What to watch at the 2019 Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Birmingham

Questions loom as Southern Baptists meet in Birmingham

The Southern Baptist Convention’s Annual Meeting takes place this week in Birmingham, Alabama. The meeting sessions begin Tuesday, June 11, and conclude Wednesday, June 12. Sex abuse scandals will no doubt be an important topic as the SBC wrestles the abuse problem in the church and the way Baptists should respond. Reports on this have already  been prepared for messengers. Expect this to be where the mainstream press focuses their attention. Key question: Will it be PR or something substantive that arises out of Birmingham?

Activities around the Convention begin Sunday evening with the start of the Pastor’s Conference. During the Monday session of the Pastor’s Conference, McLean Bible Church pastor David Platt will speak. Platt warmly and respectfully prayed for President Donald Trump June 2, but then flubbed the aftermath giving credence to complaints from angry partisans. Jerry Falwell, Jr. told Platt to Act like a man during the furor that followed. Platt’s time in Birmingham will be calm in contrast to the political furor his error created. Of course, church staff are only making the troubles worse, as an Associate Pastor at McLean Bible Church insulted conservative Christians in a Facebook post.

Also, on Monday, there are two big events at the Westin Hotel Ballroom involving Founders’ Ministries—a seminar on Mature Manhood in an Immature Age followed by Founder’s Executive Director Dr. Tom Ascol debating Dr. Dwight McKissic on the topic of complementarianism and if women should preach. Monday evening, the G3 Conference is hosting a symposium on Social Justice and its dangers to evangelicalism.

These are important meetings on Monday at the Westin: Social Justice is a threat to evangelicalism and attention to it is important. The discussion of egalitarianism is now reaching a critical juncture in the Southern Baptist Convention. It should not surprise, that many of the Woke Social Justice Warriors are the same ones promoting women preachers. That’s how Intersectional allies operate.   These meetings are part of an effort holding back the tide of Leftism sweeping into the Convention from the cultural sea. Worth watching what happens here.

Question for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary: ‘I thought they were broke?’

What is going on at Southern Baptist seminaries? Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s new president fired almost thirty percent of full-time faculty in April. The new president, Dr. Adam Greenway told trustees the seminary must “recalibrate” and “reposition” itself, according to Baptist Press. However, on the heels of firing over twenty faculty members, Greenway announced multiple, high profile (and likely expensive) moves.

Greenway hired Gregory A. Wills to be research professor of church history and Baptist Heritage and the founding director of the B.H. Carroll Center for Baptist Heritage and Mission.

Greenway hired Travis S. Kerns as associate professor of Apologetics and World Religions.

Next, Greenway added Joseph R. Crider and Chuck T. Lewis as professors of Church Music and Worship.

Also, Greenway announced a major restructuring of women’s support at SWBTS. According to BP, “The initiatives include the establishment of the Southwestern Women’s Center, new faculty titles and roles and an update and revision of the women’s studies and women’s ministry curricula.”

 All of that raises an important question: I thought they were broke. They sure seem to be spending a lot of time and money on new hires and new bureaucracy. Also, isn’t a research professor sort of an extravagance a college that just fired dozens of people shouldn’t indulge?

Oh well, as long as they get to hire more faculty from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, I guess it was OK to jettison all those other faculty members. Loyalty. Just not to the employees already at Southwestern.

Will the SBC messengers insult the President & Vice President again this year?

Last year when Vice President Mike Pence was spoke to the Southern Baptist Convention’s Annual Meeting in Dallas, some messengers threw a hissy fit. Multiple motions were introduced (fortunately defeated) calling on the SBC not to hear the vice president’s speech. It was disgusting. It shows how far identity politics and Democratic partisanship has infected the once conservative denomination. While politicians aren’t likely on this year’s program, one does wonder what will happen this time? Will someone try to attack President Donald Trump and his administration?

Will we see motions or resolutions presented to continue pushing Southern Baptists to the Left? Clearly, a priority of many Evangelical leaders is to suppress evangelical voter turnout in the 2020 presidential election. So, it wouldn’t be a shock to see some sort of political theater designed to hurt the alliance between bible-believers and the GOP’s presidential nominee.

What happens in Birmingham this year and in Orlando in 2020 will have important cultural and political implications. So, it might be worth the commitment for conservatives to flock to Orlando. Plan accordingly.

Will people continue to buy NAMB’s narrative?

The SBC is planting fewer churches, baptizing fewer people and facing greater challenges in America. It is time to ask if NAMB’s priorities are correct, and if NAMB’s leadership is up to the task.

Click to compare church plants with church planting budget 2005-2018

Church planting goals in 2013 were 1,500. The goal was revised lower in 2016 to 1,200. The last three years, NAMB has planted 732, 691 and 624. The cost per church plant also appears to be rising—likely caused by NAMB’s decision to focus on 32 large (and expensive) metropolitan areas.

What about the Evangelism and Apologetics budget? Those cuts were significant as already existing churches (even those not in the favored 32 cities) need help in evangelism. Apologetics is an ever increasing need for evangelism and member retention in today’s cultural milieu.

But, hey, let’s buy lots of real estate and build soccer fields.

We can also hire DC lobbyists.

Speaking of Secrecy

Speaking of Secrecy in how the SBC operates, there is another area where you’ll find the SBC good old boy network keeps quiet—in the matter of what it pays its top executives. So, will someone in Birmingham angry over how Southern Baptist entities refuse to reveal what top officials are paid demand that our entities comply with the SBC Business and Financial Plan? Specifically,

Article XIV. Safeguarding of Funds states:

“Members of cooperating Southern Baptist churches shall have access to information from the records of Southern Baptist Convention entities regarding income, expenditures, debts, reserves, operating balances, and salary structures.”

Salary structures would be useful in holding our entities accountable. The people who pay the bills have a responsibility to make sure the money is used wisely. God expects stewards to behave that way.

We will be in Birmingham this week and provide updates as time allows. Stay connected for the latest: Join our mailing list, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Addendum: This year’s SBC Annual Meeting theme is Gospel Above All. Coincidentally, that’s the title of SBC Convention President J.D. Greear’s new book. Is this common? Do we typically make a convention theme the title of a new book? It is a good theme, but that just seems like a cheap publishing promotion so close to a new book release.