Amid two Southern Baptist Convention entity leadership searches and upcoming national SBC elections, both SBC presidential candidates have issued a joint call for prayer, grace and civility.
J.D. Greear and Ken Hemphill, both tapped as 2018 nominees for SBC president, made the joint appeal as the International Mission Board (IMB) and the SBC Executive Committee (EC) are tasked with finding new entity leaders. In the midst of the entity searches, Southern Baptists will elect national officers at the SBC 2018 Annual Meeting June 12-13 in Dallas.
“After speaking w/my friend @kenhemphill today, we’d like to call all Southern Baptists to act w/civility & integrity toward one another & to join us in praying for the entity transitions ahead & for the upcoming #SBC18 presidential election,” Greear, pastor of the Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., tweeted April 5.
“In a phone conversation with friend @jdgreear we agreed to invite Southern Baptists to pray for leaders in transition, search committees, that our respective supporters will speak with grace and civility so we can leave Dallas revived, unified and focused on God’s kingdom,” Hemphill, an administrator at North Greenville University in Tigerville, S.C., followed April 6.
SBC president Steve Gaines, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., retweeted both messages. The original posts drew more than 1,000 likes and were retweeted hundreds of times.
IMB president David Platt announced Feb. 12 his return to the full-time pastorate, remaining in office while a 16-person search committee seeks a replacement. At the EC, executive vice president D. August (Augie) Boto was named EC interim president April 4 as the EC readies to name a search committee to replace Frank S. Page, who unexpectedly left the EC on March 27. (See related Baptist Press story.)
“These are difficult times for us all,” Greear told BP April 9, “but we must lock arms and boldly go forward to reach our world with the hope of introducing them to our Savior.”
Hemphill also encouraged Southern Baptists to focus on salvations and kingdom building.
“I am concerned that we will get caught up in peripheral issues,” Hemphill told BP, “and miss the critical issues such as baptisms, attendance, unity in diversity, the restoration of key partnerships, and the revitalization of our convention.”
In his April 9 email to BP, Hemphill listed the specific prayer requests (paraphrased below) that he and Greear discussed in advance of their tweets:
- Pray for Page and his family following his resignation from the EC;
- Pray for Platt and his family as they transition from ministry through the IMB to ministry through the local church;
- Pray for both search committees as they seek God’s direction for their respective organizations;
- Pray for the upcoming presidential election in Dallas;
- Pray that everyone, whether supporting Greear or Hemphill, speaks with grace and civility, discussing issues in a Christian manner;
- Pray that Southern Baptists will leave Dallas unified and revived.
— Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.