It was midday in Nashville, but it was 10:38 p.m. in the United Arab Emirates, where Josh Manley was when he joined the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Alumni & Friends Luncheon on Wednesday (June 16) at the Southern Baptist Convention.
Manley, a SBTS alum and church planter in the Middle East, discussed his journey with SBTS President Al Mohler via video chat displayed on the large screens.
“By God’s grace, we are not an underground church,” he said. “God and the government has given Christian’s freedom to gather and preach freely.”
Manley planted RAK Evangelical Church 8 and a half years ago, after finishing a career in the United States Senate.
“[Working in the Senate] showed me the passing glory of politics,” he said. “It’s important but it’s not ultimate.”
As one of only eight evangelical churches on the peninsula and in a country seeing many people coming in for work, Manley said God is using the church “not just locally, but regionally as well.”
‘United around the gospel’
His church stands united around one thing: the gospel, Manley said.
“Our church is made up of people from almost 20 different nations. What I love is that the gospel is clearly what unites us as a church. We don’t have much in common, but we all want to see the gospel sent forth.”
Earlier in the day, Mohler took the convention stage during the joint seminary report.
“[The success of our seminaries is] the greatest sign you can imagine about the future of this denomination,” he said. “God is proving himself faithful to his church by calling out those who will preach.”
When questioned about the seminary presidents’ joint statement on critical race theory, Mohler said, “ It’s our responsibility … to say what we believe is compatible and incompatible with the Baptist Faith & Message. It’s a public statement of our accountability and in defense of the gospel. There is always more to say, but we didn’t think we could say anything less. We said it together unanimously, and we stand unanimously in it.”
He also emphasized the importance of viewing racism and CRT for what they both are: “We need to recognize that CRT is a toxic ideology. And racism is a sin that sends souls to hell. … We have to be the people nonetheless who know the only path of gospel faithfulness is in avoiding both.”
He concluded by praising Southern Baptists and encouraged them to continue in the work they’ve been doing.
“Let’s pray we look more like Jesus’ kingdom every single day,” he said. “May the Lord find the faith by which we are saved in the SBC when He comes.”