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Search committee, ERLC funding mark first EC report

DALLAS (BP) — Messengers received an update of the search for a new Executive Committee president and defeated a proposed defunding of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission during the EC’s morning report at the SBC annual meeting in Dallas June 12.

EC chairman Stephen Rummage, speaking of the search for a successor to Frank S. Page after Page’s March departure, voiced gratitude to Southern Baptists on behalf of the Executive Committee “for your prayers for us as we sought God’s leadership during the difficult circumstances surrounding the departure of Dr. Page this spring” after eight years as EC president.

Rummage quoted James 5:16 in the New Testament that, “‘The effective fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.’ And we have experienced firsthand the strength, the comfort, the guidance, the wisdom and the peace of our great God through the fervent prayers of His people across our Southern Baptist Convention.”

The search committee “has completed a process whereby we have surveyed our trustees, our state executive directors, our entity heads and our Executive Committee staff as we consider a profile for the new president and CEO of the Executive Committee,” Rummage, senior pastor of Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Brandon, Fla., reported.

“We’re receiving names of potential candidates through June 30. Names may be submitted to [email protected],” he told messengers. “We’ll continue to give updates along the way. We do not have a date set at this time when we will complete our search but you can be certain that we will be careful and deliberate in our work.”

The search committee now consists of seven members with the addition of new EC chairman Mike Stone, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Blackshear, Ga., who succeeds Rummage. Stone was elected during the EC’s June 11 meeting preceding the SBC’s June 12-13 annual meeting in Dallas. Rummage, who has served two years as EC chairman, will continue on the search committee as one of its six members elected during a special called EC meeting April 17.

ERLC funding challenged

Nathan Rager, a licensed minister and messenger from The Peoples Church in Clearwater, Fla., proposed an amendment to “fully and completely defund the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission” from the 2018-2019 Cooperative Program Allocation Budget and allocate the ERLC’s $3.2 million in CP funding to the International Mission Board.

“We’re hearing so many calls about dividing from politics, unity, the first mission being the Gospel, and we know that Russell Moore and the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission has spoken so ill of our convention members who are showing love to our president and the love of Christ that has compelled him [Donald Trump] to stand for religious liberty,” Rager said before being admonished by SBC President Steve Gaines to “be very careful not to disparage someone.”

Rager said his amendment is a call to unity. “We want to serve the mission of the Gospel, looking forward to the day when we’re all united as the body of Christ. Let’s move forward in that with this amendment to fulfill the Great Commission and put our resources to best use,” he said.

Rummage said the Executive Committee urged the defeat of the amendment.

“We indeed see the great value of our Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. They perform vital services on behalf of our convention, and they need to be included in our Cooperative Program budget,” Rummage said.

Vance Pitman, pastor of Hope Church in Las Vegas, also spoke against the amendment.

“As someone who pastors outside the Bible Belt in a multiethnic church made up of over 54 languages, let me say that the ERLC under Russell Moore’s leadership has done more to bring healing to damaged relationships with people of color, minorities and a younger generation of SBC pastors than all of our resolutions combined,” Pitman said.

“Make no mistake about it. There is no SBC entity that has done more to energize African American, Hispanic and other racial minorities of the SBC than the ERLC,” Pitman said, adding that at times Moore, the ERLC’s president, has “offended both Democrats and Republicans” because his allegiance “is to an authority much greater than a political party.”

Richard Land, a messenger from Clearview Baptist Church in Franklin, Tenn., and president of the ERLC for 25 years before Moore, spoke against the amendment.

“One of the aspects of the ERLC is that if you do what conventions ask you to do, you’re going to offend everybody sooner or later when you speak the truth in love,” said Land, now president of Southern Evangelical Seminary in Charlotte, N.C. “The commission has been called the conscience of the convention, and we need the ERLC to speak to Southern Baptists and to speak for Southern Baptists when they have reached consensus. We don’t wait for unanimity. Otherwise, we’d be mute.

“But when we reach consensus, Washington, the United Nations and the world needs to hear what Southern Baptists believe about compelling issues,” Land said.

Greg Davidson, pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Vacaville, Calif., also spoke against the amendment.

“With due respect to my friend from the West,” Davidson said in reference to Pitman’s comments, “I am also from the West. I have a very diverse congregation, and while I am against the amendment and agree with what Richard Land just said, I think it’s critical that we understand that it is imperative that we return to the conservative voice that we exhibited when Richard Land was head of this institution.

“I think it’s imperative that we understand there’s a great diversity out there in our churches, which I represent, who do believe in conservative values and they are not offended by standing for those values,” Davidson said.

Southern Baptists need to “stay away from personality. We’re not voting for the personality,” he said. “We have got to focus on voting for the individuals who stand for our convictions, and as long as we focus on that and stay away from whether we like the person personally, then we can stay on the right course.

Davidson concluded, “What’s of concern to me and the conservative people of color and the diverse congregation I have is what was a reckless attempt to discount a candidate based on personality and to seem to favor a candidate who was bent on the destruction of Christian principles.”

In their vote, messengers defeated the amendment and passed the 2018-2019 Cooperative Program Allocation Budget of $194,000,000 as proposed.

The CP budget maintains current allocations to the convention’s ministries, including 50.41 percent of receipts to the International Mission Board and 22.79 percent to the North American Mission Board, for a total of 73.20 percent allocated for world missions ministries.

The convention’s six seminaries will receive 22.16 percent. The seminary enrollment formula for funding will be: Gateway Seminary, 2.02 percent; Midwestern Seminary, 3.23 percent; New Orleans Seminary, 3.63 percent; Southeastern Seminary, 3.90 percent; Southern Seminary, 5.26 percent; Southwestern Seminary, 3.88 percent; and .24 percent to the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives, a ministry overseen by the seminary presidents. (Cumulative numbers may not match the sum of individual seminary percentages due to rounding.)

The budget designates 1.65 percent to the ERLC. The SBC Operating Budget, the only CP-funded facilitating ministry, encompassing SBC annual meeting costs and the work of the Executive Committee, will receive 2.99 percent of the budget.

Under the formula for distributing any overage in the CP Allocation Budget, 53.4 percent would be allocated to the IMB and 0 percent to the Executive Committee and SBC Operating Budget, with the balance distributed to the other entities according to the CP Allocation Budget.

The SBC Operating Budget for the 2018-2019 fiscal year of $7,913,638 also was approved by messengers.

Messengers also approved the addition of National Day of Prayer on the first Thursday in May to the SBC Calendar of Activities along with Orphans and Widows Care Sunday on the first Sunday of November.

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