NEW ORLEANS (BP)–More than 1,000 people were won to the Lord as hundreds of Southern Baptists answered the call of Jesus Christ to share their faith during the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention June 12-13 in New Orleans.
The 144th meeting of Southern Baptists at the Louisiana Superdome included 9,561 messengers from 48 states and featured spirited gospel singing, fiery preaching and a focused message on faith and family.
SBC President James Merritt described the spiritual opposition Christians are facing in America. “There are battles raging outside of this arena, and we need to be on the frontlines,” he said in his June 12 presidential address, referring to the battle for the souls of men and women.
Merritt led an evangelical charge of Southern Baptists bringing the good news of Jesus Christ to the host city, as more than 1,000 out-of-town volunteers joined New Orleans Baptists in evangelistic events throughout the metropolitan area. In addition to one-on-one witnessing opportunities, Crossover events prior to the SBC annual meeting included block parties, door-to-door canvassing, special festivals, church services and a “Kindness Explosion” offering free water and other gifts to merchants and vendors in the French Quarter and public housing areas.
NAMB officials reported more than 1,200 professions of faith as a result of Crossover efforts.
Merritt also praised a new focus that Southern Baptists have placed on the family, unapologetically defending marriage between a man and a woman.
“We need to get back to the biblical understanding of marriage,” Merritt said. “Marriage is not a legal contract between two people that can be ended by a judicial decree. It is a divine covenant bound together in heaven that should never be broken before a holy God.”
Tom Elliff, chairman of the Southern Baptist Council on Family Life, told messengers June 12 that “families will not be rescued because we think God owes it to us. Families in America — and families in our convention — will be rescued because we decide to do something about it.”
The council was established at the SBC meeting last year in Orlando, Fla. Elliff, a former SBC president and pastor of First Southern Baptist Church, Del City, Okla., said the council’s charge is to present a strategy for how Southern Baptists can not only strengthen their own marriages, but also proclaim to the nation they are family friendly.
Elliff said a full report on the council’s work will be completed next year.
Fred Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, delivered a passionate and historic convention sermon to thousands of foot-stomping, hand-clapping messengers.
Luter, the first African American to preach the SBC’s keynote address, rocked the Superdome with a spirited plea for messengers to “Go!”
“If we’re gonna occupy until he comes, we need every member of every church of every size of every race of every city and every state to hear the cry of Jesus,” said Luter, referring to the annual meeting’s theme of “Until He Comes … Go!”
“Listen to the cry of the Master,” Luter preached. “He’s calling for laborers.”
NAMB President Robert E. Reccord called on Southern Baptists June 13 to go on a “rescue mission” to save millions of people across the country. Reccord announced the availability of new media resources to support churches in presenting a message of hope in their cities. Two new television commercials may be obtained free of charge by churches that contact the agency by June 30.
Leaning on a cane and gripping the hand of his wife, an International Mission Board missionary* listened to the staccato applause as it swelled into a standing ovation. The couple came to the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting to challenge pastors and church leaders to go to the mission field. But they also had another reason for coming — the man is dying of cancer and is seeking someone to take his place as a missionary in North Africa.
“Is the Lord calling you to go to the people who have no voice?” he asked. “Then my challenge is to go and not wait, because we are not promised tomorrow.”
As part of the International Mission Board’s presentation, a video depicting the couple’s ministry played on large screen projectors. “My challenge to you is to continue to go and to answer the call when [God] calls you,” he told SBC messengers.
In other convention action, Merritt, senior pastor of the Atlanta-area First Baptist Church, Snellville, was elected without opposition for a second one-year term to the SBC. Nominated by R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Merritt is the third-youngest SBC president and the first baby boomer elected to the presidency.
A Georgia native, Merritt has been pastor of the 12,000-member suburban Atlanta church since 1985. During his tenure, the congregation has baptized nearly 8,500 people. The church gives 5 percent of its undesignated giving to the Cooperative Program.
Ed Litton, pastor of First Baptist Church, North Mobile, Ala., was elected first vice president; T.C. Pinckney, a layman from Good News Baptist Church in Alexandria, Va., was elected second vice president; John Yeats, editor of the Oklahoma Baptist Messenger, was re-elected without opposition to a fifth term as recording secretary; and Lee Porter, a retired denomination employee from Georgia, was elected to his 25th term as registration secretary.
