The SBC is over.
It really is. The “convention” is a meeting that meets once a year and that meeting has closed. Now, we will all go back to our locally autonomous churches and work to fulfill the mission of God. Hopefully what was accomplished at this year’s annual meeting will help that work press forward. But ultimately, the Great Commission is given to believers and the church, not denominational structures, entities, and employees.
But, because I am hopeful about our tribe and what denominations can accomplish together, here are some observations:
1. There was not the massive turnout that many predicted.
I heard talk of 18,000 messengers. We were not even close. It was larger than some of the meetings from the last few years because of the issues at hand, but it was not the meeting many expected. The same thing happened at the 2006 convention in Greensboro and the 2007 San Antonio convention, and neither materialized into massive attendances.
On the other hand, I do think it encouraging that in the midst of our ongoing sluggish economy there was an uptick in attendance rather than a drop-off. But, the fact that the masses did not show is worth noting.
2. This was not as big of a battle as many had predicted.
The Great Commission Resurgence Task Force report passed by a 3-1 margin. I think the amendments helped (and made the report better), but they did not change the substance of the report. Southern Baptists voted overwhelmingly for the report even though many key SBC leaders were vocally opposing the report.
But, that is the past. The convention has spoken, now the implementation discussion will begin.
3. Bryant Wright’s election is an interesting surprise and worth considering.
I am friends with Bryant Wright, Ted Traylor, and Leo Endel. (Full disclosure: I do not know Jimmy Jackson well, but he seems like a great man. I have spoken for Leo Endel multiple times in Minnesota / Wisconsin and consider him a friend. Ted is a close friend of many years and I have preached at his church. I preached for Bryant just recently at Johnson Ferry. I did not endorse any candidate for SBC president.)
At LifeWay, we are not permitted to endorse candidates or motions (something I would suggest for all agency employees), but I can tell you my perceptions. I do not think that the votes were a statement about the men running. They are all good men who share the theological values of our convention of churches. But, as I see it, they represented “degrees” of change.
Jimmy Jackson and Leo Endel both represented a position that might be called, “Little Structural Change / Focused on Spiritual Change.” Each wanted a resurgence of the Great Commission, but not the restructuring they saw evident in the GCRFT report. Jimmy was most widely supported by those who valued working with and making the current system better.
Ted Traylor was the candidate most closely tied to the GCRTF. His position might have been, “GCR-Sized Structural Change / Focused on Spiritual Change.” He valued the Cooperative Program and was a clear candidate to help exhort the SBC into the implementation of the GCRTF recommendations.
“Beyond GCR Structural Change / Focused on Spiritual Change” would have been the best way to describe Bryant Wright’s position. Had he been leading the GCRTF, the changes would have been more radical. He has called for a dramatic increase in funds going directly to the global field, has led his church to restructure its Cooperative Program funds to contribute directly to IMB projects, and he clearly communicated that the GCRTF report was a start, not the conclusion.
And, the convention chose Bryant– he received the most votes in the first round and the majority in the second. I have no interpretation of this apparent dualistic vote of the convention choosing to strengthen the CP language of the GCR, yet electing Bryant Wright as president whose church has redirected its cooperative giving to the IMB. Johnson Ferry was the picture of Great Commission Giving which was of so much concern that the convention went on record to amend the GCRTF report around such giving. Perhaps someone has an idea about it but, as of now, I do not.
I do not believe that Bryant Wright was elected by name recognition alone.. He has been president of the SBC pastors conference (and did a fine job). But, it appears to me that Ted Traylor is better known. Ted is loved by Southern Baptists, particularly in Florida, and just about everywhere else. (I can truly say I do not know anyone who does not like Ted Traylor.)
The fact that Southern Baptists would elect Bryant and overwhelmingly endorse the GCRTF report appears to demonstrate a desire for more change. And, I anticipate that Bryant will communicate that in the days to some.
I believe that Bryant will do an excellent job as SBC president. Most importantly, we can be assured of a round of quality trustees at our agencies. Also, I would expect Bryant to use the pulpit of the SBC to encourage a greater commitment to global missions and domestic church planting-and those are two emphases on which we all can agree.