You see, I was the son of a Baptist minister. DeForest Kelley (for Star Trek fans)
I have never attended an SBC Annual Meeting, so it has been fascinating to watch the 2011 gathering in Phoenix via the internet. Kudos to the Southern Baptist Convention for providing a live feed of the two-day event. Technology has been advancing at such a rapid pace, and it’s important that organizations use it to their advantage.
In 1983 I was serving on a Market Research and Planning Committee for my employer, and I was afforded the opportunity to attend a special technology conference at the newly opened Epcot Center in Orlando. I marveled at the telemarketing and teleconferencing technologies that were being developed. As explained at the conference, people on opposite sides of the planet could communicate via a live video feed, and businesses could minimize travel expenses by using this technology to arrange face-to-face meetings through teleconferencing. That was pretty heady stuff almost 30 years ago. Now this technology is used all the time.
During the first day of the SBC meeting, I was encouraged when a motion was made requesting the Executive Committee to look into allowing online participation in SBC annual meetings. Using the internet to involve a larger percentage of Southern Baptists definitely seems like a great way to increase participation in the annual meeting. As I watched the live streaming, I was paying close attention to the number in attendance. As of 8:10 a.m. the first day, there were 4,065 messengers who had been certified. By the time the first vice president was elected in the afternoon, the number of messengers had grown to 4,780. Perhaps they were able to round up some Southern Baptists and bus them in like they did in Dallas in 1985.
Then this morning when the second vice president was elected, there were a total of 4,804 messengers. Since the annual meeting concludes today, it is highly unlikely that this attendance number will increase. By comparison, the number of messengers who came to Phoenix in 2003 was 7,077. It is absolutely astounding that just eight years later attendance at the annual meeting in Phoenix has fallen by just under 2,300. That’s a significant decrease! I guess we can just blame it on the economy.
One of the first things I noticed at the start of the meeting was the “business casual” attire. SBC President Bryant Wright ditched his tie and was sporting a medium blue long sleeve button-down shirt. I guess it’s hot in Phoenix!
Frank S. Page, who was elected president of the SBC in Greensboro in 2006, currently serves as president of the Executive Committee. He began his address by asking the question “What are Baptists for?” Then he responded as follows:
– Meeting needs of hurting people
– Bringing the lost to Jesus through a concerted effort
As the Baptist Press has pointed out in their coverage of the two-day event, “unity” within the Southern Baptist Convention seems to be one of the hot-button issues at this year’s convention. Here’s what they included in their blog post regarding Page’s address:
“… dozens of entity leaders, state executives and ethnic leaders stood on the platform in a sign of unity, one day after signing an Affirmation of Unity and Cooperation. The document has five core points. (Read it: http://www.bpnews.net/BPnews.asp?ID=35533)
The time on the platform came during SBC Executive Committee President Frank Page's report that focused on unity within the Southern Baptist Convention.
Page, delivering his inaugural report to messengers as SBC president, said he has tried to be the "Chief Encouraging Officer" for Southern Baptists. He detailed several principles he has tried to follow: a principle of gratitude, a principle of trust, a principle of unified ministry and a principle of honesty.
Only 169 churches in the SBC average more than 2,000 in worship, he said. "We celebrate" churches of all sizes, Page said. "We must continually thank God" for them," he said.
Focusing on his desire for bringing Southern Baptist together, Page said there "is little trust anywhere" in the SBC. "It is time for God's people to trust each other again." "We need to believe that" we do best working together, he said. "I believe our unity affects our evangelism."
It is time to come together, he said. "It is time for Baptists to be known for what we are for and not for what we are against." Unified ministry, he said, is one aspect for which he wants Southern Baptists to be known.”
Christa Brown had this to say about Mr. Unity – Frank Page – over at Stop Baptist Predators. She explains:
“Frank Page (former SBC president, former vice-president of the SBC’s North American Mission Board, and current president of the SBC's Executive Committee): In his official role as SBC president, he publicly castigated clergy abuse survivors who speak out as being “nothing more than opportunistic persons.” And he never apologized. With such caustic rhetoric at the highest level, Page helped to foster a denominational climate of hostility and victim-blaming toward clergy abuse survivors. In fact, Page was promoted to the denomination's top position as president of the executive committee after making those hateful remarks. Many thousands of Southern Baptist pastors failed to hold Page accountable, turned a deaf ear to such hateful rhetoric, and acted as though it were no big deal for a high religious leader to castigate the victims of clergy sex crimes. Also, Page has repeatedly minimized the problem of Baptist clergy sex abuse by referring to it only as “several reported cases of abuse.” And he gave no response to the letter of a father whose two sons were sexually abused by a Southern Baptist minister.”
Bryant Wright, current SBC president, then spoke on the Church of Ephesus (Revelation 2:1-7), which I will discuss in Friday’s post.
What I would like to cover today is Wright’s explanation for why the SBC was founded. He said one was a great reason and the other was a very bad reason. First, the great reason. It was established for the propagation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. However, the shameful reason for the founding of the SBC was to defend slavery. Wright then confessed that it took 150 years for the SBC to come to its senses.
In June 1995 the Southern Baptist Convention issues a set of resolutions to apologize for its sinful position regarding slavery. You can read about it here.
After pointing out the error of supporting slavery, an election for the first vice president was held. The SBC made history by electing Fred Luter, who is black, to this important position. You can read about it in a Washington Post article entitled: Southern Baptists elect first African-American to 1st vice president position.
Wright then explained that there are two ways to expand the Gospel, which are:
1. Planting churches to reach more people for Jesus Christ.
2. Engaging and embracing unreached people groups. According to the IMB, there are 3800 unreached and unengaged people groups around the world.
The SBC president then encouraged 3800 churches to adopt one of the 3800 people groups. He urged churches to adopt one people group.
Much of the day was spent focusing on North American missions, and church planters were brought up on stage in order to demonstrate how the SBC is reaching out to share the Gospel in some of the larger cities in the United States and Canada. Then SBC leaders prayed over these church planters.
For an excellent summary of Day One of the SBC Annual Meeting, please go to this link.
On Friday I will be providing the highlights of Day Two of the SBC Annual Meeting. You will not want to miss it! In the meantime, we encourage you to comment on what has been happening in Phoenix.