NASHVILLE, Tenn.—Thousands of Southern Baptists from across America and around the world gathered for the 163rd Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), June 15-16, at the Music City Center in Nashville, Tenn.
Nearly 16,000 registered messengers, including more than 500 from Oklahoma, as well as many guests, took part in the SBC annual meeting, which saw key business conducted, 64 missionaries appointed, new officers elected and more.
Prior to the SBC Meeting, a two-day Send Conference took place at the same venue and featured times of preaching, prayer and worship through music. The Send Conference concluded with a missionary sending event hosted by the International Mission Board (IMB).
64 IMB missionaries appointed
IMB President Paul Chitwood led the special sending celebration and acknowledged challenge after challenge that made the IMB’s sending goals seem further and further beyond reach.
“I questioned at times if we would be able to do everything that is necessary to appoint, train and deploy new missionaries in the midst of a global pandemic,” Chitwood said. “But by God’s grace and with His help, your sending of missionaries through the IMB has not even slowed.
“We’ve had plenty of hurdles and more than enough disruptions, but more than 500 new missionaries have been appointed since the pandemic began… Our work has not been thwarted.”
Sixty-four missionaries were presented in preparation for joining 3,631 appointed by the IMB and sent throughout the world, including two sent from Oklahoma. The vast majority of the new missionaries stood behind a screen, as they could not be identified due to security concerns in their location of service.
Litton elected SBC President in runoff
Ed Litton, pastor of Saraland, Ala., Redemption, defeated Georgia pastor Mike Stone in a runoff, receiving 6,834 votes (52.04 percent) to Stone’s 6,278 (47.81 percent). He succeeds North Carolina pastor J.D. Greear, who served an extra year due to the cancellation of the 2020 SBC Annual Meeting in Orlando, Fla.
“We are a family, and at times we may seem dysfunctional,” said Litton, a reference to tensions that roiled the SBC in the months leading up to the 2021 SBC Annual Meeting. “But we love each other… This is a family, and sometimes families argue in a way that the neighbors get to see it, and that’s kind of what you (the media) have been witnessing. But the reality is we’re going to leave this place focused. We’ll leave this place with a direction—and I believe a better direction—for the future.”
Stone, pastor of Blackshear, Ga., Emmanuel and a member of the Conservative Baptist Network’s steering council, received the most votes—5,216 votes, or 37.48 percent—in the initial round of ballots, a four-way contest that included Southern Seminary President Albert Mohler and Northwest Baptist Convention Executive Director Randy Adams. Litton received 4,630 votes, or 32.38 percent, while 3,764 ballots (26.32 percent) were cast for Mohler and 673 votes (4.71 percent) for Adams.
Louisiana pastor and former SBC President Fred Luter, in nominating Ed Litton for SBC President, called Litton a leader who could stop Southern Baptists from fighting each other “in the barracks.”
In other election results, Lee Brand was elected first vice president. Ramón Medina was elected second vice president in a runoff, and John Yeats was re-elected as recording secretary. Don Currence was elected registration secretary by acclamation.
Oklahoma Baptists view SBC meeting to be ‘historic’
Oklahoma was well-represented at the SBC Annual Meeting. More than 500 messengers, from more than 180 churches, made the trip to Nashville. Many attending pastors viewed the meeting to be historic and important.
Oklahoma Baptists President Todd Fisher, who serves as pastor of Shawnee, Immanuel, said, “This has been an historic annual meeting for the SBC in terms of the importance of business being considered and number of messengers in attendance. Despite the controversies embroiling our convention, messengers showed once again in this meeting that what matters most to Southern Baptists is reaching people with the Gospel and loving them in Christ’s name.
“I am grateful for the promise new president Ed Litton has made to endeavor to lead and unite the SBC in the hard work of building bridges and tearing down walls while staying anchored to the Baptist Faith and Message as we live out the Great Commission and Great Commandment.”
Messengers to the SBC meeting appointed committee members to various SBC entities and auxiliary ministries, including 25 people from Oklahoma who will serve.
