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Baptist polity alive and well at SBC Annual Meeting

Jun 28, 2018

We have all heard it jokingly said, “Wherever you get two Baptists together, you will have three opinions.”

That’s why when you get 10,000 or so Baptists together – in addition to other guests and the media – you never quite know what will happen.

That was the case at the recent annual meeting in Dallas.

For example, numerous Baptists told me prior to the annual meeting that North Carolina pastor J.D. Greear would be easily elected SBC president. Upon arrival in Dallas, just as many Baptists I spoke to were convinced of just the opposite.

In the end, the original pronouncement was correct. Greear won over Ken Hemphill by a wide margin.

The handling of convention business by messengers was – for the most part – went on as expected. However, some anxious moments ensued during discussion regarding a motion that called for the resignation of the Southwestern Seminary trustee executive committee because of how former seminary president Paige Patterson’s recent termination was handled.

As you may know, religious and secular journalists are provided a special Press Room by Baptist Press, of the SBC Executive Committee, for a live video and audio feed of the proceedings.
I think this was the first year in many years that I did not set foot in the actual meeting hall because the activity in and around the newsroom was so busy.

What’s more, the newsroom had a bit of unexpected excitement on the last day when an independent journalist was escorted out of the convention center by Dallas police. We are working on trying to find out exactly what happened and hope to have an accurate account soon.

As usual, Baptists made their mark on the host city by extensive canvassing and the sharing of the gospel during Crossover as well as by sponsoring a Harvest America crusade at AT&T Stadium.

I wonder what caused the upswing in attendance this year. Was it simply the Paige Patterson controversy or the presidential election or a combination of both?

Another unexpected controversy arose when Vice President Mike Pence spoke to messengers on Wednesday morning of the convention (see related Letter to the Editor below).

It appeared to me that messenger support was about 50/50 on Pence speaking at the annual meeting. For me, if the vice president could have left out most of the middle (political) part of his speech, it would have been great.

But I guess that’s what we should have expected after all, because that’s why he came.

In the end, it is good to know that we have a born again man of faith advising the most powerful man in the world.

It was good to see resolutions approved by messengers addressing the dignity and protection of women.

Another motion designed to protect churches from sexual predators by establishing a national database was passed on to the SBC Executive Committee for evaluation. Honestly, I understand the autonomy of our churches and all, but it seems to me that some type of voluntary database for use by churches in the hiring process could be useful.

Baptists continued to express displeasure with Russell Moore and the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, introducing a motion to defund the commission and shift its funding to the International Mission Board, but the motion was defeated.

That’s a bit of what happened at our Baptist meeting that caught my attention. Baptist polity appears to be alive and well in 2018.

Tim Yarbrough is editor/executive director of the ABN.

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