Month: July 2009

FBC Dallas members vote for Criswell College independence

DALLAS?In a nearly unanimous vote, members of First Baptist Church of Dallas voted on July 8 to end their 40-year ownership of Criswell College, paving the way for the school’s independence.

The vote followed the unanimous recommendation of the church’s deacons on June 16 and months of negotiations between leaders of the church and Criswell College, a four-year school with its own radio station, KCBI-FM in Dallas, KCRN (AM & FM) in San Angelo, Texas and KSYE-FM in southern Oklahoma.

Church members voted with raised hands after hearing from several leading figures among the church’s deacon body and the school’s trustee board, including pastor and current Criswell chancellor Robert Jeffress, who in quoting the school’s trustee chairman called the separation agreement a “win-win-win situation”?a win for the church and the school “but most importantly, it’s a win for the kingdom of God. That’s what we all want here.”

The fate of the radio station had been a “distraction” since talk of a proposed sale by the school became public several years ago, and “It’s time for all of that to come to an end,” Jeffress said, explaining that the station would be jointly owned by the church and school as the two members of a newly formed non-profit corporation.

After asking church members to “vote responsibly,” Jeffress said the separation would allow the school to get back to its primary task of “training men and women with a biblical worldview and training preachers,” and giving it an advantage in fundraising, while offering the church a “valuable and much-needed solution” to the burden of tending to the school.

Jeffress told church members the school’s governance had also become a distraction for the last three pastors, whose duties included serving as college chancellor alongside the school president.

Criswell trustee chairman Michael Deahl, a First Baptist deacon, said the separation would give the school its “best chance to reach the next level,” would enhance fundraising, would make it easier for the school to comply with its accrediting agency’s governance requirements, and it would relieve the school of operating the radio station.

Asked by a church member how the school planned to avoid drifting away like Harvard from its biblical roots, Deahl said trustees would be diligent in seeing that the articles of faith remain a requirement for trustees and faculty while receiving accountability from affiliation with the churches of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.

Deahl praised the deacon leaders and trustees who negotiated the agreement after what had been at times a tense relationship.

“I believe God has intervened in this process,” allowing it to be settled “in an amicable way” that will “honor the cause and name of Jesus Christ,” Deahl said.

The separation agreement creates a new, non-profit corporation with a 50-50 ownership split of radio station KCBI, which will be operated and managed by First Baptist. Criswell College will be a non-voting member of the corporation.

In turn, the agreement states the corporation will make a fixed annual contribution payment to the college. The college will retain all of its other assets. The ministry potential for KCBI is “unlimited” and would be enhanced by the church’s media ministry, Jeffress said.

The agreement also includes options for the church and school to buy out the other’s interest in the station after a set period of years.

The school’s new governance would take effect on Jan. 1.

The changes require approval from the Federal Communications Commission and the school’s accrediting agency, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).

Criswell College Interim President Lamar Cooper said last month after the trustees endorsed the plan: “I also am pleased that we have been able to accomplish this amicably, a

Hunt expresses urgency about Great Commission

LOUISVILLE, Ky.?Encouraged by attendance exceeding 8,600 registered messengers on the first day of the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting June 23?twice as many as he expected?SBC President Johnny Hunt said there is a “sense of urgency” among the brethren.

Hunt attributed much of the interest at this year’s meeting to his Great Commission Resurgence initiative. In a news conference following his re-election to a second term, he also addressed questions ranging from his opinion of controversial Seattle pastor Mark Driscoll to his view of Calvinism among Southern Baptists.

“I feel there’s a lot of energy in the halls,” said Hunt, pastor of Atlanta-area First Baptist Church in Woodstock. “Everybody’s talking the same talk: ‘We need this Great Commission Resurgence.’

“We are saying times have been desperate,” Hunt added. “Now I really do sense fellow Southern Baptists are saying we need to get serious.”

Asked about Driscoll, Hunt responded: “I don’t know him, never met him. A lot of young men like to follow his blogs and podcasts. It’s just been interesting.”

Referring to motions from the floor placing Driscoll and the network he founded, Acts 29, in a bad light, Hunt said, “[T]he entire premise of being a Baptist is sort of thrown under the bus when you start telling someone who they can or cannot fellowship with.” He said it is a matter that it should be left to the conscience and the priesthood of the believer.

About church methodology, Hunt said the SBC is a “great family fellowship” using varied methodologies which provide a healthy balance.

Hunt said it might be that some of the perceived tension across generations of Southern Baptists is rooted in several things, including methodology, dress and music.

Encouraged by what he said was the turnout of younger Southern Baptists, Hunt said, “[I]f we can move beyond our perceptions” and begin to “listen to heart of some of these young leaders,” Southern Baptists might be encouraged “to catch their passion.”

Hunt relayed his experience at a recent International Mission Board appointment service in Denver where 101 mostly young missionaries were sent out, with the “majority going to extremely hard and dangerous places.”

“With that type of commitment to Jesus Christ that they’re willing, many of them, to write their will before they leave with the understanding some of them will probably never return, I have a very difficult time spending my time talking about their jeans, whether hair is spiked or colored” or their musical tastes, Hunt said.

By building relationships with younger leaders, “if we see some areas of concern, at least we have earned the right to speak into them.”

On the continuing banter between Calvinists and those critical of the doctrine that attempts to describe God’s work in salvation, Hunt said the debate has raged for more than 400 years and is part of Baptist history.

“We have wonderful men and women on both sides. I think the Baptist tent is large enough for both,” he said.

Asked by a reporter if an invitation was made for President Barack Obama to address the SBC, Hunt said he knew of no such invitation.

But Hunt, the first known Native American SBC president, said, “I feel like we will have a resolution to really honor our president, especially in the context of being the first African American to be elected. We have much to celebrate in that.”

