SBC 2023 RECAP
What is the SBC?
North Albemarle Baptist Church (NABC) is a cooperating church with the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). This means that we voluntarily cooperate with more than 47,000 other like-minded, autonomous congregations. By "like-minded" I mean that we closely aligned in doctrine under the Baptist Faith and Message (2000), our confessional statement. By “cooperate,” I mean that we pull our funds together for the purpose of “reaching every person for Jesus Christ in every town, every city, and every nation.” We do this through the Cooperative Program, an agreed-upon allocation of our collective funds.
What is the annual meeting?
Messengers are church members elected by their congregations to attend an annual meeting and participate in the polity of the convention. Every cooperating church is allotted a limited number of messengers. The annual meeting is essentially the world’s largest business meeting. Imagine a church business meeting with thousands upon thousands of people. Robert’s Rules of Order become incredibly essential. The annual meeting of the SBC typically occurs in mid-June, and it occurs in different cities throughout the US each year. This year’s meeting was June 13-14 in New Orleans, LA. There were 12,737 registered messengers (compared to 8,133 last year in CA), 2,365 registered guests and 2,365 exhibitors. In other words, Rebekah and I were happy to be two of the 18,901 people gathered in New Orleans as messengers from North Albemarle Baptist Church.
Why do we attend?
Our church cooperates by giving to the Cooperative Program (our budget). In fact, our largest financial contribution annually is given to the Cooperative Program. NABC gives 10% of our total contributions every year, and 40% of that is given to the CP. This year, if NABC meets budget, we will have given nearly $16,000 to the CP. We are a cooperating church, and as such, we need a seat in the room when the decisions are made. Your pastor intends to fill that seat!
Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force (ARITF) - This new task force, led by Pastor Marshall Blalock (Charleston, SC), gave a report expressing their sincere effort to implement policies and bring about the necessary processes to protect members and attenders of SBC churches, while also expressing the real challenges they have faced. The SBC affirmed the Task Force for another year of work. Churches ought to be praying for this task force as they continue to develop a ministry check website with a functional database naming those “credibly accused” in an effort to protect churches.
“What is a Pastor?” The buzz over the internet last summer, stemming from our annual gathering in Anaheim, was “What is a Pastor?” I reported to you after that convention, “I am confident that the SBC is very clear on its definition of “pastor” as being limited to men (see last year’s report).” This year’s convention in NOLA proved the point.
First, the convention overwhelmingly chose to consider two churches “not in friendly cooperation” with the SBC. This came through a new process the convention established just a few years ago with the creation of the “Credentials Committee.” Any SBC church may be reported to the committee for what the reporter might believe to be out of step with SBC doctrine. The Committee then has the responsibility to investigate the accusations. If found credible, and if found to not be “closely aligned” or “closely identified” with the SBC, the Credentials Committee can recommend to the Executive Committee that the offending church be found “not in friendly cooperation” with the SBC. This was the case with 6 individual churches this past year.
As part of the process, said church has the right to appeal the EC’s decision to the convention at large. Three of the six churches opted to appeal. The process allows for one representative of the church to address the convention from a floor microphone for three minutes, and then for one representative of the EC to address the convention in response for three minutes. No further debate is allowed, and then the convention gets to vote to either affirm the decision of the EC or to overturn the decision.
Saddleback Church - The Southern California church founded by Rick Warren has ordained three female pastors and now has a husband/wife pastor team as co-lead pastors after Warren’s retirement. The EC found the church to be in “not friendly cooperation” with the SBC on this point, and the convention upheld the decision with a nearly 90% vote of affirmation.
Fern Creek Baptist Church - Located in Louisville, KY, this church is proudly under the leadership of a female pastor. The convention upheld the EC’s decision concerning Fern Creek with a nearly 92% vote of affirmation.
A third church, Freedom Church, in Vero Beach, FL., was also affirmed with a 96% vote to not be in friendly cooperation with the SBC due to their employment of an alleged sexual abuser, and their unwillingness to adequately resolve the situation.
Not only did the 2023 SBC vote to not cooperate with these two congregations based on their faulty understanding of the office of pastor, but it also sought to clarify its own position of understanding.
Resolution 6 - “On the Southern Baptist confessional heritage of office of bishop/elder/pastor.” - The SBC affirmed a resolution re-affirming our historic beliefs in only two biblical offices in the church, that of pastor and deacon. This resolution calls upon historical confessional documents as well as scripture to further demonstrate that the office of pastor biblically may be referred to as elder or bishop/overseer.
BFM Amendment- We also approved an amendment to article 6 of the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 to add the words “elder/overseer” alongside the word “pastor,” further clarifying that the three words are used interchangeably in the New Testament.
