BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP) — Panelists discussed a range of topics on the Cooperative Program panel stage during Southern Baptist’s annual meeting in Birmingham, Ala. Among those topics were the future of the Southern Baptist Convention, resourcing churches to confront the sexual abuse crisis, and women in ministry.
Moderating the “Vision SBC” discussion on June 10 in the exhibit hall were Jonathan Howe and Amy Whitfield, podcast co-hosts of “SBC This Week.” Panelists were: Ronnie Floyd, president and CEO of the SBC Executive Committee; Paul Chitwood, president of the International Mission Board; and Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board.
Howe asked the entity leaders a variety of questions: “Where are we going from here in the SBC?” “How is [Cooperative Program] cooperation?” And “are we on the cusp of greater cooperation with all the entities?” Much of the conversation centered around the Cooperative Program, the SBC’s giving channel for supporting missions and ministry efforts.
“We are going to mobilize more people to reach the whole world for Christ and more resources to reach the world for Christ,” said Floyd, noting the importance of IMB and NAMB’s efforts to mobilize Southern Baptist churches and promoting giving through CP. “It is imperative that we are conscientious of what the vision is … taking the Gospel to the nations. The key to this is what NAMB and the IMB does with our churches and more talk about [CP].” This, he said, helps lead to more resources raised “for the Kingdom of God.”
Chitwood noted, “[IMB is] here to serve the churches like all of us are here, and we are thankful in our CP budget … the majority of those funds go to the IMB as SBC stewardship. We will lead by example.”
Southern Baptists, Ezell said, must “tell our story better” and show the value of the Cooperative Program to younger generations of pastors and how “we link arms together because of missions.”
Resourcing the church in the sexual abuse crisis
Another CP panel that day focused on “Resourcing the Church in the sexual abuse crisis.” Phillip Bethancourt, vice president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, moderated the panel.
Panelists included: Nathan Lino, senior pastor of Northeast Houston Baptist Church, Houston, Texas; Brad Hambrick, pastor of counseling at The Summit Church, Raleigh-Durham area, N.C.; Mary DeMuth, advocate and author of “We Too,” Dallas, Texas; and Samantha Kilpatrick, attorney of Kilpatrick Law Group, Raleigh.
Bethancourt opened the panel discussion by asking how a congregation can navigate an abuse problem within the church. He asked Lino to share about a former student pastor accused of abusing a youth at his church. Lino outlined the steps that were taken to document the abuse and report it to the authorities and media.
“We terminated the person that day,” Lino said. “The church did well because we acted so quickly … to bring the darkness into light.”
Hambrick addressed how to support and provide help for a victim of abuse once the problem is exposed. “First thing to do is to listen … let the survivor know what the next conversations are in the process,” he said. “… there often are more survivors.”
DeMuth, an abuse survivor and speaker, cautioned about “unhealthy” ways church leaders may respond when someone reveals a problem. “If someone confesses something difficult, err on the side of belief,” she said.
“Don’t commit a secondary violation with a response … simply listen,” she said.
Kilpatrick, a lawyer and former prosecutor who advises churches on abuse, recommended preparing for a problem ahead of time and seeking professionals in these areas.
“Know the laws in your states,” she said, “contact social service agencies, law enforcement, attorneys, … know reporting rules.”
Bethancourt also pointed those in attendance to the new SBC sex abuse report that churches may reference for further information.
Women in ministry
Another CP stage conversation that afternoon focused on women in ministry, moderated by Whitfield.
Participants included Jeana Floyd, author of “10 things Every Minister’s Wife Needs to Know”; Katie McCoy, assistant professor of theology in women’s studies, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; and Kathy Litton, director of Planter Spouse Development at the North American Mission Board.
Whitfield asked the panel to share about the different roles and opportunities for women in ministry.
Jeana Floyd, who is married to SBC Executive Committee president Ronnie Floyd, noted that pastors’ wives and women on church staffs are in critical positions. Referring to her time with Cross Church in Northwest Arkansas, where her husband served as pastor for 33 years, Floyd said she “had the opportunity to mentor our staff wives … and encourage them to walk alongside their husbands and in ministries outside the church.”
In addition to Floyd, other panelists shared how they have seen women excel in ministry. McCoy noted how she has seen women “launch into ministry adventures” — from overseas missions and a variety of organizational work to becoming “scholars and authorities in their fields.”
Litton, who also is now the SBC’s registration secretary, addressed the challenges that NAMB church planter spouses face when they go into cities and become involved helping with strategy and church planting. “The women are very courageous and wonderful to see,” she said.
See related panel discussion story on women in the SBC.