PHOENIX (BP)--Southern Baptist Convention messengers meeting in Phoenix June 14-15 adopted an historic report encouraging ethnic diversity, witnessed dozens of leaders standing together in support of a landmark unity pledge, and saw hundreds of pastors and laypeople volunteer to lead their churches to embrace one of the world's 3,800 unengaged people groups.
Photo by Van Payne
It was the lowest-attended annual meeting in 67 years, with just over 4,800 in attendance, but the substance of the meeting led plenty who attended to argue it shouldn't be judged on numbers.
Photo by Kent Harville
"I do believe it could prove to be the most spiritually significant convention over the last 50 years," Southern Baptist Convention President Bryant Wright, who was re-elected to another one-year term, told Baptist Press after the Phoenix gathering. Wright pointed to the sluggish economy and to the travel time from most SBC churches as possible reasons for the low attendance.
From beginning to end, messengers heard biblical pleas for Southern Baptists to join the church planting movement in North America and to adopt an unengaged people group around the world. And messengers responded. More than 1,000 pastors and their wives packed a North American Mission Board luncheon to learn about the entity's new Send North America church planting strategy. On the final night of the convention, hundreds of messengers flooded the front of the convention hall at the end of the International Mission Board report, having signed cards pledging to lead their church to embrace an unengaged people group. An IMB representative will contact them later.
Each mission board report also featured a commissioning service, with Southern Baptists meeting their newest missionaries.
"Coming back to the authority of Scripture was a correcting point that had to take place [in the SBC], but the mission is to fulfill the Great Commission," Wright said. "I think this was the most unified convention around the Great Commission that I have experienced. People came here with anticipation of that unity."
Wright practiced that unity during his press conference, inviting the presidents of NAMB, Kevin Ezell, IMB, Tom Elliff, and the Executive Committee, Frank Page, to sit on the platform with him and participate. It was the first convention as president for all four men, and each one had a unique emphasis during his respective report to messengers. Ezell highlighted church planting and Elliff emphasized the unengaged, while Page introduced an "Affirmation of Unity and Cooperation" pledge that was signed by entity leaders, state executives and ethnic fellowship leaders. The document had five core points, with the heart of it a pledge to "walk in unity as brothers and sisters in Christ." During the Executive Committee report, the leaders stood on stage together. Read More