Hunt said he had ample opportunity to invite Republicans to speak, “but we felt that would send a wrong signal because we wanted to send prayer support to the new president and we are mandated to pray for our president.”

Speaking to proposed federal hate crimes legislation that some say could infringe on biblical preaching, Hunt said he was not overly worried as long as pastors “stay in the context of preaching biblical truth. And if the day comes that we would be imprisoned for the proclamation of the gospel becoming that much of an offense, we would join about two-thirds of the rest of the planet.

“God forbid that I would travel to the Middle East to encourage those already in hostile settings while at same time being afraid to proclaim the message that I encourage,” Hunt said.

Returning to the Great Commission Resurgence, Hunt answered a question regarding media access to the meetings of the proposed GCR task force. He said media presence would be “counterproductive because we want people to be at liberty to share their heart.”

It could be “embarrassing where we’re just seeking wisdom,” Hunt added, “but we would love to have any and all of you

SBC approves task force to bring recommendations for improving gospel work

LOUISVILLE–Messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention approved a task force aimed at spurring on a resurgence of Great Commission work, severed a relationship with Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth over the church’s affirmation of homosexual members, and passed a resolution citing the historic nature of the election of Barack Obama as the nation’s first African American president while decrying some of his social policies and committing to “earnestly pray” for him.

Meeting in Louisville on the 150th anniversary of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s founding, they also re-elected Johnny Hunt, pastor of First Baptist Church of Woodstock, Ga., for a customary second term as SBC president.

Messengers overwhelmingly approved a motion on June 23 by Southern Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. allowing Hunt to name a task force to study “how Southern Baptists can work more faithfully and effectively together.”

The naming of the 19-member “Great Commission Resurgence (GCR) Task Force” on June 24 followed several months of debate in newspaper articles and on web postings about the 10-point “Toward a Great Commission Resurgence” document drafted by Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, at Hunt’s encouragement.

The GCR document itself was never acted upon, but the task force was seen by many as related to the document’s Axiom IX, which called for a more efficient and effective convention structure.

The 8,700-plus messengers–represented by a larger group of younger faces than in recent years–were reminded of Hunt’s emphasis on a Great Commission Resurgence by its reference in sermons throughout the week beginning in the pre-meeting SBC Pastors’ Conference, June 21-22.

Speaking to GCR detractors, Hunt repeated more than once during the annual meeting that he had “no desire whatsoever to touch the structure” of the convention. Instead, he cited his hope that giving through the Cooperative Program–the SBC’s shared budgetary mechanism–would increase while overlap in convention services would be addressed.

The task force–which includes two state executive directors including Jim Richards of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, an assortment of pastors, two seminary presidents, a director of missions and several laymen, with heavy representation from Florida, Georgia and North Carolina–is charged with reporting back to convention messengers at the next annual meeting, scheduled June 15-16, 2010 in Orlando, Fla.

At his re-election news conference prior to messengers voting on the task force, Hunt said he observed a “sense of urgency” at the meeting and that Southern Baptists “are saying we need to get serious.”

Following the recommendation of the SBC Executive Committee, messengers voted without discussion to declare Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth “not in friendly cooperation” over the church’s inaction concerning openly homosexual members, some of whom have served on church committees (see related story on page 1).

Beginning in November 2007, a controversy in the church over how homosexual couples would be pictured in a church directory became public. At the 2008 SBC annual meeting, William Sanderson of Hephzibah Baptist Church in Wendell, N.C., made a motion that was referred to the SBC Executive Committee seeking clarification on whether Broadway had violated Article III of the SBC constitution, which declares churches “which act to affirm, approve, or endorse homosexual behavior” not in cooperation with the SBC.

The church denied it has affirmed homosexual behavior, but Roger “Sing” Oldham, Executive Committee vice president for convention relations, told the TEXAN after the EC’s meeting that the committee saw “an ambiguity between their written comments and the actual practices of the church” that was never resolved.

One of the early pastors of the church, founded in 1883, played a role in moving Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary to Fort Worth. The church has had many Southwestern professors as members through the years, though it has maintained a level of disagreement over the conservative direction of the SBC in the last three decades.

The Obama resolution cited “racial progress signaled by the election of Barack Hussein Obama” that also exhorted the president to defend biblical views of marriage and human life, and to appoint “strict constructionist,” “original intent” judges.

The Resolutions Committee, at the last hour, added a statement that “we express our strong opposition” to the president declaring June as “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month.”

Of five resolutions, it was the only one debated, with messengers following the advice of the Resolutions Committee by voting down an amendment to include language critical of the president’s advancement of homosexual activism in public schools as friendly but not germane to the resolution.

Other resolutions covered adoption and orphan care, biblical sexuality and public policy, the 150th anniversary of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and appreciation to Louisville-area Baptists and the seminary for their hosting the SBC annual meeting.

In addition to Hunt, messengers elected John Mark Toby, pastor of Beacon Hill Baptist Church in Somerset, Ky., as first vice president, and Stephen Rummage, pastor of Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Brandon, Fla., as second vice president.

John Yeats, communications director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention, was re-elected as recording secretary, as was Jim Wells, director of missions for the Tri County Baptist Association in Nixa, Mo., as registration secretary.

Messengers approved a $204.3 million CP Allocation Budget, down more than $1.3 million from last year’s budget. CP receipts for 2007-08 (down 0.65 percent from the prior year) set the maximum amount allowed for the 2009-2010 CP Allocation Budget.

The budget maintains current allocations to the convention’s ministries, including 50 percent of receipts to the International Mission Board and 22.79 percent to the North American Mission Board. The convention’s six seminaries will receive a combined 21.92 percent. By the seminary enrollment formula, Southern will receive 4.96 percent (down for 7.98 percent); Southwester, 4.84 percent (up from 4.81 percent); New Orleans, 4.39 percent (down from 4.41 percent); Southeastern, 4.04 percent (down from 4.15 percent); Midwestern, 1.90 percent (up from 1.77 percent); and Golden Gate, 1.80 percent (down from 1.81 percent).

