The first official day of the annual meeting was quite busy. My personal observations:
Morris Chapman’s Address
Morris Chapman is the President of the Executive Committee of the SBC (XC). In his morning speech, he spoke out very strongly about sexual abuse within the SBC. While the SBC will not operate its own database of sexual predators, it will recommend the justice department’s database which is freely open to all. However, Chapman had some powerful words to say about the church’s duty to keep vigilant watch out for sexual predators in our midst. Not only does this include screening before staff is hired, but it also includes responding correctly when abuse happens. He offered the way the pastor of Prestonwood Baptist handled the latest scandal. The staff member was immediately removed and no excuses were offered. Sin was called sin.
In his speech, Chapman called sexual predators “vile” at least a couple fo times. While we all applaud the strong language to keep predators away from our children, we must also remember the gospel we preach is one of redemption. Even sexual predators are not beyond the transforming grace of God. However, there are some sins that exclude one from a position of leadership and trust, and sexual abuse is one of them. What Chapman did not do was to define “sexual predator” (is this just sexual abuse of a child, or does it include one adult preying on another adult?). This, and other issues, have to be worked out in the local church. But Chapman is correct, the local church must stop pawning off their problem onto another unsuspecting church. (I couldn’t help but think of a certain church in TN which failed to handle the issue well, but I don’t think Chapman was intending to attack it.)
NAMB Annie Armstrong Luncheon
FBC Benbrook led the Tarrant Baptist Association in per capita giving toward the Annie Armstrong offering for North American missions, so I was invited to a special luncheon hosted by NAMB. These are the jewel moments at the annual meeting. It is at these events that you get to hear the stories that make you glad to be a Southern Baptist.
NAMB missionary Jon sat at my table. He serves in Idaho in inner city ministries in Des Moines. He told many stories of how God is meeting needs through clothing and food ministries, as well as helping refugees resettle. The keynote speaker was a NAMB missionary (Dave) who serves near a college campus in Virginia. He was incredible. He told story after story about lives that have been transformed by the gospel message. Again, it makes you want to give more and more to NAMB. We have many agencies that struggle with their vision and using their resources wisely, but NAMB is not one of them.
The election for President is the only thing that messengers really do at the convention. Usually, the election is determined before it begins because only one candidate runs. If that is becuae of “back room deals” or just an act of God, I don’t know. But, this year, there were 6 candidates for the office. Four of them were legitimate (I don’t mean to offend the other two, but there was little chance that a smaller membership church pastor was going to be elected, though I voted for one of them!). Frank Cox, Johnny Hunt, Avery Willis, and Bill Wagner were all good candidates. (Official Vote Totals). The nominating speeches were more of an event than the election themselves. I think all four candidates are of the same camp, so one is probably as good as another. Time will tell, I guess.
Page and Land
The last two addresses that I cared to listen to were Dr. Page Patterson (SWBTS) and Dr. Richard Land (ERLC). Patterson’s talk was disappointing in the sense that he really didn’t say anthing other than describing those who think the SBC might be in trouble as “secular vultures.” Just cause he says it, doesn’t make it so. The convention is in trouble. (More on that later).
Dr. Land is a powerful speaker. He spoke about the four major social issues in America today: the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death, internet pornography, homosexuality and teh breakdown of the family, and the Islamic jihadist movement within Islam. Most powerful though was his bold statment that America has a spiritual problem that will only be solved by a a revivial. He launched the 40/40 prayer initiative that will lead the church to pray for the upcoming national election. I will have to find out more about that and lead our church in that prayer movement as November draws nigh.
I want to come back to the issue of the future of the SBC and the future of the SBC annual meeting.