Constitutional Amendment - Later, the convention voted to amend our constitution with an additional defining example of cooperation stating that churches in cooperation affirm, appoint, or employ “only men as any kind of pastor or elder as qualified by Scripture.” According to our by-laws a constitutional amendment has to be affirmed at two consecutive annual meetings before it can be effective, so it will have to be affirmed again next year in Indianapolis.
What about women? So, it may sound like the SBC is chauvinistic and sexist, and has no regard for women, but nothing could be further from the truth. The SBC seeks to stand on biblical authority in how it defines and understands the role of pastor, and we believe that the Bible teaches the headship of men, but in no way does that undervalue or diminish the role women are to play. Rather, it simply distinguishes the unique roles that God gave to men and women. The SBC overwhelmingly approved a resolution recognizing such distinctions and giftedness of women. Perhaps you argue that a resolution isn’t a constitutional or confessional amendment, and thus not worth anything. I would suggest that you are wrong. A resolution is a statement of belief by those who make it. In other words, a resolution is somewhat of a thermometer, giving a reading of a particular group of people at a particular point in time. Resolution #5, on the legacy and responsibility of women fulfilling the great commission, tells is a great temperature check of how the SBC currently values and appreciates the role of women in the church.
The Mission - The Great Commission has been the heartbeat of the Southern Baptist Convention since its founding in 1845, and it still is today, in 2023! The North American Mission Board (NAMB) is the entity that focuses on missions on our continent; it’s the organization that our Annie Armstrong Easter Offering (AAEO) supports. NAMB reported that since 2010, the SBC has helped plant 10,000 churches in North America! Of those new church starts there is an 86% survival rate of at least 4 years. It is projected that at this rate, by the year 2030, 1/3 of all SBC congregations will have been planted since the year 2010. This is why we give to the AAEO!
Our International Mission Board (IMB) reported that we currently are supporting 3,521 missionaries on the field! Those missionaries collectively have 2700 children that they are raising on the field! Our annual Lottie Moon Christmas Offering goes to our IMB missionaries on the field, and in 2022, they stewarded our funds well. 21,000 new churches were started in 122 countries. The gospel was shared with 728,000 people around the world. As always, the highlight of the convention was the SBC commissioning 79 new missionaries to add to the force that is taking the gospel around the world; 9 of them were from North Carolina!
The numbers sound impressive, and they are, but 3,500 missionaries in a world population of 8 billion just isn’t a satisfactory ratio. It is reported that from 2008-2018, 2,000 missionaries came off the field and returned back to the US, and they were never replaced. There are currently 1,200 missionaries waiting to be sent, being trained to be sent, and it is up to the local churches of the SBC to send them. Please keep giving towards our missions offerings, Lottie and Annie!
Presidential Election - The SBC president serves one one-year term, and is eligible for a second one-year term if the convention should desire it. Typically, after a president’s first term, he will run unopposed for his second term; but that was not the case this year. Mike Stone, a pastor from Georgia, ran against the incumbent president, Bart Barber, pastor of First Baptist in Farmersville, Texas. Stone ran for the presidency in 2021, in Nashville, but lost. He ran again this year but fell short with only 31% of the vote. The convention spoke loudly in its reelection of Barber for a second term, and that’s a great move for the SBC. Barber has served our convention faithfully and will continue to do so this coming year.
Artificial Intelligence - The SBC is believed to have made the first denominational statement on the ethics of artificial intelligence (AI). This was not a purely critical or negative statement, but one that wishes to express “eschatological hope” while also recognizing the ethical challenges that AI brings.
Pastor’s Summary: New Orleans was the 8th SBC gathering that I have personally been a part of, and I left incredibly encouraged. I still believe that the IMB is the greatest missionary force on the planet and that NAMB is vital to church planting on this continent. I still find it comical when the SBC is accused of drifting liberal in our theology. The votes, the efforts from the floor, all point towards a theologically strong and conservative convention that believes the inerrant Word of God. Don’t believe the narrative the media creates.
The blogs and the social media posts, or the national media, might paint some picture of liberalism, or now some picture of chauvinism, or in the words of the Little Rascals, a “he-man woman haters club,” but that simply isn’t the case. Reading a blog, or an article, provides you with a biased perspective. You are thinking, “But, this is an article that I am reading…” and you’re right. Admittedly, I am biased too. My bias is to the sheep that I have been entrusted to shepherd. My bias is to the stewardship of the resources of NABC. I was in the room. I feel the sentiment of the room. I hear the applause. I see the ballots lifted. I hear the murmurs. I hear the talk standing in line at a restaurant. I am there, and I can assure you, my congregation, that this is a strong convention.
We will gather again in Indianapolis, Indiana on June 11-12, 2024!