June 2009

Motions focus on controversial Seattle pastor

June 24 2009 by Marv Knox, (Texas) Baptist Standard

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Relationships with a controversial pastor who is influential among many young Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) pastors drew the attention of multiple motions presented at the SBC annual meeting July 23.

The motions were among 31 motions proposed at the meeting. The only motion brought to a vote was one calling for a Great Commission Task Force.

The task force proposal was the only one of 31 motions put to a vote. Messengers heard eight motions that directly or indirectly related to a pastor who is not even affiliated with the SBC.

They focused on Mark Driscoll, pastor of 7,000-member Mars Hill Church in Seattle and leader of the Act 29 church-planting movement.

Less than a week prior to the SBC annual meeting, Driscoll was the subject of an exposé in Baptist Press, the convention’s news service. The report focused on his preaching on oral and anal sex, use of profanity and apparent approval of drinking wine.

Of the eight Driscoll-related motions, three were referred to boards of SBC agencies and institutions. They included calls for:

• All SBC entities to monitor and report their “expenditure of funds for any activities related to or cooperative efforts with Mark Driscoll and/or the Acts 29 organization.” The motion was referred to all SBC boards.

• All SBC organizations to “refrain from inviting speakers … who are known for publicly exhibiting unregenerate behavior, including but not limited to speech such as cursing and sexual vulgarity, or who publicly state their support for the consumption or production of alcohol.” This motion also was referred to all SBC boards.

• Trustees of LifeWay Christian Resources to investigate one of their employees, Ed Stetzer, and trustees of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary to investigate their president, Danny Akin, and evangelism professor, Alvin Reid. Stetzer has worked with Driscoll in church planting, and Driscoll has preached at Southeastern Seminary. Messengers referred the motion to the boards of LifeWay and Southeastern.

Five Driscoll-related motions were ruled out of order. They included requests that:

• SBC organizations refrain from inviting speakers who are known to be unregenerate and curse, speak vulgarly and support alcohol.

• LifeWay remove books written by Driscoll from its bookstores.

• The SBC “biblically distinguish between consuming alcohol, which is an issue of individual conscience, and being drunk, which is categorically a sin.”

• SBC organizations and affiliated churches “support and partner with other Christian agencies and individuals of like-minded primary theological convictions for the sake of the Great Commission and the glory of God.”

• The Executive Committee invite Driscoll “to address the concerns of his accusers and all other interested parties” when the convention meets next summer.

In addition, the convention referred six other motions to the Executive Committee. They included proposals to:

• Change distribution of SBC world hunger offering receipts to be consistent with Cooperative Program allocations, providing 66 2/3 percent to the International Mission Board and 33 1/3 percent to the North American Mission Board.

• Form a committee to study how to involve more ethnic churches and ethnic church leaders in “serving the needs of the SBC through cooperative partnership on the national level.”

• Consider allowing churches to designate contributions to “particular convention causes” and still consider the money part of the Cooperative Program.

• Revise how funding is allocated to the six SBC seminaries to accommodate enrolment at extension centers away from their main campuses.

• Adopt the U.S. Christian Flag “as a tangible symbol to unify the American believers under one flag to fulfill the Great Commission.”

• Amend Article VI of the SBC Constitution to change how trustees of SBC entities are allocated and selected.

LifeWay Christian Resources received three additional referrals, including requests that the convention’s publishing house:

• Research “more affordable educational alternatives to traditional Christian schools.”

• Mark the 400th
anniversary of the King James Version of the Bible in 2011.

• Produce only American-made Vacation Bible School resources.

The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission also received three referrals. They asked the convention’s public-policy organization to:

• Join with the American Family Association in “calling on the Pepsi-Cola Company to remain neutral in the culture war in our country by refraining from promoting the gay/lesbian lifestyle and agenda.”

• Declare a “Sanctity of Life Year” in the near future.

• Start a petition to “end abortion in America and the funding of Planned Parenthood, along with all other abortion-providing entities.”

The SBC seminaries received a motion calling upon them to publish information regarding the “state conventions or affiliated national conventions from which their ministerial students or master’s-level students originate.”

All SBC entities received a proposal asking them to “submit any action which acts to interpret the Baptist Faith & Message … so that the action may be approved by a majority of the messengers” to SBC annual meetings.

The Order of Business Committee received a motion stipulating that the convention post the American flag, accompanied by an honor guard, at the convention’s annual meetings.

In addition, seven other motions were declared out of order for various reasons. They focused on:

• Prayer for “the safety and welfare of Iranian citizens.”

