Baptists respond to Trump assassination attempt

Baptists and other Christians offered prayers and pleas for peace in the aftermath of the attempted assassination of former President Donald Trump at a July 13 campaign rally in Pennsylvania.

Trump sustained an injury to his right ear, but a statement from his campaign said he is “fine after being checked out at a local hospital.” A rally attendee, former fire chief Corey Comperatore, was killed, as was the shooter. Two other people also were wounded.

Texas Baptists’ Christian Life Commission issued a statement expressing grief for the loss of life and prayers for the “speedy and full recovery” for the former president and “for our entire nation.”

“The murder of at least one rally attendee and attempted murder of the former president is an assault on the image of God, and gun violence is in direct opposition to the pro-life values of Texas Baptists,” the CLC statement reads.

“The CLC unequivocally condemns all acts of political violence as an affront to democracy and our nation.”

The CLC called on Christians to “lead the way in loving our neighbors as ourselves.”

“This moment is a reminder of the sacredness of all human life and that we have more in common than what divides us. We invite Texas Baptists to pray for healing in our nation.”

‘May your people be peacemakers’

Julio Guarneri, executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Texas. (Texas Baptists Photo)

On Sunday morning, July 14, Baptist General Convention of Texas Executive Director Julio Guarneri tweeted a prayer on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter: “As we prepare to gather in our houses of worship, we grieve. Our country, and the world, has been shaken by the tragedy that occurred yesterday.

“The violent attack on former President Trump and the senseless loss of lives reminds us of our divisions and our brokenness. Regardless of political persuasion, your people hold human life sacred because you do. Any attack on those made in your image is a transgression against you.

“Today may your gathered people pray in humility. May we grieve before you for the state of our world. May we repent of bitterness, hatred, malicious talk and pettiness. May we seek your forgiveness, experience your grace, and desire to be like you.”

Guarneri continued: “May we learn to pray for and talk to those who disagree with us. May your people be peacemakers so that we can truly be called the children of God.”

Appeal to ‘the better angels of our nature’

Bart Barber, immediate past president of the Southern Baptist Convention, posted a message on his blog for members of his congregation, First Baptist Church in Farmersville, asking them to “pray for our nation.”

“Let us make it clear that this kind of behavior is unacceptable. Unlike people in many other places around the world, we get to speak by way of our votes,” Barber wrote.

“We live in a nation where our votes are not coerced, we are not threatened or intimidated in our voting, our votes are fairly counted every time, and our country transfers power every time in accord with the expressed wishes of the people.”

He urged prayer for Trump “no matter how you plan to vote in November.”

“Let us all speak with one voice saying that this kind of behavior is WRONG. Let us not contribute to making things worse, but let us be the ones summoning what Lincoln called ‘the better angels of our nature’ in all of those around us,” Barber wrote.

“Let us do all of those things around our family tables, in our Sunday School classrooms, and in our presence online.”

‘No place whatsoever in America’

Brent Leatherwood, president of the SBC Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, stated: “In a democracy like ours, we voice our opinions, we passionately press our case, we bravely dissent, and we loudly campaign for our cause. But we must never cross the line to harm those we disagree with.

“Political violence has hurt too many individuals and taken too many lives in our history. Now is the moment for all of us to unite and bring a swift and universal condemnation to this vile act that has no place whatsoever in America.

“While it will be easy to use this moment as an opportunity to dig in our heels, I urge Americans to pause, lament this violence, and realize how far we have strayed from our nation’s ideals. Let’s commit to praying for our leaders, those who are willing to serve in public office, and appeal to our Lord that his reconciling work would be poured out on this nation to overcome the hatred that is so prevalent in our culture.”

Leatherwood’s predecessor at the ERLC, Trump critic Russell Moore, editor in chief of Christianity Today, tweeted:“Political violence is evil to the core and is an attack on everything this country represents. Attempted murder is an attack on the image of God. This is awful.”

Bible teacher Beth Moore tweeted a prayer: “Jesus have mercy on us in these horrors and sorrows. We on this bloodied soil are desperate for your peace. Bind this heinous violence and cause sound minds to prevail and vicious plans to fail. Oh Jesus, Jesus, hasten to save.”

Vietnamese Baptist gathering bolsters connections

ATLANTA—Vietnamese-language pastor Peter Le and English-language pastor Linh Huynh, both from Vietnamese Faith Baptist Church in Dallas, translated for each other during the opening session of the 39th annual meeting of the Vietnamese Baptist Union of North America.

“Your struggles are real, but here’s the thing,” Huynh preached in English, which Pastor Le translated into Vietnamese. “There’s nothing wrong with struggles as long as you overcome them and don’t let them overcome you.”

The July 3-7 event drew 1,353 registered participants, as well as many other locals who didn’t register. In addition to the standing-room-only sessions in a hotel ballroom, more than 400 gathered for English-language sessions and 214 more for children’s age-graded VBS activities.

The event’s theme, Mature in Christ, came from Ephesians 4:13—“until we all reach unity in the faith, and in the knowledge of God’s son, growing into a mature man, with a stature measured by Christ’s fulness.”

The group welcomed visitors from Southern Baptist Convention agencies, including Jeremy Sin from the North American Mission Board and Ezra Bae from the International Mission Board. Among the IMB’s 3,500 missionaries who serve in 122 nations are 300 Asians, Bae said.

Christian Phan Phước Lành of Gulf Breeze, Fla., begins his third year as executive director of the Vietnamese Baptist Union of North America. (BP Photo)

Speakers during the Vietnamese language sessions included Executive Director Christian Phan Phước Lành of Gulf Breeze, Fla.; Union President Peter Lê Hồng Phúc, pastor of Vietnamese Faith Baptist Church of Dallas; Henry Phan Minh Hội of Gilbert, Ariz., IMB’s diaspora ministry coordinator; Hồ Thế Vũ, pastor of Thien-An True Living Church of Seattle; Đặng Quy Thế, pastor of Vietnamese Baptist Church of Fort Worth in Haltom City  and president of the Union’s prayer ministry.; Bryant Wright of Marietta, Ga., president of NAMB’s Send Relief; and Đỗ Đăng Phú, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church of Lake City, Ga.

Worship was led in the Vietnamese services by Duy Tran of Garland, Texas, and in the English services by Isaiah Hua, youth leader of Vietnamese Gwinnet Church in Suwanee, Ga.

Reports, business, worship and workshops comingled with preaching, along with generous blocks of time for fellowship

‘Came to be encouraged’

Alib Cil of Montagnard Alliance Church in Charlotte, N.C., told Baptist Press he’s a student at the Vietnamese Baptist Theological Seminary, and “came to be encouraged.”

