Two leaders of the South Carolina Baptist Convention have voiced their support of Southern Baptist Convention president Johnny Hunt’s call for a Great Commission Resurgence. (See related coverage beginning on page 6.)
“I wholeheartedly endorse the principles outlined in the Great Commission Resurgence document,” said Jim Austin, the convention’s executive director-treasurer. “I believe them to be both well intentioned and biblically based.”
Rudy Gray, convention president, called the proposal a “general collection of ideas and challenges,” saying he is confident that the document was “sent forth with good intentions for motivating God’s people to become more effective stewards, witnesses and servant leaders within our denomination.”
Austin pointed out that “agreeing on the principles of the document will not necessarily lead to agreement on interpretation or implementation of the principles.”?
Gray called “streamlining our denominational structures,” as called for in the document, a “good idea” but that “specifics like that are not addressed in the declaration.”
Austin said that “much prayer for godly discernment will be required” before any consensus can be reached on what a “streamlined” convention would look like.
For instance, the executive director said there has been “much discussion” about merging the International and North American mission boards, adding, “My initial impression is that this may not necessarily enhance the effectiveness of our gospel proclamation.”
Concerning the possible merger, Gray said “there is no question we need to make our ministries more viable for this time. However, I am not sure the creation of a world mission board would accomplish that goal any better than reorganizing our current mission boards.”
Austin had praise for both mission boards in their spheres of influence, adding that he is “unsure” where “cross-pollination of board methodologies” would be of certain value.?
The executive director also expressed concern about a study of “platforms” in denominational work – the practice of sending educators, health care workers, agricultural specialists, business professionals and others with special areas of expertise to the mission field, which he said has “greatly enhanced opportunities to win the right to be heard” in proclaiming the gospel.?
“As America grows increasingly secular,” he said, “I believe that some of our institutions and agencies could eventually become our platforms here in the United States. Rather than streamlining these platforms, it may be in the kingdom’s best interests for us to more enthusiastically embrace these ministry partners as they become some of our most useful tools in gospel proclamation.”
Austin also said that “further clarification” is needed for a statement in the document referring to theological education that “starts in the seminaries.”
“I believe that the church is where theological education starts,” he said. “I also believe that our Baptist colleges provide great value in this arena as well. The question does arise of what role will Baptist colleges play in the streamlined organization.”
Gray said he is supportive of better stewardship of resources and streamlining denominational structures, but wonders “how can we best achieve those things?” “Specifics like that are not addressed in the declaration,” he said.
“We need to do something to lessen waste, utilize resources. streamline for effectiveness and disciple people of many different cultures,” the convention president continued, and emphasized, “We need the wisdom of God in order to preserve what is glorifying God and change or eliminate what is not.”
Austin said, “Overall, I believe Southern Baptists can enthusiastically embrace the Great Commission document. If it is adopted at this year’s convention (in June in Louisville), we will then need much prayer as we begin to work out the details.”