SBTS students engage in SBC as messengers

Communications Staff — June 18, 2009

Any candid observer at the 2008 Southern Baptist Convention would tell you that while many booths and exhibits at the annual meeting were manned by 20 to 30-year-olds, the convention hall was filled largely by people 50 and older.

Several students at Southern Seminary, however, are seeking to reverse that trend by representing their local church’s as messengers at this year’s annual meeting in Louisville.

Ryan Hanley, a master of divinity student at Southern, is representing Ninth & O Baptist Church in Louisville as a messenger and said he looks forward to the opportunity.

“I am convinced that I will only encourage and support the SBC to the extent that I involve myself and engage in matters of the convention,” he said. “By serving as a messenger, I have the opportunity to learn more about how the SBC operates and how it can effectively serve the local church. Additionally, serving as a messenger allows me to be a voice for and to my congregation.”

Hanley is one of three Southern students serving as a messenger from Ninth & O. Other churches sending Southern students as messengers include Kenwood Baptist Church, Immanuel Baptist Church, Carlisle Avenue Baptist Church and New Salem Baptist Church, all in Louisville.

Josh Philpot, an Old Testament Ph.D. student at Southern, serves as music minister at Kenwood. Philpot said the SBC’s mission boards — the International Mission Board (IMB) and the North American Mission Board (NAMB) — are what particularly motivate him to be a messenger at the annual meeting.

“Even as a small congregation we consistently give to the IMB and NAMB directly and through the Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong Christmas and Easter offerings,” he said. “It is our hope to continue to support the spread of the Gospel through home and foreign missions. With that in mind, we see it as imperative that the local church is represented at the convention on all business matters pertaining to these two entities.”

Philpot previously served as a messenger from Highland Heights Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Va., at the 2006 SBC annual meeting in Greenville, S.C. One interesting tidbit Philpot noted was that you can tell who will win a vote at the annual meeting simply by listening of “pops” you hear from people marking their ballots.

“It was clear that Frank Page won the presidential election over Jerry Sutton and Ronnie Floyd in 2006 — he just had more ‘pops!'” Philpot said.

Philpot said the older age of most convention messengers at that’s year convention surprised him, though he hopes that trend will change.

“From what I could tell, most of the messengers were over 40, which is probably indicative of who may be interested in the SBC currently,” he said. “However, I’m hopeful this year … perhaps many young men and women here will gain a more vibrant passion for missions and evangelism.”

Terry Delaney, children’s minister at Carlisle Avenue Baptist Church and an M.Div. student at Southern, is serving as a messenger for Carlisle. Delaney said that while it can lead to conflict, he values the open dialogue that takes place in the SBC.

“The bond we have in Christ allows us to be able to discuss issues and disagree,” he said. “We hold to that one bond in Christ as we seek to share our views on things.”

Hanley said he appreciate the SBC’s emphasis on local church autonomy and hopes this emphasis continues in the convention for as long as it exists.

“The SBC is nothing without the local church,” he said. “The result of this recognition is that the SBC is then free to pursue this goal to serve the local church apart from a desire to grow and expand its own power. As long as the SBC sees its role as a league of cooperation rather than a ruling body, it will serve the church well.”

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