NEW ORLEANS — More than 12,000 people, including pastors and other church leaders from across Georgia, will be making the trek to New Orleans for a potentially contentious Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting next Tuesday and Wednesday.
Interim SBC Executive Committee President Willie McLauren is pitching the annual meeting as “the largest family reunion in North America” with brothers and sisters in Christ coming together to handle business matters.
Among the most talked about agenda items involve whether churches that have ordained women as pastors should be allowed to remain in the SBC. That, along with a contested presidential election between incumbent Bart Barber, the Texas pastor who is completing a one-year term, and challenger Mike Stone, a Georgia pastor who formerly served as chairman of the SBC Executive Committee.
Saddleback Church, a California megachurch that had been the SBC’s largest congregation until being expelled by the Executive Committee, is appealing to messengers to be permitted to remain a part of the denomination.
“Our appeal to reverse the Executive Committee ruling is not asking any Baptist to change their theology,” longtime Saddleback Pastor Rick Warren said on social media. “Not at all. The overwhelming majority of Southern Baptists are complementarian. But we reject the idea that Southern Baptists who disagree are an existential threat to our convention and not true Baptists.”
Barber said he’s seeking a second term as SBC president to finish tasks he began in his first term, which largely focused on the denomination’s widespread sexual abuse scandal. Stone said he got into the race because current leaders “have led us in an unhealthy direction.”
More than 500 Georgia Baptists gathered online last month to pray for the annual meeting, asking the Lord to enable messengers to look past their own desires and concentrate on what’s best for the kingdom.
“We just place New Orleans in your hands,” prayed Mike Taylor, mission strategist in the Smyrna Baptist Association. “And we trust You, Father, that You would draw us together as one.”