Southern Baptist messengers took a strong stand against sexual abuse in Southern Baptist churches on June 13-14 at the 2022 SBC Annual Meeting. It was the first time in more than 25 years that California hosted the annual meeting.
The recommendations of the Sexual Abuse Task Force were passed by messengers after a drama-filled year surrounding the independent investigation of the SBC Executive Committee (EC) for the alleged mishandling of sexual abuse allegations.
One recommendation calls for newly elected SBC President Bart Barber to appoint members of an Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force who will begin to create policies and practices for preventing and responding to abuse in Southern Baptist churches.
The convention was filled with close elections as the elections for president, second vice president and recording secretary were forced into run-offs.
The meetings drew 8,133 messengers, according to SBC Registration Secretary Don Currence. There were 2,856 registered guests and 1,554 registered exhibitors leading to a total attendance of 12,543.
Barber elected SBC president, Yeats completes 25 years of service
Messengers elected Texas pastor Bart Barber as the next president of the SBC. Barber and Florida pastor Tom Ascol met in a run-off election after they received more votes than Frank Cox and Robin Hadaway in the initial election.
California pastor Victor Chayasirisobhon was elected first vice president, and Alex Sands was elected second vice president.
Nathan Finn, provost of North Greenville University, was elected recording secretary. Longtime Recording Secretary John Yeats chose not to run for reelection after 25 years of serving in the role for the convention.
Sexual abuse reforms bring lamentation, repentance
A Convention-wide awakening to the impact of sexual abuse and need to address it brought a seminal moment for Southern Baptists in adopting recommendations brought forward by the Sexual Abuse Task Force. Those recommendations include the formation of a “Ministry Check” website and the establishment of an Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force to work over the next three years.
Messengers also adopted Resolution 6: On Lament and Repentance for Sexual Abuse. In citing Scripture that condemns abuse and charges the church to care the vulnerable, the resolution included public apologies and repentance from Southern Baptists to survivors of sexual abuse.
Crossover yields 547 salvations
Thirty-four churches engaged their communities on June 11 through Crossover in a partnership with Send Relief’s hosting a Serve Tour experience in advance of the annual meeting. Local churches, the Orange County Southern Baptist Association, the California Southern Baptist Convention and the North American Mission Board (NAMB) combined efforts in a series of sports camps, block parties and other outreach events.
In its report June 14, NAMB said 572 volunteers served more than 2,400 children and their families with 547 people surrendering their lives to Christ.
Missionaries tell their stories
A total of 52 International Mission Board (IMB) missionaries stood on stage – several with identities hidden due to their location assignment – before messengers at IMB’s June 14 Sending Celebration. They shared their backgrounds as well as their calling to go to the nations.
“Today, amid sin and darkness, devastation and pain, many are focused on the worst of our convention, we get to be reminded of why we, as believers … as Southern Baptists, exist,” IMB President Paul Chitwood said.
IMB trustees approved of the missionaries’ appointments at the board’s meeting in Orlando May 18-19.
CP allocation budget passed, current giving above budget
The Cooperative Program Allocation Budget and 2022-23 SBC Operating Budget were passed by messengers.
In his address to messengers, EC interim President and CEO Willie McLaurin thanked churches for an increase in CP giving in the short term, noting that CP giving is $11.3 million (8.89 percent) above budget for the first eight months of the 2021-2022 fiscal year. In the history of CP, Southern Baptists have given a cumulative $20 billion.
Litton points messengers to Jesus: The Center of It All
SBC President Ed Litton used his presidential sermon to focus on the convention’s theme – Jesus: The Center of It All.
“Lord Jesus, we need you. We need you to be the center of it all. We need you in this moment. Pass us not, oh blessed Savior,” Litton petitioned. “Lord, come. Come to our meeting. Take over our hearts. Rule and reign in us, Lord God. And let us be careful how we treat one another; this is our credibility to a lost world.”
Litton, pastor of Redemption Church in Saraland, Ala., focused on Matthew 9:35-38 to bring what he called a “gut punch” from Jesus that should lead Southern Baptists to a “gut check.”
“What do we hear from Jesus? He says you need to repent and you need to take action,” Litton said. “You need to stop seeing people as the object of your success, and you need to love like Jesus loves.”
Resolutions address sexual abuse, sanctity of life, injustice to Native peoples
The convention passed nine resolutions ranging dealing with issues such as the war in Ukraine, the prosperity gospel, and the need to reach rural America with the gospel.
The convention brought a somber resolution calling for lament and repentance for sexual abuse in the SBC. The resolution included an apology to a number of sexual abuse survivors who agreed to have their names printed in the resolution.
For the first time in the history of SBC resolutions, messengers passed a resolution acknowledging the malicious treatment of Native Americans, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians. The resolution dealt with removal of the people from their native lands and forced assimilation through mandatory boarding schools.
The messengers also drew from more than 20 resolutions dealing with the sanctity of human life and abortion to create a resolution anticipating a “historic moment in the pro-life movement.”
The Credentials Committee ultimately withdrew a recommendation to form a study committee for providing clarity on what constitutes the “office of pastor” in response to a call to disfellowship Saddleback Community Church. The decision will be delayed to a later date.
Numerous motions made by messengers were referred to relevant entities. There were 19 motions that were referred specifically to the Executive Committee.
A diverse lineup of pastors preached during the Pastors’ Conference that ended with the election of North Carolina pastor Daniel Dickard as president of next year’s conference.
Ezell pledges NAMB as a resource for collegiate ministries
NAMB President Kevin Ezell told messengers the entity will serve to resource Southern Baptist collegiate ministries across the country as well as provide opportunities to connect those ministry leaders together.
The recommendation brought forward by the Executive Committee led to discussion and questions from messengers to Ezell, ultimately passing by a wide margin. Collegiate ministries had previously been the ministry assignment for Lifeway Christian Resources.
Messengers affirm need for ERLC
Messengers overwhelmingly affirmed the need for the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission after a messenger made a motion to abolish the entity.
Todd Unzicker, executive director-treasurer of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, was selected as the 2023 SBC Annual Meeting convention speaker with Jim Shaddix, professor of preaching at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., serving as alternate. James Cheesman, associate pastor and worship leader at First Baptist Church Farmersville, Texas, was selected as convention music director.
The 2023 SBC Annual Meeting is scheduled for June 13-14 in New Orleans, La.
by Baptist Press
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published by Baptist Press. Photo by Camille Grochwoski.