As the 2023 Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting fast approaches, around 10,000 messengers are expected to gather June 13–14 at the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans.
With the theme “Serving the Lord, Serve others,” this year’s meeting will kick off a little differently than in year’s past.
Messengers who are present at the opening gavel will hear reports from the International Mission Board and North American Mission Board early in the program. Those present will then celebrate Southern Baptist missionaries following God’s call to the nations with a Mission Sending Celebration.
Spence Shelton, chairman of the SBC Committee on Order of Business, said he hopes this year’s schedule will allow messengers to “put our best foot forward first.”
“And for Southern Baptists … we are at our best when we are sending people out to the nations to share the gospel,” Shelton shared in an annual meeting promotional video released by the SBC Executive Committee.
More time allowed for business, discussion
This year’s annual meeting schedule has also been structured to allow more time for questions and discussion over business items and resolutions, said Bart Barber, SBC president, during a video he released on Twitter.
“We have tried to pay attention to the ongoing requests from the people who attend the annual meeting as messengers to make sure that we give enough time for messengers to be able to conduct the business that they want to do,” he said.
Barber noted there are no panel discussions — other than what may be included in entity reports — and the report from the Committee on Resolutions has been expanded from two to three parts.
Appeals from disfellowshipped churches
Later Tuesday afternoon, during the Miscellaneous Business portion of the meeting, there will be a time slated for appeals from representatives of churches that have been disfellowshipped by the SBC Executive Committee (on recommendation from the Credentials Committee).
Linda Cooper, SBC Credentials Committee chair, released a statement May 16 noting the committee has received three written appeals to being disfellowshipped.
During the last two Executive Committee meetings, a total of eight churches have been ruled out of friendly cooperation with the SBC.
SBC Bylaw 8 provides that, the statement noted, “a church which has been found not to be in cooperation may appeal the decision to the Convention by submitting a written appeal … at least 30 days prior to the Convention’s annual meeting.”
The Credentials Committee reports it has received appeals from Fern Creek Baptist Church, Louisville, Kentucky; Freedom Church, Vero Beach, Florida; and Saddleback Church, Lake Forest, California. See related story.
While Fern Creek and Saddleback’s appeals relate to female pastor issues, Freedom Church’s appeal deals with reportedly mishandling a sexual abuse allegation.
In regards to the appeals process, SBC Executive Committee chair David Sons noted, “SBC bylaws plainly outline the process for churches determined to be not in cooperation with the Convention to appeal their cases before messengers cast their votes.
“Since this is the first time in SBC history for this particular item of business to come before the Convention, it’s important for everyone coming to New Orleans to be prepared and informed about the process.”
The bylaws state: “The question before the messengers will be ‘Shall the decision of the Credentials Committee and the Executive Committee that [name of the church in question] is not in cooperation with the Southern Baptist Convention be sustained?’
“One representative of the church under consideration and one representative of the Credentials Committee or Executive Committee shall be permitted to speak to the question, subject to the normal rules of debate.
“When debate is concluded, the Convention shall vote whether to sustain the Executive Committee’s ruling. If the ruling of the Executive Committee is reversed, messengers from the church shall immediately be registered and seated in accordance with the Convention’s rules.
“If a church which has been found not to be in cooperation with the Convention addresses the issues which led to that finding, it may apply to the Credentials Committee for a reconsideration of its status.
“If the circumstances warrant, the Credentials Committee may recommend to the Executive Committee that the church be once again considered a cooperating church.”
SBC president election
Elections will also be held Tuesday afternoon. At press time, incumbent SBC president Bart Barber and Georgia pastor Mike Stone are the only two who have announced intentions to be nominated as president.
Barber announced Feb. 13 he plans to be renominated by Steven James, pastor of Trinity Baptist Church, Lake Charles, Louisiana.
He was elected for the first of two possible terms during the 2022 meeting in Anaheim. He won on a second ballot runoff against Florida pastor Tom Ascol. Retired missionary Robin Hadaway and Georgia pastor Frank Cox also were nominees in 2022.
Stone announced his plans to be nominated April 26 but has not noted who will nominate him.
This is Stone’s second attempt. In 2021 in Nashville, he lost in a runoff to Ed Litton, pastor of Redemption Church in Saraland, Alabama.
Read more about each candidate’s views on a variety of issues here.
Louisiana pastor Jay Adkins will be nominated as first vice president by Fred Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans.
Adkins is pastor of First Baptist Church Westwego and has served in a variety of roles for the New Orleans Baptist Association of Churches. He has served with the SBC tellers and committee on nominations. He currently serves as chair of the local encouragement team for this year’s annual meeting and also is a co-editor of and contributor to SBC Voices.
Current SBC Registration Secretary Don Currence, who is the administrative pastor at First Baptist Ozark, Missouri and mayor of Ozark, will be renominated by Jon Nelson, pastor of Soma Community Church in Jefferson City.
Current SBC Recording Secretary Nathan Finn, provost and professor at North Greenville University, will be renominated for the position by Dean Inserra, pastor of CityChurch, Tallahassee, Florida.
Stephen Rummage, pastor of Quail Springs Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, will be nominated for president of the SBC Pastors Conference. Adam Dooley, pastor of Englewood Baptist in Jackson, Tennessee, will nominate Rummage.
South Carolina pastor Daniel Dickard serves as this year’s SBC Pastors Conference president.
The opening session of the conference begins Sunday, June 11, at 6 p.m. Sessions continue throughout the day Monday, June 12. For more information, visit sbcpc.net.
According to sbc.net, “a resolution has traditionally been defined as an expression of opinion or concern, as compared to a motion, which calls for action. A resolution is not used to direct an entity of the SBC to specific action other than to communicate the opinion or concern expressed.”
The window for submitting a resolution to be considered during this year’s annual meeting closes May 29, which is 15 days prior to the meeting. For information, go to sbc.net/resource-library/resolutions/.
Sons, pastor of Lake Murray Baptist Church in Lexington, South Carolina, is serving as chair of this year’s Resolutions Committee while also chairing the SBC Executive Committee. Kristen Ferguson of Gateway Seminary is vice chair of the Resolutions Committee.
According to sbcannualmeeting.net, a motion made by a messenger during an annual meeting “calls for specific action by the SBC or requests specific action by one or more of its entities.”
Along with beginning the motion with “I move that …” it is best to frame the wording as a request rather than a mandate. Understanding the difference between a motion and a resolution is important.
Motions do not have to be submitted ahead of the annual meeting.
For more details and information about this year’s SBC Annual Meeting, go to sbcannualmeeting.net.