Peter Nguyen of Vietnamese Baptist Church in High Point, N.C. said this was his 25th year to attend the union’s annual meeting. He does so for “the reunion,” he said. He also likes to help, he said, as he moved cases of bottled water in place for the next meal.

The organization needed for the event was managed by a 12-person team led by Phuong Khuu of San Diego. More than 150 volunteers worked in registration, tech support, food services and other arrangements.

Two hours before each meal, packaged hot meals and individual containers of soup started arriving—at least four entrees totaling at least 1,200 servings per meal came in from area Vietnamese restaurants.

“Vietnamese food is ‘comfort food’ especially to the first generation,” Phan said. “I am always amazed how smooth is the process. It starts with good organization, making sure there is enough of everything, even napkins.”

Displays include one for a Bible study in the Vietnamese language, books from various authors as well as one for the Vietnamese Baptist Theological Seminary. Seminary President Tran Liru Chuyen told Baptist Press the school has 100 students in the United States and 600 in Vietnam, with classes on Zoom so students can study as they serve where they live.

The Vietnamese Union’s missions entity also was represented. The group raises up church planters in Vietnam and connects them with existing churches, so they don’t have to be vetted by the communist government.

Began with time of prayer

The event began July 3 with an evening prayer night and prayer walk going out from Emmanuel Baptist Church in Lake City, an Atlanta suburb.

“We want to start our annual meeting with God through prayer,” Phan said. “Prayer night and prayer walk are not only a good tradition to keep but also an attitude of submission to God alone.”

During a business session, the group elected Phu Do, Sr. Pastor of Emmanuel Vietnamese Baptist Church in Lake City, Ga., as first vice president.

They approved a $550,000 budget, unchanged from last year. It includes line items of Vietnamese Theological Baptist Seminary, Vietnamese Mission Board, Women’s Ministry, Men’s Ministry, English Ministry, Prayer Ministry, Training Ministry, and a Pastor Retreat.

Next year will be the 50th anniversary of the arrival of the first Vietnamese refugees to the United States. The meeting is set for July 3-6, 2025, in Los Angeles.

“This year’s annual meeting was wonderful, beyond our expectations,” Phan said. “The sermons were excellent. The service spirit of the registration committee, technical committee, culinary committee, and worship committee was very dedicated.

“The people responded strongly to the call for financial giving,” the executive director added. “The youth and children attended in great numbers. Everything is a gift from God and all glory to him.”

California Baptists cut staff, citing giving shortfall

(RNS)—The California Southern Baptist announced it had cut six staff jobs, citing an ongoing decline in giving.

Donations to the state’s Cooperative Program, which funds national, international and state-specific ministries, fell short by $170,000 in the current fiscal year. That 7 percent shortfall is part of an ongoing decline in giving, according to Baptist Press.

State Baptist officials have drawn on reserves to cover shortfalls over the past three years. The staff cuts, including four layoffs and two voluntary retirements, mean the state convention will not need to draw on reserves—as long as giving does not decline.

“The stewardship that God has given me as the executive director in assuring we continue to have a healthy and sustainable future is a heavy burden,” Pete Ramirez, the state convention’s executive director said, according to Baptist Press.

Giving overall to the Southern Baptist Convention Cooperative Program is down just under 2 percent in the current fiscal year. The SBC’s annual budget called for $148 million in donations to be given to national and international causes, but actual giving to date is $145.4 million, according to a recent report posted by the SBC’s Executive Committee.

The SBC Cooperative Program, which turns 100 years old in 2025, is one of the nation’s most successful religious charitable programs, having raised more than $20 billion since its inception. Those funds pay for overseas missions, new church starts, seminary education, disaster relief and other programs.

Cooperative Program giving declines

But giving to the program has declined in recent decades. Southern Baptist churches give less than 5 percent of their income to the Cooperative Program, down from 10 percent in the 1980s. And less than 60 percent of SBC churches give to the program, down from three-quarters in the early 2000s.

The denomination also has lost more than 3 million members since 2006 and has faced a sexual abuse crisis and debates over the role of women in church leadership. The denomination’s Executive Committee also spent several years dealing with leadership turmoil before electing a new permanent leader this spring.

In 2023, the SBC expelled Saddleback Church in Southern California, one of its largest congregations, after the church ordained several women as pastors. At the time, Saddleback was giving $100,000 annually to the Cooperative Program.

It’s unclear whether Saddleback remains a member of the California Baptist Convention, or if the congregation still gives to the convention. In either case, the shortfalls in California predate Saddleback’s removal from the SBC.

It’s also unclear if other states also are experiencing Cooperative Program shortfalls. Most of those conventions will hold their annual meetings in the fall. A 2023 report from Baptist Press found Colorado, Minnesota-Wisconsin and New Mexico conventions also reduced their giving to the program.

The recent Executive Committee report showed giving remained down in Colorado. However, Mike Proud, that state’s executive director, said that is not the case.

“[Cooperative Progam] giving is actually up in Colorado there may be some delays related to getting that money to the [Executive Committee],” he told RNS in an email. “But our giving through June of 2024 is actually up by 2 percent over last year.”

Southwestern Seminary accreditation warning continued

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges has continued its accreditation warning for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

At its mid-June meeting, the SACS Commission on Colleges board of trustees continued Southwestern Seminary’s warning for another 12 months for “failure to comply” with core requirements in its Principles of Accreditation regarding financial resources and financial responsibility.

Unlike last year’s warning, this year the accrediting agency board did not mention any failure to meet standards regarding the fiduciary responsibility of the seminary’s board of trustees.

“A Special Committee was not authorized to visit the institution,” the commission’s online report of board actions noted.

Last summer, the accrediting body placed the seminary on warning for failing to comply with its standards regarding the fiduciary responsibility of the board of trustees, as well as the two restated issues regarding finances.

Under SACS Commission on Colleges Principles of Accreditation, an institution is required to have “sound financial resources and a demonstrated, stable financial base to support the mission of the institution and the scope of its programs and services.” The institution also is expected to “manage its financial resources in a responsible manner.”

An educational institution also is expected to have “a governing board of at least five members that: is the legal body with specific authority over the institution; exercises fiduciary oversight of the institution; ensures that both the presiding officer of the board and a majority of other voting members of the board are free of any contractual, employment, personal or familial financial interest in the institution; is not controlled by a minority of board members or by organizations or institutions separate from it; is not presided over by the chief executive officer of the institution.”

‘A positive step forward’

David Dockery

Removing the issue of the trustee board’s fiduciary responsibility from the latest warning represents “a positive step forward for the institution,” President David Dockery stated in a release from the seminary’s communications office.

