WRAP-UP: SBC officer elections feature many candidates, several runoff contests

INDIANAPOLIS (BP) — A crowded field of candidates led to numerous runoff elections in 2024. After two runoffs, North Carolina pastor Clint Pressley was named president. Pressley is senior pastor of Hickory Grove Baptist Church near Charlotte.

Brad Graves, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Ada, Oklahoma, was named first vice president. Eddie Lopez, senior pastor of FBC en Español, Forney, Texas, won the race for second vice president after one runoff election.

In the second presidential runoff, Pressley won with 4,244 votes (56.12 percent) out of a total of 7,562 votes cast. Spencer garnered 3,305 votes (43.71 percent). Thirteen votes were disallowed.

Don Currence, who serves as an administrative pastor and the mayor of Ozark, Missouri, was not opposed in the race for registration secretary.

Nathan Finn, professor at North Greenville University and teaching pastor at Taylors (South Carolina) First Baptist Church, was unopposed in his bid to be re-elected as recording secretary.

Constitutional Amendment falls short

Southern Baptist messengers failed to reach the required second two-thirds approval Wednesday morning (June 12) for what has become known as the Law amendment. The amendment did receive the requisite two-thirds last year in New Orleans.

With 8,298 messengers voting in Indianapolis, there were 5,099 ballots (61.45 percent) in favor.

The amendment would have defined a cooperating church as one that “affirms, appoints, or employs only men as any kind of pastor or elder as qualified by Scripture.”

The vote followed approximately 10 minutes of debate from the floor.

Spence Shelton, lead pastor of Mercy Church in Charlotte, N.C., said Southern Baptists have made clear their collective stance on complementarianism by voting in the two most recent conventions to rule churches out of fellowship for egalitarian views. Those included last year’s vote regarding the SBC’s larges church as well as this year’s vote on one of the SBC’s oldest – First Baptist of Alexandria, Va., whose 1803 founding predates the Convention itself.

“We have an effective mechanism,” he said. “It allows us to act with the conviction and unity. … We have shown that the mechanisms we currently have are sufficient to deal with this question.”

Messengers approve eight resolutions, speak to in vitro fertilization

SBC messengers spoke to in vitro fertilization (IVF) for the first time in adopting a resolution on the topic after a sometimes-emotional floor discussion that featured messengers sharing their personal experiences with reproductive technologies.

Messengers were presented with a slate of 10 resolutions but only eight came to the floor of the meeting due to a lack of time for discussion.

Messengers adopted resolutions on the conflict between Israel and Hamas, religious liberty, parental rights, just war theory and integrity in SBC leadership among other topics.

This year marked the first time messengers were able to preview the resolutions 10 days before the gavel dropped on the first day of the meeting.

Dozens of motions brought to the SBC annual meeting floor

Messengers presented 50 motions at the 2024 SBC annual meeting and acted on several, rejecting calls to abolish the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) and censure Southern Baptist leaders and approving the unseating of messengers from FBC Alexandria.

Abolishing an entity requires two successive two-thirds votes of approval. The crowd in the Indiana Convention Center fell well short of that margin on a motion brought by Tom Ascol, pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, Fla., getting an estimated quarter of the vote. Attempts in recent years to abolish the ERLC have failed by bigger margins.

Louis Cook, pastor of Oak City Baptist Church in Oak City, N.C., presented a motion to censure Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President Albert Mohler, Lifeway Christian Resources President Ben Mandrell and then-SBC President Bart Barber in relation to signing an amicus brief in a case of Kentucky-based statute of limitations case. The messengers ultimately overruled the Committee on Order of Business by ruling the motion out of order.

The motion to unseat messengers from First Baptist Church in Alexandria, Va., was brought by Aaron Decker, a messenger from Red Village Church in Madison, Wisc. The Credentials Committee followed Decker’s motion with a recommendation to deem the church not in friendly cooperation with the SBC based “on the grounds of their public endorsement of egalitarianism.” The messengers’ agreement with that recommendation unseated the church’s messengers.

Messengers responded with a vote of 6,759 to 563 in agreement with Decker and the Credentials Committee.

Nearly 11,000 messengers gather in Indianapolis

Large crowds moved through the convention and exhibit halls over the days of the meeting in Indianapolis. There were a total of 10,946 messengers, 3,132 guests and 2,740 exhibitors for the meeting.

Total attendance was 16,818.

Messengers hailed from all 50 states, D.C. and Puerto Rico, representing 3,988 churches.

Tennessee led with the most messengers, 974, accompanied in the top 10 sending states by Texas, 958; Kentucky, 856; Florida, 761; Georgia, 733; North Carolina, 700; Alabama, 637; Missouri, 489; Indiana, 474, and South Carolina, 439.

Jeff Iorg gives first address at leader of SBC Executive Committee

Though no stranger to the SBC annual meeting platform, Jeff Iorg, newly elected SBC Executive Committee president and CEO, gave his first presentation in the role.

Iorg told messengers he was ready to retire from the presidency of Gateway Seminary and spend more time with family when he was approached about seeking the presidency of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee.

He put the matter before his wife Ann and their three adult children. His daughter Melody’s response helped seal the deal, he said in part 1 of his Executive Committee report to 2024 SBC messengers.

“She said, ‘Dad, from the day you moved our family to the West Coast to plant a church, our family has always been about the gospel. And this is your opportunity to minimize the distractions and help Southern Baptists stay focused on what we’re really here for.’”

In his address, Iorg acknowledged Southern Baptists face great challenges focusing on God’s eternal mission while giving other issues appropriate attention.

