Unity, missions focus of SBC in Houston
    June 17 2013 by Michael Foust, Baptist Press

    Messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention June 11-12 re-elected Fred Luter, the body’s first African American president, to another one-year term and heard him deliver a rousing challenge to Southern Baptists to unite and pray for revival.
    The call for cooperation and revival was delivered by other leaders, including Executive Committee President Frank Page, and from members of a Calvinism advisory committee who spoke in the exhibit hall the day prior to the convention. 
    “Could it be,” Luter asked during a special June 11 evening service focused on revival, “that the reason that lost friend, that lost relative, that lost co-worker, that lost neighbor, that lost classmate, have not yet turned from darkness to light is because they don’t see us as the body of Christ getting along? Friend, how is it that we say we love God, whom we’ve never seen, yet don’t speak to our brother and sister that we see every day?”
    Messengers also passed 12 resolutions that covered a variety of issues, including one that expressed “our continued opposition to and disappointment in” the Boy Scouts’ decision to allow homosexual members. The resolution affirmed the right of churches to determine their affiliation with the Scouts. 
    Another resolution that garnered significant attention addressed mental health, calling on Southern Baptists to fight the “stigmatization and prejudice” of those with mental health concerns and to “love and minister to” them. It passed in light of the suicidal death of Rick Warren’s youngest son and the publication of a new book by Frank Page about the suicide of his daughter Melissa.
    Luter was elected unopposed, getting a standing ovation from the messengers when Registration Secretary Jim Wells cast the ceremonial ballot for the convention. 

    Photo by Morris Abernathy
    Pablo Rodriguez, a volunteer at Bethel Baptist Church’s block party in Houston, prays with Fred Luter, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, June 8 at the church. Luter visited several churches holding evangelistic outreaches as part of Crossover 2013. More than 200 families from the neighborhood attended the evangelistic event.

    The overwhelming majority of the 5,100 registered messengers came to a special revival-focused service June 11 – the annual meeting hadn’t had night sessions the previous two years – where Charles Billingsley of Thomas Road Baptist Church (Lynchburg, Va.) led congregational worship in music for more than 45 minutes, likely a record in recent SBC history.
    For revival to fall on the SBC, Luter said in his message from John 13:34-35, Southern Baptists must have a love for the scripture, the Savior and the saints (fellow Christians). Luter gave the most attention to the final point – the need for Southern Baptists to love one another.
    The roadblock to a revival, Luter said, may be that the lost world does not see Christians loving one another with unconditional love. 
    Southern Baptists “will never see revival in the world until we first see revival in the church,” Luter said. It must begin with pastors and leaders, he added. 
    “... Those saints who love contemporary music, do you really love them? Those saints who love traditional music, do you really love them? Those saints who love praise songs, do you really love them? Those saints who are Calvinist, do you really love them? Those saints who are not Calvinist, do you really love them? Those saints who love just a King James Version of the Bible … do you love them? Those saints who love the Holman Christian Standard Bible, do you love them? Those saints whose churches … have Baptist in their name, do you love them? Those churches that don’t have Baptist in their name, do you love them?

    “The question of the hour my brothers and my sisters, [is] do we really love the saints of God,” Luter said. “Do you love the saints of God enough to work together to impact lostness in America? Jesus says we should love each other like He loved us, and He loved us so much that he died for us.”


    On Tuesday night (June 11) and Wednesday afternoon (June 12) – before the meeting was gaveled to a close – Luter led messengers in saying, in unison multiple times, “Lord, send a revival, and let it begin with me.”
    During his report, Page mentioned one barrier to unity – the debate over Calvinism – that led him to form a 19-member advisory committee. It issued its report in late May. 

    “I am not naïve,” Page said of the differences over Calvinism. “I know there will continue to be problems and difficulties but I am convinced that if we will talk to each other together we will see a unity that will allow us to win more men, women, boys and girls to Christ than ever before.”
    The Great Commission, and not Calvinism, should be the focus, Page said. The report by the Calvinism team – not an official convention committee – urged Southern Baptists to “grant one another liberty” on the issue and “stand together” for the Great Commission. 
    “We affirm that, from the very beginning of our denominational life, Calvinists and non-Calvinists have cooperated together,” the report said. “We affirm that these differences should not threaten our eager cooperation in Great Commission ministries.”

    Boy Scouts

    The Boy Scouts resolution – overwhelmingly approved – said the Scouts’ decision to allow gay-identifying youth is “viewed by many homosexual activists as merely the first step in a process that will fundamentally change the BSA,” putting “the Scouts at odds with a consistent biblical worldview on matters of human sexuality.” It further said the decision “has the potential to complicate basic understandings of male friendships, needlessly politicize human sexuality, and heighten sexual tensions within the Boy Scouts.”
    Churches that choose to sever ties with the Boy Scouts should not abandon their ministry to boys, the resolution stated, but should consider expanding their Royal Ambassadors ministry (www.wmu.com/ra), “a distinctively Southern Baptist missions organization to develop godly young men.” It urged churches and families that remain in the Boy Scouts “to seek to impact as many boys as possible with the life-changing gospel of Jesus Christ, to work toward the reversal of this new membership policy, and to advocate against any future change in leadership and membership policy that normalizes sexual conduct opposed to the biblical standard.”

    Mental health

    The resolution on mental health, also overwhelmingly approved, identified such mental health issues as autism disorders, intellectual disability, mental health conditions like schizophrenia, clinical depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorders and diseases of the aged including dementia and Alzheimer’s. The resolution expressed support for “the wise use of medical interventions” and supported research and treatment “when undertaken in a manner consistent with a biblical worldview.” 
    “We call on all Southern Baptists and our churches to look for and create opportunities to love and minister to, and develop methods and resources to care for, those who struggle with mental health concerns and their families,” the resolution said.
    The subject of mental health was further spotlighted when Ronnie Floyd, pastor of Cross Church in Springdale, Ark., made a motion that called on SBC entities to work cooperatively to create and identify resources available to individuals and churches that minister to those who suffer from mental health challenges. The motion was referred to the Executive Committee and other entities.
    Floyd cited statistics that 58 million Americans and 450 million persons worldwide suffer from mental disorders and 1 million die from suicide annually. He said churches and communities are filled with people who need Southern Baptists to minister to them and their families. “It’s time for the SBC to be on the front lines of mental health challenges,” he said.
    Messengers also passed a resolution calling on churches to protect children from sexual abuse and to pray for abuse victims.
    (EDITOR’S NOTE – Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press. With reporting by Diana Chandler, BP staff writer; Barbara Denman, director of communications for the Florida Baptist Convention; and Erin Roach, assistant editor of Baptist Press. Visit SBC 2013 for full coverage of the annual meeting.)
    6/17/2013 6:03:20 PM by Michael Foust, Baptist Press | with 0 comments
    Filed under: Houston, missions, SBC, unity

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