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In 2018, SBC Moderates Complained About Mike Pence at SBC Annual Meeting, Now They Welcome Him in 2024

by | Apr 3, 2024 | News, Opinion, Politics, Religion, Social-Issues, The Church, US

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In 2018, former U.S. Vice President, Mike Pence, who is a Southern Baptist himself, was invited to speak at the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting. While at the time, Pence was largely viewed as a conservative politician who supported conservative policies, SBC moderates and leftists were strongly opposed to the move. Southern Baptist pastors, entity leaders, and messengers complained en masse about the presence of Pence.

NC Pastor, Clint Pressley, who is currently running for SBC president, tweeted during the meeting, “I love America. I like Mike Pence. I hate this,”

and Trevin Wax, a North American Mission Board VP tweeted “I know the SBC has welcomed politicians on occasion going back 45 years, but has there ever been a full-blown campaign speech like this one?” with a response by SBTS professor, Denny Burk, who complained, “That it happened was bad enough. That it was essentially a stump speech was unbearable.”

And Messenger, Garrett Kell, stood up during the meeting to publicly oppose the invitation, calling on the annual meeting to replace his appearance with a prayer time, instead:

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Last week, news emerged that Brent Leatherwood, the leader of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, extended an invitation to Mike Pence to address the annual meeting once again. As of the time of this writing, I have not encountered any objections from those who previously criticized Pence’s participation this year.

Back in 2018, Mike Pence was a staunch supporter of President Trump, openly backing the administration he was a part of. This stance began to shift in 2020 when Pence acknowledged the mainstream narrative that Trump had lost his bid for re-election. Since that pivot, Pence has openly criticized the former president. Southern Baptist pastors, particularly those leaning towards moderate leftism, have historically shied away from endorsing Trump even before the election controversy arose. This avoidance stemmed from a concern that public support for Trump would alienate black and minority congregants from their churches.

As a result, these pastors refrained from expressing support for Trump or his policies, instead adopting a neutral stance on social issues without solid biblical justification. Men like David Platt, Matt Chandler, and JD Greear started to promote the idea that political perspectives across the spectrum all have their merits and drawbacks, arguing that diversity of opinion on matters ranging from abortion to sexuality and wealth redistribution should not lead to discord or division within the Christian community.

Naturally, this viewpoint is flawed, yet it represented the only logically consistent stance they could maintain without being perceived as Trump supporters. But now that Pence has abandoned his support for Donald Trump, he has become more palatable to those who previously complained about him.

“It is an honor to welcome Vice President Pence to our event at the SBC for a candid discussion about Christian service in the public square,” said Brent Leatherwood. “He is someone I personally admire because of his many faithful years of service and leadership to this country. My hope is that this conversation will bring encouragement and practical wisdom to attendees as they seek to engage the culture as ambassadors of Christ.”

So what do I guess is going on? Well, in 2018, Pence’s speech was highly political, and highly pro-Trump. So if I had to make a prediction, this year, Pence’s speech will be highly anti-Trump—at least that’s what those who invited him to speak again are hoping for.

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