SBC 2016: A CONVENTION TO BE REMEMBERED
It was a Convention to be remembered, there is no doubt about that. In the week of the 2016 Southern Baptist Convention: history was made, love and mercy was shown, old ideas were challenged, and stereotypes were shattered. Indeed, it was a three days that will not be forgotten. In this article I will be covering what I think were the four most interesting/most important events that transpired.
I. Steve Gaines Was Elected As President Of The SBC.
In one of the most pastoral, humble, and unifying moments I've seen in my lifetime, J.D. Greear withdrew himself from the race for SBC President. This event gave Steve Gaines the Presidency. Greear, feeling that a 51-49 split in the race would foster disunity in the SBC said, "For the sake of our mission and convention, we need to leave St. Louis united!" Immediately afterward it was shared that Gaines also was thinking about dropping out for the sake of unity. After Dr. Gaines and Dr. Greear prayed and talked about it, Dr. Greear decided that he would be the one to drop out. When Greear asked Gaines to speak, he took the mic and said some extremely kind words about Greear, even saying, "J.D. is one of the finest men I know."He continued on to say this, "I want Jesus to be lifted high, and us to be together." While I do have some theological and ecclesiological issues with Dr. Gaines, I believe if he truly strives to lift Jesus high, that he will lead our convention just fine. Our new President also said that he wanted us to be together, a message both him and Greear proclaimed. Greear said, "The task of those of you who voted for me is not to complain that things did not go our way, it is to follow the example of our Savior who came not to be served but to serve," he continued, "We exist as a convention of churches because we believe we can do more together than apart." I believe Dr. Greear is absolutely right here, we should continue to joyfully work together with each other, even where there are differences. We are stronger together. This convention is blessed to have such unity between these two men. This is an example for us, especially myself, that men who sincerely disagree can sincerely love each other and happily partner together for the fulfilling of the Great Commission. I thank God for both of these men, and I pray that He will bless Dr. Steve Gaines as he leads this convention for presumably the next two years.
II. Resolution 7: "On Sensitivity And Unity Regarding The Confederate Battle Flag" Passed With An Overwhelming Majority.
In 1845 Southern Baptists formed around a common goal: Support for the Confederacy and slavery. Tuesday afternoon, the Southern Baptist Convention disowned the Confederate battle flag, saying in Resolution 7,
Our God is a God who loves miracles. I believe our Convention can now say with Joseph, "As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good," (-Genesis 50:20a). I have never been prouder of our convention for what transpired in this resolution. It truly was a wonderful day of repentance and resolution for the SBC. During the debate over the resolution former SBC President James Merritt stood up and gave the most inspiring business meeting speech you may ever hear. He stood there and pleaded powerfully for the Messengers to strengthen the original resolution. He proclaimed near the middle of his speech, "Southern Baptists are not a people of any flag, we march under the banner of the cross of Jesus and the grace of God." He then received an amazing response of applause and cheers from the crowd. As the crowd quieted down he continued with what be the most powerful statement of the entire convention, "All the Confederate flags in the world are not worth one soul of any race!" The resolution was then voted on and passed with overwhelming support!
Amidst this amazing moment, there is one thing I feel needs to be addressed. After the resolution passed, a very upset Paul Pressler called a "point of order" and proceeded to very angrily address President Ronnie Floyd and Chief Parliamentarian McCarty. He essentially said that they knew he wanted to speak to this and "deliberately ignored" him. Chief Parliamentarian McCarty then took to the podium, cut off Pressler's mic, and proceeded to tell everyone in the room why Pressler was out-of-order. Chief Parliamentarian McCarty once again proved to be a valuable asset to the SBC, diffusing this awkward, rude outburst. I am disappointed and heartbroken that Judge Pressler lashed out like this. In the 70's and 80's he was the man behind the Conservative Resurgence, the man behind men like Paige Patterson, Adrian Rogers, and Bailey Smith getting into office and transforming the SBC into the conservative, biblically faithful convention we have today. But now he will be remembered by my generation (18-30 year olds) as the angry old guy who yelled at the 2016 Convention, and not the revolutionary who turned this convention around. So here I plead with our younger readers to forgive Judge Pressler here and still show him the honor and respect due for the amazing man he is. We all have faults and make mistakes, and he's just a man, so I plead with you guys to forgive our brother.
III. For The First Time Ever, Dispensationalism Was Publicly Challenged In The SBC.
For the last several decades the belief that the geopolitical nation of Israel is still God's chosen nation has been the firm belief of "most" Southern Baptists. However, this was not always the case. Men like Boyce, Broadman, and Broadus, early figureheads of the SBC did not hold to the view that the church and Israel were separate, but that the church is the eschatological fulfillment of Israel. Israel is now those who come to God by faith in His Son, Jesus.
A resolution was brought forward "On Prayer and Support For Israel" at the convention. This would usually pass with no opposition, but not this year. With a large amount of young Baptists and international Baptists switching to more covenantal views on the Church/Israel relationship, it was challenged by multiple people on the floor of this year's convention. The main contender was Israeli messenger Jamal Bishara, pastor of First Arabic Baptist Church in Phoenix, Arizona. He gave a long and what I believe to be biblical opposition to the resolution. After he got done, SBC giant Paige Patterson got up and threw his dispensational weight around and gave a good defense of the resolution. The resolution did pass, although it passed by a very slim margin. On the face of it this does not seem too terribly important, but I believe this goes to show how strong of a presence the younger, more covenantal, more Calvinistic Baptists are gaining within the Convention. I am very happy about this, although I do pray that we remain patient, trust God, and work together with those who differ with us during this period of passing the torch from one generation to another.
IV. The Orlando Shooting Was Properly Addressed: With Love, Grace, And Mercy.
The Convention also warmed and encouraged many souls with our resolution to pray for and support the victims of the Orlando Massacre. In Resolution 1, the Committee on Resolutions stated:
I'm so thankful for a convention that stands for the sanctity of human life, inside or outside the womb. This Convention went to show that we define our positions based on the Bible and not by identifying with the right or the left politically, we identify with scripture and I thank God for that! I am very excited to see where the SBC goes because I feel like it is heading in the right direction. Soli Deo Gloria, and God bless the SBC as we move forward.