My First Trip to the SBC: Day 2
Today the Southern Baptist Convention formally began. And what a day it was. Since this is my first convention I wanted to be there right on time at 8:00 am to see it all. I learned quickly that not everyone approaches the convention the same way. In fact, most people only show up for certain parts of the convention, such as the proposal of motions and the presentation of business. These are the times when anybody (and I mean ANYbody) can speak from a mic. The rest of the SBC is organized around various reports from Southern Baptist entities (the seminaries, the mission boards, etc.). The “feel” of today is completely different than the Pastor’s Conference yesterday. Once everyone showed up the crowd was twice as big and it was a much older looking crowd. The onstage activity was much more formal. It was all business and everyone was in a suit and tie. To be honest much of the business portion of the convention is boring. I apparently am not the only one that feels this way because people are constantly walking in and out of the convention hall no matter what is going on. At one point when I had all I could stand, I walked over to the exhibit hall and it was packed with hundreds and hundreds of people. The food courts are crawling with people as well. I found myself wondering if all that was going on in the convention hall proper was really necessary. It seemed to me that the hundreds of people not in the convention hall itself (some of whom were SBC leaders doing “other” things) didn’t think so. This is not a criticism as much as an observation and question.
The time for motions was somewhat entertaining. One man moved that all Southern Baptists should fly a Christian flag from our homes (I found out later that he does this each year). A motion was made that parking passes to the convention be made available for pre-purchase. One man made a motion that called for all leaders in the SBC to come from churches that give 10% or more to the Cooperative Program. Several motions were made related to the GCR Task Force report. One of these motions (which I predicted earlier on this blog) was to unseal the recordings of the GCRTF sessions.
The real action today began after lunch. Morris Chapman is the outgoing president of the Executive Committee of the SBC. He has held this post for 18 years. Dr. Chapman is a wonderful man of God. I met him once when I was on staff at FBC Springdale and he is a gracious and warm man. Dr. Chapman was given time to deliver his report to the convention on the work of Executive Committee. The timing of Dr. Chapman’s report was about half an hour before the GCRTF report was to be presented. Sadly, Dr. Chapman chose to use his time (the last time he would address the convention) not to give a report on the Executive Committee, but to instead attack the GCR Task Force report. I must say I was stunned at what I heard. I really could not believe what I was hearing and I was so disappointed in this man of God. I saw this as an abuse of his position and a mismanagement of what this time was set aside for. By contrast, Dr. Al Mohler delivered his report on the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary right afterwards and just before the GCRTF report, and he did not mention the GCRTF report (and Mohler is on the Task Force.) Mohler’s comments were about the seminary. I so wish Dr. Chapman had not used his position to attack the GCRTF report before it was even presented to the floor for discussion. While it made me mad in the heat of the moment, in retrospect I am sad. I am sad that this undignified way was how Dr. Chapman chose to end his career, a wonderful career, as the president of the EC.
Dr. Ronnie Floyd presented the GCR Task Force’s report and moved for its adoption. It was a powerful and compelling presentation. During the time for discussion, several attempts were made to derail the report. As I predicted, a motion was made to postpone action on the report indefinitely. This motion failed. Another motion was made to send the report to the Executive Committee for review. This motion failed. Both motions were attempts to kill the report before a vote could be taken. Another motion was made to change the wording of the third recommendation (the recommendation dealing with the new terminology of Great Commission Giving). The amended language would have effectively killed this recommendation. After working through parliamentary matters on the floor, a compromise was struck that added wording but retained the goal of the recommendation. I had predicted that someone would offer a motion to divide the report into each of the seven recommendations. This (thankfully) did not happen. When time finally expired, there were several people still in line to offer motions so this still could have possibly happened.
Then it was time to vote. By my visual guesstimate, the GCR Task Force report PASSED with around 70% affirmative vote. It was overwhelming and did not even come close to requiring a ballot vote.
So let me say that I am thrilled. THIS is exactly what this network of 44,000+ churches needs. A new wind is blowing and it is clear that change is on the horizon. There is no turning back now. This report’s recommendations will now be remanded to the appropriate agencies and entities of our network of Southern Baptists churches for study and hopefully implementation. We will receive reports from all of them next year at the SBC in Phoenix. Today is just the first step BUT it is a HUGE step. I want to say that I am grateful to all the members of the GCRTF for their work this past year. What they have done will have a multi-generational impact. For a guy like me, it gives me hope that we Southern Baptists might actually be on a path to cultural relevance with the Gospel.
One other encouraging highlight today. I attended a luncheon and GCR panel discussion today held by a group called Baptist21. This is a group of younger pastors in their 20s and 30s who are seeking to be faithful and relevant with the Gospel in the 21st century. As I was sitting in this excellent event (which was a sellout of 1100 people!) I thought to myself that THIS is the future. And it’s a bright future. Kudos to the Baptist21 crowd.
In other news, Bryant Wright, pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church, in Marietta, Georgia, was elected as the next president of our convention. I do not know Bryant but from everything I hear he will do a wonderful job serving as our next president.
That’s about it for today. I will attend tomorrow morning’s session and then get on a plane to fly home in time for the World Changers / Charlie Hall / Ken Freeman / 1500 hotdog event and concert our church is hosting in the park tomorrow night.
I will post final comments and my overall impressions of my first trip to the SBC tomorrow.