My Thoughts on the 2013 SBC Annual Meeting in Houston

I had given a lot of thought to recommending associational meeting places to help boost attendance and interest in the annual meeting that takes place in various cities around the country. However, after attending the meeting in Houston, I realized something; I believe the reason that so many are now staying away from the meeting may have more to do with what happens or maybe more accurately stated, what does not take place at the annual meeting, than anything else. Let me explain.

A number of motions were brought to the floor of the annual meeting last year. Those motions were either ruled out of order or they were all referred to a committee. I looked at the report for this year’s meeting and noticed that all of those motions referred to committees last year were not brought back up this year. Several motions were brought up on the floor of the meeting this year and guess what? Those motions that were not ruled out of order were referred to some committee and not even debated on the floor of the convention. Ronnie Floyd made a motion and managed to get an audience with those in charge of hearing motions, but that is all I heard of that.

The SBC has a resolutions committee that receives resolutions submitted to them before the convention convenes. This committee has the right to revise any resolution submitted to it as it sees fit before presenting the resolution to the convention for approval, if it chooses to do so. If the resolutions committee does not believe the resolution is in the best interest of the convention, it may not present the resolution at all. Once a resolution is presented, discussion ensues and the chair entertains motions to amend the resolution. Once those issues are settled, the motion with any approved amendments are then voted on. There is only one real problem with this; resolutions are nothing more than strong suggestions because those resolutions have no authority where the entities of the SBC are concerned nor do they have any authority over the church, because churches are autonomous bodies. The entities are not autonomous, but are governed by a board of trustees and as such, are not required to follow any vote taken by the convention messengers. This was clearly seen when in Phoenix the messengers voted to have Lifeway take the NIV 2011 off its shelves and when the board of trustees met in 2012, they voted to keep it. The BOT was under no mandate to act on the vote of the messengers in annual session. This is true of all the entities of the SBC.

It might also be noted, that motions made on the floor of the convention would be no more binding than resolutions. Citing an exaggerated scenario, a motion could be made on the floor of the convention to fire one of the entity heads. That motion could pass unanimously but it would still be up to the trustee board as to what they decided to do with reference to such a motion, no matter what the nature of that motion might have been.

The only real significance that can be seen in the business of the meeting would be related to voting for the president of the SBC. Since this year was considered an “off-year” for any presidential election noting Dr. Luter’s unopposed re-election bid, some have said they would save their money for Baltimore where a new president will be elected in 2014. This could explain the lower than expected number of messengers in Houston. I have even heard that reason given for folks not attending New Orleans knowing that Dr. Luter would be nominated unopposed as well. The Convention then elects a First Vice President and then a Second Vice President. Bart Barber was elected to the first position unopposed and Jared Moore was elected to the second receiving 422 votes over Don Cass with 252 or so votes. There were 674 votes cast in total. William Thornton has raised a good question regarding a quorum necessary to conduct business. You can read his article by clicking here. With the number of messengers registered, 1250 would have had to be in the convention hall to even vote for the 2 VP and since 674 votes were cast, there is some wonder if that vote were not cast prematurely. It was 20 minutes or so before the scheduled time on the printed program.

There is a second problem with the nomination process of officers. Someone got up and nominated Jared Moore and basically said Jared is a personal friend; his church gives 16% to the CP and he is not a mega church pastor but just an ordinary guy pastoring a rural church of folks that love Jesus and their community. A second individual got up and nominated Don Cass and spoke to his credentials and why he ought to be the next 2 VP. Neither of these two guys even so much as waved to the crowd, as small as it was. No one had much of a clue who these two guys were other than what they were told by the individual nominating them. This process is producing some serious potential problems. Jared Moore is two heartbeats away from the presidency of the SBC. I find that problematic for a number of reasons.

The first is highlighted by an article Jared himself wrote on his own blog. For those who do not know Jared, he is an avid blogger. In an article he wrote that was published at SBC Voices on September 24, 2012 titled “An Open Letter to “Failing” Churches and Foolish Southern Baptists”, he wrote the following statement:

The church I pastor, New Salem Baptist Church in Hustonville, KY, didn’t record a single baptism last year (2011). I realize some folks in Southern Baptist churches and in Southern Baptist State and National entities lament our efforts as “failing,” but I want to publicly rebuke them, and encourage those who have labored faithfully without much tangible fruit.

It is bad enough that Jared’s church did not baptize a single person in a year but he sees it as his duty to rebuke those who find that problematic. Jared goes on to say,

“At least one baptism per year” is an unbiblical quota. Where is such a quota at in Scripture? You won’t find it. So, why do some judge the ministries of others based on this quota? Furthermore, why is their quota so low? Why isn’t their quota “at least one baptism per week”? Or, better yet, “100 baptisms per week”? I suppose then they would have to admit that they’re failures as well?

I do understand there are a lot of circumstances surrounding people being saved and baptized in our churches. However, one of the biggest reasons people are not saved centers around our not witnessing and sharing the gospel with folks outside the pulpit. It is absolutely inconceivable that ANYONE who is saved could not win 1 person to Jesus in a year. I agree with Moore that there are no such goals spelled out in the Scriptures but I would also argue that the thought that a born again Christian would not lead one person to Christ in a year would be highly unusual as well. Moore’s article can be read by clicking here. He does make some good comments but there really is no excuse for anyone to go a year without leading someone to Christ. If the 422 messengers who voted for Jared knew this fact, I wonder how many would have still voted for him?

Perhaps there ought to be some kind of opportunity to ask, “If anyone knows of any reason that this person should not be nominated to this position, let him speak now or forever hold his peace.” It works for weddings; maybe it ought to be used in nominations for office in SBC elections of the future. A brief question and answer session ought to be incorporated into the election process, seeing that these are the most significant opportunities for messengers to engage in.

There was a pronounced effort made to set a tone for co-operation in the SBC. The repeated cry was for all of us to “look at all the things we agree on” and not focus on the few things that we disagree on. Personally I find that a little condescending. If there were not significant differences, we would not be having these debates in the first place. Here is a fact. The cry to get along is almost always the cry of the underdog until they become the big dog and then there is no longer any toleration for differing positions. From all indications, the same can be said of the New Calvinist movement. The new church planting organizations that are Reformed, are planting reformed church plants that are committed to reformed theology up front. More recently, the trustees of a couple state supported Baptist colleges have voted not to renew contracts on professors and the New Calvinist contingency has made their calvinism a major issue in their contracts not being renewed. Sharp criticism has been leveled against the institutions and in one case the executive director of the state. It is as if the day is fast changing and the New Calvinists are already flexing their muscles proving their desire to have one theological position in the SBC; Reformed Theology.

Call it what you want; it is what it is. We can call for unity and I believe everyone would love to see real unity. However, the unity we are seeking is a one-sided effort allowing the other side to continue doing what it needs to do to move the SBC closer to the Reformed way which I believe is set to be solidified when the SBC moves to Baltimore. The foundation has been laid and barring a significant move of God, the guys leading this calvinist charge will prevail in Baltimore and the SBC will be turned to a more reformed position.

This convention in Baltimore may well prove to be one of the most significant conventions in the history of the SBC. I believe every Southern Baptist ought to begin to make plans to go to Baltimore because win, lose of draw, this will be the convention you will not want to miss.

May God bless the SBC in these very interesting days!

Bob Hadley,
Westside Baptist Church, Daytona Beach, FL