The Southern Baptist Convention is meeting in Indianapolis this week. Thus far, the convention has been marked by low attendance, an establishment victory for president, and a bushel basket of diverse motions from the floor.
When six candidates announced that they would run for president this year, some wondered if the SBC might be becoming more diverse. Hardly … few of the candidates were well-known, and had little chance. N.C. pastor Les Puryear received only 188 votes, and perennial gadfly Wiley Drake garnered just 45. Establishment favorite Johnny Hunt, a pastor from Woodstock, Ga., won on the first ballot, taking 53 percent of the vote.
Hunt’s 3,100 votes came from a total of just 5,856 ballots cast for president. At the time of the election, according to Baptist Press, there were 7,196 registered messengers, a number than will rise a little, but not much.
Last year’s meeting in San Antonio drew 8,618 messengers, and the last meeting in Indianapolis (2004) attracted 8,600. Meetings in 2005 (Nashville) and 2006 (Greensboro) saw about 11,600 messengers. All are a far cry from messenger totals of the past.
Motions presented from the floor are always interesting, though most are typically referred to a committee or ruled out of order. This year, motions to amend the constitution to disallow “churches which have female senior pastors” and to dis-fellowship Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth (which welcomes homosexuals) were referred to the Executive Committee.
Motions to disallow presidents of SBC agencies from serving as president of the SBC, to reconsider membership in the Baptist World Alliance also landed in the Executive Committee’s lap. Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president Al Mohler had been a leading contender for president this year before pulling out of the race due to an illness. The SBC withdrew from the BWA in 2004, claiming the organization was too liberal.
Seminary and trustee accountability were also on the list. A motion to devise a standardized form for SBC seminaries to report enrollment data was referred to the Executive Committee, as was a recommendation that the rules be changed so that all prospective SBC trustees
“give evidence of having received Jesus Christ as personal Lord and Savior,” hold membership in a church that supports the SBC Cooperative Program unified budget, be in good standing with a local church, abstain from using alcoholic beverages and recreational drugs, and “support all the principles” in the 2000 Baptist Faith & Message (BF&M) doctrinal statement.
Another motion called for translations of the BF&M into the five most dominant languages in the Convention. That motion was referred to LifeWay Christian Resources, which publishes the document. LifeWay was also the target of a motion from an apparent fan of the King James Bible. Messenger Eric Williams of Belle Rive, Ill., moved that program personalities at SBC annual meetings be forbidden from reading from or citing LifeWay’s Holman Christian Standard Bible “or any translation that questions the validity of any Scripture or verse” during any official convention meeting or in any SBC literature. The HCSB, like virtually all modern Bibles, includes a note indicating that Mark 16:9-20 is not included in many ancient manuscripts. The motion was ruled out of order on the grounds that messengers cannot tell Convention boards what to do.
And so it goes. To keep up with developments at today’s session, check out “Marv’s unnamed blog” for updates.