Dockery acknowledged the seminary has “ongoing work to do” to address the remaining issues.

“Due to the timeline of financial reporting and the need to demonstrate positive trends over multiple fiscal years, it was our expectation that a full review of financial progress would not be possible until June 2025,” Dockery stated.

“We pray for the Lord’s ongoing enablement as we take the next steps, even as we stop to give thanks for this visible marker of progress in our efforts toward institutional stability.”

A financial overview released by the seminary’s board of trustees in June 2023 revealed from 2002 to 2022, annual operating expenses at Southwestern Seminary rose 35 percent, while full-time-enrollment figures dropped 67 percent, resulting in a cumulative $140 million operating deficit.

The seminary ran an operational deficit 19 years during the period from 2002 through 2022, spending an average $6.67 million more than it received in revenue those years.

In his report to the recent 2024 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting, Dockery said—based on the first 10 months of the annual budget—the seminary’s operational budget this year “will be considerably better than last year and dramatically improved over the previous year.” He also reported the seminary should finish the year with cash reserves and no short-term debt.

Paul Pressler, SBC legend accused of abuse, is dead at 94

(RNS)—Paul Pressler, a retired Texas judge and one of the most influential evangelicals of the past 50 years, has died.

Pressler, 94, died June 7, but his death largely went unnoticed until Baptist News Global, an independent Baptist news site, reported the news of his funeral on June 15, held at the George H. Lewis and Sons Funeral Home in Houston.

Pressler was one of the chief architects of the “Conservative Resurgence,” also known as the fundamentalist takeover, that changed the course of the Southern Baptist Convention in the 1980s and 1990s, turning it into a decidedly conservative theological denomination with deep ties to the Republican Party.

As a member of the Council for National Policy, a conservative think tank, he helped forge ties between the GOP and the nation’s largest Protestant denomination.

Pressler was nominated to run the Office of Government Ethics under President George H. W. Bush but withdrew when a background investigation found “ethics problems,” the Washington Post reported.

But in recent years, Pressler became known mostly as a symbol of the SBC’s sexual abuse crisis. In 2017, a former Pressler assistant named Gerald Duane Rollins Jr. sued Pressler, claiming the older man abused him for decades.

The suit, which named Pressler, the SBC and other Baptist entities, finally was settled in December, with all the accused denying any wrongdoing.

In January of this year, a lawyer for the SBC, Gene Besen, called Pressler a “monster” who had leveraged his “power and false piety” to sexually abuse young men.

“The man’s actions are of the devil,” Besen told Religion News Service at the time, clarifying that he spoke in his personal capacity and not as a representative of the denomination.

History of concerns

In 2004, the same year Pressler first was elected vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention, his home church warned him in a letter about his habit of naked hot tubbing with young men after a college student complained that Pressler had allegedly groped him, according to The Texas Tribune.

Months later Pressler agreed to pay $450,000 to settle Rollins’ earlier claim that Pressler had assaulted him in a hotel room. When Pressler stopped making the agreed payments, Rollins sued again, this time alleging sexual abuse.

Some years earlier, at the SBC’s 1996 annual meeting, during the Clinton-era White House scandals, Pressler gave a speech condemning what he saw as a loss of Christian values in the nation.

“Our nation sins when adultery and fornication are no longer a bar for holding high political office andprinciples of biblical morality and purity are no longer promoted,” he said, according to a clip of his speech posted on X, the site formerly known as Twitter.

“We sin when perversion is promoted and not penalized.”

But Pressler largely had faded into the shadows before news of the lawsuits broke. In 2016, he appeared at the SBC’s annual meeting in St. Louis, where he harangued then-SBC President Ronnie Floyd for not letting him speak about a resolution condemning the Confederate battle flag.

 The exchange between them was broadcast on a massive screen at the front of the convention center.

“I was deliberately ignored,” Pressler, who opposed the resolution, told Floyd. “I told you last night I was going to speak on this.”

Pressler’s mic eventually was turned off, and he was ruled out of order.

At the recently concluded 2024 SBC annual meeting in Indianapolis, no mention of Pressler’s death was made.

A native of Houston, Pressler attended Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire before earning degrees from Princeton and the University of Texas Law School. He served two years in the Texas Legislature before becoming a district and later appeals court judge.

In 2012, he made national headlines for hosting a meeting of evangelical leaders at his Texas ranch, aimed at finding an alternative to Mitt Romney in that year’s presidential race.

The lawsuit against Pressler inspired a major investigation into abuse in the SBC by the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News, according to The Texas Tribune.

That “Abuse of Faith” report led the SBC to hold a litany of lament for abuse in 2019 and eventually to authorize a third-party investigation by Guidepost Solutions into how SBC leaders dealt with abuse.

That investigation led to a series of reforms meant to help Southern Baptists deal with the issue of sexual abuse, but the effort has stalled over the past two years. At the SBC’s annual meeting this month, the denomination’s Executive Committee was charged with making those reforms stick.

Messenger motions deal with ERLC, censure, other issues

INDIANAPOLIS (BP)—Messengers presented 50 motions at the 2024 Southern Baptist Convention annual neeting and acted on several, rejecting calls to abolish the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and censure Southern Baptist leaders and approving a motion to unseat messengers from a Virginia church.

Abolishing an entity requires two successive two-thirds votes of approval. The crowd in the Indiana Convention Center fell well short of that margin on a motion brought by Tom Ascol, pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, Fla., getting an estimated quarter of the vote. Attempts in recent years to abolish the ERLC have failed by bigger margins.

Louis Cook, pastor of Oak City Baptist Church in Oak City, N.C., presented a motion to censure Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President Al Mohler, Lifeway Christian Resources President Ben Mandrell and then-SBC President Bart Barber in relation to signing an amicus brief in a Kentucky-based statute of limitations case. The messengers ultimately overruled the Committee on Order of Business by ruling the motion out of order.

The motion to unseat messengers from First Baptist Church in Alexandria, Va., was brought by Aaron Decker, a messenger from Red Village Church in Madison, Wisc. The Credentials Committee followed Decker’s motion with a recommendation to deem the church not in friendly cooperation with the SBC based “on the grounds of their public endorsement of egalitarianism.” The messengers’ agreement with that recommendation unseated the church’s messengers.

Messengers responded with a vote of 6,759 to 563 in agreement with Decker and the Credentials Committee.

