Southern Baptist messengers came to Anaheim prepared to engage with those on the platform, and for two full days they did just that.
Southern Baptist Convention President Ed Litton, Committee on the Order of Business chair Steven Bates and others involved with organizing the June 14–15 SBC Annual Meeting said they anticipated increased interest and built in extra time for discussion.
Messengers lined up at microphones almost every time the schedule allowed for floor discussion. Some suggested wording changes to resolutions, some pushed back against proposals, some requested clarification at various points and several expressed frustrations.
In a few cases, messengers used the opportunity at the mic to lobby for a cause or challenge an entity leader.
For instance, during the SBC Executive Committee report, one of its four recommendations drew attention from messengers — the one related to the North American Mission Board.
The recommendation is an adaptation from a proposal made during the 2021 annual meeting, a proposal rejected by messengers. It adds collegiate ministries to NAMB’s ministry assignment list while also keeping it as part of Lifeway’s ministry assignment. The 2021 proposal suggested moving it from Lifeway to NAMB while the new proposal allowed them both to have the assignment.
Lifeway’s focus will be producing discipleship and other products for collegiate ministries, and NAMB’s will be helping develop the collegiate ministry leaders.
At the request of outgoing EC chairman Rolland Slade, NAMB president Kevin Ezell presented the recommendation to messengers and spent several minutes explaining the goal is to resource and encourage, not take over.
“We want to support our collegiate ministries. … We want to work in partnership with our state conventions. All the Baptist Campus Ministries we relate to are connected to state conventions,” he said. “We want to come beside and provide resourcing and coaching. … We want to provide a sense of brotherhood … and a national home.
“There’s not a hidden agenda here,” he said. “There’s no razor blade in the apple. We just want to come along and help where we can help. … We are talking about cookies and Kool-Aid and getting them together twice a year … to celebrate what they are doing. That’s really all we are doing.”
Ezell said NAMB does hope its church plants will be a natural step for students involved with the college ministries NAMB supports through the coaching and collaborative-based resources.
“We want those college students when they leave those campuses to go and be a part of our church plants (which is the focus of more than 50% of NAMB’s budget),” he said, assuring the church planters who might be concerned about how the new assignment will impact their work.
Following the opportunity for messengers to hear from Ezell, the recommendation was approved by messengers.
A second recommendation approved by messengers adapted language in the SBC Constitution related to SBC officers. The vote was the second of two required votes of approval in subsequent annual meetings to change the wording in the constitution.
A sentence about timing of first and second vice president elections was deleted and a new sentence was added that says “No person may simultaneously be a candidate for two offices.”
Messengers also approved both recommendations related to budgets.
The 2022–2023 SBC Cooperative Program Allocation Budget will be $192 million, and the SBC EC operating budget will be $8.3 million.
Prior to concluding the EC report, Slade called on Scarlett Nokes to share a personal message to Southern Baptists. Nokes, a messenger from Temple Baptist Church in Whitehouse, Tennessee, is part of the legal team from the Bradley law firm assisting the EC on an interim basis.
Nokes shared how she and fellow attorney Gene Besen “have dealt with character attacks because of the stance our employer takes (related to support of the LGBTQ community).”
Referencing the difference many pastors and others make for the Kingdom, Nokes said, “I wholeheartedly appreciate the pastors in this room … especially the three (standing) with me. … There’s no doubt these godly men and so many other men and women have made a profound impact on my life and my faith.
“But those of us working in corporate America are also making an impact,” she emphasized. “We are serving where we are. I am serving where I am. Our places are a missions field. … The Cooperative Program is funded in large part by people who faithfully give from what they earn from secular businesses like Bradley.
“How does the gospel advance if we insulate ourselves from the world entirely? But that seems to be what is being proposed in regard with the legal issue,” she said. “Those legal issues (related to the sexual abuse investigation) are varied and complex, and they are coming with a vengeance.
“They require a specific set of skills,” Nokes said. “God has given me certain opportunities, skills and abilities to be of service to His people during this season … and I’m not surrounded by Southern Baptists and likeminded people all the time.
“My prayer will continue to come from Matthew 5, that my light will shine before others … and that that will prompt them to give glory to my Father in heaven.”
Messengers and guests responded with a standing ovation.