Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Notes From The SBC 2012

History was made yesterday in the city that was once home to the largest slave market in North America. The Southern Baptist Convention elected its first African American President. This is huge when you think that one of the factors that helped form the Convention in the 19th Century was the slavery issue. Just as the rest of the country was so deeply divided in those days, Baptists in the south split from fellowship with their Baptist brethren in the north, over the issue. Now, a man who is most likely the descendant of black slaves, has been chosen to be the leader of the largest protestant denomination in the world.

About one sixteenth of the SBC's 16 Million members are black. The SBC Annual Meeting has long been a sea of mostly white faces. This week the complexion has changed visibly. It is a beginning (long overdue) but a beginning none the less. The election of a former street preacher from the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans to be the leader of the Southern Baptist Convention is a major step toward racial reconciliation, and toward pounding the final nails in the coffin of an ugly chapter in our history.


One of the things I love about attending the SBC Annual Meeting, is the opportunity to see so many friends and colleagues from all over the country. We have had opportunity to see many of our friends from back home in Kentucky and West Virginia, and that is always a blessing. It is also sweet to renew old acquaintances with friends from all over the country. The fellowship is fleeting, but so sweet, whether it be spending a few minutes together in the Exhibit Hall, stopping to talk briefly in the concourse, or sitting down to have a cup of coffee or to break bread together in one of the crowded restaurants.


It is also a tremendous blessing to sit under the preaching of a number of Godly men, young and old, in the Pastor's Conference which precedes the two day business sessions. It is not often one can hear the likes of Tony Evans, David Jeremiah, Johnny Hunt, and David Platt in one venue. The speakers vary in age and style, and come from various types of ministries, but each one's message will compliment the others. In the Monday afternoon session alone, Dennis Swanberg made us laugh, David Platt made us cry, and Herb Reavis made us shout. Fred Luter brought the house down on Monday evening!


Despite the euphoria surrounding Fred Luter's election, there is still some controversy here as we Baptists gather in the Big Easy. There is the Calvinism debate. Some are saying that now is the time for this "conversation to begin". Friends, this conversation has been going on for several centuries in Baptist life. The debate is an old one, and it is not going to be settled today. There are some things that we just need to leave up to God, determine that we are going to love one another despite some of our differences, and get on with fulfilling the Great Commission given to us by our Lord. We have the Word of God to guide us, and the Baptist Faith and Message as our consensus statement of faith, now let's get on with the task!


I never cease to be amazed that in spite of our differences, in spite of controversies, large and small, God continues to bless this work. It is a tribute to His power and glory alone!

I have enjoyed being here this week. I even got to have dinner with two of my precious grandsons last night! We'll wrap things up here today, and I look forward to getting home and back to work in the place of service where God has placed me.

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