Southern Baptists crammed into Nashville’s Music City Center Tuesday for the official start of the denomination’s first corporate gathering in two years. Messengers to the convention crowded around microphones scattered across the room to introduce motions for consideration during the two-day business session. The registered messenger count currently stands at 14,950, the most since 1995.
Unlike past meetings when the convention floor has cleared out during business, one messenger even made a motion to extend time for business amid pressing issues facing Baptists. “We need to talk about some things,” he said. (His motion was later defeated on a close ballot vote.)
Many of the motions introduced Tuesday reflect issues Baptists debated leading up the convention, including Critical Race Theory and the SBC’s handling of sexual abuse. Among the motions were calls for separate third-party investigations into both the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and the Executive Committee.
Messenger Jared Longshore of Florida moved that the newly elected SBC President appoint a task force of pastors to investigate the ERLC staff and trustees “regarding their involvement in the past president’s alleged concealment of grievous sin and his handling of the same.” Longshore’s motion regarded claims in recently leaked letters written by former ERLC president Russell Moore that the SBC Executive Committee resisted reforms designed to help churches prevent sexual abuse and care for survivors.
Another motion, made by Tennessee pastor Grant Gaines, proposed transferring oversight of the third-party review previously announced by the Executive Committee to a task force appointed by the newly elected president of the SBC. Gaines stood at the microphone with one of the survivors of sexual abuse who has worked to distribute printed copies of an SBC Sexual Abuse Survivors Joint Statement to messengers in Nashville.
Baptists could debate and vote on those motions and more during business sessions later today and Wednesday.
Additionally, conversation around a controversial resolution adopted at the 2019 annual meeting resurfaced in Nashville, where Florida pastor Tom Ascol made a motion to rescind Resolution 9. The 2019 measure, which focused on Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality, stated the frameworks “should only be employed as analytical tools subordinate to Scripture—not as transcendent ideological frameworks.” Critics of the resolution have argued the frameworks can’t be divorced from the Marxist worldview in which they’re based.
During the Executive Committee’s report Tuesday, Ascol also proposed amending the 2021-22 Cooperative Program allocation budget to not fund SBC entities that espouse Critical Race Theory. The motion was ruled out of order by SBC President J.D. Greear because of the difficult of enforcing it. Ascol appealed the decision, and the appeal was defeated by messengers.
Later Tuesday, Baptists will debate a new resolution “On the Sufficiency of Scripture for Race and Racial Reconciliation.” They will also hear more motions introduced and vote among four announced candidates for a new president for the denomination.