Messengers rejected the following motions:

  • To appoint a blue-ribbon committee to review the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 and return with proposed revisions. Brought by Allen Featherstone, pastor-elder of Deepening at Mosaic Church in Provo, Utah.
  • To request a fact-finding committee to review the work of the Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force. Brought by Sean Dennis, chairman of deacons at Vine Street Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky.
  • To direct the convention to remove pledges of allegiance to earthly kingdoms from all convention activities. Brought by Michael Sherwood, a messenger from Gore Springs Baptist Church in Gore Springs, Miss.
  • To request the SBC president to appoint a task force to examine all legal matters related to NAMB between 2017 and 2024. Brought by Joel Breidenbaugh, lead pastor of Gospel Centered Church in Apopka, Fla.
  • To allow the ERLC to raise funds from outside the SBC. Brought by Ben Cole, a messenger from Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano.

Motions referred to the Executive Committee were:

  • To consider how Southern Baptists from every cooperating state convention can serve on SBC boards, committees, commissions and institutions, submitted by Jon Ballard of South Dakota.
  • To amend the Baptist Faith & Message to include affirmation of the Nicene, Apostles’ and Athanasian Creeds, submitted by John Michael LaRue of Ohio.
  • To study the feasibility of remote participation in the SBC annual meeting, submitted by Wally Contreras of Ohio.
  • To prioritize funds to update, submitted by Tyler Pearce of Florida.
  • To enable remote participation by messengers in the SBC annual meeting, submitted by Brandon Booth of California.
  • To amend the Business and Financial Plan to ensure greater financial transparency, brought by Wade Thomas of Ohio.
  • To require a two-thirds vote from messengers to approve all alterations to the Baptist Faith & Message 2000, brought by Chelsea McReynolds of Oklahoma.
  • To reallocate all Cooperative Program funds from ERLC to the International Mission Board, brought by Kenny Cody of Tennessee.
  • To form an ad hoc committee to study elders and deacons in local churches, brought by John Boquist of Virginia.
  • To amend Article 6 of the SBC Constitution related to qualifications for trustee service, brought by Ethan Jago of Florida.
  • To amend Bylaw 26B to allow for additional time for questions during entity reports, brought by Brian Dembowcyzk of Tennessee.
  • To require all entities to publish their conflict-of-interest policies, brought by Clay Hall of Kentucky.
  • To amend the Baptist Faith & Message to include the Nicene Creed, brought by Stephen Lorance of North Carolina.
  • To request the Executive Committee create a task force to study how best to minister to the special needs community, brought by Benjamin Hankin of New Jersey.
  • To direct the Executive Committee to publish a schedule of all money spent on legal matters between 2021 and 2024, brought by Casey Fender of North Carolina.
  • To request the Executive Committee publish the names of messengers on both sides of the nametags issued at each annual meeting, brought by David Miller of Nebraska.
  • To direct the Executive Committee to publish a schedule of all money spent on legal matters between 2021 and 2024, brought by Gregg Kite of Kansas.
  • To direct the Executive Committee to publish the contact information for all entity trustees, brought by Wesley Russell of Kentucky.
  • To direct the Executive Committee to form a task force to study the long-term effects of vaccine mandates on International Mission Board missionaries, brought by Jared Burdick of Kentucky.
  • To amend Bylaw 8, requiring the Credentials Committee to schedule a vote of messengers when a church is considered to be not in friendly cooperation and for the messengers’ vote to be final, brought by Jonathan Raffini of Texas.
  • To amend the SBC Business and Financial Plan to require all SBC entities to disclose all financial information included in Form 990, brought by Rhett Burns of South Carolina.
  • To amend Bylaw 20 related to the Resolutions Committee, brought by Kristen Ferguson of California.
  • To amend the ministry assignment of the ERLC to address sexual abuse awareness and prevention or request the Executive Committee to create a new entity to address sexual abuse awareness and prevention, brought by Megan Lively of North Carolina.

Motions referred to the North American Mission Board were:

  • To submit a forensic audit from the previous fiscal year, brought by Parker Roberts of Georgia.
  • To request a task force to study the need for Christian schools in impoverished and rural communities, brought by James Briggs of Missouri.
  • To appoint a task force to study how churches can be more effective in evangelism and baptisms, brought by Scott Talley of Florida.

One motion to publish textbooks for homeschool students, brought by Tim Overton of Indiana was referred to Lifeway Christian Resources.

Motions referred to all entities were:

  • To only use outside legal counsel whose values reflect the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 on gender and sexuality, brought by Paul Montgomery of Oklahoma.
  • To request that all convention entities revise their codes of conduct related to alcohol, brought by Jonathan Parramore of California.
  • To request entity trustees explain how Calvinism / Reformed theology is compatible with the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 and consider not promoting those beliefs in their entities, brought by Curtis Kentmer of Kentucky.

A motion by Ethan Hester of North Carolina to direct the Executive Committee to publish a schedule of payments of more than $5,000 paid to another entity was referred to all entities and the Executive Committee.

A motion by Talmadge Fogg of Florida to request the president to adopt a task force to study Philippine indigenous Baptist pastors was referred to the International Mission Board.

A motion by Joe Sneed of Texas to direct the ERLC to issue a formal apology to the Executive Committee for accusations of covering up sexual abuse was referred to the ERLC.

The following motions were ruled not in order, followed by the reason why:

  • To request the SBC president appoint a task force to investigate how Southern Baptists have responded to sexual abuse, brought by David Morrill of Colorado. As stated, the motion requests Cooperative Program allocations be directed to a task force which is not in line with the Business and Financial plan.
  • To direct the Executive Committee to disallow any politicians from speaking or advertising at the SBC annual meeting during election years, brought by Ken Rucker of Georgia. As stated the motion would infringe on the rights of certain messengers to the convention, including registration secretary Don Currence, who also serves as mayor of Ozark, Mo.
  • To request the Executive Committee examine all North American Mission Board court documents since 2017, brought by Kenneth Carey of Maryland. It was determined to be identical to another motion that was discussed on the floor.
  • To request the resignation of Brent Leatherwood as president of the ERLC, brought by Michael Borghese of Texas. Motion instructed an entity employee.
  • To ask messengers to affirm the Nicene Creed, brought by Andy Brown of Mississippi. Motion was in the nature of a resolution.
  • To request Pastors’ Conference presidents to set apart time for guided prayer during the event, brought by Zack Reno of Alabama. The SBC may not direct the Pastors’ Conference schedule.
  • To prohibit Cooperative Program funds being used to pay for entity personnel to attend the SBC annual meeting to serve as messengers, brought by Charles Johnson of Kentucky. The motion directs entities.
  • To request all convention entities release a statement supporting the nation of Israel, brought by Matt Dunn of Missouri. The motion was in the nature of a resolution.

North Carolina pastor Clint Pressley elected SBC president

INDIANAPOLIS (RNS)—Clint Pressley, a North Carolina megachurch pastor known for a conservative but even-keel approach to leadership and who does not wear jeans in the pulpit, was elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention.

