SBC Annual Meeting 2024 Summary

Andi and I were excited to attend the 2024 Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention with nine other members from Graefenburg Baptist Church. I’ll provide a quick summary of the most important moments from this year’s Convention. 

The Law Amendment
The Law Amendment was a proposed amendment to Article III of the SBC Constitution. Article III, subparagraph I provides 5 identifiers to clarify what it means for a church to be in friendly cooperation with the SBC. The first identifier states that a church must have a “faith and practice which closely identifies with the Convention’s adopted statement of faith.” That statement of faith is currently the Baptist Faith and Message 2000. Article VI of the BFM2000 describes the two offices of the church – pastor/elder/overseer and deacon. It also says, “While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor/elder/overseer is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.”

Southern Baptists passionately and convictionally embrace that truth. They demonstrated their commitment to complementarianism last year by deeming Saddleback Church and Fern Creek Baptist Church to not be in friendly cooperation with the SBC due to ordaining and employing female pastors. This year, messengers deemed First Baptist Church, Alexandria, VA to not be in friendly cooperation with the SBC for the same reason. After the votes were counted, 92% of the messengers in the room voted to remove FBC Alexandria. 

So, back to the Law Amendment. This amendment sought to add a sixth identifier to Article III, subparagraph I which would read that a church is only in friendly cooperation with the SBC if it “Affirms, appoints, or employs only men as any kind of pastor or elder as qualified by Scripture.” The stated purpose of the amendment was to give our Credentials Committee clarity on what constitutes a church being in friendly cooperation. Last year the amendment passed, but since it is a constitutional amendment, it must pass two years in a row. This year, the vote was 61% in the affirmative, just shy of the 66% necessary for it to pass. Therefore, the amendment failed.  

Despite the spin of media headlines, the failure to reach 66% had little to do with the messengers’ conviction on complementarianism and almost everything to do with the question of necessity. We have demonstrated multiple times that our statement of faith and identifier #1 in Article III of the SBC Constitution is sufficient for messengers to deem a church to no longer be in friendly cooperation with the SBC. My concern last year was that we would begin writing multiple statements from the BFM2000 as additional identifiers in Article III. Our statement of faith is beautiful, powerful, biblical, and sufficient for answering the question of pastoral qualifications. That is, I believe, the primary reason the amendment failed. 

Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force (ARITF)
The ARITF provided every church with a new “Essentials” curriculum designed to train churches for abuse prevention and survivor care. Every staff member at Graefenburg Baptist Church is reading through this curriculum and will be discussing it together. I’m excited to discover how we can improve our abuse prevention policies and keep our children safe as they learn about Jesus.   

The ARITF also asked the Executive Committee to take the reigns and move forward with the “Ministry Check” website which would provide a database of abusers for Southern Baptist Churches. That list, as of now, would consist of people who have 1) been convicted of sexual abuse in a criminal court or 2) found liable for sexual abuse in a civil court. (On a side note, I’m surprised there was no pushback from the floor that categories #3 and #4 were left off the ministry check website. Those categories would have included abusers who confessed to abuse in a non-privileged setting or who had been “credibly accused” of abuse. However, others were delighted to see those categories left off the table since there was considerable concern about an innocent party being included on the ministry check list.)

In addition, the ARITF has given the Executive Committee the task of creating a permanent home for abuse reform and response. Initially, this home for abuse reform was going to be a third-party, independent organization outside the SBC, but things have changed and there are hopes that the SBC can create a means inside the Convention to provide this service. It will be interesting to see what happens with this over the next year.

IMB Missionary Sending Celebration
If there is one issue on which all Southern Baptists can be fully united, it is the task of loving, caring, supporting, and sending our missionaries to share the gospel all over the world. The IMB Sending Celebration is something you have to experience to appreciate, and this year we sent 83 missionaries for gospel ministry. Paul Chitwood, former Executive Director for the Kentucky Baptist Convention, is doing a phenomenal job as President of the IMB.

Executive Committee President Dr. Jeff Iorg
Just a few months ago the Executive Committee elected Dr. Jeff Iorg as the new EC President. He provided his first EC report at the Annual Meeting and concentrated his remarks on the centrality of the mission – winning people for Jesus. He mentioned four important issues that are necessary for the SBC to address, but not primary for our mission. He called those four issues “mission substitutes” and suggested they are: Political Activism, Social Justice, Convention Reform, and Doctrinal Conformity. While not downplaying the importance of each of those activities, Dr. Iorg urged Southern Baptists to keep our focus on what is eternal, because “the mission matters most.”  

We are praying for the newly elected SBC President Clint Pressley and for the work of the Convention over the next year.