• Banning “the Holman Christian Standard Bible and any translation that questions the validity of any Scripture passage or verse” from use in convention literature.

• Claims that the world will come to an end May 21, 2011, and the end of the “church age.”

• Banning books by pastors T.D. Jakes and John Hagee, Catholic Bibles, and
90 Minutes in Heaven and The Shack from LifeWay Christian Stores.

• Disallowing use of secular music in any promotional materials produced by the convention.

• Imploring Congress and President Obama “to seek biblical direction with respect to blessing, and not cursing, the nation of Israel.

• Condemning President Obama for declaring June 2009 as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Pride Month.

Complete coverage of the 2009 SBC meeting

6/24/2009 7:41:00 AM by Marv Knox, (Texas) Baptist Standard | with 0 comments

Hunt: SBC needs Great Commission Resurgence

June 24 2009 by Marv Knox, (Texas) Baptist Standard

LOUISVILLE, Ky.—Despite membership declines compounded by an apparent generation gap, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) faces a bright future, SBC President Johnny Hunt said June 23.

Hunt, pastor of First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga., met with reporters shortly after messengers to the SBC annual meeting re-elected him without opposition to a second year in the convention’s top post.

In the two months leading up to the annual meeting, Hunt called for the SBC to embark upon a Great Commission Resurgence as a way to counteract the convention’s malaise. The Great Commission was Jesus’ command to spread the gospel throughout the whole world.

BP photo by Kent Harville

Johnny Hunt, re-elected to a second one-year term as president of the Southern Baptist Convention, speaks during a press conference June 23 on the first day of the two-day SBC annual meeting at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, Ky.

Hunt collaborated with two SBC seminary presidents — Danny Akin of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and Al Mohler of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary — to promote formation of a Great Commission Task Force. That group would study the convention and recommend ways it can change in order to reach more people with the Christian gospel.

The proposal drew resistance from some older SBC institutional leaders and executives of some state Baptist conventions. They expressed concerns about a section of the recommendation that calls for “a commitment to a more effective convention structure.”

Hunt met with reporters later in same the day that Mohler presented the proposal to the convention and Akin affirmed it in a major address, as well as just a couple of hours before messengers overwhelmingly approved the task force.

“I think there is a sense of urgency” about facing the convention’s problems, Hunt said when asked about the SBC’s two-year drop in membership and scenarios that predict continuing decline.

“Everybody is talking the same talk — that we need this Great Commission Resurgence,” he noted. “We are saying, ‘The times have been desperate, but we have not been.’ But we’re hearing Southern Baptists say, ‘We need to be serious’” about revitalizing the convention and spreading the gospel.

“People are really speaking and sharing their hearts,” he said of the response he received from the Great Commission Resurgence proposal. “I’ve received international calls from missionaries, saying, ‘Don’t get discouraged; stay the task.’”

Hunt said he was “a little taken aback” when SBC Executive Committee President Morris Chapman mentioned him by name in a defense of the SBC status quo against the proponents of the Great Commission Resurgence.

Hunt and Chapman previously discussed the proposal for two hours in what Hunt called “civil communication.” He also had taken pains to reassure alarmed state convention executives, he added.

“I have no desire to touch the structure of the SBC,” Hunt said, noting he does not have authority to reorganize the convention, even if he wanted to.

Changing the convention structure is not his passion, he added. “I understand and respect the process of convention trustees. To try to usurp their authority would be the worst thing in the world I could do. …

“Whether we like it or not, we have allowed a good bit of mistrust to develop in the context of our convention. People feel our words are loaded: ‘What did you mean by that?’ Then you question one another’s intent or motive. Our yes should be yes, and our no should be no. I desire to be a man of character and integrity.”

Asked about his desired outcomes from the Great Commission Resurgence, Hunt mentioned allocating more money to fund missions efforts and also eliminating redundant ministries.

“Is overlap taking dollars that could be placed somewhere else to pierce the darkness with the gospel?” he asked.

The Great Commission Resurgence proposal produced positive results, even before it was put up for a vote, Hunt said.

Both of the convention’s missions agencies responded with positive actions, he said.

“The North America Mission Board is studying refocusing Great Commission ministry, and the International Mission Board is looking to save dollars,” he said, adding some state conventions also are studying how they fund state and national endeavors.

Also, the proposal attracted a crowd of young adults to the convention meeting, he said.

