Greetings again friends,
I write to you the final weekend of June, and within the last forty-eight hours, the federal Supreme Court issued its ruling in the Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Org. case. Though I very much would like to write about the issues surrounding abortion and other near-death implications of being biblically pro-life, I will reserve my ramblings for a future month. I haven’t yet read the ruling, and I am currently digesting the opinions of people I greatly respect. That being said, I would like to write this month about the Southern Baptist Convention.
Many of you have read several times in the past of how I have called “independent Baptist” a redundant term. One of the primary characteristics of being a Baptist church, historically, is that of local church autonomy. We answer to only one higher order of organizational leadership: God Himself. We hold highly His Word as our guide, but no person or body have any authority over First Baptist Church. That being said, we have freely chosen to associate with like-minded churches for the purposes of fellowship, strengthening one another, and collaborating to amplify our mission efforts. By churches working together, our witness in missions and evangelism can be greater than the sum of our parts. We are active parts of Walnut Cove’s Ministerial Association and a gospel saturation network called ChristTogether. We also choose to cooperate with other churches of our “theological stripe” through the Pilot Mountain Baptist Association, the Baptist State Convention, and the Southern Baptist Convention.
For 363 days per year, the S.B.C. is governed by an entity known as the Executive Committee, but for two, our churches – through sending messengers – are in control during the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention. This year’s was held in California on June 14 and 15. There are several important things that came out of the Convention meeting, and I’d like to share with you my take-aways.
The first important thing I’d like to note is the election of a new presiding officer. Due to terms and term limits, this doesn’t take place every year. This year, Dr. Bart Barber was elected to serve as the 2022-23 President. He is a pastor of the First Baptist Church in Farmersville, Texas. I know him as a recent part of the Committee on Resolutions and have been following him on Twitter for the past thirteen months. Two friends of mine from here in North Carolina know him personally, one rather well, and I respect him greatly. I appreciate his stance on many issues, and I trust that he’ll lead the Convention well. Join me in praying for him as he serves our church in this way.
The second thing I want to read you in on is a bit of a watershed moment in our Convention: the approval of the recommendations of the Sexual Abuse Task Force. Stemming from a rather damning expose published by the Houston [Texas] Chronicle in 2017, the Task Force was created several years ago, and given more authority by me and other messengers at last year’s Convention meeting. In doing so, we also directed the Executive Committee to waive attorney-client privilege so that the Task Force and its contracted investigators might uncover attempts to cover up allegations of abuse. The Task Force published its report in May, and I invite anyone to visit <www.sataskforce.net> in order to read its heart-breaking findings. Indeed there has been great sin in the camp across our Convention of churches. For this, we grieve and repent. God’s Kingdom has been harmed. In an attempt to correct mistakes made, and avoid making them again, the Task Force made several recommendations to the Convention’s messengers. After much (though humble) debate, the messengers approved the recommendations! I am pleased to report this to you, and I very much hope that the steps taken in the days ahead will further equip our church to defend and protect the sheep of our flock!
Additionally, a number of “resolutions” were adopted. These are position statements, but have zero impact upon our church. I am not convinced the Convention even needs resolutions moving forward, but several of them are very good. We will discuss a few of those during an up-coming Wednesday evening.
Fourthly, I am discouraged that there was a bit of a sour tone among some during the Convention meeting. A few hot-heads were more passionate about kicking churches out of S.B.C. than conducting the business at hand. Still others wanted to inject politics into a Christian meeting. The heads of our six seminaries and our Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission were asked a series of “gotcha” questions from the floor that seemed to hold little value beyond trying to get these faithful leaders to endorse specific divisive political strategies to address issues upon which everyone already agreed. These attempts to stoke division are unhelpful and frustrate me. Though the sour tone was present, it was much less so than last year’s Convention, and I am thankful for the overall harmony that saturates our eclectic group of churches!
The fifth important take-away I’d like to report to you comes from our International Mission Board (recipient of our Lottie Moon Christmas Offerings) and our North American Mission Board (recipient of our Annie Armstrong Easter Offerings). The annual Convention meeting began Tuesday morning with a commissioning ceremony, where we celebrated over fifty missionaries that are being sent into the field. Most of these are heading to a foreign country, and nearly half of them had to stand behind a fabric screen such that only their silhouette was visible. They used alias names because they are heading to countries where it will be illegal to be a Christian missionary working to “proselytize” anyone. As we – yes WE – commission these faithful saints into their respective corners of the mission field, it was a powerful reminder why we gladly choose to partner together as a Convention of churches! First Baptist Church probably couldn’t afford to educate and train, supply and fund one missionary well, but by giving to the Cooperative Program, we are one of about 65,000 churches that collaborate to train, resource, pray for, and stand behind tens of thousands of men and women that carry the great Good News of salvation to the farthest corners of the globe. This is why we support financially. This is why we choose to affiliate with a denominational network. This is why we strive to work together to be the Gospel Carriers, and thereby the Gospel Carrying Church, God has called us to be!
Ev’ry kindred, tongue and nation
join to sing the great salvation;
loud as mighty thunders roaring, floods of mighty waters pouring,
prostrate at His feet adoring… worthy the Lamb!
Rev. Andrew J. Reynolds