What's happening in the SBC . . . and why should I care?
by Robert Krumrey
If you've been paying any attention to the news over the last few months, you've probably heard news stories and editorializing about the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). They've been embroiled in a controversy that has included the ousting of some high profile leaders in the denomination. Two of the biggest are Frank Page and Paige Patterson. Frank Page was the president of the denomination from 2010-2018 and was recently ousted because of a "morally inappropriate" relationship. Paige Patterson was the president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary from 2003-2018 until recently fired because of inappropriate comments he made about the domestic abuse of a woman and allegations that he didn't properly handle the report of a rape that happened on his campus 15 years ago. This has caused quite a stir in the denomination and many have called for a deep repentance among all who make up the SBC family. See these articles by Beth Moore, Albert Mohler, and Sam Rainer for a taste of these kinds of calls for change.
But why should you care? For one reason, this is the largest protestant denomination on the planet with over 15 million members. When this group gets moving in the same direction, and that direction happens to be Christ exalting, big things can happen. Part of what we are seeing in the convention is an acceleration of change that's been occurring already as younger leaders seek to make the denomination more about gospel ministry and less about fighting a nationalistic culture war. This came to a head around election time when another high profile leader (Russell Moore) was critical of then candidate Donald Trump. You could quickly see those who were wanting to make a political power grab through the presidential vote and those who were wanting to remain faithful to the Scriptures no matter what. Thankfully, Moore weathered the storm and remained an important voice in the SBC and evangelicalism as a whole.
Another reason to care is that MERCYhouse is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. We always have been. We were sponsored by the Baptist Convention of New England, which is the regional expression of the SBC, when we planted the church in 1999. Church planting in North America and around the world is one of the main emphases of the convention. We were given enough money to pay two full-time planters (Robert Krumrey and Joe Greene) as well as money for start up costs and equipment in that first year. This partnership continues to be a blessing to our church as we receive training and encouragement for pastor and staff as well as financial support for outreaches like Free Rides. They also provide ministries for our teens like Crosswalk Camp, YEC, and Quest. The convention also participates in providing relief for disaster victims and is often first on the scene before FEMA or Red Cross. These kinds of things don't seem to make it to the news very often. All of these ministries and more are funded by millions of sinners saved by grace, known as Southern Baptists, who are all working together to get the gospel of Jesus Christ to a world who desperately needs him. We at MH are a part of that family.
The third reason to care about what's going on with the SBC is that they are having their annual meeting in Dallas, TX next week (June 12,13). People who are called "messengers" will be traveling there from all over the US. These are sent from any SBC church who wants to send them. It's run a little bit like a political convention where states send delegates to vote on their behalf. These messengers will gather to vote on various "resolutions" that have been put forth by the churches of the SBC. Everything is driven by the churches and is then voted on by the churches. It's about as nondenominational of a denomination as you can get. Instead of a top down hierarchy, autonomous local churches seek to hammer out a consensus about how they will partner going forward. This is why it's called a "convention" because officially it only exists once a year when its messengers gather to deliberate and vote.
Because of the recent scandals, this seems like a really important moment for the convention, so let's pray for those who will be gathering in Dallas next week. I've been to the convention a couple of times through the years and it's always been an exciting time of rallying around the cause of the gospel. I expect this year's meeting will feel less like a rally and more like a solemn assembly. Let's pray that we as a convention (both those in the meeting and those of us at home) will repent of sin and turn toward the Savior for forgiveness and transformation. That any and all abuse and oppression against women will be confessed and repented of. Also, that a powerful renewal would occur across all convention churches (including our own) resulting in a powerful witness of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
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