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SBC annual meeting goes to Indy
June 28, 2004
By Michael Foust
President George W. Bush speaks live via satellite from the White House June 15 to Southern Baptist messengers gathered in the Indiana Convention Center. BP photo
Southern Baptists declined to consider a new name for the denomination, pulled out of the Baptist World Alliance, rejected a much-publicized education proposal and heard a speech from President Bush during their June 15-16 annual meeting.
The meeting was the 25th anniversary of the 1979 Houston meeting, which launched a movement now known as the conservative resurgence that returned the convention to its biblical, historical roots. At that convention Adrian Rogers was elected president, launching a still unbroken string of conservative presidents.
A "Conservative Resurgence Reunion" was held during the convention.
"The heroes of the conservative resurgence are not those people whose names you know, but those who have come sacrificially to the conventions and voted their convictions and said the Word of God is going to be glorified among Southern Baptists," said retired Texas judge, Paul Pressler, a leader in the resurgence.
President Bush addressed messengers via satellite from the White House, reaffirming his pro-life stance and his support for a Federal Marriage Amendment. Touching on the embryonic stem cell debate without mentioning it by name, Bush said that life "is a creation of God, not a commodity to be exploited by man." Bush received one of the loudest ovations for his statement of support for a Federal Marriage Amendment.
"The union of a man and woman is the most enduring human institution, honored and encouraged in all cultures and by every religious faith," he said. "And government, by strengthening and protecting marriage, serves the interests of all."
Messengers elected a new president -- Florida pastor Bobby Welch -- and also tackled a handful of controversial issues.
They passed a resolution supporting a Federal Marriage Amendment but declined to take sides in an education controversy that gained steam leading up to the convention. A resolution that called on Southern Baptists to pull their children out of public schools did not make it out of the Resolutions Committee, and messengers subsequently defeated a related amendment.
Registration totaled 8,600 messengers, including 4,709 who registered online. Last year, some 3,000 messengers registered online.
In other noteworthy matters:
-- Messengers defeated a motion that would have formed a committee to study changing the SBC's name. The motion failed 55.4 percent (1,731 votes) to 44.6 percent (1,391 votes).
-- By a show of ballots messengers overwhelmingly voted to withdraw from the Baptist World Alliance. Theological issues formed the heart of the concerns cited by a BWA study committee.
-- By a vote of 63.5 percent (3,579 votes) to 36.5 percent (2,059 votes), messengers passed a recommendation requesting that New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary amend its charter to "name the Southern Baptist Convention as the sole member ... thereby assuring the messengers' historic rights and giving the Convention legal immunity." Ten other entities have adopted sole membership, but New Orleans officials have cited Baptist polity concerns and the uniqueness of Louisiana law in their desire to adopt a different model.
-- Welch, pastor of First Baptist Church Daytona Beach, Fla., was elected president by a vote of 79.7 percent (3,997 votes) to 20.3 percent (1,020) over Al Jarrell, pastor of Riverside Baptist Church in Merry Hill, N.C. Welch, co-creator of the popular FAITH evangelism strategy, announced that he would embark on a 50-state, 25-day bus tour in August and September to encourage a convention-wide effort to win 1 million people to Christ.
-- Gerald Davidson, pastor of First Baptist Church in Arnold, Mo., was elected first vice president, while David Young Hwan Gill, pastor of Concord Korean Baptist Church in Martinez, Calif., was elected second vice president.
John L. Yeats, editor of the Baptist Messenger, was elected to another term as recording secretary. James H. (Jim) Wells, director of missions for the Tri-County Baptist Association in Ozark, Mo., was re-elected registration secretary.
-- Messengers approved Ken Whitten, pastor of Idlewild Baptist Church in Tampa, Fla., to preach next year's convention sermon.
-- International Mission Board President Jerry Rankin said that SBC missionaries and their Baptist partners reported a record 510,000 baptisms and a near doubling of the number of new churches in 2003.
Carrie McDonnall, the lone survivor of an attack that killed her husband and three other International Mission Board workers in Iraq, addressed messengers and received a standing ovation.
"My Jesus bears scars on His body from the violence He endured," she said. "How could we sit back and say, 'I can't go because it's too hard'? -- especially when the world is saying, 'You just can't do that.'
"Trust me -- for my Jesus, it's the least I could do."
-- North American Mission Board President Robert E. (Bob) Reccord told how NAMB's Strategic Focus Cities initiative has resulted in 400 new churches in New York, Miami and Philadelphia. He introduced 61 newly appointed missionaries who carried flags from all the U.S. states and territories and Canadian provinces.
"They have left behind the comfort and convenience of home and family to share the life-changing message of the Gospel with a lost continent," Reccord said.
-- Richard Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, encouraged church leaders to get their members registered to vote -- an action that does not threaten a church's tax-exempt status. ERLC has begun an initiative, iVoteValues.com, intended to get people to consider their biblical beliefs when voting.
"It is a disgrace that 33 percent of the members of an average Southern Baptist church are not even registered to vote," Land said. "It is every Christian's responsibility to be registered to vote, to be an informed voter and to vote their values, beliefs and convictions."
-- LifeWay Christian Resources President James T. Draper Jr. expressed concern that the denomination has seen a decline in baptisms for the fourth consecutive year.
"[That] reflects a denomination that's lost its focus," he said. "It is hard for someone to argue to the contrary when more than 10,000 Southern Baptist churches did not baptize a single person last year. Although we've seen tremendous strides in overseas baptisms, we are not keeping up with the population growth at home or around the world."
-- Evangelist Franklin Graham told messengers to stand firm on the exclusivity of the Gospel and to share Christ with a lost world -- even though it may be politically incorrect.
"I don't want to go around kicking people in the shins or stomping on their toes, but I want to tell them the truth, because it's either heaven or it's hell, and this is serious business," he said. "... The only chance a person may have of heaven is going to be because of you."
Before Graham spoke, Bill Gaither and the Gaither Vocal Band performed.
-- Messengers approved recommendations to change the Annuity Board's name to GuideStone Financial Recourses of the Southern Baptist Convention and to expand its services to evangelical ministry organizations outside the SBC.
"This year will be a milestone year for the board with the name change and new opportunities, but we have other good news to share," Annuity Board President O.S. Hawkins said. "Following the worst three-year cycle since 1941, the financial markets made a significant rebound in 2003 and for the first time in our history our asset base grew by $1 billion dollars during a calendar year, reaching $7.3 billion by Dec. 31, 2003."
-- Outgoing Southern Baptist Convention President Jack Graham used his address to encourage Southern Baptists to speak up on social issues, such as same-sex "marriage."
"I simply ask you a question: As Southern Baptists and other evangelical Christians, if we don't stand up, wise up and speak up on these issues, who will be left to deal with the issues of our times?" he asked. "If not us, Southern Baptists, then who? If not now, when?"
-- Like Jack Graham, Alabama pastor Steve Gaines told messengers that Southern Baptists must be salt and light in the culture. Gaines, pastor of First Baptist Church in Gardendale, Ala., said that it must begin with earnest prayer and Bible-based preaching.
"I don't know about you, but I think America is fed up with drama skits, coffee talks, interpretive dances, operatic cantatas, operatic Frankenstein music [and] pop psychology sessions from the pulpit," Gaines said. "America is looking for some prophets of God. That's what they want."
-- The complete version of the Holman Christian Standard Bible, published by Broadman & Holman, was sold at a Southern Baptist Convention for the first time.
-- More than 1,500 professions of faith were recorded as part of Crossover Indiana, an annual outreach effort designed to take the Gospel to the city and the state hosting the convention. (BP)