Messengers conduct business as SBTC pursues God’s presence at annual meeting

CORPUS CHRISTI—The 25th annual meeting of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention on November 14-15 drew 1,031 messengers and guests. Following the theme “Pursuing Presence,” convention president Todd Kaunitz led messengers to emphasize prayer in the life of local churches. 

Kaunitz preached to the convention Monday night from Jeremiah 29:11 and encouraged listeners to seek God’s presence, saying “… a spiritual awakening is a byproduct of a church revived, and without a revived church, there is no spiritual awakening in the culture.” 

Sexual Abuse Advisory Committee
A committee appointed by the convention president brought four recommendations intended to resource affiliated churches in preventing, responding to, and reporting sexual abuse. The Sexual Abuse Advisory Committee arose from a motion approved at the 2021 annual meeting. 

The committee recommended:

  • 1
    That the SBTC contract with a consultant(s) and/or organization(s) to aid the convention and its member churches regarding matters of sexual abuse;
  • 2
    Development of a church resource guide for (a) assisting churches in training their congregations for sexual abuse prevention, (b) ministering to sexual abuse survivors and their families, (c) protocols for sexual abusers and accused sexual abusers in the church, and (d) appropriate reporting of suspected sexual abuse in accordance with state law;
  • 3
    Cooperation with the Southern Baptist Convention’s “Ministry Check” effort;
  • 4
    That the SBTC strengthen its internal policies and practices regarding reporting sexual abuse, accessibility of resources to affiliated churches, and informing staff of available resources and services.

Implementation of the recommendations will be overseen by the SBTC Executive Board and the SBTC staff.

Biblical challenges
In addition to Kaunitz, messengers heard thematic sermons from four preachers throughout the convention meeting. 

Julio Arriola, director of the Send Network’s church planting partnership with the SBTC, began by referencing the Acts 13 commissioning of Paul and Barnabas, which followed a time of prayer and fasting. “As the church prays and fasts,” Arriola said, “so goes the church …. Revival in our churches will happen when we fast, pray, and go.”

Nathan Lino, pastor of First Baptist Church of Forney, spoke from 1 Timothy 2:1-7. Speaking of Paul’s opening exhortation in verse 1, Lino said, “The very first ministry of the church you ought to address … is the corporate prayer life of the church.” 

Matt Boswell, pastor of The Trails Church in Prosper, directed messengers to Matthew 28:19-20. He said, “After the announcement of the Great Commission, Jesus offers His followers the great comfort of His presence.”

Chip Luter, senior associate pastor at Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, La., preached from 1 Chronicles 4, the story of Jabez. “Jabez recognized that the Lord’s hands are the best hands,” he said, urging his listeners to trust their lives to God. 

Items of business
Messengers approved a $27.8 million budget for 2023. This represents a 4.8% increase over the 2022 budget. SBTC Chief Financial Officer, Joe Davis reported that receipts were $408,275 over budget through September 2022. The 2023 budget continues to allocate 45% for in-state ministry and 55% to Southern Baptist causes in North America and around the world.

A motion was approved intended to clarify Article IV, Section 1, of the SBTC Constitution regarding “Affiliation Qualifications.” The motion clarifies that the phrase, “The office of pastor [shall] be limited to men,” will be interpreted by the convention to refer “not only to the titles of senior pastor or lead pastor, but to any role designated by the noun, ‘pastor….’” Regarding already affiliated churches, the interpretation will be applied beginning Jan. 1, 2024. 

The convention’s Executive Board awarded the Leaders Legacy Award, for individuals who have distinguished themselves in service to Christ through the SBTC, to John Greene—who has served at Harmony Hill Baptist Church in Lufkin for five decades.  

Messengers approved five resolutions dealing with gratitude for the host city and convention president, expressing opposition to gambling, affirming a biblical view of gender, and celebrating the overturn of Roe v. Wade in the June Dobbs v. Jackson case, which returned abortion to individual states for regulation. 

Kaunitz was elected by acclamation for a second term as president. He was joined by Eddie Lopez, en Español pastor for FBC Forney, who was elected by acclamation as vice president. Sharonda Cooper, a member of Emmaus Church in Georgetown, was elected convention secretary.  

The 2023 SBTC annual meeting will be held Nov. 13-14 at Cross City Church in Euless. 

—Jane Rodgers contributed to this report.

Gary Ledbetter
Southern Baptist Texan
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