Tennessee pastor Jerry Sutton joins SBC pres. contest

REVISED June 6

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--Tennessee pastor Jerry Sutton confirmed June 6 he will allow his name to be placed in nomination for president of the Southern Baptist Convention at its June 13-14 annual meeting in Greensboro, N.C.

Sutton joins two other pastors -– Ronnie Floyd of First Baptist Church in Springdale, Ark., and Frank Page of First Baptist Church in Taylors, S.C. -- who will be nominated for the post.

“For the last month I have been receiving calls from people throughout the convention who say they are not completely at peace over the upcoming presidential election,” Sutton said. “I kept putting them off. I prayed all night Sunday night into Monday, asking the Lord for guidance and He told me I’m supposed to run.”

Sutton said he believes he can strengthen the bonds that hold Southern Baptists together.

“I can relate to a lot of different segments of the SBC. Right now there is a lot of confusion, and I think I can help bring clarity.”

Meanwhile, leaders in three prominent grassroots organizations instrumental in leading their conventions in a more theologically conservative direction announced June 6 they were endorsing Sutton. They included Larry Reagan, vice president of Concerned Tennessee Baptists, Bill Streich, research director for the Texas Baptist Laymen’s Association, and Roger Moran, research director for the Missouri Baptist Laymen’s Association.

“Concerned Tennessee Baptists as well as conservative Southern Baptists everywhere have no greater friend than Jerry Sutton,” Reagan said. “He has courageously defended the Bible in his home state and we are confident he would continue to do the same as SBC president.”

Moran, who also is a member of the SBC Executive Committee, said Sutton will be “an SBC president whose understanding of our past, vision for our future and passion for the work of Southern Baptists will bring a Christ-honoring balance to SBC life. As president of the Southern Baptist Convention, Jerry will lead us to an even stronger understanding of what it means to ‘empower’ authentic, genuine Kingdom growth, because he understands that the power of God comes upon the people of God when the pathway of holiness, purity, obedience and faithfulness are pursued with passion.”

In 1986, Sutton succeeded Jim Henry, recently retired pastor of First Baptist Church in Orlando, Fla., as Two Rivers’ pastor.

Currently, Sutton serves as first vice president of the SBC. He served as a trustee for LifeWay Christian Resources from 1990-1998, was president of the SBC Pastors’ Conference in 2000. He has written two books, “The Way Back Home,” published in 2002, in which he uses the parable of the prodigal son as a guide to restoration with the Lord, and “The Baptist Reformation: The Conservative Resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention,” published in 2000, considered the most comprehensive single-volume account of the SBC's conservative resurgence written to date. He is presently an editor with the new “Encyclopedia of Southern Baptists.”

"Carefully, Jerry Sutton describes the drift that was carrying Southern Baptists away from their biblical roots toward relativism and secularism," James T. Draper Jr., who recently retired as president of LifeWay Christian Resources, wrote in his foreword to Sutton’s book. "He traces the mounting tension between the SBC agency and institutional leadership and the conservative foundation of the denomination." Sutton served as Draper’s pastor for 15 years.

Sutton holds a doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) and a master of divinity degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, where he taught evangelism for three years and served as a grader for legendary evangelism professor Roy Fish. His television ministry, “Real Faith with Dr. Jerry Sutton,” is telecast nationwide.

Sutton has been a research fellow for the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission since 2001. Two Rivers hosted, in conjunction with the Family Research Council, “Justice Sunday II” on Aug. 14, 2005. The event, which focused on the U.S. Supreme Court and judicial activism, was beamed via satellite over television, radio and the Internet to congregations across the country and featured Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn.; James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family; Judge Robert Bork; and Chuck Colson. Two Rivers also hosted the nightly news-talk show, “Hardball” with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews on June 28, 2005, in which religion and the republic were discussed. Two Rivers was behind the iVoteValues campaign to educate and mobilize voters before the 2004 election, developed by the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. Sutton was one of a handful of Southern Baptist leaders invited by President George Bush to the White House to observe the 51st National Day of Prayer.

The church hosted the December 1999 “Summit for the New Millennium” which partnered with 164 IMB strategy coordinators with over 500 pastors and laypeople. It was a major attempt to strategically advance SBC work inside the 1040 window. Sutton has preached on five continents and the church sends hundreds of short-term missionaries out each year. More than 100 members of the church are embarking on 15 different mission trips this year.

Information for Two Rivers Baptist Church from Southern Baptists’ Annual Church Profile survey for the most recent year, 2005, lists 124 baptisms and primary worship service attendance of 1,836. In 2005, the church did not contribute through the Cooperative Program (0.0 percent of undesignated receipts), but instead designated a combined $183,482 in gifts to the state and national conventions to support CP missions from undesignated receipts of $4,104,377. According to SBC EC records, Two Rivers gave $109,854 for distribution according to the SBC allocation budget for national causes. William Maxwell, administrative director for the Tennessee Baptist Convention told Baptist Press that the church gave $73,628 designated for TBC CP causes.

The TBC retains for state missions 60 percent of contributions given through the Cooperative Program and sends 40 percent to be distributed among national ministries of the SBC. Two Rivers’ designation of gifts to support national and state CP causes resulted in a reversal of these percentages. The combined $183,482 amounts to 4.47 percent of undesignated receipts.

According to the ACP, the church’s total mission expenditures were $461,604, including $86,273 for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions and $34,357 for the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions.

In addition to his degrees from Southwestern, the native of Mobile, Ala., earned a bachelor’s of arts degree from the University of South Alabama. He was saved, called to preach, licensed and ordained at Cottage Hill Baptist Church in Mobile.

Sutton and his wife, Fern, have two daughters, Ashli and Hilary.