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.”

TEXAN Correspondent
Jerry Pierce
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