In other election news, Bruce Coe, pastor of First Baptist Church, Chandler, Ariz., was elected chairman of the SBC Executive Committee. Coe’s second term on the Executive Committee will end in 2003. He was first elected in 1993. Elected as vice chairman was Gary Smith, pastor of Fielder Road Baptist Church, Arlington, Texas. Ann Frazier, a homemaker/educator from Calvary Baptist Church in Roanoke Rapids, N.C., was elected recording secretary.
The new officers for the 2002 Southern Baptist Pastors’ Conference are Ken Whitten, president; Michael Claunch, vice president; and Charles West, secretary. Whitten is pastor of Idlewild Baptist Church, Tampa, Fla.; Claunch is pastor of First Baptist Church, Slidell, La.; and West is pastor of First Baptist Church, Bethalto, Ill.
The 2000 version of the Baptist Faith and Message remained unchanged despite three attempts at modifications in the form of motions presented June 12.
Messenger Fred Malone from Clinton, La., spoke in favor of a motion to add the words “informed by Holy Scripture” to Article 8: “Activities on the Lord’s Day should be commensurate with the Christian’s conscience, [add: informed by Holy Scripture,] under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.”
Messenger Tony Woodell of Little Rock, Ark., brought the second motion that was debated by proposing to add to Article 1 the phrase, “The criterion by which Scripture is to be interpreted is Jesus Christ” after the words, “…the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried.” Woodell’s motion was supported from the floor by Charles Wade, executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Texas.
Steve Barrett of Waseca, Minn., proposed to delete the word “religious” from Article 1, which states “[the Scripture is] … the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried.”
Messengers overwhelmingly defeated all three motions.
Messengers to the 2001 SBC also approved without any apparent opposition nine resolutions that focused on “life, liberty and the family,” as described by Resolutions Committee chairman Danny Akin, dean of the school of theology at Southern Seminary.
The resolutions passed June 13 included opposition to human cloning, euthanasia and religious persecution, support for the religious freedom of military chaplains, freedom of political speech and the Covenant Marriage movement, as well as a condemnation of pornography on the Internet.
Akin said he was not surprised there was such overwhelming support for the resolutions and said he believed the resolutions were “reflective of the heart” of Southern Baptists.
In addition to a resolution expressing appreciation for the host city and local Southern Baptists, the measures approved by messengers expressed:
— Opposition to human cloning, both for reproductive and research purposes, and a call for Congress to pass a permanent ban.
— Repudiation of euthanasia and a request for the world’s countries to express moral outrage at The Netherlands’ recent legalization of euthanasia.
— Condemnation of the persecution and genocide sponsored by the militant Islamic regime in the African country of Sudan and support for direct aid to the victims.
— Endorsement of the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund and the practice of gleaning, in which individuals provide part of their abundant resources for the poor.
— Opposition to “unconstitutional treatment of Southern Baptist chaplains” and others by the United States military, as well as the encouragement of policies protecting the free exercise of religion in the armed forces.
— Rejection of any federal campaign finance legislation that does not protect free speech.
— Endorsement of the Covenant Marriage movement and encouragement for Southern Baptist churches to observe Covenant Marriage Sunday.
— Support for laws that provide protection from Internet pornography and for policies by public libraries that protect their patrons from exposure to such material.
James L. Sullivan, a Southern Baptist statesman who became a Christian four years before the Cooperative Program was established, was honored June 12 with the second annual M.E. Dodd Award for lifetime achievement in support of the SBC’s CP Missions process for funding worldwide missions.
The award is named after Dodd, longtime pastor of First Baptist Church, Shreveport, La., who chaired the SBC Future Program Commission that recommended the Cooperative Program for adoption in 1925.
Morris H. Chapman, president and chief executive officer of the SBC Executive Committee, accepted an award “in behalf of all Southern Baptists” from the Association of Baptists for Scouting for his commitment to spiritual, physical, mental and moral development of Baptist youth.
Next year’s SBC annual meeting will be June 11-12 in St. Louis.
*Names have been withheld for security reasons.
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: DYING MISSIONARY MAKES EVANGELICAL PLEA.