“I’m encouraged to see so many young leaders here,” he said, urging the SBC to “move beyond perception and begin to hear the tone of some of these young leaders. I am so encouraged go catch their passion.”

Hunt theorized resistance to the Great Commission Resurgence proposal reflected “a little bit of each” — a generation gap within the convention, as well as disagreements over methodology and church structure, and possibly even disagreements over how Christians should dress in worship and what kind of songs they should sing.

Addressing the generation gap, Hunt called on older Baptists to tune in to the younger generation. “Learn from them,” he said. “Stay abreast of them.”

Southern Baptists will rally to support the Great Commission Resurgence because they love missions, he said, predicting increased giving to the SBC’s Lottie Moon Offering for foreign missions.

“Southern Baptists are passionate about the Great Commission, “ he said. “They’ll rob both Peter and Paul to do the missions.”

Hunt promised to name a “very fair” roster of Great Commission Resurgence task force members. It includes two seminary presidents, a college president, a director of associational missions, three Executive Committee members and pastors of churches of various sizes, and it will reflect ethnic and geographical diversity, he said.

Ultimately, the response to Great Commission action is the prerogative of local churches, Hunt said, expressing confidence in that fact.

“I believe our best days are ahead of us. They can be,” he said. “I believe the Southern Baptist Convention is in a defining moment. We’re saying to our constituents, to 43,000 churches: ‘We need more money for church planting, for the Great Commission, to spur on in evangelism.’”

Responding to questions on other topics, Hunt said:

• Seattle megachurch pastor and non-Southern Baptist Mark Driscoll “stole the show” on the first day of the SBC meeting.

Driscoll and his Acts 29 church-planting movement have attracted a huge national following, particularly among young pastors. But he has drawn the ire of older generations, particularly for his use of profanity and discussion of vulgar topics, grunge dress and acceptance of alcohol use.

Several motions presented from the floor of the convention opposed Driscoll and chastised Southern Baptists for affiliating with him.

“I don’t know him; I’ve never met him,” Hunt said.  “I do know a lot of young men like to follow his blogs and his podcasts.”

Hunt also said efforts to mandate that Southern Baptists shouldn’t work with Driscoll are out of line.

“The entire premise of being a Baptist is thrown under the bus when you start telling someone who they can fellowship with,” he said. “We believe in the priesthood of the believer.”

• Calvinism is “part of our history,” despite some messengers’ condemnation of the theological system named for the 16th century Christian reformer.

“This debate has been alive 400 years,” Hunt said, referencing the longstanding strain of Calvinism in Baptist life. “There are wonderful men and ladies on both sides. The Baptist tent is large enough for both.”

• Inviting President Barack Obama to speak to the SBC meeting would have been “unwise” this year.

Hunt said he was not aware that any invitation had been extended to Obama, even though George W. Bush consistently addressed the convention’s annual meetings through live broadcasts.

“We will have a resolution to really honor our president, especially in context of his being the first African-American person to be elected president,” Hunt said. “We have much to celebrate, but many conservative believers are troubled by his policies. So, it would have been unwise to invite him.”

The convention likewise did not invite Republican political leaders to address this year’s annual meeting “because we want to give our prayer support to our president,” he said.

• U.S. Christians don’t need to be worried about the possibility of being thrown in prison for preaching the gospel or accused of hate crimes for addressing moral issues.

“I’m not overly concerned (about that), especially if our preachers stay in the context of preaching biblical truth,” Hunt said. “But if the day comes when we would be in prison for preaching the gospel, we would join Christians in about two-thirds of the rest of the planet.”

U.S. Christians should not believe political resistance could prevent them from preaching the gospel, especially in light of the testimonies of faithfulness from so many of their sisters and brothers around the globe, he said.

Complete coverage of the 2009 SBC meeting

6/24/2009 7:29:00 AM by Marv Knox, (Texas) Baptist Standard | with 1 comments

Hunt names GCR Task Force

June 24 2009 by Bob Terry, The Alabama Baptist

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Overwhelming approval of a Great Commission Task Force climaxed 25 minutes of discussion during the Tuesday evening session of Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting.

Messengers authorized SBC President Johnny Hunt to appoint a task force to determine how “Southern Baptists can work more faithfully and effectively together in serving Christ through the Great Commission.” The task force is to report its findings and recommendation to the 2010 annual meeting of the SBC in Orlando.

Three members of the task force named by Hunt today have North Carolina ties.

Al Gilbert, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, and J.D. Greear, pastor of the Summit Church in Durham, were among the 19 members of the group. Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, was also named to the task force.

