Observations at the 2001 Meeting, Southern Baptist Convention I

by Wm. Robert Johnston
updated 25 June 2001

The convention was held June 12-13 in New Orleans. Total registered messengers reported at the last session was 9,559. For an SBC convention in the southern states, this convention had the lowest attendance of any in the past 52 years. This is probably due to (1) the lack of any planned significant or controversial item of business and (2) the heavy rains in preceding days due to tropical storm Allison. (We drove through Houston to reach New Orleans on June 11, taking a route through Houston that was reopened after flooding only hours before our transit.)

A major topic revolved around the pending work of the Council on Family Life. This group plans to report next year on proposals for programs and strategies to biblically address the breakdown of the American family. Various speakers cited statistics regarding this tragedy, including James Dobson. Dobson addressed the convention by a last-minute live television feed from Denver instead of a planned in-person speech: his private plane from Denver had filled with smoke and had to return (safely) to Denver.

The only issues generating any debate were three amendments proposed from the floor to the Baptist Faith and Message. Recall that last year the thoroughly revised 2000 BF&M was adopted by the SBC, replacing the 1963 BF&M (which was only amended once, in 1998). The three proposed amendments:

SBC leadership spoke strongly against the motions (the BGCT Executive Director spoke in favor of the second one), and all were nearly unanimously defeated. The tone was set in discussion of the first proposal: Albert Mohler, President of Southern Seminary, urged defeat of all the amendments because the 2000 BF&M was "resoundingly biblical" and it would be "confessionally reckless" and unfair to revisit the BF&M, concluding that Baptists have adopted this confession and "we will not give an inch." Adrian Rogers (chairman of the 2000 BF&M committee) also said that the restrictive language on the Lord's Day in the 1925 and 1963 BF&Ms was not scriptural.

Some notes on other issues:

Missions reports included a challenge from an IMB missionary just returning from the field due to terminal cancer. The IMB has seen 11,273 church plants in the last two years, with another 38,000 missions not yet organized into churches. The NAMB challenged each SBC church to support a church plant by the end of 2005. Speakers challenged each and every Southern Baptist to lead one person to Christ in the next year.

© 2001 by Wm. Robert Johnston.
Last modified 25 June 2001.
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