Messengers from churches affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention are set to convene in Nashville, TN June 15-16 to conduct the business of the nearly 48,000 congregations that voluntarily cooperate together in the SBC. Every church that is “in friendly cooperation with the Convention, and sympathetic with its purposes and work” is eligible to send at least two messengers who have the right to address the convention and vote. Sadly, typically less than 8% of SBC churches send messengers to the annual meetings.
Every day, and often several times a day, I receive questions from Southern Baptists who plan to participate as messengers this year. Many of those are first-time messengers, and they are asking for help in knowing what to expect, when votes will be taken, the difference between motions and resolutions, etc. I understand and am sympathetic to the inquiries. Navigating a first SBC annual meeting can be a daunting task.
Following are a few thoughts that I hope will help those planning to attend or follow the events coming up in Nashville.
- Read and consider becoming a joint-submitter of the “Resolution on the Incompatibility of Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality with the Baptist Faith and Message.” This resolution has already garnered hundreds of supporters and if you are a member of a Southern Baptist Church, you can add your name as a joint-submitter of it, too. You do not need to be a messenger to this year’s convention. You must, however, verify your membership in an SBC church that is qualified to send messengers by following the steps outlined below the text of the resolution. The deadline for submitting a resolution to the 2021 Resolutions Committee is May 28, 2021. Everything can be done electronically by following the steps posted below the resolution here.
- Attend the Be It Resolved Conference June 14. Mark Coppenger, Tom Nettles, Jim Scott Orrick, James Pittman, Tom Buck, Virgil Walker, and Jared Longshore will be speaking. That’s all you really need to know. I will be there, too, and we will have a panel discussion about Resolution 9. The conference will end with a prayer meeting for the SBC. This will be a great opportunity for fellowship, instruction, and conversation before the convention begins. Register here (space is limited and it is filling up fast)
- Study the order of events/program, found here. Remember that the schedule changes so always plan to be early for any programed events. All of the program items are important, but I will highlight a few of the most important business matters below.
- Be in the convention center Tuesday morning from the opening gavel, scheduled for 8:25AM.
Key business items on Tuesday’s program
a. 9:28AM—Introduction of new motions
I intend to introduce a motion to rescind Resolution 9 at that time.
b. 2:15PM—Election of officers (First)
There are four other time slots planned (at 4:00PM, 5:03PM, 6:00PM, and 6:25PM) in case there is a need for runoffs. Listen to our interview with Pastor Mike Stone on the Sword and Trowel. Mike is a candidate for SBC President.
c. 3:30PM—Committee on Resolutions Report (Part 1)
This is where resolutions that have been submitted to the convention will be recommended for adoption.
d. 4:10PM Introduction of New Motions (Second)
e. 5:20PM Committee on Resolutions Report (Part 2)
f. 5:50PM Miscellaneous Business
Who knows what may come up in this time?
Key Business items on Wednesday’s program
- 8:30AM—Committee on Order of Business Report (Third)
- 8:40AM—Previously scheduled business
- 8:50AM—Committee on Committees Report
- 9:00AM—Committee on Nominations Report
- 3:30PM—Previously Scheduled Business
I want to underscore that there are many other important items on the program like the reports of the various agencies and institutions (especially by the International Mission Board), sermons, and panels. The above items are highlighted due to their importance for the business that the convention plans to conduct. There is no way to know in advance all of the matters that will be proposed for action at any given scheduled business session. Plan to be in the room for all of them. Similarly, we will only know what resolutions have been submitted to the Resolutions Committee and which ones they will recommend to the messengers when they are posted in the Daily Bulletins on Tuesday. Those bulletins are important and are usually located near the entrance of the meeting hall. Be sure to avail yourself of them in order to get a good idea of what is coming up on the immediate agenda.
- Look through the Book of Reports, which you will receive when you get your credentials at the registration desks. Familiarize yourself with the written report of the various entities so that you can be prepared to ask questions or offer comments when the presidents of those entities present their reports to the messengers.
Over the last few months I have been disappointed to see a few Southern Baptist elites speak against efforts to encourage rank-and-file SBC pastors and church members to attend the convention in Nashville. Despite such criticism I am delighted to know of some pastors who plan to attend their first convention because of the kindness of others who are helping them. Pastor Tom Buck is raising funds to assist other pastors whose churches are not in a financial position to help them get to Nashville. Reach out to Tom at this email address for more information email@example.com.
It is no secret that I think the SBC needs to be led by pastors. For that to happen, pastors need to show up to the annual meeting. I have made it very clear that I think our next SBC president needs to be a pastor who understands the challenges, threats, and opportunities we are facing and is willing to address them directly without compromise or equivocation. Pastor Mike Stone of Georgia is just such a man. Mike is a local church pastor. He understands the issues we are facing as a convention. He has boldly and kindly addressed those issues with candor and an unflinching commitment to the Word of God. And, neither he nor his wife draw a salary that comes from Cooperative Program dollars. That kind of independence will be vitally important in the years to come. That is why I plan to vote for him and believe he will be an excellent president for Southern Baptists.
It is also no secret that I believe the SBC is in need of a course correction. What happened with Resolution 9 in 2019, and the repeated justifications by and of the committee in the aftermath, are a few of the clear indicators of how badly that correction is needed. I hope that we will see the beginnings of such a correction in the upcoming convention.
I look forward to being in Nashville, God willing. Join me in praying that the Lord will grant us a joyful, humble spirit as we take up important, and at some point, controversial matters. Christians should be able to disagree, and even to disagree strongly, without falling into that sinful acrimony that too often characterizes such exchanges.