Rick Newman, author and economist, commented, “Change is not always a good thing. It may force us out of tired habits and impose better ones upon us, but it can also be stressful, costly and even destructive. What’s important about change is how we anticipate it and react to it.”
I sense that there is about to be a change, a seismic shift in Southern Baptist life. The primary reason is because of the change in leadership that is on the horizon.
The International Mission Board has a search team looking for a new president. The Executive Committee of the SBC is looking for a new president/CEO. It is altogether possible that additional entity leaders will retire or resign in the not too distant future.
Eyes will be focused on the SBC Presidential election in Dallas
In addition to the resignations already announced and the possibility of other leaders retiring, Southern Baptists will elect a new SBC President in Dallas in June. J. D. Greear, pastor of Summit Baptist Church in Durham, NC, seems to represent one demographic among Southern Baptists and Ken Hemphill, an administrator at North Greenville University and a former president of Southwestern Seminary, seems to represent another sector of the Convention.
Although some contend that much is on the line with this election I doubt if Baptists will flock to Dallas this year like they did in 1985 when 45,000 messengers gathered to elect Dr. Charles Stanley as president, who was endorsed by Billy Graham. Winfred Moore of Amarillo, TX ran as a compromise candidate, but was handily defeated by Stanley who garnered 55 percent of the vote. The Caner brothers in their book The Sacred Trust expressed their conviction that Stanley’s election solidified the Conservative Resurgence.
It is uncertain if the election of Greear or Hemphill will alter the direction of the convention in any way, but some seem to think that the vote in Dallas this year is pivotal and could determine the future course of the denomination.
How will leadership changes affect the convention?
In view of all the pending changes in leadership I am wondering how the Convention will be impacted. Will we be able to reverse the decline in membership and baptisms? Will we see a surge in Cooperative Program giving? Will we see the breach between the generations mended? Will theological rifts be resolved? Will Southern Baptists regain its influence in a corrupt society or will we wither into an inconsequential denomination hopelessly fighting for our own survival?
On April 9 it was reported that Hemphill and Greear had issued a joint call for prayer, grace and civility and specifically called on Southern Baptists to pray for the entity transitions ahead and for the upcoming SCB presidential election.
Greear was quoted in Baptist Press as saying, “These are difficult times for us all; but we must lock arms and boldly go forward to reach our world with the hope of introducing them to our Savior.”
Hemphill, exclaimed, “I am concerned that we will get caught up in peripheral issues and miss the critical issues such as baptisms, attendance, unity in diversity, the restoration of key partnerships, and the revitalization of our convention.”
Search Committee is beginning search for White’s successor
Perhaps most importantly for Georgia Baptists the announced retirement of Dr. J. Robert White has captured the attention of Baptists from Ringgold to Kingsland and very likely from Washington to San Francisco. White has indicated that his retirement will become effective on December 31stof this year. In the meantime a search committee has been put in place and they have already met twice
Bob Jolly, the chairman of the Executive Director Search Committee and his committee have a formidable task and deserve our prayers and support. Dr. White has been an incredible leader and is leaving a legacy marked by integrity and an incredible work ethic.
Jolly has announced that recommendations for the position of Executive Director of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org May 31, 2018. The committee will be hosting listening sessions in three locations to get input from Georgia Baptists to help facilitate their search. A statement from the committee, including the location and times for those meeting, will be published in The Christian Indexas soon as those dates are confirmed.