RALEIGH, N.C. (BNM) - During a June 9 presidential address streamed on Facebook Live, Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear reiterated his “Gospel above all” focus while speaking to current cultural and ecclesiastical issues.
The virtual address replaced the traditional presidential address typically delivered in-person during the SBC Annual Meeting. The SBC Executive Committee canceled this year’s Annual due to COVID-19 concerns. Greear began his 30-minute speech by saying, “Even though we couldn’t be [in Orlando] in person, I thought it was important to share with you some updates on where God has taken us over the last couple of years and where we believe He is taking us in the days to come.”
The overarching theme of Greear’s presidency has been the idea of the “Gospel above all.” It was the theme of the 2019 Annual Meeting and the planned theme for the 2020 Annual Meeting. During his address, Greear reiterated the importance of Gospel centrality throughout the SBC. “If Gospel preaching is not central in our churches, the church just becomes another social club. … The Gospel is the message that sinners can be saved from the wrath of God by faith in Christ Jesus. That is what must be central in our ministries and [in] all of our preaching.”
During his address, Greear spoke to the ongoing issue of sexual abuse in the Southern Baptist Convention. “This is a Gospel issue, not a distraction from the Gospel but an extension of it,” Greear said. He noted several “important resolutions” adopted by the Convention, including changes in the SBC’s constitution and bylaws, as well as “reporting and accountability mechanisms.” During the remainder of his presidency, Greear noted he would work with LifeWay Christian Resources to add questions concerning a church’s sexual abuse prevention policies to the Annual Church Profile. Additionally, he said he would work with the Executive Committee to ensure that “every trustee has a comprehensive background check to help promote a culture of accountability and awareness on this from top to bottom.”
Greear also encouraged Southern Baptists to grow in diversity. Greear called the reasons for the founding of the SBC “sinful and abhorrent.” He also noted the Convention’s recent work toward reputing “any notion of inequality in the body of Christ.” According to Greear, more than 20% of churches in the SBC are “majority non-white.” “God’s grace writes new stories,” Greear said, adding, “sadly, our leadership does not yet reflect this great gift of diversity that God has given to our membership.” Greear committed to working toward diversifying SBC leadership through his presidential appointments.
Following his comments on diversity within SBC leadership, Greear affirmed the statement’ black lives matter,’ saying, in part, “black lives are a beautiful part of God’s creation. And, they make up and essential and beautiful part of His body. We would be poorer as a people without them and other minorities in our mix.” While Greear affirmed the statement, he rejected the ideology of the organization, which bears the same name. “I do not align myself with the Black Lives Matter organization,” he said.
Greear addressed the SBC’s baptismal decline, saying, “there is cause for concern that fewer and fewer people are demonstrating public response to our message.” In response, Greear committed to working with other SBC leaders to “change, by God’s grace, this trajectory.”
Greear called for unity, saying, “there are those among us who seem to love division and have an unhealthy appetite for conflict; who seem to love to fight over tertiary and non-essential things.” Greear challenged Southern Baptists to avoid division and unite around the principles of the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, calling the document, the “standard of our unity.”
Speaking to the upcoming U.S. presidential election, Greear said, “We can also agree, by the way, to repudiate our president’s lamentable statements, the tone that he sets, and lament his lack of leadership in what we feel are important areas. But what that compels us to do at the ballot box is not a first-order issue, and our unity in the body should not be dependent on uniformity in that choice.”
Greear’s completed president address is available at tiny.cc/Greear.