Other members of the task force are: Ronnie Floyd of Springdale, Ark., chair; Jim Richards, executive director, Southern Baptists of Texas Convention; Frank Page, of Taylors, S.C.; David Dockery, president of Union University in Jackson, Tenn.; Simon Tsoi, IMB trustee from Arizona; Donna Gaines of Cordova, Tenn.; Tom Biles, director of missions, Tampa Bay Baptist Association; Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; John Drummond, layman from Florida; Harry Lewis of the North American Mission Board; Mike Orr of Chipley, Fla.; Roger Spradlin of California; Bob White, Georgia Baptist Convention executive director; Ken Whitten of Tampa, Fla.; and Ted Traylor of Pensacola, Fla.

Mohler earlier offered the motion to form the task force. He told messengers there was no reason to fear asking if there is a better way for Baptists to work together. He called the present “a turning point in history” and said churches need to be more active in getting the gospel to the ends of the earth.

California messenger Ron Wilson offered a substitute motion calling for the North American Mission Board and the International Mission Board each to study how better to reach their respective assignments with the gospel.

The substitute failed after Mohler countered that the thrust of the Great Commission Task Force motion was not to address how the two boards should do their work but how to get the resources needed by the boards.

Jerry Nash of Florida called the motion “a waste of time, funding and other resources.” He charged Southern Baptists no longer are agreed on the “heart of the gospel.” He pointed out 30 percent of seminary graduates are Calvinists, and Calvinists occupy leadership throughout the SBC.

“If we cannot agree that God loves everyone and that Jesus died that everyone may have the opportunity to hear the gospel, how can we expect evangelical churches to support the convention?” he asked.

Former SBC president Frank Page of South Carolina responded that the Great Commission Task Force rose above any single contentious issue. He reminded the messengers that more than 20 years ago, messengers asked the SBC president to appoint a Peace Committee to examine a difficult issue.

BP photo by Matt Miller

Daniel L. Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., was one of a few North Carolina Baptists appointed to the Great Commission Task Force.

At a press conference earlier in the day, Hunt said Southern Baptists face a defining moment in history. Anticipating adoption of the Great Commission motion, he told reporters, “Southern Baptists need a Great Commission Resurgence to reemphasize reaching the lost, to inspire us to do more church plants, to penetrate the darkness of lostness.”

While he has led the charge for the Great Commission Resurgence, Hunt said he has never been alone. He noted an influx of e-mails from international missionaries urging him to “stay the course” in its support.

Hunt said he had no desire to touch the structure of the SBC. He declared his respect for the responsibility of trustees who are charged with directing the various SBC ministries and said he had communicated that position to state executives with whom he had talked.

Hunt said he wanted the Great Commission Task Force to come to its work “at ground zero and begin there.” He added he was encouraged that IMB and NAMB had already started to examine their work to see how more funds could be directed to primary responsibilities.

Still, Hunt said he expects to find overlap of programs and services in the denomination. He called some overlap good. Other overlap, he said, was bad because it takes money that could go to “piercing the darkness of lostness.”

Hunt said he expects to find some state convention models to celebrate. He added that the task force will challenge others to do more.

When asked if a 50–50 division of Cooperative Program funds between state and national conventions was a goal, Hunt said that was a good place to start.

“When can a state convention or a church say: ‘Enough is enough? We are big enough. Now we can give to penetrate the darkness.’”

Hunt said the starting point is with the church. They will be asked to examine their priorities, he said. Associations and state conventions will also be examined as well as the SBC.

In a theme interpretation Tuesday afternoon, Akin, author of the Great Commission Resurgence document, urged approval of the task force motion.

“Southern Baptists are compelled to get the gospel to the places where the gospel is not known,” he said. He added that figures provided by the IMB indicated 1.6 billion people never have heard the name of Jesus.

“That is not acceptable,” he said. “We have to loose the passion of Southern Baptists for the lost.”

In the Tuesday morning opening session of the annual meeting, Morris Chapman, president of the SBC Executive Committee, raised questions about the Great Commission Resurgence proposal.

“Is a Great Commission Resurgence more about the Great Commission than about the Southern Baptists Convention?” he asked.

“Does the Great Commission Resurgence seek to bring together all Southern Baptists—at the national, state and associational level—or does it unnecessarily alienate certain demographics?”

He also questioned whether the proposed task force honored the long-established principles of trustee governance of entities.

Finally, Chapman asked messengers to consider whether the proposal seeks “personal transformation of our hearts or institutional transformation of our structure.”