The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission will continue to receive 1.65 percent of the budget, while the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives will receive .24 percent. The SBC Operating Budget, encompassing the SBC annual meeting costs, the work of the convention between annual meetings and the Executive Committee, will receive 3.4 percent of the CP budget.

Former Texas pastor Mac Brunson, now pastor at First Baptist Church of Jacksonville, Fla., was elected to preach the 2010 convention sermon at the annual meeting in Orlando, with pastor Michael Catt of Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Ga., as the alternate.

Convention music director will be Scott White of First Baptist Church of Woodstock, Ga.

Mission board reports served to rally Southern Baptists to reach the world with the gospel with leaders of the North American Mission Board and International Mission Board expressing pleasure at the call for a Great Commission Resurgence.

Texas pastor Byron McWilliams of First Baptist, Odessa, remarked on his June 29 blog post that GCR “passed overwhelmingly as most realize a need for getting back to the basics. We, the Christ followers who comprise the Southern Baptist Convention, have been appointed by God for such a time as this and we must not fail to be used by him to effect quantum change around the world exclusively for his glory. What an honor it is to be part of a convention that has this as its goal,” he said.

“If any person wants a clear example why I am proud to be affiliated with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, they need look no further than Louisville. During the International Mission Board report, Dr. Jim Richards provided IMB President Jerry Rankin a check for $100,000 to be applied toward the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering shortfall,” McWilliams noted.

Citing SBTC’s forwarding to SBC causes 55 percent of CP monies received from churches, a conviction that the Bible is “the totally true and inspired, inerrant Word of God,” and keeping “world missions” as “the heartbeat of SBTC,” he concluded, “I am so pleased to be part of a state convention that is strongly in support of the Southern Baptist Convention, stands on Scripture as the final authority, and is doing everything it can to fulfill the Great Commission.”

Messengers cease relationship with Ft. Worth church over homosexuality

LOUISVILLE, Ky.–Southern Baptist Convention messengers on June 23 voted to cease the denomination’s relationship with Broadway Baptist Church of Fort Worth “until such time as the church unambiguously demonstrates” its compliance with the SBC constitution regarding homosexual behavior.

The recommendation from the Executive Committee passed on the floor nearly unanimously with no discussion, capping an almost year-long study of the church’s stance that began last year when a messenger made a motion asking that the convention declare Broadway Baptist as “not in friendly cooperation” with the denomination.

At issue was whether the church was in violation of Article III of the SBC constitution, which states that churches “which act to affirm, approve, or endorse homosexual behavior” are not in friendly cooperation.

Broadway Baptist has approximately five openly homosexual members, including two male couples, according to church members, with several serving on church committees. News of the homosexual members became public in late 2007 when the church was deciding whether or not to include the same-sex couples in a church directory.

In the end, the church voted 294-182 to publish a directory without family portraits but with candid shots of members involved in various ministries and activities.

Following a series of letters between the Executive Committee and the church, the matter appeared to reach a dead end in a May 21 letter from the church deacons to Executive Committee staff counsel D. August (Augie) Boto that referred to “innuendo and gossip” and then acknowledged, “that we, like most other churches, have a few gay members.”

“We do not inquire about sexual orientation when people present themselves for membership,” but the church does require a profession of faith followed by believer’s baptism, the letter stated, adding that the church has not acted to “affirm, approve, or endorse homosexual behavior” nor does it “intend to do so.”

“Broadway Baptist Church desires to maintain its longstanding and historic affiliation with the SBC,” the letter stated.

Roger “Sing” Oldham, Executive Committee vice president for convention relations, told the TEXAN the committee saw “an ambiguity between [Broadway’s] written comments and the actual practices of the church” that was never resolved.

Stephen Wilson, a member of the Executive Committee and vice president for academic affairs at Mid-Continent University, emphasized to Baptist Press that the denomination encourages churches to reach out to people struggling with homosexuality. The issue with Broadway Baptist, though, is over a church allowing members who are homosexual and unrepentant, he said.

“If churches are ministering to homosexuals, they are doing nothing more than what our own convention’s task force has asked us to do,” Wilson told Baptist Press. “But in Broadway’s case … the church was in effect saying that it was OK to have members who are open homosexuals.”

Various Executive Committee workgroups and subcommittees studied the issue during their September and February meetings but delayed action to further study the issue.

Although members of Broadway Baptist appeared at the February meeting, none appeared at an Executive Committee meeting on June 22 in Louisville. Some members of the workgroup and subcommittee said in February that they would welcome a statement from the church on homosexuality to clarify its position on the issue. The church chose not to make any such statement.

The recommendation approved by messengers says that the “cooperative relationship between the Convention and the church” is ceasing “and that the church’s messengers not be seated, until such time as the church unambiguously demonstrates its friendly cooperation with the Convention under Article III.”

Wilson noted that some outside observers criticized the Executive Committee for delaying action at two previous meetings. He, though, said he had no regrets and that “it has always been our hope there could be reconciliation.”

“This was not a rush to judgment. We actually wanted?from the bottom of my heart?for this to be resolved by the local church where the convention wouldn’t have to be involved in any way,” said Wilson, who serves as chairman of a workgroup that studied the issue. “… I think [in February] there was a feeling that maybe this could be solved without having to go through the step that we had to do today.”

Wilson said the church’s actions ran counter to what it claimed in its correspondence.

“[I[t was more from what they were actually doing in practice where the conflict was,” Wilson said. “While they didn’t officially endorse it, they were allowing members and also people in leadership that were homosexual.”

