A Young Black Millennial Gives His Perspective on the Southern Baptist Convention of 2017
This year I attended the Southern Baptist Convention in Phoenix, AZ. As a new church planter, I thought it would be a good introduction to the life of the SBC, meet new friends, and expand Grace Alive’s network for planting multiethnic church plants across the globe. I was told it was an “off” year since there wasn’t a major election for SBC President. Well, that couldn’t have been more wrong. While the convention may have had been down in attendance, the tension steadily rose at one particular point. Fireworks were going off during the resolution session. For that reason, many have been writing on the Convention and what took place. While much has been said, tweeted, and written very little has been told from the perspective of a young minority that was actually there. Here is my perspective.
The national meeting of the Southern Baptist convention had several highlights. I was highly encouraged by the progress the SBC has experienced in terms of minorities in leadership. My pastor and mentor, HB Charles Jr. was unanimously elected as the president of The Pastors Conference. Dr. Walter Strickland of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary was elected as 1st VP of the convention along with Jose Abella of Providence Road Church in Miami to serve as 2nd VP. While the diversity certainly could have been much higher in general, I was encouraged to see many races represented and several fellowships focused on enriching unity and advancement of minorities. As I attended the Southeastern luncheon Dr. Danny Akin highlighted the work they have achieved through their Kingdom Diversity initiative which has led to an increase of diversity at the seminary.
I was also refreshed by the updates and presentations by several SBC entities such as the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), Lifeway, The International Mission Board (IMB), and the North American Mission Board (NAMB). ERLC has advanced religious liberty, fought for racial harmony, and heralded the advancement of Pro-Life policies. Personally, I have been impressed with the brave leadership of Russell Moore since his election of the ERLC. Lifeway has done much to equip the local church through curriculum in addition to producing a quality Bible translation known as the CSB. IMB is now financially stable and producing more missionaries to unreached people groups. NAMB is assessing and producing more church planters across the nation. The SBC seminaries also made major reports celebrating record attendances and milestones. If you take these presentations and updates in to account along with the success of various state conventions and local associations, you can see there is a tremendous amount of work the SBC is doing to advance the Gospel in America and abroad. Before the business of the convention, The Pastor’s Conference also highlighted great messages from pastors of churches from around the nation serving various contexts. They valiantly preached through the book of Philippians. The lineup was diverse and dynamic. There is much to Praise God for!
With all of these major celebrations, there was still something looming in the darkness. In the Book of Reports, it was stated that a resolution condemning the Alt-right movement and white supremacy was declined. This means the committee saw the resolution unfit to present to the convention for consideration. This resolution was penned by a prominent African American leader in the SBC named Dwight McKissic. Some leaders thought that this resolution would not be an issue or brought to the floor to be motioned back in for consideration. However, McKissic rightly saw it as an issue to be brought before the SBC messengers (members of SBC churches who can vote).
After breezing through the approved resolutions, McKissic came to the floor with a very passionate plea to the committee. The committee stated it was declined due to its language. However, McKissic’s motion allowed the messengers to vote with a 2/3 majority to immediately consider his resolution. The vote did not make a 2/3 majority. However, it was very close. Judging from the responses of those on stage and the reactions in the crowd, it was then the committee and SBC President saw that this issue had to be resolved. The mood of the convention literally fell flat. I could be wrong, but I believe it was the strong resolve of the messengers who pressured a new resolution to the committee so it could be submitted and voted on. The Messengers then unanimously voted to allow the committee to present their newly drafted resolution and then the next day Messengers voted overwhelmingly to pass the new resolution.
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