Complete coverage of the 2009 SBC meeting

6/24/2009 4:51:00 AM by Bob Terry, The Alabama Baptist | with 0 comments

Jack Graham diagnosed with cancer

June 24 2009 by Berta Delgado-Young, Baptist Press

PLANO, Texas — Jack Graham, pastor of the Dallas-area Prestonwood Baptist Church and a former Southern Baptist Convention president, has announced that he was recently diagnosed with prostate cancer and is taking a two-month sabbatical.

“Today I want to share something of the journey I, along with Deb and our family, have been on in recent months,” he shared in a June 20 letter to the 28,000-member congregation which appeared in the church’s weekend publication. “In April, after a routine checkup and subsequent biopsy, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. This was not what we expected to hear, but received it as a part of God’s plan for my life knowing full well we can trust Him in everything.”

Graham underwent successful surgery May 14 after consulting with doctors, led by personal physician Kenneth Cooper, founder of the Cooper Aerobics Center in Dallas and a longtime Prestonwood member.

BP photo

Jack Graham

Graham said physicians have assured him that his “prognosis is outstanding.”

“After much prayer, it was my desire to keep the surgery private for a number of reasons,” he wrote. “So, 10 days after surgery, I returned to the pulpit and a somewhat scaled-back schedule. That was a push, but God has been faithful to strengthen me.”

On June 6-7, Prestonwood celebrated Graham’s 20th anniversary as pastor of the church, which has more than tripled in membership since he arrived. On that weekend, a member of the church’s personnel committee announced that Graham would receive a two-month sabbatical in recognition of his milestone anniversary.

Graham returned to the pulpit the following weekend before beginning his sabbatical.

“It is perfect timing to begin that sabbatical now for the continued healing of my body, soul and spirit,” he stated, noting 1 Thessalonians 5:23: Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Graham said he will spend the next two months relaxing at home with wife Deb and their family and traveling.

“I also feel it is important to cancel my speaking engagements away,” he said, “and focus on my personal walk with Christ, fortify my faith, and make sure in all this journey that Christ is magnified.”

Executive Pastor Mike Buster said Graham is doing well. He added that the church family had a special time of prayer during all five worship services over the weekend.

“We are praying that this will be a time of continued healing and a season of restoration for him,” Buster said.

Buster said that over the next two months the preaching schedule will include ministers from the Prestonwood preaching team, along with guest speakers such as Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary President Danny Akin and O.S. Hawkins, president of Guidestone Financial Resources and a Prestonwood member.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Delgado-Young is editor of the communication ministry at Prestonwood Baptist Church.)

6/24/2009 4:04:00 AM by Berta Delgado-Young, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Messengers commend, criticize Obama

June 24 2009 by Norman Jameson, BR Editor

LOUISVILLE, Ky.—Southern Baptists both commended President Barack Obama and expressed opposition to some of his policies in a resolution passed June 24 at their annual meeting in Louisville.

A resolution commending Obama for his “evident love for his family” and expressing “pride in our continuing progress toward racial reconciliation signaled by the election of Barack Hussein Obama” as president was one of five resolutions approved by 8,731 messengers.

The resolutions committee, chaired by Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary President Danny Akin, considered 26 resolutions during three days of deliberations prior to the annual meeting.

Other resolutions called on Southern Baptists to consider adopting some of the 150 million orphans who “now languish without families” around the world; affirmed biblical positions on marriage and sexual purity; commended Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville on its 150th anniversary; and expressed appreciation for Southern Seminary personnel and others who worked on all the details to make the annual meeting run smoothly.

While the Obama resolution commended him for retaining “many foreign policies that continue to keep our nation safe” it also said Southern Baptists “deplore” his decision to expand federal funding for “destructive human embryo research”; “decry” increased funding for pro-abortion groups; “oppose” any stripping of conscience protections for health care workers unwilling to participate in abortions; and “protest” any effort to “eradicate the symbols of our nation’s historic Judeo-Christian faith from public or private venues.”

In a later press conference, Akin said the Obama resolution “strikes a really good balance” for prayer for the president, affirming him and making plain disagreements with some of his policies.

Richard Land, president of the SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission who served as a staff resource, said, “Race has been the serpent in the garden of America from the very beginning,” first with Native Americans, then with African-Americans. But, he said, since the racial reconciliation resolution passed by the SBC in 1995, the number of black members in Southern Baptist churches has increased 117 percent to almost 800,000.