The church’s interim pastor, Charles Johnson, appeared before an Executive Committee workgroup at February’s meeting. Since then, the church has called a new pastor, Brent Beasley.

After the convention vote, Johnson criticized the convention’s decision on his Internet blog, stating that the “SBC remains Baptist in name only.”

“It became clear several weeks ago from the Executive Committee that Broadway would have to implement measures to identify, isolate, and distinguish our gay and lesbian members from the rest of the congregation in order to be found in friendly cooperation. Of course, conscience, congregational autonomy, and common decency prohibit us from doing so.”

He added: “Every Southern Baptist church of any size has homosexual members. These friends pray with us, sing with us, give with us, serve with us, and take the Body and Blood of Christ at the table of the Lord with us. Will the test imposed upon Broadway by the denomination now be required of all the churches?”

David Lowrie, pastor of First Baptist Church in Canyon and president of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, told BP he had hoped Broadway Baptist would do more to make clear it opposed homosexuality. He said he had discussions with church leaders and that his involvement was “more as a pastor than as the president” of the BGCT. Lowrie said he told church leadership “that they needed to take a step beyond just making a public declaration” in a letter.

“They needed to actually express those convictions in some practical way,” he said. “They, for whatever reason, weren’t able to do that…. I felt that here were things that they could have done to minister to those within their church fellowship that struggled with those issues and other issues.”

He said he thought a ministry within the church to help people with “unhealthy lifestyles” would have helped clarify the matter.

The pastor who led the church during the church directory controversy—Brett Younger—resigned in June 2008 to take a position at McAfee School of Theology in Georgia. He left the church after a vote to oust him failed, 68-32 percent. But the desire by some to remove Younger had less to do with the issue of homosexuality and more to do with a host of other issues, church members said.

Younger seemingly approved of the acceptance of homosexuality in church life. He delivered a sermon Dec. 2, 2007, explaining both sides of the debate over whether homosexuality is a sin. In the end, he said, God’s people will “serve together in the unity of God’s diversity.”

Southern Baptists rally to president’s call for Great Commission Resurgence

LOUISVILLE, Ky.–Messengers to the 2009 Southern Baptist Convention enthusiastically embraced SBC President Johnny Hunt’s plan to appoint a task force to study how Southern Baptists can work “more faithfully and effectively together in serving Christ through the Great Commission.”

Arkansas pastor Ronnie Floyd of First Baptist Church of Springdale will chair the 19-member committee that includes Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Executive Director Jim Richards.

Richards told the TEXAN he finds it humbling to be named to the task force, joining Floyd in asking for prayer that the group will find God’s will. “My hope is that the Southern Baptist Convention will produce spiritual fruit with excellence.”

Floyd appealed for 5,000 volunteers to pray regularly on behalf of the newly named committee.

“Without any doubt at all, with an overwhelming heart of support, there is a rising of the Great Commission in Southern Baptist life. There is a resurgence that is happening already,” Floyd wrote on his blog June 24. “This is a God moment for all of our churches to rally together to pray for this divine assignment that all of our convention of churches share–taking the gospel to the world.”

Months before the June 23-24 annual meeting, Hunt expressed concern that annual reports of membership and baptisms forecast a declining trend line for the denomination. He envisioned Southern Baptists moving forward from the battleground of the 1970s and 1980s that secured the SBC’s position on the inerrancy of Scripture to take the next hill to “become a real delight to the Lord we serve.”

Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary President Danny Akin served as the architect of Hunt’s call for a Great Commission Resurgence, offering a sermon that outlined axioms of accomplishing such a movement that Hunt predicted would lead to revival. LifeWay Christian Resources President Thom Rainer and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President Albert Mohler reviewed Akin’s manuscript before he delivered it to a chapel audience April 16. Then Hunt released the GCR document April 27 via the website, eventually garnering support from 4,222 who declared their endorsement online.

Some critics, chief among them Executive Committee President Morris Chapman, accused Hunt of usurping the role of trustees and negating the need for another study, 12 years after the convention’s reorganization. Chapman used his convention report as an occasion to further challenge the SBC president’s proposal.

Ultimately, the motion to appoint a task force was introduced by Mohler and affirmed by an estimated 90-plus percent of the messengers casting ballots. While it only addressed Article IX of the GCR document penned by Akin, Hunt is hopeful individuals and local churches will embrace the entire vision.

“It’s about all of us starting with the local church, taking a look to see if we’re doing the best we’ve ever done in our lifetime to fulfill the Great Commission,” he stated in his president’s address.

In making the motion, Mohler said: “We are looking at an unprecedented set of opportunities before us, especially when it comes to reaching the world for the Lord Jesus Christ. We sense from our churches an incredible desire to be even more active in the task of getting the gospel to the ends of the earth.”

“It’s the task of this generation to be responsive both to the opportunities that are before us and to the conviction and commitment of our churches. We need to set that passion loose and in this generation Southern Baptists will either move greatly ahead or we will fall more tragically behind.”

Rebuffing those who feared the proposal sought to reorganize convention structures, Mohler asserted, “This is not an effort to reinvent the Southern Baptist Convention.”

There is “absolutely no reason to fear asking that question [about how to be more effective in obeying the Great Commission], Mohler said.

“We have every reason to feel an excitement and an enthusiasm about asking in every single generation, indeed in every season, is there more we can do and can we do even more if we are more faithful in the task of deploying the conviction and the passion of Southern Baptists in service to the Great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ?”

Noting that the Southern Baptist Convention was organized in 1845 “for the solitary purpose of getting the gospel to ends of the earth,” Mohler declared: “There is a generation ready and waiting to be challenged to do something great for the cause of Christ. I say we take this opportunity.”

