JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (BP)–Texas pastor Jack Graham “very likely” will be nominated for president of the Southern Baptist Convention when the annual meeting convenes June 11 in St. Louis, Jerry Vines announced today, Feb. 4, in Jacksonville, Fla.
“I have been told that it’s very likely that he’s going to be nominated to serve as president of the SBC this year,” Vines told the annual Pastors’ Conference at First Baptist Church, where Vines serves as senior pastor. “And if he is, I plan to vote for him. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to vote for Dr. Jack Graham. He would make us a wonderful, wonderful president.”
Graham is senior pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, north of Dallas. The church is one of the nation’s largest Southern Baptist congregations, with more than 20,000 members. Of Prestonwood, Vines said, “It’s absolutely phenomenal what’s taking place at that church, how the Lord is blessing … .”
The Pastors’ Conference at the Jacksonville church has been a launching point for previously successful conservative presidential nominations during the last decade.
Prestonwood was one of the first mega-churches to join the new Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, while maintaining nominal membership in the Baptist General Convention of Texas.
Graham has been critical of the BGCT’s movement away from the SBC and co-chaired SBTC’s Partners in the Harvest offering that netted about $1.3 million for SBC agencies defunded by the BGCT last year. He has addressed several SBTC gatherings, including the first evangelism conference and last year’s annual meeting, where he delivered the convention sermon. Prestonwood will host the SBTC student evangelism conference in May.
Praising Graham’s leadership and friendship with the new convention, SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards said, “The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention has no better friend than Jack Graham.” Richards told the Florida Baptist Witness, “It is exciting to know of his nomination for president of the Southern Baptist Convention” and pledged prayer support from the SBTC.
SBTC received nearly $1 million in gifts from Prestonwood last year, including $90,000 for SBTC’s adopted budget that allocates 51 percent to the SBC’s Cooperative Program budget. A designated gift of $520,000 was sent through the SBTC for the SBC. SBTC accountant Barbara Smith reported additional contributions from Prestonwood last year as $140,000 for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, $90,000 for the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions and $143,044 for disaster relief in New York City and Houston. Prestonwood’s giving to BGCT amounted to $5,000 last year.
Prestonwood’s executive pastor, Mike Buster, said the church contributes additional funds directly to local Southern Baptist-related ministries, including Criswell College, Dallas Baptist University, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Denton Baptist Association. These contributions combined with offerings to the state and national conventions make up 6 percent of Prestonwood’s budget. Additional funds are allocated for particular mission efforts, including $10,000 to Brooklyn Tabernacle 9-11 Relief, $384,000 for Prestonwood’s Pregnancy and Family Care Center, and $383,000 to Mission Endeavor/Europe, making total missions giving 10.6 percent of last year’s $17,163,000 budget.
The church has recorded more than 4,500 baptisms and 10,000 additions to the membership since Graham became pastor in 1989. Founded in 1977, Prestonwood has 31 ministers on its pastoral staff and supports a Christian school. The church also is involved in Restorative Justice Ministries designed to evangelize and disciple inmates within state prisons. Hispanic and Romanian congregations are among the ethnic ministries of Prestonwood while multi-housing ministries incorporate worship, Bible study, literacy and employment opportunities. Short-term mission trips taken by members assist in planting new churches overseas in coordination with local Southern Baptist missionaries.
Graham, a native of Conway, Ark., was ordained to the gospel ministry in 1970 and has received degrees from Hardin-Simmons University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has held previous pastorates in Texas, Oklahoma and Florida.
In 1992, Graham presided over the Southern Baptist Pastors’ Conference. He delivered the annual sermon at the 1993 Southern Baptist Convention and in 1994 nominated Jim Henry, pastor of First Baptist Church of Orlando, Fla., for SBC president. Henry was elected over Alabama pastor Fred Wolfe, who was regarded as the choice of conservative leaders in the SBC.
James Merritt, pastor of First Baptist Church of Snellville in suburban Atlanta, completing a second term as SBC president in June, is ineligible for re-election.
Tammi Reed Ledbetter of the SBTC communications office contributed to this story.