This year we will celebrate the 199th year of the South Carolina Baptist Convention. This will be our 200th annual meeting. When we look at the history of denominations, this is really an amazing feat that testifies to the grace and mercy of the Lord. As we come together with the theme of “Legacy,” it is appropriate for us to consider how this year will be historic in its own right.
The first meeting of the South Carolina Baptist Convention was held for four days in December in 1821. There were nine delegates from three different associations present at First Baptist Church of Columbia. It is a testimony to God’s grace that we will meet again, almost 200 years later, at First Baptist Church of Columbia. We are so thankful to the leadership of Pastor Wes Church and the members of First Baptist, Columbia for their graciousness and hospitality. However, we are even more thankful to the Lord that the church is still proclaiming the good news of our Savior.
Throughout the years of the convention, the meeting itself has taken on different schedules. In the beginning, the convention met over four days. In recent years, the convention has met regularly over two days. While the thought of cancellation has been considered several times, only once in its history did cancellation seem imminent. In 1918, the Spanish influenza pandemic hit South Carolina hard. The convention was to be held in Darlington that year, but the area had been ravaged with illness. The convention was not able to meet in November as it had traditionally done. Knowing that the business of the convention was vital for the work to continue, convention leadership decided that they could not cancel, but had to meet. So the 1918 meeting was postponed until January 1919 and was again held at First Baptist, Columbia.
This year, there was a very real threat that the annual meeting may need to be cancelled because, just like 1918, we find ourselves again in the midst of a national pandemic. As the leadership of the SCBC prayerfully considered our decision, we decided that it was important for our convention to meet. After investigating every option, and with all necessary precautions in place, we decided that it was quite possible for us to gather at First Baptist, Columbia. However, for the first time in our history (that I can find), we will be meeting for one day only. It will be a full day, but I believe a great day. A day where we will gather to praise the Lord for all that He has done in our state and beyond. A historic day that you will not want to miss as we celebrate the legacy of cooperation, missions, and education in South Carolina.
Finally, the most important thing that will happen at this annual meeting will take place in the evening session. At the end of every meeting, the next president is introduced. The president is then brought to the stage to speak to the coming year and the emphasis that they will be leading with. However, this year it will not be a simple formality. This year we will be passing the gavel of leadership to my good friend, Pastor Alex Sands. I am very excited to follow Alex’s leadership. He is one of the most faithful pastors and qualified leaders in our state. More than that, on Tuesday night, Nov. 10, Pastor Alex Sands will become the first African-American to be president of the South Carolina Baptist Convention in our 200-year history, and 200 years is long enough.
Our history on race in our convention is well documented. It is a stain on our past that cannot be denied. While we can acknowledge the past and lament the actions of our forefathers on this issue, we cannot change it. However, we can make sure that we never fall prey to that same past sinfulness, and we seek to move forward defined by the Great Commandment and focused on the Great Commission.
You do not want to miss this historic meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2020, at First Baptist Church of Columbia, as we celebrate the grace of God together!
— Josh Powell is president of the South Carolina Baptist Convention and senior pastor of Lake Murray Baptist Church.