Breakout sessions to spotlight race, gender roles, Great Commission

Kingwood The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention annual meeting isn’t shying away from what often are labeled “hot-button” issues in its panel discussions, and convention president Juan Sanchez hopes they serve as a model for civility. 

The program features four breakout sessions during a scheduled 90-minute lunch Tuesday, Nov. 13, covering such issues as race, gender and sexuality. Messengers will be able to select two of them. The meeting will take place at Second Baptist Church, North in Kingwood.

“Our goal is not to push any particular agenda or position, but to equip pastors, church leaders, and church members to handle these issues when they are confronted with them in their local churches,” Sanchez, pastor of High Pointe Baptist Church in Austin, told the TEXAN. “In addition, because they are ‘hot-button’ issues for many, we also hope to provide a model for how to have humble, edifying, Christian conversations in a manner that provides more light than heat and that maintains the dignity of all our brothers and sisters, regardless of their personal position on some of these matters.”

Each breakout session spans 40 minutes. The session titles are:

u “Moving forward in conversations about race.” Richard Taylor (moderator), SBTC associate director of personal evangelism and fellowships; A.B. Vines, SBC first vice president; Andrew Hebert, pastor of Paramount Baptist Church in Amarillo; and Juan Alaniz, Spanish language pastor of Houston’s First Baptist Church. 

u “Fulfilling the Great Commission as the nations come to Texas.” Sanchez (moderator); David Fleming, pastor of Champion Forest Baptist Church in Houston; Philip Levant, pastor of Iglesia Bautista La Vid in Hurst; and Eric Shin, pastor of New Life Church in Houston.

u “The value of women serving in the church.” Bart Barber (moderator), pastor of First Baptist in Farmersville; Laura Taylor, SBTC women’s ministry associate; Katie Van Dyke, assistant director of operations and strategy for Speak for the Unborn; and Grant Castleberry, pastor of discipleship at Providence Church in Frisco. 

u “Gender and sexuality.” Ben Wright (moderator), pastor of Cedar Pointe Baptist Church in Cedar Park; Barry Creamer, president of Criswell College; and Owen Strachan, assistant professor of Christian theology at Midwestern Theology Seminary and senior fellow of the Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood.

“I am sure some may see these breakouts as trying to dive into the hot-button issues of our day,” Sanchez said. “Actually, though, that was not my thought when we talked about the need for these panels. Rather, Dr. Jim Richards, our executive director, Michael Criner, our chair of the Committee on the Order of Business, and I agreed that these were some of the most prominent issues facing our pastors and churches today.”

A Tuesday morning panel discussion during the plenary session will spotlight another sometimes contentious issue: “Complementarianism and the Future of the SBC.” It is scheduled for 10:13 a.m. Sanchez will moderate. Scheduled panelists include Strachan, Castleberry, and writer and speaker Karen Yarnell.

The planning team for the annual meeting, Sanchez said, noted that complementarianism was an issue at this summer’s Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Dallas.

“Our confessional statement [Baptist Faith & Message 2000] is clear that only men are to be pastors. We’re in agreement on that,” Sanchez said in email comments. “But each local church works that out in different ways. Some pastors and churches apply complementarianism narrowly—only within the home and the local church. Other pastors and churches apply complementarianism more broadly—within the home, the church, and culture at large. We must recognize all who profess Jesus Christ as Lord as our brothers and sisters in Christ. And we must also recognize that all who confess the BF&M 2000 are cooperating partners in fulfilling the Great Commission through the SBTC. 

“Still, we need to be able to have these conversations (and disagreements) in a Christian manner that upholds the dignity of all involved,” Sanchez added. “Since our planning team sensed that this issue will come up again at the SBC meeting in Birmingham [in 2019], we hope to model how that conversation might take place among brothers and sisters who are one in Christ, love one another, and may be at different points on the spectrum of complementarianism.”  

TEXAN Correspondent
Michael Foust
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