BALTIMORE (BP)—Messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention elected Arkansas pastor Ronnie Floyd as president and heard repeated calls for prayer and revival — highlighted by outgoing President Fred Luter’s presidential sermon.
Messengers also gave the first of two required approvals to an amendment of the SBC constitution, requested information about a Muslim student who was admitted to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and heard Executive Committee President Frank S. Page call for a “Great Commission Advance” in SBC missions.
The June 10-11 convention’s 5,294 messengers marked an increase from 5,103 in Houston last year. Virginia had more messengers than any other state at the Baltimore convention with 497. Maryland was second with 429.
Floyd, pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, was elected on the first ballot with 51.62 percent of the vote. Maryland pastor Dennis Manpoong Kim received 40.70 percent of the vote while Kentucky pastor Jared Moore received 5.91 percent.
“I want to see revival come to the church of Jesus Christ,” Floyd said at a news conference following his election, “so that America would be awakened with a powerful God consciousness where great numbers come to faith and trust in Jesus Christ as Savior.”
Preaching from Psalm 80:18-19, the passage for this year’s “Restoration and Revival through Prayer” theme, Luter said Southern Baptists must repent of their failure to share the gospel with lost men and women.
“As your president for the past two years, my heart’s desire has been that God would make us one and that God would send revival and renewal through the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention,” Luter, the SBC’s first African American president, said.
“Brothers and sisters, the only way that will happen in this nation, the only way that will happen in this convention, the only way that will happen in our churches is if the people of God cry out to God in prayer, if there is genuine repentance, if there is genuine remorse, and if we call on the name which is above every name,” Luter said.
The proposed amendment to Article III of the SBC Constitution would grant two messengers to the annual meeting for each cooperating church that contributed to convention causes during the preceding fiscal year. A church would qualify for additional messengers through one of two avenues:
— A church would receive one additional messenger for each full percent of its undesignated receipts given through the Cooperative Program, as a designated gift through the Executive Committee for convention causes or to any SBC entity.
— A church would receive one additional messenger for each $6,000 given during the preceding fiscal year through CP, as a designated gift to the EC for convention causes or to any SBC entity.
The $6,000 figure was selected by adjusting the present figure of $250 — adopted in 1888 — for inflation and other factors. To become final, the amendment must be approved again at next year’s annual meeting in Columbus, Ohio.
Page told messengers about a strategy for world evangelism and discipleship called Great Commission Advance. A key component of the strategy is CP, Page said. He reported that the Executive Committee will soon reduce its CP allocation for the third time during his tenure as president in order to send more money to Southern Baptist ministries at home and abroad.
“I’ll drop the Cooperative Program if you can show me something else that long-term is effective and engages every church concurrently and consistently in an Acts 1:8 strategy,” Page said. “Show it to me, and I’ll support it…. But I haven’t found it yet.”
Page said the average CP gift among Southern Baptist churches rose for the first time in two decades to 5.50 percent.
The convention adopted nine resolutions on topics ranging from transgender identity to payday lending, church revitalization, global hunger relief, the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and casinos and lotteries.
The resolution on transgender identity affirmed “God’s good design that gender identity is determined by biological sex and not by one’s self-perception.” The resolution invited transgender persons “to trust in Christ and to experience renewal in the gospel” and opposed all efforts to “validate transgender identity as morally praiseworthy.”
The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission presented awards to the Green family, which owns Hobby Lobby, and Saeed Abedini, an American pastor who is imprisoned in Iran for his Christian faith.
The Greens received the John Leland Religious Liberty Award for their refusal to abide by the federal government’s abortion/contraception mandate, which requires employers to provide abortion-causing drugs to their workers. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule on the Greens’ case later this month.
ERLC President Russell D. Moore said the Greens “believe that every human life from the moment of conception is sacred, and they believe that the government is not the Lord of their consciences.” Messengers gave the Greens a standing ovation.
Abedini received the Richard Land Award for Distinguished Service for “faithfully serving the Lord Jesus Christ … despite the risk involved.” Abedini converted to Christianity from Islam and led house churches in his native Iran before moving to the U.S. in 2005. During a trip to Iran in 2012, he was arrested and sent to prison, subject to beatings and solitary confinement. Abedini’s wife Naghmeh accepted the award on her husband’s behalf to a standing ovation.
SWBTS Muslim student
On two occasions messengers addressed the recent decision of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Paige Patterson to admit a Muslim student, contrary to the seminary’s admission policy of admitting only Christians. During Patterson’s report to the convention, a messenger requested a “straight-forward explanation” of the decision.
In response, Patterson apologized to the convention, saying, “I made an exception to a rule that I assumed, probably wrongly, the president has a right to make.” The student is not funded by CP money and is “very open to the gospel,” Patterson said.
The decision to violate admission policy was motivated in part by a desire to win the student to Jesus, Patterson said. He said he will tell God on judgment day: “I violated a policy but I didn’t want to stand before you with blood on my hands. Dear God, I did the best that I knew how.”
Steve James, chairman of Southwestern’s board of trustees, told messengers that trustees will discuss concerns about the Muslim student’s admission at meetings in September and October. James requested prayer for Patterson and the seminary.
Earlier, a messenger moved that Southwestern be required to explain its decision regarding the Muslim student. The motion was ruled out of order because it directed an entity rather than requesting an action.
In other matters:
— Messengers elected Clint Pressley, pastor of Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C., as first vice president and Hance Dilbeck, pastor of Quail Springs Baptist Church in Oklahoma City as second vice president. The convention re-elected John Yeats as recording secretary and Jim Wells as registration secretary.
— The Crossover evangelistic push in Baltimore preceding the annual meeting yielded 214 salvation decisions. More than 2,300 volunteers participated in Crossover in partnership with 32 local churches.
–The CP exhibit featured a series of panel discussions projected on high-definition screens in the exhibit hall and streamed on the Internet. Nearly 125 panelists addressed such topics as Southern Baptist cooperation, international missions, church planting theological education, ethnic diversity, social justice and sexuality.
— The International Mission Board presentation focused on God’s work in Cuba and featured testimonies from Cuban believers. IMB President Tom Elliff reported that more than 6,000 churches were planted overseas last year in conjunction with national partners. Last year the average IMB missionary helped lead 49 people to faith in Christ, led 24 new converts to be baptized, helped mentor at least five potential leaders and was involved in discipleship with 90 people.
— The North American Mission board presentation highlighted a Baltimore church revitalization effort and a church plant in Montreal that grew to 700 worshipers in its first year. “We are absolutely committed to planting evangelistic churches all across America,” NAMB President Kevin Ezell said. NAMB also presented a new evangelistic conversation guide developed by Jimmy Scroggins, pastor of First Baptist Church in West Palm Beach, Fla.
— Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary President Jeff Iorg told messengers that the seminary plans to announce the site of its new Southern California main campus later this summer.
— Messengers proposed 17 motions, six of which were referred to SBC entities for consideration. A motion asking churches to “pray passionately and regularly for persecuted Christians” was adopted by unanimous consent. Ten motions were ruled out of order.