One messenger who spoke against the motion asserted that the decline in baptisms reported by Southern Baptist churches could be attributed to a rise in Calvinist convictions. Another messenger argued that it didn’t require a task force to discover the Bible’s call to witness and minister to the lost. A third messenger offered a substitute motion to have the SBC’s North American and International Mission boards conduct the study themselves, rather than incurring the expense of creating a task force.

The effort to redirect the proposal failed, however, and a final messenger, who identified himself as “a young Southern Baptist,” called on messengers to vote for the proposal “for the sake of the younger generation and the future of the Southern Baptist Convention and the Great Commission resurgence.”

Midlothian pastor Blain R. Craig of Oak Crest Baptist said he was encouraged by the presence of younger messengers. “For some time, there has been a lot of talk about needing younger leaders in the SBC. This year there seemed to be tangible evidence of that becoming a reality.”

Craig said their “young, enthusiastic faces” demonstrated that they were energized about the GCR, adding that Alabama pastor David Platt’s “gospel-centered sermon enhanced the focus on the Great Commission,” along with the challenges offered at the “9 Marks at 9” panel discussions hosted by Washington, D.C. pastor Mark Dever both nights following the meeting.

Springtown pastor John Mann of La Junta Baptist also picked up on an energized annual meeting, but questioned whether it was prompted by the excitement of newly involved, young messengers or concern regarding the SBC’s future growth.

“My primary hope is that by focusing on the Great Commission it will remind us that the message the Lord has given us is an intentionally distinctive one as compared to what the culture would want us to have.” Mann preferred the GCR focus on biblical faithfulness rather than pragmatic solutions to stagnation. “Simply reorganizing is not going to solve the issues.”

Lee Welch, pastor of First Baptist of Rusk, said he longed for a more positive and challenging focus from more of the pre-convention and annual meeting speakers, noting that some emphasized statistical trends in order to rally attention to the GCR document.

“I’m interested in what that’s going to be when it’s fleshed out. I don’t know anyone who’s against the Great Commission,” he said, explaining why the motion drew such strong support.

“I can appreciate the intent of helping us refocus on evangelism, but we’ve also got to be involved in discipleship. We may have created our won monster in that way by going after numbers without the follow-up that’s necessary to really get those people rooted in their faith.”

Texas pastor Gary May of First Baptist of Diana said he hopes Southern Baptists will unite around the purpose of the gospel as a result of Hunt’s leadership.

“I believe he is demonstrating visionary leadership and is seeking dialogue among many corners of Southern Baptist life,” May said, noting that most SBC presidents tend to grow in their affection for Southern Baptist churches and cooperative denominational efforts after the first term of office.

“He is stronger supporter of the Cooperative Program today than he ever has been and will continue to lead us to greater unity toward reaching the world with the gospel. When a sitting SBC president leads his church to increase its CP and commits to continuing that trend into the future, it is a positive sign.”

The newly formed task force will study the issues and bring their report, along with any recommendations, to the 2010 SBC annual meeting, June 15-16 in Orlando, Fla.

In a June 3 teleconference interview, Hunt endorsed an appeal from four state Baptist paper editors that the task force would be as open and transparent as possible, but he backed off of that statement in his presidential news conference three weeks later.

Hunt said on June 3: “I would be real open to say that we look forward to every meeting that there will be a state editor there to be able to document the meeting. We have nothing to hide,” Hunt told the editors from the Florida Baptist Witness, Georgia Christian Index, Illinois Baptist and Southern Baptist TEXAN.

But when asked about press access during his SBC news conference, Hunt said media presence would be “counterproductive because we want people to be at liberty to share their heart.”

It could be “embarrassing where we’re just seeking wisdom,” Hunt added, “but we would love to have any and all of you at the meetings and as soon as it is over we’d be delighted to share what we came to by the way of context.”

Floyd told Baptist Press, “The task before us is huge and without the Lord’s leadership and power will be impossible. Through prayer and due diligence, God wil direct our path toward the future.”

Besides Floyd, Hunt, Akin, Mohler and Richards, other committee members are: Frank Page, pastor of First Baptist Church in Taylors, S.C.; David Dockery, president of Union University in Jackson, Tenn.; Simon Tsoi, trustee of the International Mission Board and retired pastor; Donna Gaines, pastor’s wife at Bellevue Baptist Church near Memphis, Tenn.; Al Gilbert, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, N.C>; J.D. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C.; Tom Biles, executive director of the Tampa Bay (Fla.) Baptist Association; John Drummond, a layman at St. Andrew Baptist Church in Panama City, Fla.; Harry Lewis, senior strategist for partnership missions and mobilization at the North American Mission Board; Michael Orr, pastor of First Baptist Church in Chipley, Fla.; Roger Spradlin, pastor of Valley Baptist Church in Bakersfield, Calif.; J. Robert White, executive director of the Georgia Baptist Convention; Ken Whitten, pastor of the Tampa-area Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Fla.; and Ted Traylor, pastor of Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola, Fla.

Many motions made, few are chosen at SBC

LOUISVILLE–Standing at a microphone to present a motion before the world’s largest deliberative body may get you a headline in a secular newspaper, but odds are against having messengers to the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention take a vote on your proposal.

Thirty-one motions were offered to the June 23-24 meeting this year, but messengers acted on only one–authorizing SBC President Johnny Hunt to appoint a Great Commission Task Force (see related article beginning on page 9).

The remaining 30 motions were either referred to particular SBC entities for consideration or ruled out of order. That’s an increase from the entire docket of 23 motions made to last year’s annual meeting, all of which were referred or ruled out of order. Only one of last year’s referred motions made its way back to the floor this year for action–declaring Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth not “in friendly cooperation with the SBC” due to its inaction about openly homosexual members.

