The year 2023 played out like a roller-coaster, taking Tennesseans through almost every emotion imaginable. And, as has been the case since 1835, the Baptist and Reflector helped tell the stories that shaped the year.
The content below recaps some of the most-read stories from 2023 based on the number of views each story received on the Baptist and Reflector’s website from Jan. 1, 2023 through Dec. 31, 2023.
Some of the stories were published before the start of 2023, but still received a high amount of views in the past year.
Wilkey/Turner column: The rise and fall of a leader and a friend
• Date posted: Aug. 17, 2023 • Written by: Lonnie Wilkey, B&R editor, and Chris Turner, Tennessee Baptist Mission Board director of communications • Original post: HERE
This editorial, written by Wilkey and Turner, received more than 8,300 views on the B&R website. It was written immediately following the resignation of Willie McLaurin (pictured above) as interim president of the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention after it was revealed that McLaurin, a former staff member at the TBMB, had falsified his academic credentials.
The editorial read: “It would be impossible to adequately describe the emotional disorientation that came — and lingers — with the news of Willie McLaurin’s unimaginable and incomprehensible fall from grace due to fraudulent claims on his resume regarding his educational achievements. McLaurin was within grasp of becoming president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, a position for which he’s shown aptitude for 20 months. But like a whisper, the opportunity vanished.”
McLaurin resigns as interim president of Executive Committee
• Date posted: Aug. 17, 2023 • Written by: Lonnie Wilkey, B&R editor, and Chris Turner, Tennesee Baptist Mission Board director of communications • Original post: HERE
This story, written by Wilkey and Turner, broke the news to many Tennessee Baptists about the resignation of Willie McLaurin as interim president of the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention after it was revealed he falsified his academic credentials.
The story included a statement from Randy C. Davis, president and executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, where McLaurin was employed for 15 years before resigning to join the EC staff.
“I am profoundly saddened right now,” Davis wrote. “To say that I am grieved would be an understatement. Willie McLaurin has been a shining light of encouragement to pastors and churches, both in Tennessee and across the Southern Baptist Convention. Unfortunately, the situation in which we now find ourselves is beyond belief,” Davis added.
Bellevue pastor Steve Gaines diagnosed with kidney cancer
• Date posted: Nov. 19, 2023 • Written by: Baptist and Reflector staff • Original post: HERE
This story informed Tennessee Baptists of the heart-breaking news that former Southern Baptist Convention president and Tennessee Baptist pastor Steve Gaines had announced to his congregation at Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova that he had been diagnosed with kidney cancer. The story included quotes from Randy C. Davis, president and executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, who said: “I speak for our entire Tennessee network of churches when I say that we are praying for our friends, Steve and Donna, their children and grandchildren, and the Bellevue family. Dr. Gaines has been a tremendous personal encourager, prayer partner and friend to me.”
Marion column: When a church member dies on a mission trip
• Date posted: Aug. 9, 2023 • Written by: Cliff Marion • Original post: HERE
In this editorial, B&R guest columnist Cliff Marion, pastor of First Baptist Church, Covington, described the gut-wrenching — yet also triumphant — details of losing a church member to a heart attack while he was attending Fuge Camp at Ridgecrest Conference Center. In the column, Marion noted how the Lord had used this event to change Marion’s perspective: “Later, while processing all that happened, God revealed to me that Nick’s loss was no tragedy. Nick was 75 years old. He was a deacon, sang in the choir, filled in when our music minister was gone, taught a Sunday School class for decades, helped launch our Celebrate Recovery ministry, washed tables, popped popcorn for VBS; he did it all. Faithful husband. Loving father and grandfather. Loyal church member. Humble servant of Jesus Christ. Nick’s life is a testimony to those of us who remain. … Nick said he wanted to serve God until his final breath. God allowed him to do so. That’s no tragedy. That’s grace.”
2023 SBC coverage: Messengers disfellowship three churches
• Date posted: June 14, 2023 • Written by: Lonnie Wilkey, B&R editor • Original post: HERE
Reporting from New Orleans at the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting, Wilkey wrote:
“There are three fewer churches in the Southern Baptist Convention following an overwhelming vote June 13 by messengers at the annual meeting in New Orleans.
“Two congregations were disfellowshiped for having women pastors — Fern Creek Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., and Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif. — while another church — Freedom Church in Vero Beach, Fla. — was deemed to not be in ‘friendly cooperation’ with the SBC because of failure to cooperate to resolve concerns regarding an abuse allegation. The action is believed to be the first time the SBC has disfellowshiped churches during an annual meeting.”
Two Tennessee mission teams return home; another still in Israel
• Date posted: Oct. 12, 2023 • Written by: Baptist and Reflector• Original post: HERE
Multiple mission teams from Tennessee were in Israel when Hamas militants brutally attacked the country in mid-October. The B&R broke the news to Tennessee Baptists that two of teams had returned home, while another remained there. (The other team eventually returned safely, too). The story read:
“Forty-eight members of Sunnyside Baptist, including pastor Bill Sims, were able to leave Israel on Oct. 10, flying to Atlanta, where they took a bus to Kingsport late in the evening. A team from First Baptist Church, Dyer, was able to leave on Oct. 11 — one day earlier than scheduled.”
Randy C, Davis, president and executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, and his wife, Jeanne, were at the Nashville airport on Oct. 11 to welcome home the team from FBC, Dyer (pictured above).
Lifeway worship to discontinue worship website on Sept. 30
• Date posted: July 18, 2023 • Written by: Lonnie Wilkey, B&R editor • Original post: HERE
In mid-July, Wilkey broke the news to Tennessee Baptists that “Lifeway Worship, a component of Lifeway Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, has announced plans to discontinue its lifewayworship.com website on Sept. 30. … Carol Pipes, director of corporate communications, clarified the decision in a statement requested by the Baptist and Reflector. “We are not discontinuing Lifeway Worship. We are discontinuing the lifewayworship.com website,” she told the B&R.
Lifeway Christian Resources later announced plans to continue operating lifewayworship.com for another year after receiving strong feedback from church leaders following the initial announcement. Lifeway president Ben Mandrell agreed to continue operating the site while the organization held “listening sessions” to determine the best move forward.
More top stories from 2023 …
In addition to those on the list, other stories which received a high number of clicks in 2023 included:
Avoiding the deadly sin of complacency
• Date posted: Nov. 9, 2020 • Written by: Lonnie Wilkey, B&R editor • Original post: HERE
Hardwick to be nominated for TBC president
• Date posted: Sept. 11, 2023 • Written by: Baptist and Reflector staff • Original post: HERE
Five things that happen when we worship
• Date posted: Nov. 9, 2019 • Written by: Matt Tullos, TBMB • Original post: HERE