This last week was the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, this year held in Houston, Texas with the theme of “Revive Us.” I was unable to attend this year’s convention but as someone who usually attends and who tries to stay informed and active through participating in our denomination on the local association, state, and national levels, I was thankful I was able to “attend” through watching all of the sessions, reports, and messages through the live stream online. As such, here’s my summary report to you about what stood out to me from this year’s convention:
1. There were several important resolutions that were passed. A resolution from the SBC is a nonbinding statement of belief or opinion that reflects the views and concerns of the messengers present at the annual meeting. Some of the resolutions to note from this year’s convention include:
A. A call for local churches and denominational entities to be proactive in the protection of children from all forms of physical and sexual abuse.
B. A statement affirming our disappointment in and opposition to the change in policies by the Boy Scouts of America regarding their stances on homosexuality and membership.
C. A statement affirming our commitment to address all forms of mental illness through biblical, gospel-centered, and medical research, counseling, and treatment.
D. A statement affirming our commitment to religious liberty and the free exercise of religious belief and freedom of conscience. This statement calls for religious liberty to be honored and upheld in all aspects of our government on all state, federal, civilian, and military levels.
2. There was the historic transition from the leadership of Richard Land who had served as president of the Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission to its new president Russell Moore, formerly of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville.
3. Three forms of concern were addressed and still need to be addressed in the coming days and months: the reported plunge in baptisms and church membership within churches of the convention, the drop in international missionaries from above 5,000 to around 4,800, and the near historic low participation in this year’s convention. Only 5,016 messengers registered as representatives of local churches for this year’s meeting, making it the second lowest attended convention in fifty years. The largest attended convention was in Dallas in 1985 when over 45,000 messengers participated in the annual meeting.
4. Finally, the annual meeting was surprisingly absent of any major controversy or divisive issue. The Calvinist/Traditionalist divide that had been so visible and vocal in some of the previous conventions was hardly mentioned apart from an advisory team’s report that sought to unite Southern Baptists and bridge differences. And the big issue from last year wasn’t even mentioned. At no point did anyone (in my hearing) ever even use the term “Great Commission Baptists” which was passed as the official alternate name of the convention last year after heated debate. I would be interested to know how many, if any, churches are using the name in place of Southern Baptist to describe themselves – not many based on this year’s convention.
These are just a few of the things that stood out to me. If you’d like more information I’d be happy to answer your questions about what the SBC is, how it works, or any of the other business that was discussed and dealt with at this year’s meeting. A lot of information and archived video footage is also available online.
Serving you in the gospel,