Dr. Nathan T. Morton
What Happened at SBC 2022
Updated: Jun 22, 2022
From June 12-15 Southern Baptists gathered in Anaheim, California for the annual pastors' conference and convention meeting. If you are on any social media, you know that the extremes always draw sharp lines, write with pejorative and ultimate terminology, and work vigorously to establish division between us and them. Such was the case with much of the reporting coming out of this year’s meeting. To hopefully provide some clarity let me hit the highlights and give a brief summary overview.
Pastors' Conference President
The two candidates nominated to be president of the pastors' conference were Daniel Dickard (pastor of Friendly Avenue Baptist Church in Greensboro, NC) and Voddie Baucham (Dean of Theology at African Christian University in Zambia). Both are good men and capable leaders. Those who like drawing lines in the sand categorized Baucham as the CBN candidate and Dickard as the opposition … Baucham as an interloper and Dickard as the rightful nominee. As far as I know, neither of these men were involved in those conversations. I voted for Baucham because he is better known to me, Dickard won, and I am pleased, I believe he will serve Southern Baptists well.
This year there were initially three candidates but hours before the meeting began a fourth emerged. The four candidates were: Bart Barber a pastor from Texas, Tom Ascol a pastor from Florida, Robin Hadaway a missiologist from California, and Frank Cox a pastor from Georgia. All along it was obvious that the vote would come down to Barber and Ascol. The online personalities supporting Barber sounded much like conspiracy theorists claiming their chosen candidate's opposition was attempting agenda tampering and rushed votes. Those supporting Ascol sounded like Foxy Loxy crying, “The sky is falling” if Barber is elected. The maddening crowd surrounding both were throwing rocks at each other but the candidates themselves behaved in a very Christian manner. All four were good candidates, and as far as I know, void of any glaring flaws. Although I didn’t vote for Frank Cox he was probably the better candidate. I voted for Ascol, Barber won, and I believe Barber will serve the SBC with character and integrity.
SATF (Sexual Abuse Task Force) Recommendations
This was the “big rock” in the convention. I, along with thousands of others, voted for this task force last year and it brought two recommendations to the 2022 meeting.
First, it recommended the creation of an Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force (ARITF) authorized to operate for one year and to be renewable by each subsequent annual convention as needed. The ARITF is directed to study the Guidepost report for feasibility, assist SBC entities, serve as a resource in abuse prevention, and work in tandem with the Credentials and Executive committee.
Second, they recommended we authorize the aforementioned ARITF to create a “Ministry Check” website for maintaining a record of pastors, denominational workers, ministry employees, and volunteers who have been credibly accused of sexual abuse.
There were a few necessary and valid adjustments made to the initial recommendations. Any investigations would, by necessity, be launched by the local church or Baptist body. Also, churches or groups needing financial assistance to hire, an outside firm would be able to apply for grants. Another improvement was giving clarification to the phrase “credibly accused” defining the phrase to accord with legal standards. Finally, in the case where an abuse survivor requested a third-party investigation, if the church refused, they would be reported to the Credentials Committee.
I am happy to say that I was a part of the overwhelming majority that voted for these necessary and important recommendations. It is a good beginning to progress.
Saddleback and Women in Ministry
For me this was the most surprising and telling part of the convention. Saddleback Church (pastor Rick Warren) had been reported to the Credentials Committee for ordaining women pastors. The church was reported by someone who believed this action to be in opposition to the 2000 BF&M. The Committee initially declined to call for Saddleback to be disfellowship until “clarity is provided regarding the use of the title pastor for staff positions with different responsibility and authority than that of the lead pastor.”
This report began the unfolding of a drama which at one point aligned Ascol with Mohler, pitted Mohler president of SBTS against Greenway president of SWBTS, opened the floor for Warren to brag, and perhaps exaggerate his accomplishments, and resulted in the Committee withdrawing their recommendation.
During the discussion period Greenway proposed an amendment to the recommendation (the committee received as friendly) which, rather than concentrate on the office of pastor actually would have changed the focus to determining how closely a church must adhere to the BF&M 2000 in order to be considered in friendly cooperation. The show of hands vote was too close and forced a written ballot vote which barely failed to approve Greenway’s amendment. It was at this point the CC withdrew their recommendation.
This whole drama was extraordinary because it revealed two things: 1) Nearly half the messengers believe that the local church should have greater latitude and liberty than the letter of the BF&M 2000 law. 2) The resistance to the ordination of woman in ministry is not nearly as “cut and dry” as some have believed.
Highlight of the Meeting
The Tuesday morning IMB Sending Celebration was the highlight of the four days. In the celebration 52 missionaries were recognized and sent to places around the world including North Africa, the Middle East, Asia, South America, Europe and the Pacific Rim. At the end to meeting Paul Chitwood (IMB president) said, “The world’s greatest problem is lostness and we have the remedy for that lostness.” I don't believe there was a dry eye in the room. As another speaker said soon after the celebration, “this is what we are all about, this is why we exist.”
If I were to report any discouraging negative it would be the attitudes and behaviors of the “extremes.”
From the conspiracies coming out of “good old boys” network that the CBN was radical and planning to hijack the election to the “conservative” network labeling the “good old boys” as “liberal,” the whole conversation looked more like something that belonged in a November election rather than a Baptist convention.
During some moments when the "extremes" gained access to a microphone, I looked across the convention floor to see on the faces of many what I perceived to be a collective cringe. Hopefully that means we have learned and will do better in the future. Time will tell.
All in all, it was a good convention, business was business, and most like me embraced the outcomes as positive. We are not a denomination, every church is autonomous, but because we agree on the essentials 47,530 churches are equipped to cooperate together for kingdom work and the glory of God. That's good news.