Some of you know that I was in New Orleans this week for the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). In 1990 the Convention met in New Orleans for what was an historic meeting during the Conservative Resurgence in the SBC. I was there as an eight year-old-boy with my parents. The 2012 meeting will be marked as another historic year for Southern Baptists and I had the privilege of attending with my parents again and with Micah, my son.
What made this year’s meeting historic? I considered writing about several of the highlights, but then I read Albert Mohler’s post of this year’s SBC highlights. I decided I couldn’t do any better myself, so I will share with you some excerpts from Mohler’s post. Albert Mohler is the president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; you can read his whole post here. Mohler offered the following observations:
The importance of electing Fred Luter as President. Slavery was not the only precipitating issue for the formation of the Southern Baptist Convention, but it was the central issue. The SBC was forged in the bitter and humiliating defense of slavery and institutionalized racism. For more than a century beyond its founding, that institutionalized racism continued, with the majority of Southern Baptists resisting the Civil Rights movement. And yet, in 2012, that same convention elected an African-American man as its President. That action was a demonstration of God’s patience with His people, and it was a moment of unmerited grace for our denomination. Fred Luter is a man of great conviction, presence, and leadership. He has been tested by fire and found faithful. The respect of the entire Southern Baptist Convention is his, and he will lead well. The test ahead is for the Southern Baptist Convention. Even as twenty percent of our churches are now identified as ethic and minority, we still lag far behind the nation in terms of racial and ethnic diversity. The U.S. Census Bureau predicts that America will be a “majority minority” population by the year 2033, if not before. Southern Baptists will become a marginalized people holding to a quaint folk religion if we do not seize the moment and see racial and ethnic diversity as a gift, and not just a fact to which we have to reconcile ourselves. We leave New Orleans with great hope.
The importance of our name. The Southern Baptist Convention is not going to change its name — not this year and not anytime soon. The reasons for this are many and they are enduring. The motion adopted by the SBC in New Orleans allows churches to identify themselves as “Great Commission Baptists” without denying the SBC in any way. This will help churches that are not located in the South more than others, but the descriptor, “Great Commission Baptists” is worthy of our acceptance and eager use. It also establishes an identity we must now serve and fulfill.
The importance of our mission. The Southern Baptist Convention was established for the purpose of reaching our nation and the nations of the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The SBC dreams mission dreams and bleeds missionary theology. When the Convention’s messengers heard reports and testimonies of people coming to faith in Christ, their hearts quickened and their joy was evident. The SBC will instinctively gravitate to anything that serves the fulfillment of the Great Commission and the reaching of the nations. Messengers loved the reports of peoples reached and churches planted in the United States and around the world. If your heart does not resonate with that, you need to attend some other meeting, and join a church of some other denomination.