By Larry D. White

President, Arkansas Baptist State Convention

Reflecting on the SBC annual meeting

By Larry D. White

President, Arkansas Baptist State Convention

I was honored to be one of a few hundred messengers from Arkansas Baptist churches at the Southern Baptist Convention in Anaheim, California on June 14-15. This year’s annual meeting was much anticipated for many reasons. We had an election for the presidency that proved to be very divided by the constituents of the two most popular candidates. We faced further reports from the Sexual Abuse Task Force, issues concerning the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, and the potential removal of Saddleback Church from the convention.  

In the end, I affirm the decisions that the messengers made. Most of those decisions were made by a strong majority. When all was said and done, I believe that the messengers, when given all the facts, made the decisions that honor the Lord and His Word.  

The months leading up to the convention were often filled with name-calling, false reports, and general conflict, which mainly played out on social media. Some were challenging others on their level of conservativism and Biblical adherence. However, it is clear, that Southern Baptists are being led by those who believe the Bible but who do not conform to the political mold of others. We are not a denomination with a liberal drift. We are not “woke.” We are complementarian. Yet we hold different views on the roles of women in ministry. We are relentlessly pro-life. While praying for the overturn of Roe v. Wade, we have been active in promoting pregnancy resource centers and foster care. We are committed to transparency and to caring for the abused and bringing the abusers to justice.  

Southern Baptists have become a great denomination because of our reliance upon God and our cooperation. Thankfully, in Anaheim, we did not take a step backward by trusting in our political maneuvering and radical agendas opposed to our mission.  

We need all Southern Baptists to come together. Cooperation is the key. The Southern Baptist Convention works because people who are different unite to do missions. We hold the Baptist Faith and Message as our doctrinal standard and yet still have freedom in non-essential matters. Each church is autonomous. We have Calvinists and those who are far from Calvinists. Southern Baptists are growing ever more diverse culturally while still holding true to Baptist beliefs. If cultural and political conformity is what some desire, the Southern Baptist Convention may not be the best place for them. Being a Southern Baptist means uniting in mission with a wide range of people. 

We are on the same team. It is high time we stop treating our brothers and sisters like they are the enemy. We have a larger spiritual battle to wage. We cannot survive with unnecessary internal conflict. I believe we left Anaheim on the road to healing and focused on our cooperative mission.   

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6 Responses

  1. Thanks Bro. Larry for this report. One question, what is it about Saddleback that the Convention would drop them?

  2. Well stated!! Thank you!! I am weary of everything in our current culture being politicized. Satan has used political hot topics to divide us and draw us away from our God-ordained mission of making disciples and showing the world the love of Christ for far too long!! Would that we would turn our eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and let the things of earth become strangely dim, and get back to our task.

  3. At a time that could have been very divisive, I am thankful those representing our convention could behave in such a Christian manner of leadership.

  4. Good words, Larry. Think you captured well what transpired in Anaheim and a right trajectory for the future. Thanks for the article.

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