Controversy arose Monday when the Southern Baptist Convention’s Order of Business Committee announced Vice President Mike Pence had been added to the Wednesday morning schedule. Debate online and in the convention hall centered on the appropriateness of having a political figure speak at time when the country and the denomination itself is experiencing so much disunity.
Garrett Kell, a messenger from Del Ray Baptist Church in Alexandria, Va., brought a motion to replace the Vice President’s address with a time of prayer. The motion called Pence’s addition to the schedule a source of disunity with minority brothers and sisters that suggests alignment with a particular political party and puts SBC workers around world at risk. Kell asked messengers to consider Romans 14:19.
Committee on Order of Business Chair Grant Ethridge responded to the motion. “The Southern Baptist Convention aligns itself with no political party. Our loyalty is to King Jesus, Lord of Lords,” Ethridge said to applause in the convention hall. He explained that the White House reached out to the convention and that Pence’s appearance was keeping with history. “Many political figures have reached out to us in the past.”
Ethridge, pastor of Liberty Baptist Church in Hampton Roads, Va., referred to a list of Scripture passages to support his position. “1 Timothy 2:1, 3; Romans 13:1, Titus 3:1. 1 Peter 2:17 to me really sums it up. In Acts 25:11, Paul even says, ‘I appeal to Caesar.’”
He went on to say he felt messengers should respect the position of the office and that had he been chair when the previous administration was in office, he would have welcomed them to speak if they had requested it.
Concluding, Ethridge said, “We encourage the messengers to extend a biblical, Christ-like welcome to the Vice President of the United States.’
Messengers overwhelming voted against the motion to replace Pence’s address, and approved the Order of Business for the Annual Meeting.
Multiple motions to change the SBC bylaws to disallow requests by or invitations to political figures were presented during the first schedule Introduction of New Motions time Tuesday morning. There will be a second opportunity for messengers to bring new motions to the floor at 3:45 p.m. The Committee on Order of Business will review the motions and determine which meet the convention’s guidelines to be eligible for a vote.