INDIANAPOLIS (BP)–Johnny Hunt, pastor of First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga., was elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention June 10, receiving 52.94 percent of votes (3,100) cast on the first ballot.
Five other candidates were nominated. Frank Cox received 1,286 votes (21.96 percent); Avery Willis, 962 votes (16.43 percent); William (Bill) Wagner, 255 votes (4.35 percent); Les Puryear, 188 votes (3.21 percent); and Wiley Drake, 45 votes (.77 percent).
A total of 5,856 ballots were cast, and 20 (.34 percent) were disallowed. At the time of the election, there were 7,196 registered messengers at the annual meeting.
Hunt was nominated by Ted Traylor, pastor of Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola, Fla.
Traylor said he was nominating Hunt because of his “heart for the nations” and his “heart for the next generation.” Hunt will unite the convention and “forge a hopeful future” focused on the Gospel and connected to local churches, Traylor said.
Hunt’s heart for the nations has been demonstrated in his church’s missions giving and participation, Traylor said. Last year alone, he said, First Baptist gave $3.3 million to Southern Baptist mission causes.
Over the past 28 years, the church has been responsible for planting 78 new churches and during Hunt’s 22-year tenure has seen hundreds of people surrender to full-time Christian ministry and mission service, Traylor added.
Hunt’s heart for the next generation, Traylor said, has been illustrated through his work with conferences that have reached 25,000 young leaders during the past 20 years.
“As you elect him today, you will send an instant message to that young generation that they have a place at the SBC table,” Traylor said. “They love him. You know him. And I believe it’s time we elect him as our convention president.”
Longtime evangelist Junior Hill nominated Cox, pastor of North Metro First Baptist Church in Lawrenceville, Ga.
Hill gave four reasons for putting Cox’s name into contention: strong conservative Baptist convictions, generous giving to the Cooperative Program, service as president of the Georgia Baptist Convention and as first vice president of the SBC, and his likable and approachable personality.
“Frank Cox has a tested mind, a steady hand and a discerning spirit,” Hill said. “Although his church is one of our largest, I have never heard him brag about it. He is wise enough to be trusted by the larger churches but gracious enough to be respected by our small churches.
“I cannot say that I know it is God’s will that Frank Cox be our next president … but I can say this: If Frank Cox is elected, he will honor this office and will serve this convention well,” Hill said.
Willis should be elected SBC president because of his longtime service as an International Mission Board missionary and his significant contributions to discipleship as author of the MasterLife curriculum, said John Marshall, pastor of Second Baptist Church in Springfield, Mo.
“Faced with a daunting challenge of training new believers and new church leaders, Avery, as the president of Indonesia Baptist Seminary, pioneered innovative ways that later became MasterLife, which has now been translated into 50 languages and has blessed millions of people worldwide, including most of us in this room,” Marshall said of the IMB’s former senior vice president of overseas operations.
Marshall said the zeal Willis has for revival, discipleship, the Cooperative Program and the Great Commission qualify him to be president.
“If we elect him, Avery will become the first lifelong, Cooperative Program-sponsored career missionary to serve as our president,” Marshall said.
Wade Burleson, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Enid, Okla., nominated Wagner, president of Olivet International University in San Francisco, as president, lauding Wagner’s 50-plus years of service as a missionary, pastor and professor.
“He has been doing what we are called on to support — taking the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world,” Burleson said.
Wagner has served nine churches as pastor, seven of which he planted, Burleson said, and served Southern Baptists for 30 years as a missionary to Europe, North Africa and the Middle East.
Burleson said there has never been a small-church pastor, career missionary, missionary strategist or a person north of Maryland or west of Texas elected as SBC president. Wagner meets all four criteria, he said.
The most important reason Wagner should be elected, Burleson said, “is because he understands the world around us.”
Southern Baptists must be “white hot” about world missions, and Wagner “doesn’t just talk about it; he does it,” Burleson said.
Alan Stoddard, executive pastor at Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas, stood in for the church’s senior pastor, Dwight McKissic, to nominate Puryear. McKissic is under doctor’s orders to rest, Stoddard explained.
Les Puryear should be SBC president for three reasons, Stoddard said.
“Brother Les will continue the practice of our current president, Dr. Frank Page, of including and involving men and women in the life and leadership of the SBC that previously have never been invited to the table,” Stoddard said.
“Brother Les will only appoint an involved Baptist who affirms the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message,” Stoddard continued. “Brother Les will reach out to all ethnic minorities in SBC life, as did Frank Page, and work to make sure they are also seated at the table.”
That’s an important point to McKissic because McKissic is black, Stoddard said.
“My brothers and sisters, it is not too late to save the SBC baby,” Stoddard concluded, “but we must join hands and hearts now under the banner of Christ and Les Puryear, for tomorrow may be too late. I urge you to elect Les Puryear president of the Southern Baptist Convention.”
Don Roberts, pastor of Leisure Lakes First Baptist Church in Lake Placid, Fla., nominated Drake, pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Buena Park, Calif.
Drake should be elected president because of his courage to take a stand on controversial issues, his record of denominational leadership and his godly character, Roberts said.
“Dr. Drake has distinguished himself as a man that has grown in his Christian life and in example,” Roberts said, “a great family man, a man that has been a leader in our Southern Baptist Convention and a man on the national scene, that when he sees a need, he’s not afraid to go after it, not afraid to take a stand, a man that we need with conservative convictions.”
Drake’s accomplishments include initiating the SBC’s boycott of The Disney Company in 1997, serving in the Navy during the Vietnam War and pastoring First Southern Baptist for 21 years, Roberts said.
Drake made news in 1997 when he was convicted of four misdemeanors because he refused to evict four homeless persons living in his church, Roberts said.
With reporting by Don Graham, Gary D. Myers, Jerry Pierce, Jeff Robinson, Karen Willoughby and Garrett Wishall.