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News for Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Floyd Elected as SBC President

423 Tennessee Baptists among 5,294 SBC messengers conducting business in Baltimore

BALTIMORE — Arkansas pastor and longtime Southern Baptist Convention leader Ronnie Floyd was elected as the denomination’s new president during the June 10-11 meeting at the Baltimore Convention Center.

Floyd was elected over two other candidates — Dennis Manpoong Kim, pastor of Global Mission Church of Greater Washington in Silver Spring, Md., and Jared Moore, pastor of New Salem Baptist Church in Hustonville, Ky.

Floyd received 1,834 or 51.62 percent of the votes cast. Kim received 1,446 votes (40.70 percent) while Moore garnered 210 votes (5.91 percent).

In addition to the election of Floyd and other officers, the 5,294 registered SBC messengers (unofficial total) dealt with a variety of matters including the convention’s first official stance on transgenders and updating qualifications for churches to send messengers to the SBC annual meeting.

The messenger count in Baltimore, which included 423 Tennessee Baptists, was just slightly over the 5,103 who attended the 2013 annual meeting in Houston. Messenger registration has failed to exceed 5,300 in three out of the last four annual meetings. The annual meeting in Phoenix drew just 4,852 messengers, the lowest-attended meeting in six decades while the 2012 annual convention in New Orleans drew 7,868 messengers.

This year’s meeting marked the first time Southern Baptists had met in Baltimore since 1940 when 3,776 messengers attended the annual meeting that year.  

Election of officers

Floyd was nominated by Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. Mohler noted that Floyd has been a leader in the Southern Baptist Convention for more than three decades.

“He is a gifted, visionary pastor drawn by the gospel of Jesus Christ,” Mohler said.

Mohler described Floyd as a “unifier and Southern Baptist statesman. When Southern Baptists have needed him for a task, great or small, he has been there to serve and lead,” Mohler said.

Kim was nominated by Dwight McKissic, pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas. He described Kim as a “rare find” among Southern Baptists and noted that if he was elected he would be the first president not from the “traditional South.”

Moore was nominated by Benny Smith, a deacon from his church. Smith described his pastor as the leader of an average Southern Baptist church who is dedicated to serving Jesus Christ.

Other SBC officers elected without opposition were:

• Clint Pressley, pastor of the Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C., elected as first vice president, nominated by Ted Traylor, pastor of Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola, Fla. Pressley is “willing and qualified” to serve, having held several SBC leadership positions, Traylor said.

• Hance Dilbeck, pastor of Quail Springs Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, Okla., elected second vice president. He was nominated by James Merritt, pastor of Cross Pointe Church in Duluth, Ga., who called Dilbeck a leader in Hispanic church planting and Great Commission giving.

• John Yeats, executive director of the Missouri Baptist Convention, re-elected recording secretary, a role he has served in since 1997. He was nominated by Jason Allen, president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo.

• Jim Wells, strategic partners team leader, Missouri Baptist Convention, re-elected registration secretary, a role he has served in since 2002.  

Stance on transgenders

Messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention adopted a resolution on transgender identity for the first time while returning to such issues as civil rights, gambling, and world hunger for further statements.

All nine resolutions offered June 10 gained approval by unanimous or overwhelming votes.

The resolution on transgender identity came in response to recent gains in state legislatures, the federal executive branch, public schools, and the wider culture by advocates for recognizing a distinction between gender and biology.

In the resolution, messengers affirmed that “gender identity is determined by biological sex and not by one’s self-perception.” It expressed love for transgender people and invited them to trust in Jesus.

Texas pastor David Dykes, chairman of the Resolutions Committee, said at a news conference after the vote, “To this point we had not spoken on this issue, so there was a need for clarity” on the SBC’s position.

At the same news conference, Russell D. Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), described it as “a very good, wise resolution and a very hopeful sign from the Southern Baptist Convention saying to the outside world, ‘We’re standing with biblical conviction, and we also are making very clear that the gospel message goes to everybody.’ ”   

Other resolutions

Other resolutions adopted during the annual meeting:

• Commemorated the 50th anniversary of the enactment of the Civil Rights Act and reaffirmed the SBC’s 1965 call for “peaceful compliance with laws assuring equal rights for all.”

• Reaffirmed its “long-standing opposition to government sponsorship of gambling.”

• Urged Southern Baptists to support the newly rebranded Global Hunger Relief initiative.

• Condemned “predatory payday lending” and urged churches to offer financial stewardship instruction and skills training for people inside and outside their congregations.