Dilbeck introduced during report as next GuideStone president
GuideStone Financial Resources President O.S. Hawkins, speaking June 15 at the Annual Meeting, thanked Southern Baptists for their support, prayers and the opportunity to serve the 103-year-old ministry, as he gave his final report to messengers meeting.
Hawkins last year asked trustees to appoint a presidential search committee, chaired by retired Kansas pastor and trustee Steve Dighton. Last month, trustees unanimously elected Hance Dilbeck to become GuideStone president-elect.
“Several nominations came in, and it wasn’t too long before the name of Hance Dilbeck began to rise to the top,” Hawkins reported.
After a period of transition, Dilbeck will become president and CEO on March 1, 2022, and Hawkins will assume the honorary, voluntary position of president emeritus. Dilbeck provided a brief greeting during the report.
“My wife Julie and I have a deep love and great respect for Dr. Hawkins and for Susie, and for their quarter-century of service to the Lord and Southern Baptists,” Dilbeck told messengers.
At the conclusion of the report, Hawkins and other GuideStone leaders prayer over Dilbeck. Dilbeck’s tenure as Oklahoma Baptists executive director-treasurer concludes June 25, and a search committee for his replacement was recently put in place by the Oklahoma Baptists board of directors.
Floyd casts ‘Vision 2025’; amendment added to address sexual abuse and racism crises
On June 15, SBC Executive Committee President and CEO Ronnie Floyd presented “Vision 2025,” a call for “Southern Baptists to reach every person for Jesus Christ in every town, every city, every state and every nation.”
The Vision 2025 strategic actions include to: “Increase full-time, fully-funded missionaries;” “Add 5,000 new SBC congregations to our Southern Baptist family;” “Increase total number of workers in the field;” “Turn around our ongoing decline in reaching, baptizing, and discipling” people under 18; “Increase our annual giving.”
Vision 2025 was amended by messengers from the floor, to include a sixth point on preventing sex abuse and racism, each of which was a frequent topic of emphasis throughout the 2021 meeting.
Greear delivers challenge in president’s address
Pastor J.D. Greear, pastor of Raleigh-Durham, N.C., The Summit, who is concluding his term as SBC president, delivered his president’s address on June 15.
Saying they faced a defining moment, Greear challenged Southern Baptists to hear the concerns of the entire body while unifying around the one true Gospel and the Great Commission.
“If we believe in the sufficiency of Scripture as the rule for the church, let’s not rush into making the rules for the church we wish God had made had He understood the situation in 21st century America,” Greear said. “I am committed to letting the Scripture, and the Scripture alone, be our rule for faith and practice. Anything else is unnecessarily divisive.”
Greear said the moment required courage like he said was shown during the Conservative Resurgence of 40 years ago.
“Our defining moment,” he said, “is about whether we will let the Gospel that our forefathers preserved for us define the identity and determine the mission of our Convention.”
Willy Rice, senior pastor of Clearwater, Fla., Calvary, delivered the convention sermon on June 16.
Messengers conduct other business
Messengers to the 2021 SBC Annual Meeting approved numerous resolutions, including: “A denunciation of any attempt to rescind the Hyde Amendment,” which prohibits federal funding of abortion; “Opposition to the Equality Act;” a resolution that addresses the “sufficiency of Scripture for race and racial reconciliation;” also resolutions “On abuse and pastoral qualifications;” a resolution about abolishing abortion; and “On the Uyghur genocide.”
Messengers also approved a motion calling for a task force to oversee a third-party investigation into allegations of mishandling abuse claims at the SBC Executive Committee.
Numerous motions were put forth and debated by SBC messengers. For complete coverage of motions, resolutions, reports visit baptistpress.com.
Throughout the two-day annual meeting of the SBC, reports were delivered from SBC entities and auxiliary groups.
Looking up, looking ahead
Through the 2021 SBC Meeting, numerous dedicated times of prayer were observed. In addition, dozens of fellowship events took place, including among SBC Entities, Seminaries, Affinity Groups and an Oklahoma Baptists fellowship event.
The 2022 SBC Meeting is scheduled to take place June 14-15 in Anaheim, California. For more SBC Annual Meeting reports visit baptistmessenger.com.