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Graham elected SBC president; Porter lauded for service

ST. LOUIS (BP)–Southern Baptists continued a 23-year trend of placing theological conservatives in key leadership posts when they elected Jack Graham, a Texas pastor, as president of the Southern Baptist Convention at the SBC’s June 11-12 annual meeting in St. Louis. The SBC is the nations’ largest non-Catholic denomination with more than 16 million members.

Running unchallenged and elected by acclamation, Graham was joined by Paul Pressler, a former appellate court judge, who was elected first vice president. Pressler has been described as a driving force behind the election of theologically conservative presidents.

Graham, 51, is pastor of the Dallas-area Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano that reports more than 12,000 in weekly worship and gave more than $1.2 million last year to missions causes. He was nominated for a one-year term by Johnny Hunt, pastor of First Baptist Church, Woodstock, Ga. who noted Graham’s involvement in missionary causes, calling him Southern Baptists’ man of the hour.”

In a brief news conference following his election, Graham said he looked forward to leading Southern Baptists, noting the presence of young messengers at the St. Louis meeting. Responding to a question about whether missionaries should be asked to adhere to the denominations 2000 Baptist Faith and Message, he said missionaries, like employees of companies, need to be held accountable to whom they represent on the field — and called it a matter of “integrity.”

Nominated by Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Richard Land, Pressler, 72, was a justice on the Court of Appeals of Texas, 14th District, from 1957-79 and a former member of the Texas State Legislature. He has been a trustee for the SBC International Mission Board and a member of the SBC Executive Committee.

Recommending Pressler to the post, Land said Southern Baptists “owe an incalculable debt to this great Christian…statesman.”

E.W. McCall, Sr. a pastor from La Puente, Calif. was elected second vice president, edging out Robert Collins, a pastor who is president of the Missouri Baptist Convention, and Ernie Don Rogers, an Oklahoma pastor.

McCall, pastor of St. Stephens Baptist Church for 32 years, received 1,520 votes, representing 61 percent of the 2,469 ballots cast in the run-off election. He was nominated by Fred Luter of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans.

McCall was previous a first vice president of the California Baptist Convention, a member of the SBC’s Committee on Committees, chairman of the board of trustees of California Baptist University and past president of the African American Fellowship of the Southern Baptist Convention — which represents over 3,000 churches across the nation.

In nominating him, Luter said McCall “…wholeheartedly supports the current Baptist Faith and Message…and has a long track recording of supporting the conservative issues and causes of [the] Southern Baptist Convention.”

John Yeats, editor of the Oklahoma Baptist Messenger, was re-elected without opposition to a sixth term as recording secretary. Yeats was nominated by Terry G. Fox, Immanuel Baptist Church, Wichita, Kan.

In the election for registration secretary, Lee Porter, who has held the post for 25 consecutive one-year terms was edged out by Jim Wells, a director of missions from Branson, Mo. Wells received 1,839 votes, representing 60 percent of the ballots cast.

In nominating Wells, Ronnie Floyd, an Arkansas pastor, lauded Porter for his 25 years in office and described him as one who has done an “extraordinary job,” but said it’s time to move on and “share” the leadership of this “very strategic position.”

“Please know this is not a vote against the past, but about sharing the leadership for the future of the SBC,” Floyd said.

Referring to Wells’ leadership on the SBC Executive Committee, Floyd credited Wells with “know[ing] the inner working of the SBC from the local church all the way to Nashville.”

“He’s one of us,” said Floyd. “It’s time new life and new energy and new vision are brought to this position.”

Raymond “Buddy” Boston, pastor, First Baptist Church, Dyersburg, Tenn. nominated Porter. Calling him a man with a “servant heart,” Boston said Porter “has enabled many of us to cast our ballots in years gone by.”

James Merritt, and Atlanta-area pastor and immediate past president of the convention and the moderator of the annual meeting in St. Louis recognized Porter for his service immediately after the vote was announced.

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