• Reaffirmed “the sufficiency of biblical revelation over subjective experiential explanations to guide one’s understanding of the truth about heaven and hell” in an apparent response to the recently released movie “Heaven Is for Real” and similar books and films.

• Encouraged Southern Baptists to back the creation of Christ-centered elementary and secondary schools and Christian homeschooling systems, supported those who follow God’s direction by taking part in public schools, and urged policies that “maximize parental choice.”

• Affirmed “the calling of pastors who revitalize churches as needful as the calling of pastors to plant churches.”

• Thanked God and all those who helped with this year’s meeting. 

Messenger qualifications

Messengers gave the first of two required approvals to an amendment of the SBC constitution which would grant two messengers to the annual meeting for each cooperating church that contributed to convention causes during the preceding fiscal year. A church would qualify for additional messengers through one of two avenues:

• A church would receive one additional messenger for each full percent of its undesignated receipts given through the Cooperative Program, as a designated gift through the Executive Committee for convention causes, or to any SBC entity.

• A church would receive one additional messenger for each $6,000 given during the preceding fiscal year through CP, as a designated gift to the EC for convention causes, or to any SBC entity.

The $6,000 figure was selected by adjusting the present figure of $250 — adopted in 1888 — for inflation and other factors. To become final, the amendment must be approved again at next year’s annual meeting in Columbus, Ohio. 

Patterson apology

Prior to the SBC annual meeting, some Southern Baptists had expressed concern when it was learned that Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, had admitted a Muslim student to its doctor of philosophy program.

A messenger asked Patterson for a “straight-forward explanation” of his decision to admit the student.

In response, Patterson told messengers, “I come to give you an apology. I owe the convention an apology,” especially to those for whom “I have caused sorrow, heartache, or disillusionment.” He explained that a Muslim participant in one of the seminary’s archaeological digs in Israel asked to be admitted to Southwestern’s doctoral program. Patterson admitted the student and believes he is “very open to the gospel.”

Patterson said, “I made an exception to a rule that I assumed, probably wrongly, the president has a right to make.”

The student is not funded with CP money, Patterson said, and has “not been a problem on campus.”

Patterson said he also admitted non-Christian students to Criswell College when he was president there and those students came to faith in Christ. On Judgment Day Patterson said he will have an answer for God regarding his decisions to violate admission policies at both institutions: “I violated a policy but I didn’t want to stand before You with blood on my hands. Dear God, I did the best that I knew how.”

Steve James, chairman of Southwestern’s board of trustees, told messengers that the seminary’s trustees “have heard” messengers’ concerns and will discuss them at meetings in September and October. James asked messengers to pray for Patterson and the seminary.

Steve James, chairman of Southwestern’s board of trustees, told messengers that the seminary’s trustees “have heard” messengers’ concerns and will discuss them at meetings in September and October. James asked messengers to pray for Patterson and the seminary.  

Luter message

The gospel found only in the name of Jesus will change an America that has blown it with God and is quickly becoming more pagan than Christian, Southern Baptist Convention President Fred Luter told messengers on the eve of his last day in office.

Luter drew enthusiastic, soulful responses from worshipers at an evening revival service June 10 as he preached from Psalm 80:18-19, the meeting’s official theme Scripture calling for “Restoration and Revival through Prayer.”

“As your president for the past two years, my heart’s desire has been that God would make us one and that God would send revival and renewal through the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention,” Luter said.

“Brothers and sisters, the only way that will happen in this nation, the only way that will happen in this convention, the only way that will happen in our churches is if the people of God cry out to God in prayer, if there is genuine repentance, if there is genuine remorse, and if we call on the name which is above every name.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we need to call on that name,” Luter said, “that name which is above the name of the Republicans, that name which is above the name of the Democrats, that name which is above the name of Congress, that name which is above every name of the U.S. Senate, that name which is above every name of those riding a donkey or those riding an elephant.”

CP advancing: Page

Southern Baptists are advancing, not retreating, as they rally to give more through the Cooperative Program to fuel the Great Commission task, Executive Committee President Frank Page told messengers during the Executive Committee report on June 10.

“We thank God that two years ago the Cooperative Program stopped its declination at 5.41 percent and last year rose for the first time in two decades to 5.50 percent,” Page said.

The Cooperative Program is Southern Baptists’ way of combining resources to finance ministry worldwide.

“I like to say to pastors young and old, ‘If you know a better way, let me know. I’ll support it. I’ll drop the Cooperative Program if you can show me something else that long-term is effective and engages every church concurrently and consistently in an Acts 1:8 strategy. Show it to me, and I’ll support it. I’ll drop Cooperative Program,’ ” Page said. “But I haven’t found it yet.”

