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  • Ben Jones

Messengers leave Indy undaunted

INDIANAPOLIS, IN – Road crews wheeled their black boxes out the Indiana Convention Center doors onto Maryland Avenue. Messengers with their bright red convention bags in hand marched away toward their hotels, toward restaurants, toward home. The 166th annual Southern Baptist Convention was over. And while some no doubt felt disappointment that a candidate, a motion, or a resolution they supported did not go as desired, the spectacle that is sometimes called the world’s largest deliberative body did not disappoint.

They came 

Just under 11,000 messengers and over 3,000 guests packed the downtown Indianapolis meeting, significantly more than in the city’s two previous hostings, in 2004 and 2008. Illinois Baptists took advantage of the close location, and 352 made the shorter than usual drive to take part. Most were on hand at a Monday evening Illinois reception held just across the hallway from the SBC Pastors Conference, talking and laughing together.

They saw 

The exhibit hall was expansive and always bustling with activity. Convention goers gathered bags full of swag and information from booths featuring everything from Baptist universities and colleges to Branson’s Sight and Sound Theater. (It’s great, you should go!) They also saw Indianapolis. Numerous conversations could be overheard discussing Indy’s wonderful zoo, children’s museum, and canal walk.

More significantly, they saw 83 new IMB missionary appointees on stage Tuesday morning. Most stood behind the screens, with only their silhouettes visible, due to future security concerns in the countries where they will serve. In a moving moment, one couple only appeared as silhouettes on the video screens, in a pre-recorded message. The deaf couple, who met as singles serving on the mission field, are going back as career missionaries to the deaf.

They voted 

Bright orange ballots were raised again and again. And crowd favorite Don Currence, SBC Registration Secretary (and mayor of Ozark, Mo.), reported Wednesday that tellers had counted 58,123 ballots during the week. A new slate of officers was elected, with North Carolina pastor Clint Pressley winning the race between six candidates that went three rounds. Messengers affirmed the recommendations of important study groups on the efforts and effects of the 2010 Great Commission Resurgence and Cooperation within the convention. And they affirmed moving forward with the important ARITF recommendations. And significantly, the high profile second year vote on the Law amendment fell just 5% short of the two-thirds majority needed to pass.

No turn signals 

So as Southern Baptists go home, where are they headed? Many saw this year’s meeting as an opportunity to signal a shift right or left, theologically. Yet as the messengers often do, they defied expectations.

The Law amendment did not pass, but messengers voted overwhelmingly (6,759 to 563) to deem a Virginia church as “not in friendly cooperation” and unseat their messengers due to endorsing and ordaining female pastors. This is the third year in a row for messengers to take similar actions.

Messengers also spurned attempted motions to write a new Baptist Faith and Message, dissolve the ERLC, investigate NAMB, and censure Bart Barber, Al Mohler, and Ben Mandrell.

It appears that rather than a turn to the right or left, messengers have kept the steering wheel mostly pointed forward, trying to keep the convention on the road to mission and out of the ditches of controversy.



Ben Jones is the Communications Team Leader at the Illinois Baptist State Association.


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