DALLAS (BP) — On the eve of this year’s Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting, Connect 316 — an organization advocating a “traditionalist” view of salvation — convened for a prayer meeting in lieu of its annual celebration.
“We heard” outgoing SBC President Steve Gaines’ call to prayer, Connect 316 executive board member Tim Barnette told the June 11 gathering at the Dallas Omni. “So we wanted to join him in that and support that because we believe, like Jerry Falwell Sr. used to say, that nothing of eternal consequence takes place apart from concerted prayer. We believe what James says, that the prayer of the righteous is intensely powerful.”
Connect 316’s previously scheduled gathering was to feature an address by SBC presidential candidate Ken Hemphill and presentation of the Jerry Vines Award for Promotion of Whosoever Will Doctrine in Southern Baptist Life. But the organization changed its plans in early June. The schedule adjustment followed Gaines’ call to prayer and the sudden resignation of Connect 316 executive director Rick Patrick.
Connect 316, according to its website, is a fellowship that affirms a doctrine of salvation between that of Calvinism and Arminianism, holding that Christ died for the sins of every person.
The prayer meeting featured brief remarks by three Connect 316 participants — David Hankins, Richard Land and Leighton Flowers — as well as intercession for SBC annual meeting participants, unity within the convention and clarity in the way Southern Baptists articulate their beliefs about salvation.
Nearly 120 Southern Baptists attended the gathering, which followed the evening session of the SBC Pastors’ Conference.
Hankins, executive director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention, read from Psalm 46 and said believers’ strength comes from God.
“Whatever we’re up against — whether it’s in our personal lives or in our congregational life or in our convention life — God is the one who has to win the battle,” Hankins said. “The horse is made ready for the battle, but victory rests with the Lord. Some of us have been working to get the horse ready for battle.” Yet at the SBC annual meeting “victory rests with the Lord, and that’s why we are coming to pray.”
Hankins led in prayer for participants in the annual meeting, including Hemphill and fellow presidential candidate J.D. Greear, who went on to win the election June 12. Hemphill attended the prayer gathering, and attendees received a copy of his book “Unlimited: God’s Love, Atonement, and Mission.”
Land, former president of the SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, led in prayer for unity within the SBC and said the convention appears to be “more divided than any time I can remember since the 1988 convention in San Antonio,” which occurred amid the SBC’s Conservative Resurgence.
Paul’s statement in 1 Timothy 2:4 that God “wants everyone to be saved,” Land said, has “been the bedrock of what has united us for missions both here and around the world.”
The SBC “is divided, and we need true unity,” said Land, president of Southern Evangelical Seminary in Charlotte, N.C., a unity “that’s based upon repentance and honesty and transparency before God, and repentance and honesty and transparency before each other.”
Leighton Flowers, evangelism director for the Baptist General Convention of Texas, led in prayer that Southern Baptists would be clear concerning their beliefs about the doctrine of salvation.
“It is not divisive to be clear,” Flowers said. “It is not divisive to speak up about your concerns within the body…. It is not wrong for me to say, ‘Brother, I love you, but I disagree with how you interpret Romans 9′” concerning the doctrine of election.
The gathering concluded with attendees’ joining hands as they prayed for clarity and for God’s will to be accomplished in the SBC.