“The mission matters most,” Iorg said, reciting a phrase he said has helped him stay on track. “This phrase reminds me to prioritize God’s eternal mission, while still recognizing other matters need appropriate attention. The mission matters most means other things do matter – but just not as much as some people advocate – and never ever to the detriment of God’s eternal mission.”

83 missionaries commissioned in IMB sending celebration

The messengers were moved to joy and tears as 83 new missionaries were commissioned to go to every affinity of the world where the International Mission Board (IMB) works today. They represent a collective commitment to the biblical model of getting the gospel to those who have yet to hear through the presence of a missionary, according to IMB.

IMB President Paul Chitwood told the missionaries, “Beside you and behind you are row upon row, thousands of Southern Baptists, here to celebrate with you as you prepare to go to the nations,” he said. “As you go out to literally every corner of the earth in pursuit of the lost, may the Lord remind you that always – always – there are Southern Baptists praying fervently for you, and for the gospel to advance.”

He reminded missionaries that Southern Baptists are committed to “hold the rope” for the new missionaries in praying, giving and sending others to work alongside them.

Thousands hear the gospel, many respond at dozens of Crossover events

One-hundred-eighty-five people responded to the gospel during Crossover 2024, according to the North American Mission Board (NAMB.)

Hoosiers heard the gospel during 60 different Crossover events June 3-8 supported by 44 local churches. Roger Kinion, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Greenfield, Ind., gave local leadership and was joined by NAMB, the State Convention of Baptists in Indiana along with the Crossroads Baptist Association.

NAMB Vice President of Evangelism Tim Dowdy invited Ryan Strother, executive director of the State Convention of Baptists in Indiana; Scooter Kellum, team leader for church and leader mobilization; and Chris Kellermeyer, associational missions strategist for the Crossroads Baptist Association, to join him on the convention stage June 11 for a report.

Dowdy reported more than 1,469 volunteers that engaged through Crossover events; 9,211 homes were visited, and 5,393 people heard the gospel.

ARITF introduces curriculum, transfers responsibilities to SBC Executive Committee

Messengers overwhelmingly approved two recommendations brought forward by the SBC Abuse Reform and Implementation Task Force (ARITF).

The recommendations hand the priorities identified by ARITF over to the SBC Executive Committee to further implement. The move closes a chapter of Southern Baptist life marked by three consecutive annual meetings where new task forces were appointed to make recommendations toward and implement abuse reforms.

Those recommendations were:

  • That the messengers of the 2024 Southern Baptist Convention affirm the objectives outlined in the 2024 Report of the Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force, in particular, 1) the expansion of the Ministry Toolkit, 2) the establishment of the Ministry Check website, and 3) the creation of a permanent home for abuse prevention and response, but the Convention does not require the use of any particular organization outside the Convention’s entities or commissions to accomplish these objectives.
  • That the messengers of the 2024 Southern Baptist Convention urge the Executive Committee to work earnestly to complete the implementation of these objectives by recommending a structure adequate to support these objectives, by recommending the allocation of funds sufficient for the effective accomplishment of them, and to report back to the messengers to the 2025 SBC annual meeting on actions taken in response.

In the Executive Committee on June 10, EC president and CEO Jeff Iorg said he will lead the EC to move quickly on the recommendations of the ARITF.

Messengers approve GCR Evaluation Task Force recommendations

Messengers adopted the six recommendations proposed by the Great Commission Resurgence Evaluation Task Force with one slight amendment during the SBC annual meeting’s Tuesday evening session June 11.

Recommendation 2, which called for simplifying the Annual Church Profile (ACP), added another point clarifying the request for a church to provide its total amount of Cooperative Program giving.

One messenger brought forward an amendment regarding two questions on the ACP profile asking churches about screening and training processes for staff and volunteers regarding sexual abuse prevention. The proposed amendment to strike those two questions was ultimately struck down by messengers and thus remained in the recommendation.

In speaking with reporters after the report, chairman Jay Adkins said that “there were some really good intentions with the GCR” and Southern Baptists’ struggles to increase baptisms and other areas is not unique.

A postmodern – even post-Christian – world makes that more of a challenge. “Culturally, there is a natural dip,” he said. “Scripture speaks to these sorts of issues as they relate to the church.”

Four recommendations from Cooperation Group approved by messengers

Messengers also approved four recommendations from the Cooperation Group, which was tasked in 2023 to study the issue of how Article 3 of the SBC Constitution references the Baptist Faith and Message.

The recommendations included:

  • To ensure that edits or amendments to The Baptist Faith & Message follow the same process as amendments to the Constitution (two-thirds vote, two consecutive years), we recommend the Executive Committee propose changes to our governing documents for the Convention’s consideration at the 2025 annual meeting.
  • To ensure that the sole authority for seating messengers is vested in the messenger body, we recommend the Executive Committee propose changes to our governing documents for the Convention’s consideration at the 2025 annual meeting. We also recommend celebrating churches seating messengers for the first time.
  • To ensure the fidelity of our trustees to our doctrinal confession, we recommend the Executive Committee propose changes to our governing documents for the Convention’s consideration at the 2025 annual meeting to require the Committee on Nominations to nominate as entity trustees and standing committee members only those candidates who affirm the Convention’s adopted statement of faith
  • To clarify our cooperative unity, we recommend the Executive Committee evaluate the usefulness and accuracy of a public list of churches and report their updates at the 2025 annual meeting.

The task force was called for by messengers at the 2023 SBC annual meeting and named last summer by then-president Bart Barber.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Brandon Porter serves as Associate Vice President for Convention News at the SBC Executive Committee. Scott Barkley is national correspondent for Baptist Press.)

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