DALLAS—Approximately 9,700 messengers met in Dallas’ Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center, June 12-13, for the 2018 Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Annual Meeting. Oklahoma Baptists were well represented as 525 messengers from the state attended the meeting that had as its theme “Testify: Go. Stand. Speak.”
From elections to sermons to key business to a guest appearance by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, the 2018 annual meeting featured numerous memorable moments.
///Gaines glorifies God
SBC President Steve Gaines, pastor of Cordova, Tenn., Bellevue, emphasized the meeting’s theme in his address. “Stop talking about how big your problems are, and start talking about how big your God is,” he said.
Completing his second and final year as SBC president, Gaines said Southern Baptists need to believe and trust in the supernatural abilities of God as the key to overcome obstacles.
“What is going to be the solution to our decline? What can God do with us? First of all, you have to believe in a bigger God than you believe in right now,” Gaines said. “You need to believe in the God of the Bible and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
///Greear elected as SBC president
On Tuesday, June 12, North Carolina pastor J.D. Greear was elected Southern Baptist Convention president, two years after conceding a closely contested election to lead the denomination.
Greear, 45, who was nominated by Ken Whitten, pastor of Lutz, Fla., Idlewild, received 5,410 votes, for 68.62 percent margin.
Also nominated for president was Ken Hemphill, an administrator at North Greenville University in South Carolina and former president of Southwestern Seminary. He was nominated by Brad Jurkovich, pastor of First Baptist Church in Bossier City, La., receiving 2,459 votes, for 31.19 percent.
A total of 7,884 ballots were cast for president from the 9,467 messengers registered at the time. Fifteen ballots—or .19 percent—were disallowed.
When asked during a press conference whether he embodies the changing face of the SBC, Greear said, “What I don’t think this (election) represents is a passing of the baton where the older
generation fades off into the sunset and the new, young generation is in charge. We walk forward together.”
///Cabrera elected second VP
Felix Cabrera, pastor of Oklahoma City, Iglesia Bautista Central, was elected SBC second vice president. He received 2,173 votes (58.83 percent). Tennessee evangelist Jerry Drace received 1,035 votes (28.2 percent), and Randall Forsythe, pastor of Portage, Ill., Grace, received 479 votes (12.97 precent).
Other SBC officers elected June 12 include A.B. Vines, pastor of San Diego, Calif., New Seasons, first vice president. John Yeats, state executive of the Missouri Baptist Convention and former Baptist Messenger editor, was reelected as recording secretary, as was Don Currence, minister of children and administration at Ozark, Mo., First, as registration secretary.
///IMB missionaries commissioned from every church, for every nation
At a commissioning service, Southern Baptists commissioned 79 new International Mission Board (IMB) missionaries and prayed for all 11,700 people groups in the world.
“We exist to combine the efforts of our churches for the spread of the Gospel in the world,” said IMB President David Platt.
All the missionaries shared testimonies of their calls to missions. Then Southern Baptists gathered around the missionaries and prayed for them.
During a prayer time for the world’s people groups, each attendee of the commissioning service interceded for a people group printed on a card in their seat.
///Southwestern Seminary report addresses Patterson, future
Jeffrey Bingham, interim president of Southwestern Seminary, delivered the seminary’s report, including an update on events surrounding the termination of former president Paige Patterson.
Bingham said his “priority is to create a safe environment and a campus culture that protects and cares for the victims of abuse. At Southwestern we denounce all forms of abuse and all behavior that enables abuse.
“Some things at Southwestern cannot change and will not change,” Bingham said, including the seminary’s commitment to Scripture and evangelism.
All six SBC seminaries shared reports on Wednesday morning, including Chuck Kelley, president of New Orleans Seminary; Jeff Iorg, president of Gateway Seminary; Jason Allen, president of Midwestern Seminary; Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Seminary; and Albert Mohler, president of Southern Seminary.
A motion was defeated during the Wednesday afternoon session to remove members of Southwestern’s trustee executive committee. The motion was a response to the executive committee’s decision to terminate Patterson.
///Ligon commends Oklahoma Baptist Messengers
Joe Ligon, president of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, was pleased with the turnout of 525 Oklahoma Baptists as messengers to the SBC Annual Meeting.
“It seems we have a good contingent of Oklahoma pastors, and I’m glad to see that,” Ligon said. “I’m glad to see our Oklahoma guys involved in the national level. I want to encourage them to continue that.”
Ligon, who serves as pastor of Marlow, First, knows it’s important for pastors and church leaders to make their respective churches their first priority, but he said Oklahoma Baptists should be involved in what is happening in Southern Baptist work across the country and the world.
“It’s one thing for us—and a necessary thing—to take care of our local churches. That’s job one,” he said. “Then we have the opportunity to work associationally and in our statewide convention. That’s critical ministry. Nevertheless, we are a national organization—actually international—so the more voice we can have in the process the better for Southern Baptists in general and Oklahoma Baptists in particular.”
Other reports and recommendations
Vice chairman Adam Greenway delivered a report from the evangelism task force appointed in 2017 by Gaines at the request of SBC messengers.
The task force’s eight recommendations speak to every level of Southern Baptist life because all Southern Baptists must work in unity to accomplish the Great Commission, Greenway said.
Platt delivered the IMB report. Although Southern Baptists are asking about the IMB’s presidential search as Platt is returning to local church ministry, Platt said the IMB’s work is not about a president, but a coalition of 47,000 churches who support and send missionaries. “They are the IMB, and I want to report this morning on what they are doing,” he said. “If anyone asks you what’s happening at the IMB, you tell them that disciples are being made and people are coming to Christ.”
Kevin Ezell delivered the North American Mission Board report on Wednesday morning.
The Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) report was delivered by WMU executive director-treasurer Sandra Wisdom-Martin and WMU president Linda Cooper. They shared testimonies of God’s work through WMU’s work of missions and missions education.
Messengers received an update of the search for a new Executive Committee president, with Frank S. Page departing the position in March. Messengers also defeated a proposed defunding of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) during the EC’s morning report June 12.
Russell Moore, ERLC president, presented his organization’s report, highlighting, among other ministries, the commission’s efforts to defend religious liberty and teach biblical truth on issues of marriage and gender. He also announced ERLC is partnering with LifeWay Research to commission a study on scope of abuse within churches.
Regarding search for new EC president, SBC Executive Committee Chairman Stephen Rummage said, “We do not have a date set at this time when we will complete our search, but you can be certain that we will be careful and deliberate in our work.”
In other business, messengers passed the 2018-2019 Cooperative Program Allocation Budget of $194 million as proposed.
Messengers also approved the addition of National Day of Prayer on the first Thursday in May to the SBC Calendar of Activities along with Orphans and Widows Care Sunday on the first Sunday of November.
For additional SBC Annual Meeting coverage, including the resolutions committee report and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence speech, see the June 21 print edition of the Baptist Messenger.
The 2019 SBC annual meeting is set for June 11-12 in Birmingham, Ala.