ATLANTA (BP) — Agreements to “assume the best in one another” and that a “Gospel-above-all culture needs to prevail” in the Southern Baptist Convention were among the outcomes when SBC President J.D. Greear met Aug. 20 with 15 executive directors of Baptist state conventions.
“The most basic principle in airline travel is that if you want someone there for the landing, they have to be there for the takeoff,” Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., told Baptist Press in written comments. “These are the leaders who have been leading in the things before I became president and likely will be there leading after my term. I wanted to know how I could serve them, catalyze their efforts in evangelism and mobilization and bring cohesion to many of the wonderful things already going on throughout the SBC.”
Held at The Westin Atlanta Airport, the meeting included executive directors of conventions in the southeastern United States as well as SBC First Vice President A.B. Vines. Second Vice President Felix Cabrera was invited but could not attend.
Greear will meet in the future with other state executive directors and leaders of churches, associations and SBC entities, according to an Aug. 21 release from Greear’s office.
David Hankins, executive director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention, told BP the Atlanta meeting was characterized by “a great spirit, camaraderie and willingness to work together.”
Hankins, who endorsed Ken Hemphill during June’s SBC presidential election, said Greear “really wants to move forward” the same types of initiatives “I was interested in during the recent campaign”: “the Gospel for everyone,” “growing support for the Cooperative Program” and “cooperation among the various levels of Southern Baptist life.”
Discussion at the meeting focused on Greear’s priorities as president, with special emphasis on a possible nationwide evangelism initiative, church planting and mobilization of recent college graduates for missions. Greear’s Sexual Abuse Presidential Study Group also was mentioned.
Additionally, Greear asked state conventions, “How may I serve you?”
The southeastern state executives and Greear agreed, according to the release:
— “That a new Gospel-above-all culture needs to prevail amongst pastors, associations, state conventions, national entities and seminaries”;
— “That the good news, that Jesus came to save sinners, should supersede all geographic, secondary theological, cultural and generational differences”; and
— “To (1) assume the best in one another and that they have good intentions, (2) when in doubt to give the benefit of the doubt, and (3) when a question arose or a difference in opinion, extending grace to each other in the same way Christ showed us on the cross.”
At one point in the meeting, Southern Baptists of Texas Convention executive director Jim Richards thanked Greear for being as gracious in winning the SBC presidency as he was two years ago when he trailed in a tight presidential election, withdrew after the second ballot, and moved that the convention elect Tennessee pastor Steve Gaines by acclamation.
“I just wanted to express my appreciation for J.D. [Greear] holding the meeting [with executive directors] to begin with,” Richards told BP. “In that context, I expressed to him [that] he had been a gracious loser two years ago, and it’s even more difficult for a person to be a gracious winner, and that he had extended grace to all who are Southern Baptists, whether they supported his candidacy or not.”
During the meeting with state executives, Richards said, Greear “exhibited great humility and asked for input and sought in every way to exhibit teachability.”
Paul Chitwood, executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, said the executive directors expressed appreciation for Greear’s “championing of Cooperative Program giving,” including a CP promotional video he produced recently for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. The executive directors also told Greear many state convention ministries already in existence dovetail with his priorities for the SBC.
The meeting “was a great opportunity to get on the same page,” Chitwood said, and for Greear to hear “what we were doing in these areas already and how eager we are to help him champion” his convention-wide emphases.
Greear called the state executives “men who love the Great Commission and really desire the best days of Southern Baptist cooperation. I am honored to come behind them and work together with them and the churches in their states.”