SBTC AM 2021: Messengers affirm Heartbeat Act, condemn sexual violence

SBTC Annual Meeting 2021
Prayer took center stage at this year's SBTC Annual Meeting. SBTC PHOTO

FLINT—The 2021 Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention met Nov. 8-9 at Flint Baptist Church, south of Tyler, to celebrate the many “But God” moments (referencing Ephesians 2:4-7) experienced by churches and individuals who have weathered challenging circumstances by the strength of God’s faithfulness over the past couple of years.

Messengers approved a 2022 total budget of $26,555,573, reflecting a 1.51 percent increase from the preceding year. The SBTC will continue its practice of forwarding 55 percent ($14,385,565) of all Cooperative Program funds to the Southern Baptist Convention, while retaining 45 percent for in-state ministries.

The 10 resolutions approved by messengers included ones encouraging the promotion of the Annual Church Profile, affirming the Baptist Faith & Message 2000’s definition of pastor as a position for men, and urging prayer and aid for refugees.

Resolution 8 condemned all forms of sexual violence and called upon church leaders to take proactive measures to prevent sexual violence in their churches and communities and to support victims.

Also approved was a motion by messenger Michael Criner, pastor of Rock Hill Baptist Church in Brownsboro, calling for newly elected SBTC President Todd Kaunitz to form a team to work alongside convention leadership regarding sexual abuse prevention and response. Criner was careful to point out he was not asking for an investigation or formation of a task force, but rather, studying how the convention can “better serve and be steadfast in equipping our churches to righteously” handle any allegation or instance of abuse and preventing “to the best of our ability” any future instances of abuse.

Criner said his desire would be that messengers “speak with a loud and unanimous voice that the gospel demands we do everything in our power to care for those who have been sexually abused.”

An effort by several messengers to replace Resolution 9 “On the Texas Heartbeat Act” failed after a lengthy and lively discussion.

SBTC messengers also approved resolutions of appreciation for host Flint Baptist Church, outgoing SBTC President Kie Bowman, Executive Director Emeritus Jim Richards and his wife, June.

The 2021 meeting marked the formal passing of the mantle from Richards to Nathan Lorick, who assumed his new role this summer.

Monday evening, Richards delivered his “valedictory” address on Joshua 4 as the convention’s founding director and Lorick gave his inaugural message on the transition from the leadership of Moses to that of Joshua. Lorick urged messengers to both remember God’s past faithfulness and, as a new generation, to “rise up and advance” with the “mission that God has always had us on.”

Sermons were also delivered by Bowman, pastor of Hyde Park Baptist Church in Austin; Joe Lightner, president of Jacksonville College; Lakan Mariano, pastor of College Hills Baptist Church in San Angelo, and Ed Johnson III, pastor of Harvest Fellowship Baptist Church in DeSoto. Lorick and Matt Boswell—performer, composer and pastor of The Trails Church in Prosper—closed the annual meeting with a time of corporate prayer and worship Tues. evening, Nov. 9.

Also on Nov. 9, four panels discussed areas of concern to messengers and churches: the persecution of the church (see Persecution); evangelism and prayer (see Prayer); rebuilding the pastor and church after COVID (see COVID); and the church and worship for the Young Pastors Network (see Worship).

All told, the annual meeting registered 807 messengers and 219 guests for a total of 1,026 attendees representing 345 total churches. The 2022 SBTC annual meeting will be held Nov. 14-15 at the American Bank Center in Corpus Christi.

Reporting by Jayson Larson, Gary Ledbetter, Jane Rodgers

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