In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting scheduled for June 2020 in Orlando has been canceled. It should be noted that despite the civil government’s outlook that the United States should be fully operational by Easter, the meeting hasn’t been rescheduled or postponed, but completely canceled, leaving all of the current entity heads and officers in place for at least one more year.
According to a report by current Southern Baptist president, JD Greear — who is nearing the end of his second and last constitutionally allowed term in June — all of the Southern Baptist entity heads and officers of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee “unanimously voted” to hold their positions for another year — calling it “putting the gospel above all.”
This decision was made unanimously by the SBC Executive Committee, me, every one of our SBC officers and our Great Commission Council, which consists of the presidents of all six of our seminaries, the International Mission Board, the North American Mission Board, Guidestone Financial Resources and Lifeway Christian Resources, and affirmed by both Sandy Wisdom-Martin from the Woman’s Missionary Union and Russell Moore of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. I am grateful for the united leadership of these men and women in taking this proactive step. We believe, without reservation, that it is the right one.
The bylaws of the Southern Baptist Convention explicitly forbid a president from serving more than two terms as the denomination’s top leader. The constitution of the Southern Baptist Convention can be seen at this link, but here is the pertinent paragraph in Article V.
2.) The officers shall be elected annually and shall hold office until their successors are elected and qualified. The term of office for the president is limited to two (2) years, and a president shall not be eligible for re-election until as much as one (1) year has elapsed from the time a successor is named.
Clearly, the Southern Baptist Convention’s leadership has overstepped its boundaries here by doing such. There is so much tension in the denomination currently and this year expected one of the largest turnouts of voters in recent history for the annual meeting. The annual meeting is where all member churches are allowed to send messengers to vote on new entity heads, president and vice president, and the adoption (or rescinding) of various resolutions.
Last year, a controversial resolution was adopted by the denomination that embraced Critical Race Theory as a “valuable tool” to examine various racial issues in society in the Church. There is a growing and notable movement to rescind this resolution at the 2020 meeting and many hoped to vote on more conservative resolutions at this meeting. It appears this won’t happen for at least another year.
It should be interesting to watch as more and more dissenting voices are silenced by the denomination’s top leaders who unanimously voted to keep themselves in charge for another year. Several churches have already left the denomination over its social justice movement but many were holding out hope for one more year to see if any change could be made. It should be expected that SBC churches will leave in en masse.
While there are many alternative methods for holding the meeting — such as televised and remote voting — these options were not offered. The people in charge of the denomination appear to be unmoved by the pleas of churches and denominations who’ve asked them to do so.