The 2018 Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention is now history. As I anticipated, the number of registered messengers increased from the trend of recent years, totaling 9,637. This was the highest attendance since 2010 (11,070) but was lower than when the SBC last met in Dallas in 1997 (12,519). The highest attendance ever recorded was in 1985 (also in Dallas) when 45,519 messengers were registered. The first SBC convention we attended was held in Houston, Texas in 1979. This meeting marked the beginning of what has been called The Conservative Resurgence. Adrian Rogers was elected president that year and he was followed in subsequent years by the likes of Bailey Smith, Jimmy Draper, Charles Stanley and other conservative pastors. From 1979-2018, we have attended an estimated twenty-five convention meetings; however, this year’s meeting was our first meeting since 2012.
As I promised in last week’s edition of The Messenger, I will share a few reflections and observations. They will be in no certain order of importance; simply written as they came to mind.
- J.D. Greear was elected president with almost 69% of the votes cast. Ken Hemphill, former president of Southwestern Seminary received 31%. Both men are biblically conservative leaders. I do not anticipate any changes theologically or in our ongoing focus on missions during the next year. The unknown element may be Dr. Greear’s responses to major current events or cultural issues that may come into the limelight in the coming year.
- The issue that seemed to be the most dominant on the minds of messengers revolved around the Board of Trustees at Southwestern Seminary and the removal of seminary president, Paige Patterson. Actions taken be the messengers following some debate included (1) asking the trustees to reflect on their recent deliberations and procedures and (2) rejected a motion to remove the trustees’ executive committee members who overturned the decision of the full board, revoking the board’s previously approved motion to give him the title of President Emeritus and Theologian-in-Residence. The committee’s executive decision also included the revoking of Dr. Patterson retirement benefits. Part of me wants to exercise faith in the trustee system, but the other part is still troubled by the haste and the harshness of the decision. If poor judgment was exercised in the wording an illustrative statement or in giving counsel fifteen years ago, shouldn’t the punishment fit the “crime?” It appears that the harsh judgment rendered would have been more appropriate if Dr. Patterson had committed an egregious act himself.
- Many of the motions that were accepted by the Committee on Order of Business were referred to the appropriate agency or entity for consideration and reporting to next year’s annual meeting. This has been the customary procedure of previous annual meetings. Only a small number of motions can be debated and decided during a two-day meeting.
- There were several motions, comments, and statements made related to women and racial issues. Numerous convention resolutions have been passed through the years concerning these issues, therefore it is not necessary to address the same or similar matters year after year; as doing so becomes divisive rather than unifying.
- With the passing of time comes inevitable change. More younger adults and families are attending and former leaders of the past thirty years of SBC life are slowly but surely fading from the main scene. Personalities and methodologies will change, but the gospel, the Great Commission, and the Bible must never be watered-down or compromised. I am much more interested in Southern Baptists receiving a “well done” from Jesus than I am receiving a well-done from cultural opinion polls!
- I am still an optimistic Southern Baptist pastor. If we will get more focused on personal soul-winning and discipling new Christians, I have confidence that other priorities will fall into their proper places.