Numerous motions made direct or veiled reference to Seattle pastor Mark Driscoll who, while not a Southern Baptist, founded the Acts 29 church planting network that includes about 150 churches in the United States, with 17 of them appearing to be affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, according to the Acts 29 web directory. Five of the proposed motions sought to lessen Driscoll’s perceived influence, citing allegations of vulgar speech and questionable biblical interpretations, some involving episodes for which Driscoll has publicly repented.

A motion by Texas messenger James T. Egan, pastor of First Baptist Church in Post, was referred to Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and LifeWay Christian Resources since it called for an investigation of individuals employed by the two entities. Egan based his appeal on allegations featured in the June 2009 issue of the Viewpoint newsletter published by the Missouri Baptist Layman’s Association.

Two of the motions–one asking for an accounting of SBC-funded activities in cooperation with Driscoll, and the other asking entities to avoid inviting speakers “exhibiting unregenerate behavior,” were referred to all SBC entities. Another motion was ruled out of order because it resembled a resolution and fifth one because it reflected harshly on an individual.

An effort by an Arizona messenger to allow Driscoll to “address the concerns of his accusers” at the 2010 annual meeting was ruled out of order because it could have put the convention in the role of exercising church discipline.

Three other motions addressing LifeWay Christian Resources sought to remove books from their stores or literature, but both were ruled out of order, including one objecting to books by T.D. Jakes and John Hagee, “The Shack,” “90 Minutes in Heaven” and any Catholic Bibles; one objecting to books by Driscoll and another objecting to referencing Bible translations that “question the validity of any Scripture.”

Responses to several of these concerns have already been made in advance of their consideration by trustee boards to which they were assigned. Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary President Danny Akin referenced the Driscoll motions near the end of his reflections on the SBC meeting posted at

Calling some of the information circulated “erroneous or outdated,” Akin said SEBTS has no formal relationship with Driscoll or Acts 29 while “thankful for many aspects of both ministries.” He repeated his disagreement with Driscoll on some of his behavior and his position on beverage alcohol, while adding, “Mark has much to teach us about missional living, theology-driven ministry and culturally relevant expositional preaching.” The blog post offers links to pertinent discussion of the issues, including an interview by an SEBTS theology professor with Driscoll.

Regarding the motions objecting to books carried in LifeWay Christian Stores, spokesman Rob Phillips told the TEXAN, “LifeWay Christian Stores do not carry Catholic Bibles. We offer a very limited selection of books by John Hagee and T.D. Jakes. The titles we offer are of great interest to Southern Baptists and are not inconsistent with the Baptist Faith & Message 2000.”

Three motions were referred to LifeWay trustees, asking trustees to research affordable educational alternatives to traditional Christian schools, use of “American-made” resources in Vacation Bible School materials and celebration of the 400th anniversary of the King James Version of the Bible in 2011.

Three motions referred to the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission expressed concern for “Pepsi-Cola Company’s promotion of the gay/lesbian lifestyle and agenda,” desire to designate a “Sanctity of Life” year and a call to petition an “end to abortion in America and the funding of Planned Parenthood along with all other abortion-providing” organizations.
Motions referred to the SBC Executive Committee sought:
>increased cooperative partnership among ethnic churches in serving the needs of the SBC,
>submission to messengers any entity actions “to interpret the Baptist Faith & Message,”
>amending seminary allocation formula to increase consideration of extension sites,
>possibility of allowing designation of portions of Cooperative Program dollars to particular Convention causes,
>adopting Christian flag as “banner flag of encouragement,”
>term limits for trustees,
>a change to the formula for distributing the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund giving from an 80/20 split between the International Mission Board and North American Mission Board to a 66.67/33.33 split in order to more adequately fund NAMB ministries that include Canada and U.S. territories and
>opening annual meeting with posting of the American flag and an honor guard.

A motion referred to all seminaries sought publication of data relating to regional and international diversity of seminary students.

Two motions were ruled out of order in regard to President Obama because they resembled resolutions. One implored him to seek biblical direction with respect to Israel and the other expressed disapproval of his proclamation of June 2009 as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month. The latter was addressed in the first of several resolutions passed by messengers.

A motion seeking a willingness to partner with other Christian organizations and individuals was also viewed as resembling a resolution. Other motions ruled out of order included one asking SBC entities to avoid the use of secular music in promotional materials and an attempt to amend a previous convention resolution on alcohol. A motion seeking the display of photographs of individuals running for SBC offices is still being reviewed since its original introduction last year.

SBC Pastors’ Conference looks toward unity

LOUISVILLE, Ky.?On the second day of the Southern Baptist Pastors’ Conference at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville June 22, speakers exhorted pastors to lead with “One Love,” “One Spirit” and “One Purpose.”

Passionate, funny, pleading?speakers Mike Landry, Ed Stetzer, Francis Chan, Tom Elliff, Michael Catt, Fred Luter, Dennis Swanberg, Alvin Reid, David Platt, Johnny Hunt and Mike Huckabee?referred to the Great Commission, tertiary issues, humility, and accountability.

The pastors also elected officers for the 2010 Pastors’ Conference in Orlando, Fla.: Kevin Ezell, pastor of Highview Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., president; Jimmy Scroggins, pastor of First Baptist Church, West Palm Beach, Fla., vice president; and Ben Mandrell, pastor of Englewood Baptist Church, Jackson, Tenn., secretary-treasurer.


Francis Chan, teaching pastor at Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley, Calif., said radical love for one another was a defining characteristic of the early church, and should be for Christians today.

“Here’s what’s supposed to happen when someone walks into a gathering of believers: An unbeliever who has never seen God should walk into a group of us as believers and see so much love amongst us that they actually see God there,” Chan said.

Chan recounted a time in his ministry when he was discouraged about the lack of power he saw in his church. Although it looked from the outside to be a growing congregation of thousands, he saw a vast divide between it and the church described in the book of Acts.

