With 'Gospel above all,' Greear tackles sex abuse

NASHVILLE (BP) -- Maintaining his signature theme of the "Gospel Above All," Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear detailed a prescription to battle sex abuse and its enablers at the SBC Executive Committee meeting Feb. 18 in Nashville.

Maintaining his signature theme of the "Gospel Above All," Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear detailed a prescription to battle sex abuse and its enablers at the SBC Executive Committee meeting Feb. 18 in Nashville.
Photo by Morris Abernathy
"We serve a God who laid down His life to protect the vulnerable," Greear said in his presidential address. "How dare we proclaim that Gospel with our mouths and then turn a blind eye when the vulnerable in our midst cry out for help?"

In his one-hour address, Greear also noted progress in his core objectives of church planting, evangelism, unifying the SBC around the Gospel, reaching the next generation, reflecting the SBC's ethnic and gender diversity in leadership, and renewing an SBC-wide commitment to cooperative missions.

Greear's wide-ranging plan against sex abuse includes education, proven sincerity and diligence, accountability and possibly a sex abuse database and congregational disfellowship. The recommendations stem from the work of the Sexual Abuse Presidential Advisory Study to date. Funded by the EC and initiated by Greear, the study includes male and female security, legal, medical and religious professionals.

"Our goal is to ensure maximum protection for those that God has put within our care," Greear said. "Our goal is for our response to abuse to match the Gospel that we proclaim with our mouth."

Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in the Raleigh-Durham, N.C., focused on Matthew 18:6 to point out Southern Baptists' overwhelming responsibility for the vulnerable.

"Didn't Jesus say that for whomever causes one of those little ones who believe in me to stumble, to fall away, that it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were drowned in the depths of the sea?" Greear asked. "Can you imagine anything that would make someone fall away from the Gospel more than experiencing abuse at the hands of those who were charged to teach them with the Gospel, who represented the Gospel to them?"

See Baptist Press' detailed report on Greear's plan of action crafted through the advisory study.

Gospel Above All

Gospel Above All, based on I Corinthians 15:3-4, is Greear's chosen theme for the 2019 SBC Annual Meeting June 11-12 in Birmingham, Ala.

The Gospel is the basis of the SBC's identity, Greear said, and its proclamation should not be thwarted by doubtful things not expressly addressed in the Bible, such as issues like global warming.

"We want to be a people that are known for the Gospel," Greear said of the SBC. "I am afraid that's not what people think about right now when they think about us, and we need to change that."

Personal opinions should never obscure the Gospel, he said.

"There is a certain restraint that I have to show when it comes to what I build my identity on and what I am able to put out to our community," Greear said. "The Gospel must be above all."

Greear emphasized a renewed commitment to cooperative missions, but he did not limit cooperation to the SBC Cooperative Program of funding missions.

"We've got to look at all options in how we work together in cooperative mission," Greear said. "That is the essence of the Southern Baptist Convention, is that we believe we can do more together than we can separately. And that we believe that the Cooperative Program is a great gift ... for propelling the mission."

Greear discussed the importance of increased cooperation extensively with state and associational executives in 2018.

Diversity

Nearly a fifth of an estimated 15 million Southern Baptists are minorities of various ethnicities, Greear said, referencing North American Mission Board statistics that 62 percent of churches planted in 2018 were non-Anglo.

Reflecting such diversity in leadership is Greear's aim. White males comprise only 32 percent of the 2019 Committee on Committees, Greear said, which he appointed this month.

Among all SBC committees, women comprise 34 percent of posts, non-Anglos comprise over half of all committee appointees, he said, and 51 percent of committee members are from churches with fewer than 250 Sunday attendees.

"They are not people that were chosen because of their demographic status. They were not chosen because of their gender," Greear said. "They were chosen because they are qualified leaders who ought to be speaking their wisdom into our entities and boards. We don't believe in tokenism."

Intentional steps to ensure diversity should include outreach not only to state conventions, but to various entities and networks within the SBC.

"We desperately need their wisdom going forward into the United States that God has called us to reach," Greear said, "and the mission He has for us around the world.... We need them more than they need us."

Engaging the next generation of Southern Baptists is a key aim, Greear said, while emphasizing the important contributions of established leaders and voices.

"I love and am so grateful for my Southern Baptist forefathers," Greear said. "But we know it is time to include a new generation, a rising generation that is not just the church for tomorrow, but they are the church for today."

Who's Your One?

Evangelism and church planting are needed to fulfill the Great Commission, Greear said, emphasizing the evangelistic mission of "Who's Your One?"

Under the initiative, Greear encourages each Southern Baptist to engage at least one lost person for a time, being hospitable toward them, sharing the Gospel with them and praying for their salvation.

"In the core of everything I do, making disciples and reaching the lost has got to be paramount," Greear said. "This is the core of the Great Commission.

"Church planting without evangelism is just reshuffling sheep around in the new folds," Greear said. "Community ministry without evangelism is just making more people comfortable on their way to hell."

As a result of the evangelism initiative at Greear's pastorate, he said, he recorded 132 professions of faith at all campuses the week prior to his address.

Greear encouraged each church to directly become involved in church planting. At his pastorate, he has encouraged college students to give the first two years of their professional careers to living near a Southern Baptist church plant either in the U.S. or abroad.

"We've always told them you've got to get a job somewhere," Greear said. "Why not get a job where God is doing something strategic?"

Under the emphasis, Greear's church has sent out 1,100 missionaries, he said, including youth and retirees. He has created the Go2 initiative in cooperation with NAMB and the International Mission Board.

Information on Greear's evangelistic and church planting initiatives are available at GospelAboveAll.com.

Diana Chandler is Baptist Press' general assignment writer/editor. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists' concerns nationally and globally.
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