Phoneix, AZ was the home to the 2011 Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention. Due to various reasons I was not able to attend this year’s meeting. However, thanks to internet technology, the sessions were streamed live online and the entire meeting is now available for download at SBC.net. I will briefly outline the major actions taken at this year’s meeting and provide some commentary.
At just over 4.800 messengers, the attendance at the 2011 Annual Meeting was the lowest the convention has seen in 67 years. Although this is unfortunate news to hear, it is not necessarily surprising. As I mentioned above, with the ease of online access to the various sessions, anyone is able to “attend” the convention without really attending. If there are no significant or controversial voting issues on the table, then it is understandable to see why many would opt to watch from the comfort of their couch then make the trip to Phoenix. It was not too long ago that the only way to receive “instant access” of the convention news was to actually attend. That is simply no longer the case. This year’s meeting did not have any earth shattering issues announced, which is in contrast to last year’s controversial “Great Commission Resurgence Report.” Another factor is that this was not an election year – Bryant Wright was up for re-election. Still yet, with the decline of baptisms and the diminishing returns of for the Cooperative Program, seeing these kinds of numbers at the Annual Meeting is not what we are looking for.
Messengers approved the “Affirmation of Unity and Cooperation Pledge” which outlined 5 key pledges:
1. We pledge to maintain a relationship of mutual trust.
2. We pledge to attribute the highest motives to those engaged in local church ministries and those engaged in denominational service in any level of Convention life.
3. We pledge to affirm the value of cooperative ministry as the most effective and efficient means of reaching a lost world.
4. We pledge to embrace our brothers and sisters of every ethnicity, race, and language as equal partners in our collective ministries to engage all people groups with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
5. We pledge to continue to honor and affirm proportional giving through the Cooperative Program as the most effective means of mobilizing our churches and extending our outreach as Southern Baptist Churches.
For those outside the SBC (and I suppose for many inside), this pledge seems to scream an internal feeling of paranoia and mistrust. Pledges 1-3 seem to be pretty obvious from any Christian standpoint and pledge 5 is just a bit humorous considering all the hub-bub from last year’s Great Commission Resurgence Report. I wonder how many times we can assert that we are supportive of the Cooperative Program? Perhaps it is similar to preaching on tithing – the trend is to just keep preaching until the offering numbers increase! All in all, I suppose it is a good thing to be reminded from time to time of our commitments and responsibilities to one another in our race to live the Christian life.
Former SBC president Frank Page called for a “1 percent challenge” for churches to increase their giving to the CP by 1 percent. Doing so would lead to $100 million more for SBC ministries and worldwide missions. I whole heartily affirm this challenge and would hope churches would increase by even half a percent to begin.
The Executive Committee gave a “landmark report” on ethnic diversity in the SBC and the Convention elected Fred Luter, a New Orleans African American pastor, as Vice President. Unity and ethnic diversity seemed to be the principal issues at the 2011 Annual Meeting.
Other points of interest included president Bryant Wright allowing a meeting with 9 key homosexual leaders and allies in his Convention office. The leaders demanded an apology from the SBC and a commitment to stop teaching anti-homosexual behavior. Wright did not back down, but apparently both sides were very cordial in their approach to the conversation and Wright assured the coalition that neither he nor the SBC “hates” homosexuals, but that we cannot condone what the Bible explicitly condemns as behavior displeasing to God. Also, a resolution was passed affirming the belief and reality of hell, no doubt sparked by Rob Bell’s latest book “Love Wins.”
To read all the news and updates from the SBC Annual Meeting, click here.