After a pair of runoff elections, Pressley received 56 percent of the 7,562 votes cast during a June 12 session of the SBC annual meeting at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis. Tennessee pastor Dan Spencer, who had qualified for the final runoff with Pressley, received 43.7 percent of the votes.

Brad Graves, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Ada, Okla., was elected first vice president, and Eddie Lopez, pastor of First Baptist Church en Español of Forney, was elected second vice president.

Nathan Finn, executive director of the Institute for Transformational Leadership, was reelected as recording secretary, and Don Currence, administrative pastor of First Baptist Church in Ozark, Mo., was reelected as registration secretary.

Dial back the heated rhetoric

Pressley, who has led Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte the past 14 years, prefers a suit and tie and a more traditional approach in worship, and he has indicated that his more formal style will translate into his leadership.

“It seems like the kind of rhetoric and the temperature is really high, and I’d like to see it come down a good bit,” Pressley told Religion News Service earlier this year.

He repeated that message at a forum hosted by the National African American Fellowship of the SBC earlier this week, saying he hoped Southern Baptists, known for evangelism and missions, would “get our attention focused back on what we do.”

“We got to quit arguing and start going back to work,” he said.

Pressley was one of six candidates seeking the SBC presidency, an influential volunteer role in the nation’s largest Protestant denomination. Three of the candidates—North Carolina pastor Bruce Frank, Oklahoma pastor Mike Keahbone and Tennessee pastor Jared Moore—were eliminated after the first round of votes. David Allen, a longtime seminary professor, missed the cutoff during a first runoff.

The field of six candidates was the largest since 2008. This year’s race was the first to be undecided after one runoff since 2016. That year, a runoff between North Carolina megachurch pastor J.D. Greear and Tennessee megachurch pastor Steve Gaines ended in a tie. Greear dropped out of the race but was elected president two years later.

Pressley supported the so-called Law Amendment, a measure that would have barred churches with women pastors. He also has been generally supportive of abuse reforms but did have questions about a proposed database of abusers, which was approved for the third year in a row by messengers.

Supports training to deal with abuse

He supports more training and awareness for churches in dealing with abuse. At an SBC presidential forum, Pressley said that in the past, his church would not have been prepared to deal with abuse. But the recent reforms, he said, caused his church to take the issue seriously and enact policies and training to deal with abuse.

That training meant the Hickory Grove leaders knew what to do when a church volunteer recently was accused of abusing a family member. Had the SBC not started dealing with abuse in recent years, he said, “We would not have known what to do.”

In his first news conference, Pressley told of growing up in a Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and then how his life changed when his family began attending a Southern Baptist church.

“Never heard anything like that,” Pressley said. His family soon joined Hickory Grove, the congregation he now leads.

Pressley said he is glad to serve Southern Baptists but is aware of the limits of the president’s role, which is a volunteer role.

“As the Southern Baptist Convention president,” he said. “It sounds like you have a whole lot of power, but you don’t.”

Pressley said he is confident long-promised abuse reforms will move forward.

He also said that despite the failure to pass the Law Amendment, which would have added a constitutional ban on churches with female pastors of any kind, the SBC remains committed to complementarianism—the belief that men and women have separate roles in the family and in the church.

When asked about a newly passed resolution warning about the ethics of in-vitro fertilization, the North Carolina pastor volunteered that he and his wife had dealt with infertility, and IVF had been one of the treatment options they thought about. He said pastors should use the resolution to help Southern Baptists think through the issue.

“We have just not thought about it very much,” Pressley said.

Pressley detailed some of his career as a pastor, saying he’d served small rural churches and older churches before coming back to lead Hickory Grove. He said Southern Baptists should be known for their joy—something he said Southern Baptists have a duty to show.

In a moment of self-deprecation, Pressley also admitted he’ll need help in overseeing the denomination’s annual meeting. His predecessor, Texas pastor Bart Barber, is known for his expertise in parliamentary procedures and Baptist polity.

That’s not Pressley’s strong point, he admitted.

“I shudder to think of how poorly I will compare to Bart Barber.”

Adelle M. Banks contributed to this report.

Resolutions spark lively debate at SBC

After extensive debate, messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention approved resolutions about integrity in leadership, religious liberty, support for Israel and in vitro fertilization.

The Committee on Resolutions brought 10 of 27 properly submitted proposed resolutions for consideration to messengers of the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting, spread out over three business sessions.

The committee published their proposed resolutions May 31, with a change enacted at the 2023 meeting to bylaw 20 of the SBC constitution to give at least 10 days to consider the resolutions in a preliminary report prior to the annual meeting, Kristen Ferguson, committee chair from California, said.

Without specifically naming any individuals but calling to mind the failure of recent leaders in Southern Baptist life including Paige Patterson, Paul Pressler, Johnny Hunt and others, Resolution 1 addressed “Integrity in SBC Leadership.”

It proposed calling sinful leaders to repentance and removing themselves from ministry positions “to pursue conciliation” where “disqualifying sin” has been committed.

In the event leaders who’ve committed disqualifying sins do not remove themselves from positions of ministry, the resolution calls on Southern Baptist churches to subject those leaders to church discipline.

Stephen Owensby from Gaffney, S.C., proposed an amendment that added: “Whereas, the Apostle Paul models for leaders how to biblically acknowledge imperfections through confessing pride, pleading with the Lord for help, trusting his grace to be sufficient in weakness and proclaiming God’s strength even as we are weak. 2 Corinthians 12:7-10.”

The committee found this amendment to be friendly, and it was adopted without objection.

Jolee Sisney from Kansas City, Mo., attempted to amend the resolution by including a reference to an amicus brief filed by lawyers for the SBC Executive Committee, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Lifeway Christian Resources. The brief was aimed at limiting liability for sexual abuse claims.

The committee considered the amendment unfriendly because what they provided was “a generic resolution about a pattern of behavior, not targeting one specific thing,” the committee member presenting the resolution, Byron McWilliams of Odessa, said.

Sisney defended the amendment, saying it offered “a small opportunity for messengers to speak to the filers of the amicus brief.” She said some of them had not yet spoken about it, even though the filing “blind-sided” and “devastated” many in the SBC. Her amendment failed.

Separately, a motion to censure signers of that brief—Lifeway CEO Ben Mandrell, SBC President Bart Barber and Southern Seminary President Al Mohler—was brought to the floor but defeated.

Religious liberty debate

Resolution 2, “On Defending Religious Liberty,” called for upholding historic Baptist principles on religious liberty, in response to growing Christian nationalist movements, although it did not use that term.

