steve-gaines-sbc15ST. LOUIS (BP) — Following a runoff vote that didn’t produce a majority winner on Tuesday (June 14), North Carolina pastor J.D. Greear announced Wednesday he would withdraw from the race for president of the Southern Baptist Convention during the SBC’s annual meeting in St. Louis. Greear’s decision — in an effort to help bring unity following a close vote — avoided a second runoff and left Tennessee pastor Steve Gaines elected by acclamation as president of the SBC.

Greear told the convention he prayed last night and believes “we need to leave St. Louis united.”

Gaines said “there’s no way God is not doing something in all of this.” He said he has decided internally Tuesday night to withdraw but agreed to serve as president after a conversation with Greear.

“I just wanted Jesus to be lifted high” and the convention to be united, Gaines said.

On the original ballot, the three candidates included Gaines, Greear and New Orleans pastor David Crosby.

In the first ballot cast by 5,784 messengers, Crosby received 583 votes or 10.08 percent; Gaines received 2,551 votes, or 44.1 percent of the votes; and Greear received 2,601 votes, or 44.97 percent. None of the candidates received 50 percent or more of the votes.

Following the runoff, SBC President Ronnie Floyd reported results of the election at the beginning of the Tuesday night session. Of the 7,230 messengers registered at the time of the first runoff, 4,824 ballots were cast. To be declared a winner, Gaines or Greear needed to win 50 percent plus 1 of ballots cast, or 2,413 or more votes.

Gaines received 2,410 votes or 49.96 percent while Greear received 2,306 votes or 47.80 percent. However, 108 votes were considered illegal because the wrong ballot was used or an indistinguishable mark was made. Roberts Rules of Order require that the 108 illegal votes be counted to determine a majority, Floyd said. “The rules are clear.”

A second run-off election between the two pastors had been scheduled for the Wednesday morning session.

Former SBC president Johnny Hunt said in announcing Gaines’ nomination March 9, “When Steve Gaines shared his prayer journey he and [his wife] Donna had travelled, I was touched by his clear call to allow himself to be nominated. Steve struggled with this nomination as he has always believed this office should seek the man. With such a passionate desire for spiritual revival in our churches and nation, and knowing him to be a man of deep intense prayer, it brings joy to my heart to nominate Dr. Gaines.”

During the 11 years Gaines has pastored Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., the congregation has averaged 481 baptisms per year, according to the SBC’s Annual Church Profile database. Previously, he pastored churches in Alabama, Tennessee and Texas.

Bellevue voted to give $1 million during its 2016-17 church year through the Cooperative Program, Southern Baptists’ unified channel for funding state- and SBC-level missions and ministries. That will total approximately 4.6 percent of undesignated receipts, the church told Baptist Press.