This week, the largest Protestant denomination in the United States will hold its annual gathering in Dallas, Texas, to deal with a host of issues internal and external.
The Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting will be held June 12-13, where messengers from across the country will vote on resolutions and a new convention president.
Here are five important things to watch out for at the convention. They include a resolution denouncing gay therapy bans, the presidential election, and a planned protest against sexual misconduct.
The Paige Patterson Controversy
There will likely be many mentions of the issues surrounding Paige Patterson, the former Southern Baptist Convention president caught in a series of allegations regarding the treatment of women.
In late April, a blog posted an interview Patterson gave in 2000 in which he said it was “wrong” to counsel women who are abused by their husbands to seek a divorce unless the level of abuse is “serious enough.”
In the weeks that followed, more allegations surfaced against Patterson, including him reportedly telling a woman not to report a rape that happened at a seminary where he was serving as president.
Eventually, Patterson was removed from his position as president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and later the seminary cut all ties to the SBC leader.
Outgoing Southern Baptist President Steve Gaines released a statement in May asking forgiveness from “all women who have been hurt by these comments and the issue of ill treatment of women within churches in particular.”
“Women are created in the image of God and are of great value and worth. The church especially is no place for misogyny or disrespect for anyone,” stated Gaines.
Some, including Thom Rainer, president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources, have called for a time of silence and repentance during this year’s meeting.
Resolution Denouncing Social Justice Movement
One of the resolutions submitted will ask the SBC to denounce the social justice movement and to refrain from using terms like “social justice” and “social justice warriors” when describing Christian activism and ethics.
Submitted by messenger Grady Arnold, the resolution argues that social justice is “based on anti-biblical and destructive concepts of Marxist ideology” and also a “vehicle to promote abortion, homosexuality, gender confusion, and a host of other ideas that are … antithetical to the gospel, the Christian worldview, and of God’s call to holiness.”
“Southern Baptists ought to be further warned by the example of the Methodist and Episcopal denominations that have already embraced the social justice movement, and instead of growing in number, these same denominations continue to lose membership at an alarmingly fast rate,” states the resolution.
“… we encourage churches in preaching, teaching, and in discipleship to address the issues of racial reconciliation, poverty, the environment, sexual and gender issues, immigration, and education from a Christian worldview and reject the ideological underpinnings and verbiage of the social justice movement.”
Presidential Election: J.D. Greear vs. Ken Hemphill
This year’s Southern Baptist Convention president election will pit Pastor J.D. Greear, 45, head of Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, against Ken Hemphill, 69, an administrator at North Greenville University and a former SBC seminary president.
In 2016, Greear narrowly lost to current president Steve Gaines, with the former deciding to withdraw his candidacy after the first two ballots failed to produce a clear winner.
Last month, Greear posted a video on Facebook Live in which he spoke about the things he wanted the SBC to recommit to, which included having greater inclusion of women and minorities as well as “protecting the vulnerable” and “exposing the abuser” because “God hates abuse.”
“God cannot tolerate impurity. We need to deal with the sin among us seriously and somberly but also just with grace towards each other,” stated Greear, who is a complementarian.
He also said in an earlier statement that he wants to focus on “cultural and racial diversity,” “intentional, personal evangelism,” “church planting,” and “engagement of the next generation in cooperative giving and mission.”
In an interview with the Baptist Press earlier this year, Hemphill stressed the need for the SBC to “reclaim our heritage of cooperative partnerships.”
“I think there has been an erosion of how local churches, associations, state conventions and the national convention really function together in every dimension of the Great Commission,” said Hemphill.
Hemphill added that he wanted to “continue the emphasis on prayer and revival” that Gaines has done as president, while pursuing efforts to “aggressively plant new churches.”
Resolution Denouncing Gay Therapy Bans, ‘Homosexual Identity Politics’
Robert O. Lopez, a professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas, submitted a resolution calling for the denomination to reject “homosexual identity politics” and state bans on conversion therapy.
Lopez’s resolution, among other things, calls on the SBC to “offer loving assistance to people with same-sex attraction, so that they may turn from homosexuality to heterosexuality” and to reject “as heresy any claims that God makes people homosexual.”
“… the movement against so-called ‘conversion therapy’ poses an immediate threat to Christian obedience to the Gospel of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ because it is possible that due to lack of support from Christian ministries, some people with same-sex attractions may err in defining themselves as ‘homosexual’ by nature, and may thereby invite a fatal sin into their hearts,” states the resolution.
“… in both Christian and unbelieving political contexts, homosexual identity politics has prompted a dangerous movement to ban so-called ‘conversion therapy’ or ‘reparative therapy,’ banned in terms so broadly as to endanger the work of Christian ministries in aiding people with same-sex attraction to turn away from homosexuality toward heterosexuality.”
Lopez, who was raised by two lesbians, explained to The Christian Post last week that the resolution came partly in response to recent political efforts to ban gay conversion therapy or sexual orientation change efforts.
“We saw that Southern Baptists who want to make a change from homosexuality to heterosexuality are not getting enough help from churches. New laws banning change therapy are likely to worsen the situation,” he said.
Protest Against the Mistreatment of Women
During the Southern Baptist Convention, a group of activists is planning to hold a protest against the mistreatment of women within the denomination.
Called the “For Such a Time as This Rally,” the demonstration is scheduled for Tuesday and came in response to the recent scandals involving former SBC President Paige Patterson, who was originally scheduled to give the convention sermon for the annual meeting.
“The time has come for women to be respected and honored within the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention — as Scripture teaches,” stated the group in a press release.
“The time has come for a clergy sex offender database for the Southern Baptist Convention … The time has come for mandatory training of all pastors and SBC seminaries on the issues of domestic abuse and sexual assault.”
For his part, Patterson, who was recently terminated as president emeritus of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, announced last week that he withdrew from his scheduled speech at the SBC meeting.
In a letter sent to SBC President Steve Gaines, Patterson explained that he was recusing himself from delivering the sermon following a lot of “soul-searching before our God” and to “contribute to harmony within the Southern Baptist Convention.”
“All of this I do with a heart full of confidence in our God and with the hope that He will favor the Convention and her churches with the benediction of heaven,” wrote Patterson.