Messengers who disagreed with several points of the resolution said it was too murky to be helpful; that Jesus is the ruler of kings on earth, so the nation is obligated to confess Jesus is Lord; and it left room for antisemitism or restrictions on Southern Baptists proclaiming God’s word.

Dusty Deevers, an Oklahoma state senator, called for “a point of order and division of the room” in contest of the vote count on a proposed amendment by James Mitzenmacher of Florida.

Mitzenmacher, who noted he is ethnically Jewish, presented an amendment to “steadfastly oppose all legislation that would designate any portion of the Holy Bible as hate speech, or impose any restriction on proclaiming God’s word, or otherwise stifle the religious liberty of Southern Baptists.”

Bart Barber explained Deevers’ “division of the house” motion was in order and meant that the vote would be retaken, by standing instead of by raised ballot.

The vote still showed the amendment had failed to pass from his perspective, Barber continued. But, he advised Deevers he could call for a marked ballot vote if he was still not satisfied with the count.

A clear majority opposed Devers’ motion for a marked ballot. So, after a requested parliamentary ruling concluded the vote against the amendment stood, Resolution 2 was adopted as worded in the SBC Daily Bulletin.

Just War debate

An amendment by James Ag from Ohio to correct a Scripture reference to Matthew 24:6 from Matthew 26:4 on Resolution 3, “On Just War and Pursuit of Peace,” was received as friendly and approved.

The messenger from Ohio proposed several additional changes, noting it is “nonsensical to say we dropped a bomb on people because we love them.” His proposed amendments ultimately were voted down, and the resolution passed with the amended Scripture reference.

Noting the lack of pre-filed amendments related to several resolutions, Barber and the committee proposed dealing with four of them at one time to speed up the process.

The convention agreed to approve three of the four by general acclamation: Resolution 7, “On the God-Given Rights and Responsibilities of Parents;” Resolution 9, “On Evangelism and the Great Commission;” and Resolution 10, “On Appreciation for Indianapolis.”

Resolution 8, “On the Danger of Abusing Non-Disclosure and Non-Disparagement Agreements,” was pulled from the group approval set when objections to it were noted.

Messengers robustly discussed Resolution 4, “On Justice and Peace in the Aftermath of the Oct. 7 Attack on Israel.” It denounced Hamas and urged Southern Baptists to be united in support of the nation of Israel, opposing any call for a permanent cease-fire until all hostages are released.

Messengers voted down an amendment by Braden Hodgekiss of Florida, the committee had deemed friendly. It removed the language “since God called them as his people” and added “we especially pray” in acknowledgement of Palestinian and Jewish Christians.

Ferguson moved to accept Resolution 6, “On the Ethical Realities of Reproductive Technologies and the Dignity of the Human Embryo.”

IVF debate

Daniel Taylor proposed a pre-filed amendment to soften the language of the resolution to be sensitive to Christians whose families have been built through IVF. He passionately spoke to his amendment, telling the story of his godson who would not have been born without IVF.

Ferguson responded that while his story pointed to the need for sensitivity in this conversation, the committee had taken all of it into consideration in their draft and did not consider the amendment to be friendly.

The resolution passed without amendment despite impassioned pleas from an additional messenger who personally was indebted to IVF for the birth of his children and grieved to have messengers affirm a resolution which he said paints IVF as an evil.

The resolution stated: “In Vitro Fertilization most often participates in the destruction of embryonic human life and increasingly engages in dehumanizing methods for determining suitability for life and genetic sorting, based on notions of genetic fitness and parental preferences.”

It also asserted “between 1 million and 1.5 million human beings are currently stored in cryogenic freezers in an embryonic state throughout the United States, with most unquestionably destined for eventual destruction.”

The adopted resolution called on Southern Baptists “to reaffirm the unconditional value and right to life of every human being, including those in an embryonic stage, and to only utilize reproductive technologies consistent with that affirmation especially in the number of embryos generated in the IVF process.”

NAMB chief addresses church planting and the BGCT

The North American Mission Board will not fund church starts in partnership with the Baptist General Convention of Texas unless Texas Baptists change their statement of faith.

However, NAMB will be glad to help BGCT churches start churches anywhere in North America other than Texas.

NAMB President Kevin Ezell offered that answer in response to a question raised by Dustin Slaton, pastor of First Baptist Church in Round Rock.

Recently, BGCT Executive Director Julio Guarneri told Texas Baptists’ Executive Board he had learned NAMB no longer would fund church starts of singly aligned BGCT churches in Texas.

Desire to partner with NAMB and BGCT

Slaton noted his congregation—like the BGCT—officially names the 1963 Baptist Faith & Message as its statement of faith, although he affirmed the belief that the office of pastor is reserved for men.

He said his church wants to start churches in nearby Taylor to reach Koreans and other Asian groups moving to the area in the next 10 years.

“I want to lead my church to start complementarian Southern Baptist churches—gospel-preaching churches,” Slaton said. “And I want to do that with NAMB. And I want to do that with the Baptist General Convention of Texas.”

Slaton asked Ezell to clear up this “murky situation.”

“NAMB has gladly accepted my church’s financial investment in the North American Mission Board for decades without asking which version of the BFM we have in our documents or concern about which state convention we’re a part of,” Slaton said.

“So, can we now count on the North American Mission Board to reciprocate that investment by partnering with us to plant genuinely Southern Baptist churches in Texas and invest in us with the same resources, training, guidance, relationships and financial opportunities you would provide to a church who partners with our other wonderful state convention?”

He asked how a “dyed-in-the-wool Southern Baptist” church that also is affiliated with the BGCT could work together with NAMB.

Consider adopting the 2000 BF&M

North American Mission Board President Kevin Ezell responds to a question from Texas pastor Dustin Slaton. (Photo by Van Payne / The Baptist Paper)

Ezell said NAMB’s “longstanding commitment” is to start churches in partnership with state conventions that affirm the 2000 Baptist Faith & Mission.

“We can partner with your church to plant a church anywhere in North America outside of Texas, because those states do affirm the Baptist Faith & Message 2000,” he said.

It is a “difficult and awkward situation” for NAMB in Texas because the BGCT does not affirm the 2000 version of the Baptist Faith & Message, he said.

“My question has always been back the other way,” Ezell said. “I cannot and will not change that standard. But I would love for you to consider and for your state convention to adopt the Baptist Faith & Message 2000.”

In his “Texas Baptists Weekly” email on June 12, Baptist General Convention of Texas Executive Director Julio Guarneri wrote: “There are those who would like Texas Baptists to adopt a strictly complementarian position like the SBC and the BFM 2000. There are also those who would like Texas Baptists to be officially egalitarian. Yet, we are committed to unity in diversity under the Scriptures and the Lordship of Christ.”