“It would have been irresponsible not to speak to the election of the first African-American president,” Akin said. “We could affirm his election without affirming his policies where we have strong, strong disagreement.”

Southern Baptists have gone from being virtually an all white denomination “by choice” in 1970 to about 18 percent minority members now, according to Land.

The sexual purity resolution supports “the biblical definition of marriage as the exclusive union of a man and a woman:” rejects any attempt to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act; urges the U.S. Senate not to pass any legislation that would criminalize “deeply held religious beliefs and speech about homosexuality and other unbiblical sexual practices:” and supports the “current military code barring homosexuality in the military.”

Complete coverage of the 2009 SBC meeting

6/24/2009 3:15:00 AM by Norman Jameson, BR Editor | with 0 comments

SBC officer has NC connection

June 24 2009 by Staff and Wire reports

The newly elected second vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) was until last month pastor of North Carolina's largest Baptist church.

Stephen Rummage, former pastor of Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte, was elected to the SBC office without opposition on June 23. He will become pastor of Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Brandon, Fla., later this month. Before going to Hickory Grove, Rummage was director of the doctor of ministry program and professor of preaching at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest.

John Mark Toby, pastor of Beacon Hill Baptist Church in Somerset, Ky., was elected first vice-president, receiving 64 percent of the vote (1,039 votes). Ken Render, pastor of Lakeside Community Church in St. Clair Shores, Mich., received 35 percent (567 votes).

Johnny Hunt was re-elected SBC president with no opposition.

Complete coverage of the 2009 SBC meeting

6/24/2009 3:06:00 AM by Staff and Wire reports | with 0 comments

Messengers overwhelmingly adopt GCR motion

June 24 2009 by Baptist Press

Messengers overwhelmingly passed a motion June 23 authorizing the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) president to appoint a Great Commission Task Force to bring a report to the annual meeting in 2010 "concerning how Southern Baptists can work more faithfully and effectively together in serving Christ through the Great Commission."

By a show of ballots, the motion passed with approximately 90 percent of messengers supporting it. An attempt to pass a substitute motion asking the International Mission Board and North American Mission Board to study the issue and deliver the report failed by a similar margin. Debate lasted just over 20 minutes.

R. Albert Mohler Jr., a messenger from Highview Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., and president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, made the original motion and spoke for it during discussion.
"I believe it is right and fitting," he said, for Southern Baptists "to ask the hard questions," such as, "Is there more we can do?"
"This is not an effort to reinvent the Southern Baptist Convention," Mohler added.
Frank Page, a messenger from and pastor of First Baptist Church in Taylors, S.C., and a former president of the SBC, also spoke for the motion. Page and Mohler both spoke from the floor.
James Rodgers, pastor of Poplar Spring Baptist Church, Iva. S.C., spoke against it.
"We have the tool for the Great Commission," he said. "It's called the Bible. Get our people out of the pew. Messengers, pastors, that's what we're called to do. I don't think we need any help from a task force."

Earlier in the day, Morris H. Chapman, president of the SBC's Executive Committee, raised questions about the Great Commission Resurgence (GCR) effort in his report to the Convention.

Complete coverage of the 2009 SBC meeting

6/24/2009 1:12:00 AM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Southern Baptists face further decline

June 23 2009 by Rob Phillips, LifeWay

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Southern Baptist membership will fall nearly 50 percent by 2050 unless the aging and predominantly white denomination reverses a 50-year trend and does more to strengthen evangelism, reach immigrants, and develop a broader ethnic base, according to data just released by LifeWay Research.

Ed Stetzer, director of LifeWay Research, told editors of the Association of State Baptist Papers on Monday that while SBC membership has risen most years — by as much as 4 percent in 1951 — the rate of increase has been declining by 0.06 percent per year, and the membership change trend line has now passed into negative territory.

“If the 50-year trend continues, projected membership of SBC churches would be 8.7 million in 2050, down from 16.2 million last year,” said Stetzer. “Using U.S. Census projected population figures, SBC membership could fall from a peak of 6 percent of the American population in the late 1980s to 2 percent in 2050.”

BP photo by Van Payne

Ed Stetzer, director of the LifeWay research in Nashville, Tenn., speaks during the June 22 morning session of the Southern Baptist Convention Pastors’ Conference at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville.  

Stetzer quoted Cliff Tharp, formerly with LifeWay and an SBC statistician for 35 years, who said, “We have been slowing in our growth and have now passed into decline. We are right at the top of the arc and beginning to go down. But changes we make now can change that trend significantly. These stats are not new but it has never caught anyone’s attention until now.”

