DALLAS (BP) – The 2018 election for Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) president now has two candidates – representing different generations of Southern Baptists.
Two years after withdrawing from a closely contested election for SBC president North Carolina pastor J.D. Greear once again will be nominated for president at the 2018 convention annual meeting Florida pastor Ken Whitten announced Jan. 29.
Additionally it was announced that Ken Hemphill an administrator at North Greenville University in South Carolina and a former president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary will be nominated for president a coalition of Southern Baptists announced Feb. 1 via the Louisiana Baptist Message.
Greear 44 “is all about what Southern Baptists have been all about” Whitten pastor of Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz Fla. said in relaying his intention to nominate Greear during the SBC Annual Meeting June 12-13 in Dallas.
“We bleed missions. We bleed evangelism and we bleed the gospel of Jesus Christ ... J.D. Greear will give us the opportunity to impact another generation while continuing to honor the former generation of Southern Baptists” Whitten said.
Louisiana Baptist Convention Executive Director David Hankins said regarding Hemphill in the Baptist Message “We desire to elect a man who is a Southern Baptist through and through values our understanding of the gospel and has an established record of affirming the cooperative work of our local churches through the associations state conventions and national entities.”
Hankins added “We sought Ken out because of his record in these areas as well as his impeccable character remarkable breadth of experience in Southern Baptist life passion for missions and evangelism and an active ministry of revitalization to pastors and churches.”
At the 2016 annual meeting in St. Louis neither Greear nor current SBC president Steve Gaines received a majority of votes on the first or second ballot for president. So Greear pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham N.C. withdrew his candidacy and moved that the convention elect Gaines pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova Tenn. on the third ballot.
In a statement Greear said “I am again allowing my name to be placed in nomination” after “a lot of prayer encouragement and counsel with the consent of our [Summit] leadership team and Veronica my wife.”
“The basic things that God laid on my heart haven’t changed from 2016” Greear wrote “and I feel more committed to them than ever.”
Among themes Greear would emphasize as SBC president he wrote are “the gospel above all” as the convention’s source of unity; “cultural and racial diversity”; “intentional personal evangelism”; “church planting” and “engagement of the next generation in cooperative giving and mission.”
During the 16 years Greear has pastored The Summit worship attendance has grown from 610 in 2002 to just under 10000 according to statistics available through the SBC’s Annual Church Profile (ACP). Total baptisms increased from 19 in 2002 to 631 in 2017 at the church’s nine campuses.
Over the past two years The Summit has given more than $1 million through the Cooperative Program (CP) according to the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSCNC) making it the top CP-contributing church in the state in terms of total dollars given in 2016 and again in 2017.
In 2017 The Summit gave 2.4 percent of its undesignated receipts through CP the same percentage it gave in 2016 according to ACP data confirmed by the church.
Hemphill 69 was president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary from 1994-2003 and national strategist from 2003-11 for the SBC’s Empowering Kingdom Growth (EKG) emphasis an initiative launched in 2002 calling Southern Baptists to renewed passion for God’s kingdom.
When EKG transitioned from the SBC to North Greenville University in 2011 Hemphill became founding director of the university’s Center for Church Planting and Revitalization continuing EKG’s emphases under the acronym CPR. After retiring from that position he returned to North Greenville University to serve as special assistant to the president for denominational relations.
Hemphill has also pastored churches in Kentucky and Virginia and led the Home Mission Board’s (now the North American Mission Board) Southern Baptist Center for Church Growth in the early 1990s. He noted he wants the SBC to “reclaim our heritage of cooperative partnerships.”
“I think there has been an erosion of how local churches associations state conventions and the national convention really function together in every dimension of the Great Commission” Hemphill said in an interview.
Hemphill noted he is not “running against” any other candidate.
“It’s always better for Southern Baptists when we have several good candidates” for convention president “because it gives us an opportunity to exercise our congregational polity” and discern the Holy Spirit’s leading “in a corporate context” Hemphill said.
Hemphill’s written statement underscored his commitment to the CP the Baptist Faith and Message and the “Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation” – a 2012 document that advocated the “traditional Southern Baptist” understanding of the doctrine of salvation and attempted to distinguish it from the beliefs of “New Calvinism.”
First Baptist Church in Hendersonville N.C. where Hemphill is a member recorded 20 baptisms in 2017 with an average worship attendance of 1475 according to data from the SBC’s ACP database. Over the past decade the church saw a high of 78 baptisms in 2009.
The Hendersonville church has given 10 percent of undesignated receipts through the CP annually since at least the mid-1990s and is among the top CP-giving churches in North Carolina.