That realization motivated Chan to temporarily step away from Cornerstone, re-evaluating the kind of church God wanted. When he returned, the leadership team moved forward with an emphasis on the church loving each other like family members. They began to look more at their collective identity in Christ.

“You used to not be a people group,” Chan told the pastors, referencing 1 Peter 2:9. “But the moment you got saved, you became this race. You became a priesthood. You became a holy nation. It’s not that you became an individual Christian, but you joined a group.”

Tom Elliff, a former pastor, SBC president and vice president of the International Mission Board, shared the power of forgiveness from the vantage point of personal experience. He told how he forgave his father, J.T. Elliff, a pastor who left his wife for another woman. Elliff called pastors to forgive those who have betrayed and wounded them in order for Christ to be exalted and their ministries to be more effective.

“An unforgiving spirit is like an acid that eats the container from the inside out,” Elliff said. “For you or for me to be unforgiving is the same as drinking poison and hoping the other person dies; we become the victim.”

Elliff said forgiveness is a matter of faith. “If you will not forgive, you are denying the truth that God is sufficient for you,” he said.

At the end of the morning session, conference attendees were given a free copy of Elliff’s book, “The Red Feather,” which tells the forgiveness story between Elliff and his father.

An absence of morality, not a lack of money, is responsible for many of the problems facing the United States, former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee told the conference.

“Wall Street did not melt down because it was a money problem,” Huckabee said. “It melted down because there was a moral problem, and it’s high time we address that what really is breaking this country is not a lack of money. It’s a lack of morality, and without righteousness and character our nation will perish.”

Huckabee, a former governor of Arkansas and now host of a program on the FOX News Channel, compared the role of a politician to that of a pastor and said it’s important for such leaders not to amass power themselves, but to empower the people they are leading.

Huckabee used the story of Abimelech, the son of Gideon, in Judges 9 to warn about the dangers of concentrating too much power in the hands of too few. Abimelech was a power-hungry man who promised to simplify the lives of his followers. But instead, Abimelech killed 70 of his brothers.

Placing too much power in the hands of too few is a sure way to collapse an organiza

Resolutions: Obama, adoption, biblical sexuality

LOUISVILLE?Southern Baptist Convention messengers passed a short but substantive list of resolutions that included one on the “racial progress signaled by the election of Barack Hussein Obama” that also included strong statements opposing the president’s policies on abortion, destructive human embryo research, and his declaration of June as “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Pride Month.”

The resolution also pled with Obama to appoint “strict constructionist,” “original intent” judges.

Other resolutions covered adoption and orphan care, biblical sexuality and public policy, the 150th anniversary of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, and appreciation to Louisville-area Baptists and the seminary for their hosting the SBC annual meeting.

President Obama

The non-binding resolutions passed with little floor discussion except for the Obama resolution, with messengers refusing a proposed floor amendment to include statements citing concern about Obama’s promotion of homosexuality in public schools and praising SBC Executive Committee President Morris Chapman’s call for more Christian K-12 schools.

The resolution noted years of institutional racism in America, the traditional family as foundational for any nation, the importance of national defense, the sanctity of human life, a righteous judiciary, and a dependence on God.

It commended the president for “his evident love for his family” and “for his decisions to retain many foreign policies” that have helped stem terrorism at home, and urged him to maintain a strong military defense.

In addition to opposing Obama’s policies and agenda on embryo research, abortion funding and abstinence-education defunding, the resolution noted opposition to “the President’s determination to strip pro-life healthcare professionals of their conscience protections.”

The resolution urged Obama to “nominate strict constructionist judges who seek to make decisions based on the original intent of the United States Constitution and, therefore, faithfully interpret rather than make law or impose their political views on the nation.”

Further, the resolution protested any effort to “eradicate the symbols of our nation’s historic Judeo-Christian faith from public or private venues.”

The document resolved “That we earnestly pray” for the president to “use the constitutional authority assigned to his office to promote liberty and justice for all people, including the unborn,” and to “join hands with President Obama and his administration to advance the causes of justice insofar as those efforts are consistent with biblical principles.”

At a news conference following the vote, SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Richard Land said that since the 1995 SBC resolution on racial reconciliation, African American Southern Baptists have grown from 347,000 to 797,000, and other non-white Baptists are growing numerically as well.

The Resolutions Committee “really has its hand on the pulse beat of where Southern Baptists are” in terms of social values in stating its disagreements with Obama, Land said, “but at the same time [Southern Baptists] are very gratified” that an African American could be elected president.

“Race has been the serpent in the garden of America for a long time,” Land said.

During the only debate of the Resolutions Committee report, committee chairman Daniel Akin told messengers although the committee was sympathetic to the contents of an amendment to the resolution by T.C. Pinckney of Alexandria, Va., it would be more fitting in the context of a different resolution or document.

Asked to explain how his amendment was germane in a resolution about Obama, Pinckney told messengers:

“The resolution deals at some length with families and with homosexuality and that is really propagated in the schools. President Obama has appointed, recently, a gentleman who has headed the homosexual effort to increase their influence in the public schools as one of his top advisors in education. I think the [amendment] is very, very pertinent.”

Bruce Shortt, a layman and attorney from the Houston suburb of Spring, spoke in favor of Pinckney’s amendment, explaining that Obama appointee Kevin Jennings, founder and president of the Gay and Lesbian Student Education Network, “is responsible for placing of thousands of clubs in public middle schools and high schools that promote the homosexual and bisexual lifestyle.”

TEXAN editor honored at Southwestern luncheon

LOUISVILLE, Ky.?Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary welcomed more than 250 alumni and friends to its annual alumni luncheon during the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting, June 24. The seminary honored a Baptist state paper editor with the Distinguished Alumnus Award in addition to hearing a president’s report and electing alumni association officers.