Stetzer said there are many factors that can contribute to such decline. One factor is that the mean age of the denomination’s members is increasingly older than the general population, especially in the South, and Southern Baptists are reaching and baptizing fewer young adults. Second, Southern Baptists have failed to keep pace with the rising number of non-white and non-black citizens in the United States.

“The difference in the mean age of Southern Baptists versus the U.S. population shows SBC members older, especially since 1993,” said Stetzer. “Prior to 2000, the difference in ages was not statistically significant, but we started to see a statistically significant divide in the age distribution of SBC members versus the general U.S. population after the turn of the century.”

Meanwhile, the percentage of the non-white and non-black population is very different in the U.S. versus the SBC, said Stetzer, drawing from widely respected General Social Service data. Last year, for example “other” races made up 10 percent of the U.S. population but only 2 percent of SBC membership responding to the GSS.

At the same time, the portion of the U.S. population that is foreign-born is outpacing the segment of foreign-born Southern Baptists. In 2008, 14 percent of the U.S. population was foreign born while only 3 percent of SBC members hailed from other countries.

The gap is particularly evident in the South, where immigrants make up a growing portion of the population, especially since 2000. “The South is becoming increasingly multi-ethnic but the SBC is not keeping pace,” said Stetzer. “Although Southern Baptists have done great work among immigrant and ethnic groups, they are still underrepresented in our denomination. Great opportunity exists for us to share the gospel and minister to people. Ironically, the world is coming to us more quickly than we are going to the world.”

Stetzer also addressed the recent decline in baptisms in Southern Baptist churches, pointing out that while baptisms have fallen every year but one since 1999, the trend line since 1950 shows no discernable pattern. “Baptisms often have risen several years in a row, only to fall for several years following,” he said. “The annual percentage change of total baptisms in the SBC since 1950 is essentially flat. That means total baptisms between now and 2050 are projected to remain roughly unchanged as well. We hope that the last few years of decline are not a trend but just a blip, but there is no way to tell.”

Complete coverage of the 2009 SBC meeting

6/23/2009 11:55:00 AM by Rob Phillips, LifeWay | with 0 comments

Hunt says SBC has 'vision problem'

June 23 2009 by Baptist Press

BP photo by Jon Blair

Johnny Hunt, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, shares a message during a June 21 morning worship service sponsored by the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists.

Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) president Johnny Hunt's president's address today was a sermon from 2 Chronicles 7 on the subject of "The State of our Southern Baptist Convention from Where I Sit."

Hunt, who was later re-elected SBC president with no opposition, referenced the proposed Great Commission Resurgence task force, which he supports. "It is not about structure," he said. "It's not about policy. The last thing I want to do is violate policy."  He said he has spoken about the issue to a host of people around the convention in recent days, including executive directors of state conventions.

The greatest problem within the SBC, he said, is a lack of vision. Regarding the shortfall in Lottie Moon giving, Hunt said, "We do not have a money problem. We have a vision problem." He said his church has increased its Cooperative Program (CP) giving in recent years and that a national increase in CP must begin at the local church.

Hunt listed four questions for messengers to consider:

1. "What if everyone took a close look to see if we're doing the best we can?"

2. "What if every pastor regardless of the size of his church, saw his church as a missionary-sending unit?"

3. "What if every pastor saw his church as a church-planting church?"

4. "What if all of us did our best to reach the lost, … realizing that the light that shines the furthest shines the brightest at home?"

He also read theoretical headlines reporting on what a Great Commission Resurgence would appear like:

"Southern Baptist Convention enjoys greatest unity in history"

"Southern Baptist churches see fourth straight year of growth."

"SBC, IMB, NAMB best run organizations by Forbes"

"IMB sends record numbers of missionaries"

Said Hunt, "That is the … president of the Southern Baptist Convention's heart. May God do it."

Complete coverage of the 2009 SBC meeting

6/23/2009 6:45:00 AM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

In about 30 seconds, SBC severs 125-year relationship with Texas church

June 23 2009 by Marv Knox, (Texas) Baptist Standard

LOUISVILLE, Ky.—The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) has discontinued its relationship with Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth because of the church’s perceived toleration of homosexual members.

Messengers to the SBC annual meeting dismissed the Fort Worth church in less than 30 seconds, voting overwhelmingly and with no discussion to approve a recommendation by the convention’s Executive Committee June 23.

