Pastors' Conference meeting space contingent on program changes

by George Schroeder, posted Tuesday, February 18, 2020 (4 months ago)

NASHVILLE (BP) -- Responding to concerns about the speakers' lineup for the 2020 Southern Baptist Convention Pastors' Conference, the SBC Executive Committee voted Tuesday (Feb. 18) to allocate meeting space for the event provided changes are made to the proposed program.

 
According to the action, the Executive Committee believes "multiple aspects" of the proposed program for the pastors' conference "are sufficiently beyond the parameters of the faith and practice of Southern Baptists in accordance with The Baptist Faith and Message." The action calls for "amendments" to the program to be made by Monday, Feb. 24, and approved by officers of the Executive Committee. (Full text of the action below.)

Since the program was announced earlier this month, many have voiced concerns that not all speakers were Southern Baptist and that scheduled performer Hosanna Wong, a spoken word artist, is also a teaching pastor at her non-Southern Baptist church.

Others have also been critical of the inclusion of David Hughes, pastor of Church by the Glades, a Southern Baptist congregation in Coral Springs, Fla. The church has received attention for various performances in its services, as well as sermon series with sensual themes.

Mike Stone, chairman of the Executive Committee, said the decision was reached after "lengthy deliberations" in the days since the Pastors' Conference lineup was announced Feb. 10.

"My desire would be that there would be a change in the lineup so we can proceed in keeping with who we are as Southern Baptists," Stone said. "I would love for that to happen."

Pastors' Conference president David Uth, pastor of First Baptist Orlando, has thus far declined to make lineup changes.

"My goal, my prayer was that we could open ourselves up to hear from people that maybe were good friends of ours, but not in our Southern Baptist Convention," Uth told Baptist Press Feb. 11, in responding to initial concerns raised over the event's lineup. "I feel like they have a message for us. I feel like God wants to speak to us through them. So my goal and my hope was that we could hear their message, we could learn from them, and we could embrace it."

While the Executive Committee does not have oversight of the SBC Pastors' Conference, it makes space available to hold the event each year -- this year, at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla., where the 2020 SBC Annual Meeting will be held in June -- and requests the conference to reimburse the Executive Committee for a portion of the cost to use the meeting hall and facilities. Currently, that reimbursement totals $100,000.

Monday, First Baptist Orlando announced in a release it would pay the full cost of the 2020 SBC Pastors' Conference, in hopes "this will ease conflicts of tensions that exist over the slated program for the conference," Matthew Robinson, First Orlando pastor of administration, said in the release.

Robinson declined comment Tuesday to Baptist Press on the Executive Committee's action, which he said had not yet been formally communicated to the church. Stone was expected to call Uth to discuss the action.

The Executive Committee also requested that its staff develop written guidelines for future use of the meeting spaces at the SBC Annual Meeting; the Executive Committee anticipates reviewing those guidelines during its September 2020 meeting.

Full text of recommendation follows:

BUSINESS AND FINANCE COMMITTEE RECOMMENDATION

FEBRUARY 18, 2020

9. MEETING HALL EXPENSES OF THE SBC PASTORS' CONFERENCE (P. 243)

RECOMMENDATION: That the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee recommend that the convention hall be made available to the 2020 Pastors' Conference with amendments to its proposed program by February 24, 2020, to the approval of the SBC Executive Committee Officers, due to our belief that multiple aspects of its proposed program as of February 18, 2020, are sufficiently beyond the parameters of the faith and practice of Southern Baptists in accordance with The Baptist Faith and Message; and

That the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, upon agreeable amendment to the proposed 2020 SBC Pastors' Conference program, make available the use of the convention hall and request the SBC Pastors' Conference reimburse the SBC Executive Committee $100,000 for the year 2020 for its use of the convention hall and facilities at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention; and

That the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee request the staff to continue documenting the variable cost attributed to the SBC Pastors' Conference and request a written financial report be provided by the SBC Pastors' Conference leadership by October 30, 2020, to the SBC Executive Committee for review during its February 2021 meeting; and

That the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee request the SBC Pastors' Conference leadership to recognize the significant indirect support provided through the Cooperative Program Allocation Budget to help offset the costs of the SBC Pastors' Conference annually; and

That the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee request the staff to develop written guidelines for the use of the meeting spaces at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention to the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee for review during its September 2020 meeting.

George Schroeder is associate vice president for convention news at the SBC Executive Committee.
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