Guarneri recently noted an increasing number of churches beyond Texas have asked to affiliate as part of the GC2 initiative, focused on Christ’s Great Commission and Great Commandment.

“We will continue to welcome churches from any state who align with our commitment to God’s mission under the Lordship of Christ and the authority of Scripture who desire to affiliate with us. We can do more together than we can do apart,” he wrote in the June 12 email.

“We will continue to partner with like-minded Great Commission entities who are willing to partner with us for the sake of the gospel.”

Abuse reform now in the hands of Executive Committee

INDIANAPOLIS (RNS)—Leaders of a volunteer task force charged with implementing abuse reforms in the nation’s largest Protestant denomination say they were given an impossible task.

In the end, the task proved too much.

“We took this work as far as we were allowed to take it,” North Carolina Baptist pastor Josh Wester, chair of the Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force, told the more than 10,800 messengers gathered June 11 for the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting.

Instead, the SBC’s Nashville-based Executive Committee will now have the task of implementing those reforms.

Resources created, but database still not online

The task force was charged two years ago with creating resources to help churches deal with abuse, publishing a database of abusive pastors and finding permanent funding and long-term plans for abuse reforms. While the task force unveiled a new “Essentials” training resource for churches, the other two tasks remain incomplete.

Wester said the task force has vetted more than 100 names of abusers but has not been able to publish them on an online “Ministry Check” database of abusers, largely due to concerns about insurance and finances.

“I wish that standing before you today, I could say that the Ministry Check website is now online,” Wester told the messengers. “But I cannot do that.”

In his report to the messengers, Wester detailed some of the challenges the task force faced over the past year.

In January, he said, he was called to an “emergency meeting” with other SBC leaders, where he learned insurance concerns made the database impossible. He also said the task force has not been able to access the funds it needed to do its work.

“It was made clear to us there was no future for robust abuse reform inside the SBC,” Wester said.

In response, he said, the task force set up an independent nonprofit, known as the Abuse Reform Commission, to run the database. But the SBC’s two mission boards, which had pledged millions to support abuse reform, said they would not fund the new group.

However, Wester said Jeff Iorg, new president of the SBC’s Executive Committee, is committed to moving the reforms forward. He said the task force hopes the reforms will remain inside the SBC.

Messengers approved the task force’s recommendation that the reforms, including the database, would go forward and that responsibility for the future of reforms be given to the Executive Committee.

Though they would not fund the Abuse Reform Commission, leaders of Send Relief—the SBC’s humanitarian arm, which is funded by the International Mission Board and North American Mission Board—said they are willing to work with the Executive Committee on reforms.

Send Relief’s leaders pledged $4 million for abuse reforms two years ago.

“In the two years these funds have been available, Send Relief has not rejected any requests for funding that fall within the original intent of its commitment,” a spokesman for the North American Mission Board said in an email.

The spokesman said those funds still are available.

‘Essentials’ curriculum rolled out

Members of the task force did not come to the annual meeting empty-handed. The new “Essentials” curriculum went live online this week, at the website, as part of the ministry toolkit authorized by messengers in 2022.

“To help make our churches safe from abuse, we must be proactive,” reads the website for the new curriculum, which outlines a five-step process for addressing the issue of abuse.

Messengers received a flyer when they registered for the annual meeting, telling them where they could pick up a copy of the curriculum. Copies also will be shipped to each state convention. The curriculum is available as a printed booklet or on a thumb drive.

“The task force looks forward to getting the Essentials curriculum into the hands of as many messengers as possible,” the task force told RNS in an email. The task force also will maintain the website that hosts the curriculum, even though its term has expired.

Wester said the delay in implementing reforms shows the limits of volunteer task forces to deal with issues like abuse.

“Task forces have some power,” he said. “They apparently have very limited power when it comes to doing things in the SBC.”

Southern Baptists have been calling for a database to track abusive pastors since at least 2007. In 2008, during a previous meeting in Indianapolis, SBC leaders said such a database was impossible.

Fourteen years later, messengers at the 2022 SBC meeting overwhelmingly approved the database and other reforms during their meeting in Anaheim, Calif. The delay in implementing those reforms has left abuse survivors discouraged.

“It’s such a long road to get where we need to be,” said Jules Woodson, one of a group of survivors who have advocated for reforms in recent years.

During their meeting Tuesday, messengers voted for the reforms to go forward and to task the Executive Committee with working on them.

Law Amendment fails to receive required vote

A constitutional amendment barring churches that employ female pastors from the Southern Baptist Convention failed to receive the necessary two-thirds approval at the SBC annual meeting.

Messengers voted 5,099 to 3,185—61.45 percent to 38.38 percent—in favor of an amendment limiting “friendly cooperation” with the SBC to a church that “affirms, appoints, or employs only men as any kind of pastor or elder as qualified by Scripture.”

However, amendments to the SBC constitution require two-thirds approval at two consecutive annual meetings. So, the measure failed.

Mike Law, pastor of Arlington Baptist Church in Arlington, Va., introduced the amendment at the 2023 SBC annual meeting in New Orleans, where messengers voted in favor of it.

Speaking in favor of the amendment at the 2024 annual meeting, Law called on messengers to “side with Scripture,” asserting a vote in favor of the amendment was “a vote for biblical faithfulness.”

The vote on the Law Amendment came one day after messengers overwhelmingly voted to declare First Baptist Church in Alexandria, Va., outside the bounds of friendly cooperation with the SBC.

It followed one year after messengers to the SBC annual meeting in New Orleans similarly voted to consider Fern Creek Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., and Saddleback Church in Southern California no longer in “friendly cooperation” with the convention.

Questioning the amendment’s necessity

Speaking against the Law Amendment, Spence Shelton, lead pastor of Mercy Church in Charlotte, N.C., offered those actions as evidence the amendment was unnecessary.

“The question before us today is not whether we are complementarian. That’s clear,” Shelton said, pointing to the belief expressed in the 2000 Baptist Faith & Message that the pastoral office is limited to men.

“We showed last year that we have an effective mechanism. It allows us to act with conviction and unity when it comes to this issue,” Shelton said. “Last year, we removed two different churches—one really big, like a mega-megachurch and one normative size. This year, we removed an institutional legacy church.

“We have shown that the mechanisms we have are sufficient to deal with this question.”

Prior to the annual meeting, Jeff Iorg, president and CEO of the SBC Executive Committee made a similar argument.

In a published opinion article, Iorg wrote: “While some may believe the amendment is necessary to guard against the cultural slide related to gender and sexuality, keep in mind the actions of messengers in 2023—using the confessional statement to declare two churches were not in friendly cooperation because of their stance on women serving in pastoral roles. This happened based on our doctrinal convictions without the aid of the amendment.”

