By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
Messengers to the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention next week (June 10-11) will elect a new convention president.
Unlike 2012 when Fred Luter was unanimously elected as the convention’s first African American president, messengers will have a choice.
As of Monday, June 2, there were three announced candidates for the SBC presidency — Ronnie Floyd, pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas with campuses in Springfield, Rogers, and Fayetteville; Jared Moore, pastor of New Salem Baptist Church in Hustonville, Ky.; and Dennis Manpoong Kim, pastor of Global Mission Church of Greater Washington in Silver Spring, Md.
All three candidates are distinctly different.
Floyd could be considered one of the SBC’s “old guard.” His credentials are impressive. He chaired the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force (2009-10) that set forth wide-ranging recommendations for expanding the SBC’s missions outreach. Earlier, he served as chairman of the SBC Executive Committee and was a member of the mid-1990s SBC Program and Structure Task Force that produced The Covenant for a New Century restructuring and refocusing of the SBC’s entities.
Most recently he has been a key organizer of two pastor/leader prayer gatherings that each drew participants from nearly 30 states in recent months — a Jan. 13-14 meeting in Atlanta attended by 400 pastors and leaders and a Sept. 30 – Oct. 1 meeting in the Dallas-Fort Worth area attended by 175-plus pastors.
Floyd, who was nominated for the position in 2006, is the pastor of a large, multi-campus church that has planted more than 56 churches in the last three years and given more than $700,000 through the Cooperative Program last year.
Moore, a Tennessean from Sparta and former pastor in the state, is pastor of a rural church in Kentucky that runs about 60 on a normal Sunday. Translated, he is pastor of what we might call “the average” Southern Baptist church. The vast majority of all SBC churches have less than 200 people on any given Sunday.
At the age of 33, Moore also represents the younger generation of Southern Baptist pastors. He has shown an interest in Southern Baptist life and this past year served as second vice president of the convention. Many Southern Baptist leaders recently have spoken in favor of giving younger ministers opportunities to serve.
Moore is a staunch supporter of the Cooperative Program. While his small church cannot match the dollars given by larger churches, New Salem gives 16 percent of its undesignated receipts through CP and another 3 percent to its local association.
Kim is the most recent addition to the pool of prospective presidents. His congregation, which has a predominantly Korean membership, is the largest church in the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware. Global Mission Church has produced more than 50 International Mission Board career missionaries and has planted churches in four U.S. states and South Korea.
Among Kim’s leadership roles in the SBC, he is a member of the Pastors Task Force on Evangelistic Impact and Declining Baptisms, a national task force convened by the North American Mission Board to address the continued decrease in baptisms among Southern Baptist churches.
Kim also served on the SBC Resolutions Committee in 2012 and 2013 and has taught courses at Southern, New Orleans, and Midwestern Baptist theological seminaries.
Kim has led his ethnic congregation to be a strong supporter of the Cooperative Program. In the year 2013, the Global Mission Church gave $93,600 to the Cooperative Program and $16,900 to the Montgomery Baptist Association. In addition, his church has given $13,061 for Lottie Moon and $11,396 for Annie Armstrong.
So what direction will Southern Baptists choose?
It’s hard to predict.
Some die-hard Southern Baptists will think Floyd has earned the right to be president because of his past service and loyalty to the “conservative resurgence.”
Still others will lean toward the younger Moore who is pastor of a small but faithful Southern Baptist congregation.
And, there are still others who would like to see the SBC become more inclusive of all races. In 2012, the convention broke new ground, electing an African American. A Korean pastor following Fred Luter would be seen as a natural progression for some Southern Baptists.
I learned long ago that you cannot predict what Southern Baptists will or will not do when they gather together for an annual meeting.
There are three candidates to choose from and there are no doubt pros and cons for each. My advice?
If you’re going to the annual meeting in Baltimore, do some more research on each candidate and then pray for God’s leadership and guidance in making a decision. Prayer will assist in ignoring any preconceived bias for or against any of the three candidates.
If we allow God’s Holy Spirit to work, the leadership of the SBC will be in good hands no matter who is elected.