By Nathan Finn, Teaching Pastor
On June 13-14, the Southern Baptist Convention held its 2023 annual meeting in New Orleans, LA. The annual meeting is technically a business session, though it also includes times for corporate worship and connecting with friends from other parts of the country. There were 12,737 messengers in attendance. Messengers must be members from cooperating Southern Baptist churches. Each messenger votes according to his or her conscience. Together, the messengers are responsible for conducting the business of the Southern Baptist Convention.
In this blog post, I want to share some highlights from the annual meeting. First, messengers heard from our mission boards. The International Mission Board (IMB) commissioned 79 new missionaries as part of a Sending Ceremony, while the North American Mission Board (NAMB) reported that Southern Baptists have planted over 10,000 churches since 2010. I always get excited when I hear about the Great Commission work of Southern Baptists. This is why our churches cooperate!
Second, the other Convention entities also shared reports. Each of the six seminaries, LifeWay Christian Resources, GuideStone, and the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission each reported on their respective ministries over the past year. Some of you probably know that our own Josh Powell serves as the Chair of the Board of Trustees for The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. As part of Southern’s report, Pastor Josh had the privilege of honoring Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr. for his 30th anniversary as Southern Seminary’s President.
Third, messengers re-elected Texas pastor Bart Barber to a second term as SBC President. I was also re-elected to a second term to serve as the SBC’s Recording Secretary. Other officers include Jay Adkins of Louisiana as First Vice President, Kason Branch of Texas as Second Vice President, and Don Currence of Missouri as Registration Secretary. Pray for the officers as we fulfill our respective responsibilities this coming year.
Fourth, messengers took several actions to reaffirm our commitment to what the Bible teaches about church leadership. We amended the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, our Convention’s confession of faith, to clarify that the titles of pastor, elder, and overseer refer to the same office. We also approved a constitutional revision stating that a church is not in friendly cooperation if a woman serves as a pastor. This revision will require a second consecutive 2/3 majority vote to become official. Finally, we refused the appeals of three churches that had been declared not to be in friendly cooperation, two of which were disfellowshipped because they employ female pastors.
Fifth, messengers reauthorized the Abuse Response and Implementation Task Force (ARITF), which is responsible for spearheading the Convention’s response to sexual abuse. The ARITF is chaired by Marshall Blalock, the senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Charleston, SC. Pray for the ARITF as they continue their important work. Doing all we can to prevent sex abuse and caring well for survivors of sex abuse remains an important part of our love for our most vulnerable neighbors as well as our public witness.
Finally, messengers adopted nine resolutions that address key topics. Some of my personal favorites include a resolution that articulates a kingdom approach to immigration, a resolution denouncing gender-transition procedures, and a resolution affirming the vital role of women in fulfilling the Great Commission. Resolutions from all previous SBC annual meetings dating back to 1845 are available on the Southern Baptist Convention’s website.
In closing, I want to quote what the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 says about cooperation. “Christ’s people should, as occasion requires, organize such associations and conventions as may best secure cooperation for the great objects of the Kingdom of God. Such organizations have no authority over one another or over the churches. They are voluntary and advisory bodies designed to elicit, combine, and direct the energies of our people in the most effective manner.” I’m thankful that Taylors First Baptist Church chooses to cooperate with other like-minded Southern Baptist churches to advance Christ’s kingdom here, there, and everywhere.
Below are some additional news articles concerning the Convention.
Image: Sonya Singh, 6/2023, baptistpress.com