The recommendation did not specifically mention homosexuality. But that issue has been the backdrop of controversy at the church since late 2007, when a dispute arose regarding whether to include pictures of homosexual couples in the church’s membership directory.

Broadway’s denominational affiliation came under question at last year’s SBC annual meeting. William Sanderson, pastor of Hephzibah Baptist Church in Wendell, asked the SBC to declare the church “not to be in friendly cooperation” with the convention.

The Executive Committee studied the issue this past year and met with representatives of Broadway in February. Then, on the eve of the SBC meeting in Louisville, the committee voted to recommend “that the cooperative relationship between the convention and the church cease, and that the church’s messengers not be seated, until such time as the church unambiguously demonstrates its friendly cooperation with the convention under (constitution) Article III.”

Kathy Madeja, chair of Broadway’s board of deacons, expressed regret regarding the convention’s action.

“We are disappointed with the decision of the Southern Baptist Convention,” she said. “Broadway Baptist Church has been affiliated with the SBC for over 125 years. Our mission at Broadway is and will continue to be consistent with the SBC’s stated enterprise of reaching the world for Christ.

“Like other SBC churches, membership at Broadway is by acceptance of Jesus as Savior and Lord and the experience of believer’s baptism by immersion.”

Broadway still complies with the SBC constitution, Madeja added.

“We do not believe Broadway has taken any action that would justify being deemed not in ‘friendly cooperation’ with the SBC,” she said. “It is unfortunate that the Southern Baptist Convention decided otherwise and has severed its affiliation with Broadway Baptist Church.”

The Fort Worth church has been pastorless most of the past year, since the previous pastor, Brett Younger, joined the faculty of Mercer University’s McAfee School of Theology in Atlanta.

Brent Beasley, who will begin his tenure as Broadway’s pastor next month, was moving from Memphis, Tenn., to Fort Worth the week of June 22 and unavailable for comment.

Article III of the SBC’s constitution notes that “churches not in cooperation with the convention are churches which act to affirm, approve or endorse homosexual behavior.”

In materials provided to the Executive Committee during its investigation, a Broadway staff member denied violating the SBC constitution, a position later reiterated by the church’s deacons.

“Broadway never has taken any church action to affirm, approve or endorse homosexual behavior,” Jorene Taylor Swift, minister of congregational care at the church, wrote to August Boto, the Executive Committee’s general counsel.

Swift called the assertion that Broadway has violated the SBC constitution “an unsupported and untrue allegation.”

“Broadway Baptist Church considers itself to be in friendly cooperation with the Southern Baptist Convention and has every intention of remaining so,” Swift wrote.

In fact, the church decided to publish its membership directory “with candid photographs of our members participating in many ministries and activities of Broadway,” she said. “One of the factors in choosing this style of directory was our belief that it does not make a statement to anyone to indicate that Broadway has in any way affirmed, approved or endorsed homosexual behavior.”

Swift’s letter acknowledged the church’s membership reflects “a variety of views” on homosexuality. “Like a number of other Southern Baptist churches, our congregation is trying to understand how to minister to those who are engaged in a homosexual lifestyle,” she added. “Our church has not adopted the position that the Bible condones this behavior.”

A May 21 letter to Boto from Broadway’s deacons addressed what it called “innuendo and gossip” regarding the church’s position on homosexuality.

“We have not denied that we, like most other churches, have a few gay members,” the deacons’ letter said. “We do not inquire about sexual orientation when people present themselves for membership. We do require their profession of faith in Jesus Christ as Lord followed by believer’s baptism.”

The deacons’ letter confirmed Swift’s statement that the church has not acted to “affirm, approve or endorse homosexual behavior.”

“Broadway Baptist Church desires to maintain its longstanding and historic affiliation with the SBC,” the letter said. “We believe our continued association with the Southern Baptist Convention will benefit both Broadway and the convention and further the kingdom of God.

“It is our sincere hope the Executive Committee will recommend Broadway Baptist Church be deemed in friendly cooperation with the Southern Baptist Convention.”

The outcome of Broadway’s dismissal could have significant impact on several of the church’s members.

Swift’s letter noted four faculty members at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth are members of the church. Because of the convention’s vote, those faculty members will be required to join congregations in good standing with the national convention or resign their teaching posts.

Madeja declined to identify those faculty members, citing the private and painful nature of the situation.

Complete coverage of the 2009 SBC meeting

6/23/2009 3:42:00 AM by Marv Knox, (Texas) Baptist Standard | with 3 comments

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