The Southern Baptist Convention is holding its annual meeting at the Baltimore Convention Center June 10-11, 2014. The Baptist Press just announced today, Arkansas pastor Ronnie Floyd has won the election and is now the Southern Baptist Convention's president. Local DC pastor Dennis Manpoong Kim, of the Global Mission Church of Greater Washington had been considered a front-runner.
Outgoing president Rev. Fred Luter was the denomination’s first African-American president. Rev. Luter will give his last address to the Convention as SBC president on Tuesday and will turn over the gavel to the next SBC president at the close of events on Wednesday. Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, La. said he plans to lead a revival service during the Tuesday evening session.
The theme this year is "Restoration and Revival through Prayer." Last year’s theme was about revival as well, “Revive Us . . . That We May Be One.'" Rev. Luter went on to say, "The year I was elected, I got a report from LifeWay that all our numbers were down, our attendance was down, our giving was down, our young people were leaving the church . . . just across the board things were down. I had a personal conviction that we need to get back as a Convention to making the main thing the main thing.”
"I wanted to again stay with the theme 'Revival,' but let's undergird it with prayer," Luter continued. The theme was selected from Psalm 80:18–19, "Then we will not turn away from You; revive us, and we will call on Your name. Restore us, Yahweh, the God of Hosts; look on us with favor, and we will be saved." (HCSB)
Other topics scheduled for discussion are the denominations declining numbers as well as whether the nation’s largest Protestant organization can thrive in an American culture which is quickly changing on such matters as secularism, sexuality, and spirituality. Membership and baptisms within the denomination have been on the decline for years.
The Southern Baptist Convention, with 15.7 million members, is still the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, but some speculate the movement to purge liberals from SBC life is causing further loss in membership than expected. In an effort to reverse that trend there has been an increase in reaching out to predominantly African-American, Hispanic and Asian communities. Ethnic diversity has not been well reflected in the SBC’s membership or leadership so far.
The presidents of the SBC’s Executive Committee as well as the heads of the seminaries are white. Some committee members, even some of Rev. Kim’s own supporters, expressed they were still uncomfortable with making a conscious effort to help diversify the leadership. Texas pastor Dwight McKissic said he thought Kim was the best man for the job and nominated him at the meeting. “Everything about him represents what the Southern Baptists need to impact the nations of the world with the gospel of the kingdom,” he said.
McKissic went on to say the Southern Baptists would have benefited from a Kim victory because, “He would be the convention's first president who is pastor of a multicultural church that is wholly committed to cross-cultural evangelism and discipleship. The world needs to see such cross-cultural, discipleship-driven churches, trained in evangelism and saturated in prayer.”
Winner of the election, Ronnie Floyd, has been pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas for 27 years. Pastor Floyd encourages Southern Baptists to deepen their spiritual life through books, Sunday school studies and pastor prayer meetings. With 3,553 ballots cast, Floyd received 1,834 votes, or 51.62 percent of the vote. Rev. Kim, the pastor of the Global Mission Church of Greater Washington in Silver Spring, Md., received 1,446 votes or 40.70 percent of the vote.
Pastor Floyd was nominated by Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. In the nomination speech Mohler reflected on Floyd’s "Great Commission in his heart" and how he has been a leader "with peerless experience in the Southern Baptist Convention." Mohler added that Floyd "will lead all Southern Baptists, and he will lead us well. He is a bridge-builder who unites us theologically and stands in a direct line of noble leaders who have defended the inerrancy of Scripture and every doctrine of our Baptist Faith & Message.”
More than 6,000 messengers, members of churches within the Southern Baptist Convention, were expected to participate this year. If you would like to watch the SBC annual meeting live via online streaming, click here.