Seminarians encouraged to attend SBC annual meeting

Communications Staff — May 22, 2009

The Great Commission Resurgence, whether a Texas church is in friendly cooperation with the Southern Baptist Convention and the use of beverage alcohol are all topics likely to be considered at the SBC annual meeting June 23-24 in Louisville at the Kentucky Exposition Center.

Sojourn Community Church and Baptist 21, a website that discusses SBC news and issues, will host a panel discussion June 23 from 11:45 a.m. to 1:45 p.m. on the convention’s present and future. Among the panelists will be Southern Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr., Southern Seminary trustee chairman Mark Dever and Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C.

The SBC annual meeting is “part revival meeting, part church business meeting, part carnival,” said Gregory A. Wills, professor of church history at Southern and director of the Center for the Study of the Southern Baptist Convention. “And we go first from a duty of stewardship. We, as the messengers of the churches, govern indirectly how our entities operate, under what policies they operate and how the money is given. We need to take that responsibility seriously.”

Likely to highlight the meeting is discussion of SBC President Johnny Hunt’s declaration calling for a Great Commission Resurgence, a proposal to focus the world’s largest Protestant denomination on making disciples more efficiently and effectively.

Hunt’s 10-point declaration calls for 1) A Commitment to Christ’s Lordship; 2) A Commitment to Gospel-Centeredness; 3) A Commitment to the Great Commandments; 4) A Commitment to Biblical Inerrancy and Sufficiency; 5) A Commitment to a Healthy Confessional Center; 6) A Commitment to Biblically Healthy Churches; 7) A Commitment to Sound Biblical Preaching; 8) A Commitment to a Methodological Diversity that is Biblically Informed; 9) A Commitment to a More Effective Convention Structure; and 10) A Commitment to Distinctively Christian Families.

The declaration is based on the 12 “axioms for a Great Commission Resurgence” set forth in an April 16 chapel address by Akin at Southeastern.

Among the points of debate stemming from the declaration are whether state Baptist conventions retain too high a percentage of Cooperative Program funds, the level of transparency in Southern Baptist work and whether to combine the SBC’s two mission boards—the North American Mission Board and the International Mission Board.

“There is a great deal of concern on the part of many pastors that we are not allocating our missions money and personnel in the most efficient manner for accomplishing the Great Commission,” Wills said.

Hunt likely will ask messengers to form a task force to study the declaration and recommend ways the convention can implement its ideas.

The convention may also hear a recommendation from the SBC Executive Committee regarding whether to allow historic Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, to remain affiliated with the denomination. The Executive Committee began studying the church in response to a motion at last year’s SBC annual meeting that the convention declare Broadway Baptist not to be “in friendly cooperation” with the denomination because of concerns about the church’s view of homosexuality.

Broadway Baptist has about five members who are homosexual, with two of them serving on committees. A controversy erupted within the church last year over whether homosexual couples should be pictured in a church directory.

“This year I believe it is probable that the Executive Committee will make a recommendation one way or the other regarding a motion made last year requesting that Broadway Baptist Church of Fort Worth, Texas, be deemed not to be in friendly cooperation with the Convention,” D. August Boto, the Executive Committee’s executive vice president and general counsel, said in an email.

“I say ‘probable’ because it is possible, (though I believe not likely) the Executive Committee could decide, in its upcoming June meeting, to report to the Convention that it is not ready to make a recommendation and will continue to study this matter.”

The convention may also consider a resolution or motion on the consumption of beverage alcohol, Wills said.

“The question of the legitimacy of consuming beverage alcohol has been mooted by some Southern Baptists in recent years, and some have spoken of introducing a resolution or a motion addressing this issue in 2009,” he said.

In other business, the convention will:

— vote on a recommendation from the Executive Committee that SBC Bylaw 1 be amended to say that during an annual meeting session “a messenger may speak in debate for longer than three minutes only with the permission of the convention granted by a two-thirds vote” and “a messenger may introduce a second motion during a business session only if no other messenger is seeking the floor who has not made a motion during that session.”

— vote on a proposed 2009-10 Cooperative Program Allocation budget of $204,385,592. The proposed budget maintains current allocations to the convention’s ministries, including 50 percent of receipts to the IMB, 22.79 percent to NAMB and 21.92 percent to the six seminaries.

Boto emphasized that it is impossible to predict all the matters that will come to the floor of an annual meeting.

“Predicting motions which might be made at any SBC annual meeting is a difficult proposition,” he said. “This is due to the fact that the annual meeting has sometimes been described in general terms as the largest openly deliberative and unscripted parliamentary meeting in the world. … Any messenger at the SBC may approach a microphone without any notice to anyone and move anything. That unpredictability is one aspect that makes every annual meeting interesting.”

Wills and Boto agreed that, in addition to the business transacted, establishing friendships with fellow Southern Baptists is an important part of the annual meeting experience.

“I believe the chief reason to attend, particularly as a seminary student who intends to minister in Southern Baptist churches, would be to begin a relationship with members of the family you will be serving,” Boto said. “In many ways, the annual meeting is like a family reunion where joys and trials are shared, ideas are discussed, challenges are met and counseled about, and God is glorified through it all.”
Wills noted, “The relationships that we form and renew are the delightful part of SBC meetings.”

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