, requesting a task force for helping churches protect themselves from sexual predators was referred to the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
- 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 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.
- Messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention have elected the 68-member Committee on Nominations for 2017-2018 to represent the 34 states or territories qualified for representation on the committee according to SBC Bylaw 30. Elected to serve from Tennessee were Steve Freeman, pastor of Grace Baptist Church, Springfield, and Jeff Pettis, a layman from First Baptist Church, Sevierville.
- The International Mission Board trustees approved the appointment of 47 new missionaries sent by Southern Baptist churches to take the gospel to the nations during their June 10-11 meeting in Dallas. The new missionaries were part of a Sending Celebration June 12 during the evening session of the SBC annual meeting.
— Article includes reporting by Baptist Press writers Margaret Colson, Barbara Denman, Brian Koonce, Tom Strode, David Roach, and Julie McGowan.