Despite the attention-grabbing headlines and over-the-top critics within the convention, the Great Commission Baptist Convention remains unified. However, it would be disingenuous and blind to ignore the rifts within the convention that continues to grow in intensity.
Months prior to the annual convention, organizers changed venues in Nashville because of increased attendance. Decades among the Baptists have demonstrated that high attendance at a business meeting is rarely an encouraging sign. Total, over 20,000 people were present at the convention and each business session was well attended and there was tension in the air.
What you mostly likely heard in the news and online outlet likely relates to disunity as a result of the following issues:
- Accusations of Secretive Liberalism
- Accusations of Promoting Critical Race Theory
- Accusations of Covering up Sexual Abuse
- Confusing Political Alignment with Theological Fidelity
These divisions were demonstrated in numerous ways at the convention. First, each seminary president publicly renounced Critical Race Theory. Months prior to the convention, the six seminary presidents released a joint statement critical of CRT and disavowing it as a non-Christian doctrine. This was reaffirmed at the convention with Dr. Adam Greenway of Southwestern Theological Seminary offering the fullest treatment of it.
Secondly, SBC messengers adopted Resolution 3 regarding racial reconciliation. Although criticized for not calling out CRT by name, the statement clearly rejects CRT ideology and connects the source of racism to sin and the solution to redemption found in Christ.
Thirdly, SBC messengers rejected granting additional powers to the Executive Committee. Recent allegations (like those from outgoing ERLC President Russell Moore) accusing the Executive Committee of not taking sexual abuse as serious as they should resulted in a clear reprimand from the messengers in the EC’s attempt to gain more authority. In fact, the messengers voted to have an independent authority investigate the EC regarding the serious accusations of sexual abuse and its cover up.
Finally, the election of Ed Litten for President is significant. Although Albert Mohler was the most recognizable candidate, his public endorsement of former President Donald Trump likely hurt him. Mike Stone is the outgoing EC head. Ed Litten has been public about his fight for racial reconciliation and taking sexual abuse seriously.
On the surface, the Presidential election was the draw of the convention. No doubt everyone wanted to vote on the next president. Essentially, the four candidates fell into two categories. Mike Stone won the first round of voting but failed to amass 50% of the vote leading to a runoff. For the most part, the three other candidates had split their vote leading to Litten winning in the end.
The “race” was seen as the Conservative Baptist Network side vs. the rest of the convention. The CBN is more fundamentalists and sees liberalism under every SBC rock. Their candidate was Mike Stone. However, the convention chose Litten.
Surprisingly, the mainstream media has suggested Litten’s victory means a win for moderates in the convention. But as we have seen, there aren’t moderates in the convention. This is a repudiation of loud fundamentalists, but Litten is a faithful Christian and Southern Baptist.
In the next post, we will explore a response to these divisions and what they mean.