What will the election of North Carolina pastor J.D. Greear (right) as president mean for the future of the Southern Baptist Convention? OneNewsNow talked to one longtime denominational leader about that.
Dr. Richard Land, former leader of the SBC's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and current president of Southern Evangelical Seminary, helped to lead "traditionalists" who were concerned about the rise of reformed theology in the Convention – and he wanted Dr. Ken Hemphill to be elected to a one-year term to lead the nation's largest Protestant denomination.
Earlier this year, Land said the biggest issue facing the SBC at the moment is the issue of Calvinism's influence. In analyzing recent statements from the 45-year-old Greear, Land wonders what some of his supporters might be thinking.
"Look, I voted for Ken Hemphill, but J.D. Greear says he's not a Calvinist," Land tells OneNewsNow. "So if anybody were going to be upset, it would be the Calvinists because J.D. Greear kept saying 'I'm not a Calvinist' and 'I'm a whosoever-will Baptist.' Well, praise God!"
The soon-to-be-elected SBC president did make this statement about Jesus while preaching on Monday during the SBC's Pastors' Conference, countering the Calvinistic view of limited atonement where only "the elect" can be saved:
"And we believe that He died for the sins of every single man, woman, boy, and girl, and that He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. And we confess this because the Bible Jesus authorized teaches it."
Following his election, Greear stated that in a sense it does indicate "some new things are happening" in the denomination, but that "there's no change in Southern Baptist beliefs, no change in Southern Baptist focus on mission."
Land says "for somebody who's been in the convention as long as I've been and had to fight the battle for the Bible, the only thing to be discouraged about is the fact that we have declining baptisms and declining membership" in the SBC.
SWBTS trustee Wayne Dickard spoke in favor of the motion. "If we can be overruled by an executive committee, why serve?" he asked. "Secondly, I am in favor of this motion because we gave a man our word. I believe our word should mean something or else we are shallow in integrity."
Bart Barber, a member of the trustee executive committee, defended the group's actions against Patterson, who has faced allegations of mishandling domestic abuse cases. Barber accused Patterson of trying to remove a trustee and refusing to attend executive committee meetings when requested by the chairman. Patterson's lawyer was also accused of questioning "the legal validity" in the final full board meeting.
"What is your seminary to do when a president emeritus is working to undermine the legitimacy and validity of the seminary's board of trustees?" asked Barber.
The motion failed in a vote by messengers, but the controversy is not over as another motion was referred to SWBTS requesting that the full board review and consider the actions of the executive committee regarding the Patterson situation. The board is required to report back next year to messengers about the actions they have taken.
When it was first announced that Pence would speak to the SBC messengers, some spoke out in opposition, arguing that politicians should not be given that type of platform. Land says it was "unfortunate" that some were questioning whether the vice president should speak.
"He is the 24-karat-gold model of an evangelical Christian politician. He is a born-again believer, really a wonderful man. I am very grateful that he's vice president," Land shares.
Christian apologist and educator Dr. Alex McFarland is in agreement. "I thank God that we've been given a leader of his caliber and his stature in that position," he tells OneNewsNow, "and every Christian American should be grateful to God for our vice president and the stands that he takes."
During and after Pence's speech, Southern Baptists and others criticized on social media the VP's touting of the Trump agenda. In contrast, McFarland says "for the vice president to address these ministers and messengers – and yes, to talk about positions and policies and things that the administration is doing – that's absolutely appropriate."
McFarland contends that it's short-sighted for people to criticize Vice President Pence for talking policy to a Christian denomination. "Of course, the Church is about preaching the gospel – but we're also about being culturally informed and culturally engaged. It's unfortunate that many ministers don't have the moral courage or the moral awareness to really take a stand" on cultural issues.
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