This past week I attended the South Carolina Baptist Convention in Greensville, SC. I look forward to this time of the year. It is a time of encouragement found in challenging messages and powerful worship, as well as fellowship with other pastors and church leaders. Our annual meeting is also a time of information. We are able to hear the latest news and opportunities from our colleges and universities, mission boards, and other convention ministry partners and agencies. No annual meeting would be complete without conducting some sort of business. We heard and adopted resolutions, approved a ministry budget, and approved major bylaw changes in the eligibility and selection of institutional trustees. To some, these business sessions may seem boring and pointless. However, I believe they are invaluable because with them is a certain beauty. Here is what I mean. A messenger, the average person representing their church (large or small), can address the entire body, have their voice heard, and request some action be taken in an area of convention life they may have concerns about or feel an improvement could be made. During the course of the meeting as I walked around, listened, and talked with people, certain thoughts come to mind. I would like to share with you my observations from the SCBC Annual Meeting in Greenville, as I see it.
1. Baptist Faith and Message 2000. Messengers approved bylaw changes that made the BFM2000 the statement of faith for South Carolina Baptists. I believe this is a critical, wise, and timely decision. One that was long overdue. Our convention now has agreed upon theological parameters drawn from Scripture that will help to guide us in doctrinal integrity and cooperation. Trustees of our institutions will now be asked to affirm this statement of faith as part of their service agreement.
2. Debate Decorum. There was a spirit of graciousness present during this year’s meeting. Although everyone did not agree with everything being presented, their objections were offered in a spirit of grace and love. Brad Atkins, presiding president, moderated with compassion, a needed sense of humor, and a Christ-like spirit. He set the tone for the entire meeting.
3. Theme. The spirit of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force recommendations adopted last year is alive and well. This year’s theme, “Great Commission Living”, was evident and well presented. Messengers could not have left without understanding how committed South Carolina Baptists are to fulfilling the Great Commission. The theme interpretations given by the four speakers were spot-on and delivered with passion and conviction. The Committee on Order of Business and others responsible for the selection of speakers, musicians, and program features are to be applauded for bringing the theme from just words on paper to a passionate plea for life change.
4. Convention Staff. I just want to say a word about our South Carolina Baptist Convention staff. I found them to be helpful, gracious, accommodating, patient, and willing to go the extra mile to ensure messengers had a positive and encouraging experience. To an often under-appreciated staff, thank you.
5. Service. There seems to be a continual and growing dissatisfaction with the current breakdown in representation on our convention boards, committees, and agencies. Messengers have in past years, and again this year, voiced their desire for specific ways in which new voices and new faces can be involved denominational service. We often hear this referred to as “bringing more people to the table”. I am interested in seeing where the common ground will be found.
6. Fellowship. The annual meeting is as much a place for fellowship as it is for anything else. It was interesting to see groups gathered in the hallways and the exhibit hall talking and catching up with each other. It is an opportunity to create new friendship, form new partnerships, and rekindle old friendships. I believe there will always need to be a time of coming together such as this. Over the past years, especially at the SBC level, there has been an increased call to be able to virtually attend a meeting and vote online. While I understand the logistical concerns of travel and such, that convenience cannot replace the need for the real reason for these meetings. After all, voting is one small part. People are the larger and more important part.