Mailbag, Southern Baptist/SBC

The Mailbag: Where can I get info on #SBC23?

Will you be attending the Southern Baptist Convention in New Orleans this year? I am interested in any news or updates on the Convention. Do you know where I can get reliable information?

The 2023 annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention will be held June 13-14 at the Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, Louisiana. The actual business and voting will take place Tuesday, the 13th and Wednesday, the 14th. Ancillary events and activities will take place Saturday June 10 – Wednesday, June 14th. (See the Convention website for more details.)

Yes, Lord willing, I am planning to attend, at least the 13th and 14th. I will probably do some pop up “meet and greets” at the convention center for anyone who would like to stop by and say hello. Those were a lot of fun last year, and meeting so many of you was one of the best things about the ’22 Convention. The timing and location of these will be impromptu, and I will announce them only on Twitter, so be sure to follow me to catch those announcements.

Over the past couple of years, I have written detailed articles (like this one, this one, and this one) in anticipation of the annual meeting to keep my readers informed on the issues and events, and to encourage them to vote biblically. Many thanks to those who have contacted me this year to ask about a similar article for 2023, and have kindly mentioned how helpful previous years’ articles were. For a variety of reasons, I’ve decided against writing an article about this year’s Convention. Other than this one, that is. 🙂

I would recommend following these ministries, organizations, and accounts on Twitter (or wherever you can) for reliable information and a biblical perspective (except Baptist Press) about the latest happenings in the SBC:

I would strongly suggest following these accounts on Twitter rather than another platform because a lot of information comes out in interpersonal conversations rather than just in links to blog posts and such.

One item of business that is unfolding is a proposed amendment to the SBC constitution (not the BFM) that would exclude churches with women “pastors” from being in friendly cooperation with the SBC. This includes women who bear the title of pastor, even if they’re not functioning as pastors (e.g. “Women’s Pastor” “Children’s Pastor”) as well as women who are functioning as pastors even if they don’t bear the title of pastor (e.g. “Worship Leader” “Director of Education and Discipleship”). Churches with women in these positions or bearing these titles would not be allowed to “join” the SBC. If such a church is already a “member” of the SBC, it would be disfellowshipped (excommunicated) from the SBC.

At the moment, it has not been determined whether or not messengers will get to vote on this amendment. There is a letter of support pastors can sign, and you can get much more information at the SBC Amendment website.

The spotlight issue is going to be Rick Warren’s challenge of the Executive Committee’s decision to disfellowship (cut ties with) the “church” he “pastored” for over forty years – Saddleback, in Lake Forest, California. Saddleback currently has husband and wife “co-pastors” at the helm (appointed by Rick Warren prior to his retirement).

Earlier this year, the Executive Committee announced that Saddleback had been disfellowshipped for this reason, causing quite the stir among Southern Baptists in the know. Less than a year ago at the 2022 Convention, the head of the Credentials Committee, which is responsible for assessing whether or not a church seems to be in friendly cooperation with the SBC, proposed that messengers approve a year long study committee so the CC could figure out what a pastor is.

But apparently, they managed to figure it out without the study committee and quickly determined that Saddleback is, indeed, not closely enough aligned with the Baptist Faith and Message (the SBC’s statement of faith) to remain in fellowship with the SBC.

Conspicuously quickly, that is. Some have suggested that this was a strategic move designed to maneuver Rick Warren (or in collusion with him) into challenging the disfellowshipping. If he can successfully convince the messengers (voting attendees) to vote to overturn the decision (and judging from the standing ovation they gave him after his 6 minute, out of order, ode to himself last year, that’s very likely), the four other churches that were disfellowshipped at the same time as Saddleback can push to have their decisions overturned. And, assuming they’re successful, how much time and energy do you think the CC is going to put into any future complaints about other churches with women pastors? (None. That’s how much.) Not long after that, they’ll amend the BFM and remove the part above about women being pastors.

And that’s how the approval of women pastors is going to end up codified into SBC policy. It’s not a stretch. I think the first time I said that the SBC would affirm women “pastors” within five years was last year. Barring a certifiable miracle, I still believe that.

Now, just because that’s going to be the spotlight issue doesn’t mean that’s all you have to worry about. The whole abuse issue (Guidepost, the ARITF, etc.) is going to be another fairly major issue as well. Plus, there are going to be people who are counting on messengers being so distracted by Warrengate and the abuse advocacy grifters that they won’t be paying attention to any other issues. Keep your eyes and ears open, and pay attention. I’d bet my bottom dollar somebody’s going to try to pull a fast one with some sort of unbiblical issue while everybody’s out of the room.

So, if you haven’t already, talk to your pastor about becoming a messenger, get to New Orleans in June and…

  • Read or listen carefully to anything that’s up for a vote, make sure you understand it correctly, and vote according to Scripture.
  • Be in the room for every vote.
  • Vote against anything Rick Warren / Saddleback proposes
  • Vote for Mike Stone for president. (God bless him, he is not only godly but courageous and tenacious to boot.)
  • Support the constitutional amendment to disfellowship churches with women pastors (read it carefully before voting – sometimes items like this are re-worded from the original)
  • Don’t just blindly trust whoever’s at the podium or let them tug at your heartstrings. Listen, engage your brain, and think critically, biblically, and objectively about the issue.

…and prepare yourself to lose, and lose big time. I was prepared to lose every vote last year. And we did. And it still took a spiritual and emotional toll.

And it was worth it. I would do it all over again – which I kinda am, since I’ll be there again this year.

It’s worth it to know that one day I’ll stand before the Lord and say (speaking only for myself and my own conscience) about this moment, “Lord, by Your grace and strength, I didn’t give up. I did my best with what You gave me in order to honor and glorify You.”.

Won’t you join me in June in New Orleans?

If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.