J.D. Greear Calls for Unity in the SBC and Healing of Racial Wounds With Diverse Leadership in Address to Executives

In his plenary address during the SBC Executive Committee meeting Feb. 17, Southern Baptist Convention president J.D. Greear called EC members to unity in order to continue to focus on “Gospel Above All,” his choice of theme for the 2020 SBC Annual Meeting in June — just as it was for the 2019 SBC Annual Meeting.
Photo by Eric Brown

NASHVILLE (BP) — In his plenary address during the SBC Executive Committee meeting Feb. 17, Southern Baptist Convention president J.D. Greear called EC members to unity in order to continue to focus on “Gospel Above All,” his choice of theme for the 2020 SBC Annual Meeting in June — just as it was for the 2019 SBC Annual Meeting.

Saying his goal has been to see the Gospel mission become the defining reality of the SBC, Greear challenged them on matters of sex abuse prevention, racial reconciliation, Gospel focus, Cooperative Program efforts and missional resurgence.

“We don’t need a revision of our doctrine,” Greear said. “We stand unwavering and uncompromisingly on the Baptist Faith and Message.”

Greear then presented five practical functions of the mission.

Handling the sex abuse crisis

“From the beginning I’ve said that the issues of sex abuse in our churches is not something addressed by the appointing of a task force or the adoption of a resolution or a change of bylaws, as important as those things are,” Greear said.

Survivors do not want more words or resolutions, Greear noted.

“The problem of sex abuse didn’t occur because our words weren’t right, but because some of our churches fostered a culture, whether intended or unintended, that made abuse possible.”

Greear emphasized that what needs to change is culture in churches.

“Strong statements of condemnation against abuse without incumbent actions for prevention and care would be worse than not saying anything at all,” Greear said.

Greear then noted the newly established SBC Credentials Committee and the adoption of SBC resolutions and bylaw changes meant to combat abuse in Southern Baptist churches. The Credentials Committee is scheduled to give its first official report to the SBC Executive Committee on Tuesday (Feb. 18). The Credentials Committee was created in June 2019 in response to recommendations from Greear and the Sexual Abuse Advisory Group.

“The Credentials Committee doesn’t have the authority to decide on behalf of the Southern Baptist Convention really anything,” Greear said. “But what they can do is help us as a convention hold one another accountable to the standards that we have set for how we relate to each other.”

“We are asking now that all state conventions working with LifeWay add questions to the Annual Church Profile about whether or not they have a [sex abuse] policy in place and how it has been updated,” Greear added.

Background checks for trustee positions are being requested as a mandatory action, and the Executive Committee as well as the Great Commission Council are being asked to come up with an ordination resource to guide churches. The Great Commission Council is made up of SBC entity leaders.

Greear explained that these actions will help change culture.

“We are a people who are defined by love and protections of the vulnerable,” Greear said. “We believe it is a Gospel issue, not a distraction, because we know that preaching a Gospel about a God who gave His life for His children also means doing all we can to make our churches safe places for those children.”

Greear encouraged EC members to seek to make their churches safe places and when mistakes are made, to be sure they are made on the side of the survivor.

Noting the desire to protect SBC entities, Greear said God will take care of His [God’s] institutions, and pastors are called to primarily take care of God’s children.

Healing racial wounds and achieving Gospel diversity

Reiterating the sentiment surrounding the handling of abuse, Greear said loud statements are simply not enough.

“Achieving racial reconciliation and growing in ethnic diversity has to be a priority for evangelism and witness reasons,” Greear said.

The goal is not uniformity, but unity, Greear emphasized.

Practically, Greear said, this happens by starting with honesty regarding the past.

Quoting R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Greear said “Indeed, we cannot tell the story of the Southern Baptist Convention without starting with slavery. In fact, the SBC was not only founded by slaveholders; it was founded by men who held to ideology of racial superiority and who bathed that ideology in scandalous theology argument.”

Greear said the statements acknowledging the past were a long time coming, and the continual strains of racism in the SBC must be confronted and removed, again citing Mohler.

Carrying each other’s burdens and seeking to understand the pain of others is the practice all are called to, Greear noted.

“From there, we must show we are committed to fighting against any injustices our brothers and sisters in Christ are experiencing with as much fervency as if they were happening to us or our children.”

Failing to take action in this area, Greear said, reveals a tone-deaf attitude that causes grief to brothers and sisters of color.

“We have to continue to empower ethnically diverse leadership,” Greear said.

There are many rising leaders that many people simply do not know about, Greear said.

“We don’t maliciously not know them, it’s just not in networks that we run in,” Greear said.

Greear noted that nearly two-thirds of his recent meetings have been with women in the body of Christ or with people of color.

The North American Mission Board also reported that 63 percent of churches planted last year are led by people of color, Greear said.

“If we’re going to actually achieve this as something that makes the world marvel, it’s going to come because of continual diligence and because we don’t speak a word and then move on from it.”

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Source: Baptist Press