Concerns noted

Jeff Iorg is president and CEO of the SBC Executive Committee. (Baptist Press photo)

Iorg—who made clear his agreement with the belief that pastoral leadership is limited to men—also expressed concern about whether the issue focused on the “title” pastor or whether it concerned whether a woman could “function” as pastor.

He also raised concerns about autonomy, legal concerns and “multi-cultural and multi-racial dimensions” of the issue, such as how various cultures and languages refer to women in ministerial roles.

Pastor Gregory Perkins of The View Church in Minfee, Calif., and president of the National African American Fellowship said last July any move to exclude churches with women pastors could disenfranchise Black Southern Baptist churches.

California Southern Baptist Convention Executive Director Pete Ramirez also urged the SBC needed to consider unintended consequences for Spanish-language churches if the Law Amendment passed, given the way the terms “pastor” and the feminine “pastora” are used in those congregations.

Women ‘diminished, demeaned and denigrated’

Meredith Stone, executive director of Baptist Women in Ministry, expressed appreciation to SBC messengers who voted against the Law Amendment but grief that the measure still received majority approval, which she saw as a demonstration “that women in ministry are still devalued.”

Meredith Stone

“Decades ago, the SBC codified its ideological position of disregarding God’s call on women in the Baptist Faith and Message 2000. Therefore, the amendment considered today was not constructed on its own merit since the basis for it was already decided,” Stone wrote.

“Instead, women in ministry were used as props for the display of extreme conservativism in order to advance the power of a faction within the SBC.”

Baptist Women in Ministry expressed its “solidarity with all women who have been faithfully following God’s call in Southern Baptist churches as pastors of all kinds and who were placed at the center of a debate for power.”

“We know that even though the amendment failed, women who pastor in Southern Baptist churches will continue to be diminished, demeaned and denigrated,” Stone stated.

“Southern Baptists will continue to silence women. Southern Baptists will continue to not listen to women and not believe women when they say they have been harassed, traumatized, abused, and also when they say God has called them to serve in pastoral ministry.”

Stone urged churches that support women in ministry to make that support known publicly.

“Women and churches need to see that there are Christ-followers who believe women, who equally value women in the work of the church, and who honor the image of God in all people,” she stated.

Local church autonomy affirmed

In his “Texas Baptists Weekly” email on June 12, Baptist General Convention of Texas Executive Director Julio Guarneri underscored the BGCT’s commitment to local church autonomy.

“We have congregations that are fully complementarian, others who are fully egalitarian and mostly churches who are somewhere between these two positions,” Guarneri wrote.

“Some of our churches believe women should not be pastors at any level. Some of our churches believe that a woman can serve as a lead pastor. Many of our churches have women serving in staff pastoral roles where the lead pastor is a male.”

Differing views about the role of women in ministry are “not a test of fellowship for Texas Baptists,” Guarneri noted.

“Local church autonomy implies that the convention serves each church or group of churches according to their conviction on this matter,” he wrote.

“We do not believe the topic of women in ministry is a matter of scriptural authority. We believe it is an issue of scriptural interpretation.

“When churches arrive at their position after prayerful consideration, careful study of the Scriptures and submission to the leadership of the Holy Spirit and are willing to cooperate with other churches who might arrive at a different conviction, we show respect for local church autonomy.”

Guarneri rejected the assertion by some proponents of the Law Amendment that women serving in pastoral roles is a “sin issue” and that adherence to the 2000 Baptist Faith & Message is necessary for cooperation.

“We disagree on both counts,” Guarneri wrote. “Women serving in pastoral roles is not a ‘sin issue.’ It is instead a matter of scriptural interpretation and cultural context.

“In traditional Baptist polity and history, statements of faith have served to express the doctrines that Baptists hold in general for cooperation and witness purposes. They are not to be used as instruments of imposed uniformity. We adhere to this traditional view.”

EDITOR’S NOTE:  The last 10 paragraphs were added late Tuesday afternoon, June 12, after Julio Guarneri sent his weekly email to Texas Baptists.

‘The mission matters most,’ Jeff Iorg tells SBC

INDIANAPOLIS (BP)—Jeff Iorg was ready to retire from the presidency of Gateway Seminary and spend more time with family when he was approached about seeking the presidency of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee.

He put the matter before his wife Ann and their three adult children. His daughter Melody’s response helped seal the deal, he said in his Executive Committee report to 2024 SBC annual meeting messengers.

“She said: ‘Dad, from the day you moved our family to the West Coast to plant a church, our family has always been about the gospel. And this is your opportunity to minimize the distractions and help Southern Baptists stay focused on what we’re really here for.’”

His example of a man following God and his mission “above all else” was more valuable to his grandchildren than his watching them play basketball, Melody offered.

Her words mirror Iorg’s words to messengers to uphold the gospel mission above all other congregational and societal concerns, based on Ephesians 3:8.

“A bivocational pastor sharing the gospel with a teenager at an associational youth camp is a better example of fulfilling God’s eternal mission than a seminary student blogger spouting pseudo-gospel insight from a coffee shop couch,” Iorg said.

Accept no substitutes

Political activism, social justice, convention reform and doctrinal conformity are common mission substitutes, Iorg said, affirming their usefulness but negating their primacy.

In a world marked by tribalism, nationalism and prejudice, Iorg said, “Christians are a global community built on one shared allegiance, an allegiance to Jesus Christ.

“When people are changed by the gospel, they become friends with former enemies and brothers and sisters in a new family. This makes no rational sense. It even astounds angels and demons, but the gospel brings this kind of change in our lives.”

Southern Baptists face great challenges focusing on God’s eternal mission while giving other issues appropriate attention, Iorg said.

“The mission matters most,” Iorg said, reciting a phrase he said has helped him stay on track. “This phrase reminds me to prioritize God’s eternal mission, while still recognizing other matters need appropriate attention. The mission matters most means other things do matter—but just not as much as some people advocate—and never ever to the detriment of God’s eternal mission.”

Iorg, who already has invested 30 years in Southern Baptist denominational work, told messengers he himself is committed to staying on mission.

“Southern Baptists, I did not forego my retirement from organizational leadership to manage Baptist bureaucracy,” he said. “I set it aside because I believe in this role I can minimize the distractions, simplify the processes, quietly and efficiently take care of our business, so that we can focus on advancing God’s eternal mission.”

Future generations are dependent upon this generation to spread the gospel now, he said.

“Many issues demand attention,” Iorg said. “But Southern Baptists, nothing else demands our ultimate attention like God’s eternal mission and every single one of us devoting ourselves to that primary task.”