Page commended state convention partners that have joined national entities in streamlining their operations to devote more resources to reaching the nations for Christ. Ten years ago, state convention employees numbered 1,750. Now the figure is 1,350, he said.

“But you see, regardless of what happens at the national level or even the state level, what really matters is whether or not local churches understand what the Cooperative Program is and reengage in those ministries,” Page said.

ERLC awards

The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission presented awards to the Green family, which owns Hobby Lobby, and Saeed Abedini, an American pastor who is imprisoned in Iran for his Christian faith.

The Greens received the John Leland Religious Liberty Award for their refusal to abide by the federal government’s abortion/contraception mandate, which requires employers to provide abortion-causing drugs to their workers. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule on the Greens’ case later this month.

ERLC President Russell D. Moore said the Greens “believe that every human life from the moment of conception is sacred, and they believe that the government is not the Lord of their consciences.” Messengers gave the Greens a standing ovation.

Abedini received the Richard Land Award for Distinguished Service for “faithfully serving the Lord Jesus Christ ... despite the risk involved.” Abedini converted to Christianity from Islam and led house churches in his native Iran before moving to the U.S. in 2005. During a trip to Iran in 2012, he was arrested and sent to prison, subject to beatings and solitary confinement. Abedini’s wife Naghmeh accepted the award on her husband’s behalf to a standing ovation.  

Motions from the floor

SBC messengers presented 17 motions from the floor of the convention.

Six of the motions were referred to SBC entities for consideration while 10 motions were ruled out of order.

A motion asking churches to “pray passionately and regularly for persecuted Christians” was adopted by unanimous consent.

In other matters:

• The CP exhibit featured a series of panel discussions projected on high-definition screens in the exhibit hall and streamed on the Internet. Nearly 125 panelists addressed such topics as Southern Baptist cooperation, international missions, church planting, theological education, ethnic diversity, social justice, and sexuality.

• The International Mission Board presentation focused on God’s work in Cuba and featured testimonies from Cuban believers. The North American Mission Board presentation highlighted a Baltimore church revitalization effort and a church plant in Montreal that grew to 700 worshipers in its first year.

• Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary President Jeff Iorg told messengers that the seminary plans to announce the site of its new Southern California main campus later this summer.

• During his report to the denomination’s annual meeting, Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources, introduced an initiative to help churches start 100,000 new small groups and explained LifeWay’s decision to sell the Glorieta Conference Center in New Mexico. He said the facility lost money each year and drained resources from LifeWay. Rainer noted that no other SBC or state convention entity wanted the property so they sold it to a Christian organization so ministry could continue. Homeowners were given option for sale or continued lease of their property, he added. “To the best of our ability … we have handled the issue,” Rainer said.

• Todd Stinnett, pastor of Lebanon Baptist, Talbott; and Robert T. Dawkins, a member of Belle-vue Baptist, Cordova, were chosen as Tennessee’s representatives on the 2014-15 SBC Committee on Nominations. The Committee on Nominations will nominate people to serve on the SBC’s boards, commissions, and committees. They will present their report to the 2015 SBC annual meeting in Columbus, Ohio.

• Texas pastor John Meador exhorted pastors to set the example and “get in the field” and evangelize hurting people who need the gospel. Meador, pastor of First Baptist Church, Euless, Texas, delivered the annual convention sermon.

• During a news conference following his election as SBC president, Ronnie Floyd said he has his heart set on seeing Southern Baptists come together in “explicit agreement, visible union, and extraordinary prayer” for the next Great Awakening of the United States of America. A key focus for Floyd in the past year has been leading gatherings of pastors to pray for spiritual awakening. “I want to see revival come to the church of Jesus Christ,” he said, “so that America would be awakened with a powerful God consciousness where great numbers come to faith and trust in Jesus Christ as Savior.” Floyd said he will speak to Southern Baptists each Monday through a weekly blog and recount his travels on Twitter and Instagram. “Wherever I go I want to help tell the story of what God is doing across North America and the world,” Floyd said.

• Messengers heard updates and reports from each SBC entity including the six seminaries, GuideStone Financial Resources, LifeWay Christian Resources, the two mission boards, and national Woman’s Missionary Union. 

— Article includes reporting from Baptist Press writers Brian Koonce, Barbara Denman, David Roach, Tom Strode, Erin Roach, Diana Chandler, and Jerry Pierce

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