Southwestern presented Gary Ledbetter, communications director of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention and editor of the Southern Baptist TEXAN, with the 2009 Distinguished Alumnus Award. Ledbetter received his master of divinity from Southwestern in 1981.

“As I have gotten further away in years from my time at Southwestern, I have become more aware of the impact that it made on my life,” Ledbetter said.

“I live in gratitude for those who added to my life and prepared me for ministry at Southwestern. Even the ones that I would not want to be professors at Southwestern today added something to my life.”

Ledbetter also expressed appreciation to the churches, faculty and graduates who have invested in Southwestern and subsequently invested in his life.

“It’s the alums of Southwestern who make a Southwestern degree worth having,” Ledbetter said. Ledbetter also thanked his friends and co-workers at the SBTC, including Jim Richards, the convention’s executive director.

Ledbetter earned a doctor of ministry (D.Min.) degree and served as vice president for student development at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary from 1995 until 2001. He spent 25 years in student ministry, serving in churches in Arkansas, Texas and Indiana. While in Indiana, he served as the state convention’s director of communications and student ministry and was editor of the Indiana Baptist from 1989 to 1995.

Ledbetter recently published a book titled “The Day of Small Things: A History of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, 1998-2008.”

President Paige Patterson shared with alumni what God is doing in and through Southwestern. Despite difficult economic times, he praised God that the institution remains debt free and is able to keep tuition rates from increasing when many institutions have been forced to do so.

“In the process of all of this, we have not only been able to keep the doors open but (we have) a thriving situation in which we continue to grow,” Patterson said, adding, “We have the most students in the history of the institution that have begun the process of matriculating at Southwestern Seminary.”

Patterson noted two seminaries around the world with which Southwestern is partnering. In 2005, Southwestern adopted Bibelseminar in Bonn, Germany, as an extension center to provide a master’s level program in theology for the institution.

Southwestern is also part of an effort to establish a school in the Central Cathedral in Seville, Spain. The former monastery became the center of the Protestant Reformation in Spain when a series of pastors read the Scriptures, were converted to Christ, and became expository preachers. Many of the writings of these pastors, including some on the issue of expository preaching, have remained untranslated since that time, but Southwestern has joined the efforts to translate them into English.

“What an exciting time to be at Southwestern Seminary,” Patterson said.

In election of national alumni officers, Doug Munton, pastor of First Baptist Church in O’Fallon, Ill., was elected president and Hayes Wicker, pastor of First Baptist Church in Naples, Fl., was elected vice president.

Texas accompanist devoted half century to music ministry

SOUTHLAKE?A Texas woman who enjoyed a half-century with “a front-row seat” watching thousands of people come to faith in Christ was honored posthumously on June 22 at First Baptist Church of Southlake.

Reba Andrae, 69, of Bedford, died June 12, in a local nursing home where she had lived for several months after suffering a stroke. The former pianist for the Southlake church had also served as an accompanist at First Baptist of Brownsville, Oakview Baptist in Fort Worth, College Heights Baptist in Plainview, Riverside Baptist in Fort Worth and East Grand Baptist in Dallas, as well as First Baptist of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. She played the piano since the age of 3, then served as an accompanist for her home church when she turned 9.

Music evangelist John McKay asked her to accompany him in his first recording session in 1960 and later recommended she join he and evangelist James Robison when the two men teamed up to launch a crusade ministry.

“Reba was a classical pianist with a touch reminiscent of angels treading on the keys,” Robison shared. “Her love and her warmth literally found expression as she poured her heart out through the keyboard of a piano or organ. Reba’s great God-given talent was presented to the world in the sound of music.”

After eight years with Robison’s ministry, she served another 20 years accompanying McKay in the crusades and church concerts where he ministered. A few months ago McKay heard Andrae share her favorite memory of those years, quoting her answer: “‘I have been blessed beyond measure to have looked into the faces of thousands of lost souls who were saved. I have had a front-row seat.'”

Mourners present for the service noted Andrae’s gift of encouragement with her oldest granddaughter sharing, “She loved showing her joy in whatever her family was joyful about. She was a great audience,” Whitney Newby added. “Now she’s part of the cloud of witnesses cheering us on this journey.”

Former Arkansas governor and Baptist minister Mike Huckabee remembered traveling with the Robison ministry staff in the late 1970s, telling the TEXAN, “She was a caring, kind and sensitive person who would always quietly seek out people in pain and comfort them. She had a servant’s heart and one of her special gifts was giving affirmation to those around her. She laughed at our bad jokes, complimented us when we really needed it and encouraged us when it seemed the world had caved in.”

“She never liked the limelight,” McKay remembered. Speaking at the memorial service, he said, “She was satisfied doing her part, standing like a member of Gideon’s Army around the camp, holding forth the lamp of Jesus Christ.”

During a crusade in Dayton, Ohio, McKay and fellow staffer Joe Simmons heard the organ accompaniment drop out during an invitation hymn while the pianist continued. Rushing over to check on the organist, Simmons found her on her knees, admitting her need for assurance of salvation. “We can correct that right now, Reba,” Simmons recalled telling her as she professed faith in Christ.

McKay offered the illustration as an invitation for church members gathered at the memorial service to recognize their need for a Savior. Son Todd Ware and daughters Mel Tunney and Missy Clements closed the service in singing “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.”

Survivors include daughters Mel Tunney and Missy Clements, both of Nashville, Tenn., sons Todd Ware of Hurst and Jeffrey Ware of Goldsboro, N.C., and seven granddaughters. In lieu of flowers and because their mother was adopted, the siblings requested donations be made in her honor to the Gladney Center for Adoption based in Fort Worth.