Simpsonville pastor named SCBC president-elect; first African-American president takes office

Messengers to the 200th annual meeting of the South Carolina Baptist Convention elected a Simpsonville pastor as president-elect, approved a $26.5 million Cooperative Program budget, and adopted a resolution affirming churches that also identify as Great Commission Baptists.

In an abbreviated, one-day session Nov. 10 at the historic First Baptist Church of Columbia, messengers also passed the gavel to Alex Sands, the state convention’s first African-American president. Sands, pastor of Kingdom Life Church in Simpsonville, for 17 years, was elected last year to lead South Carolina Baptists in 2021, when the annual meeting convenes again at Columbia First to officially observe its 200th anniversary.

Under the theme “Legacy,” SCBC President Josh Powell, senior pastor of Lake Murray Baptist Church, convened this year’s meeting, which drew 482 registered messengers under pandemic conditions.

In his address to messengers, Executive Director-Treasurer Gary Hollingsworth urged South Carolina Baptists to seek the Lord in the current time of chaos and disruption, like Isaiah saw in the year of King Uzziah’s death. “Because we are choosing to see the Lord,” Hollingsworth said, “our eyes are going to be fixed upward and outward over the coming years.”

The SCBC staff, he added, is focused on seeing more lost people saved, more saved people making disciples, and more resources committed to the Great Commission as they come alongside South Carolina Baptist churches.


Wayne Bray, senior pastor of First Baptist Church, Simpsonville, was elected by acclamation as president-elect. He will lead the SCBC in 2022.

In nominating Bray, Chad Campbell, pastor of Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church in Easley, described Bray as “a man who believes and builds unity” across generational, racial and methodological lines. Calling him “a staunch supporter” of the Cooperative Program, Campbell highlighted that Simpsonville First is now the No. 2 church in the state in total CP giving, contributing more than a half million dollars this past year. “He is a committed man, a cooperating man, a convention man, and a Christian man,” Campbell added.

Other officers, also elected by acclamation, include:

  • First vice president: Ron Henderson, pastor of Mt. Nebo Baptist Church, Spartanburg.
  • Second vice president: John Goudelock, associate pastor of Living Water Baptist Church, Longs.
  • Recording Secretary: Kelli Funderburk, member of Lakeview Baptist Church, Hartsville.
  • Registration Secretary: Keith Lancaster, director of missions, Ridge Baptist Association.


Messengers approved a Cooperative Program operating budget for 2021 of $26.5 million, a decrease of $1.5 million from the preceding year.

The budget commits 45.5 percent, or $12,057,500, to Southern Baptist Convention causes and 54.5 percent, or $14,442,500, to the South Carolina Baptist Convention and its seven ministry partners. Of the SBC portion, $6,668,460, or 25.16 percent, will be earmarked for international missions.


Working with an organization study committee charged with examining the convention’s structure to make its procedures more efficient, the SCBC Bylaws Committee presented the first reading of several amendments to be considered at next year’s meeting. The study committee, authorized by messengers at the 2019 annual meeting, was appointed by then-President Bryant Sims.

The proposed changes streamline convention operations by eliminating the office of Second Vice President, and reducing the number of members of both the Executive Board and Nominations Committee by approximately half. The Executive Board’s membership would be reduced from 72 to 29 members, who will serve four-year rotating terms, with the sitting SCBC president being a voting member. The Nominations Committee would be comprised of 24 members — two from each of the state’s 12 geographic regions — instead of the current 42 members.

Other amendments call for:

  • Restructuring the Order of Business Committee to be comprised of elected convention officers working with the Executive Office.
  • Reducing the size and term of service of the Christian Life and Public Affairs Committee from 10 to nine members, serving a three-year term.
  • Reducing the size and term of service of the Resolutions Committee from seven members to six members, serving a three-year term.


Messengers approved five resolutions, including statements on sexual and gender ethics, biblical justice and race relations, and use of the “Great Commission Baptists” identifier. In addition to appreciation for the host church, other adopted resolutions addressed:


Encouraging South Carolina Baptists to renew a commitment to pray, give and go in partnership with the International Mission Board, messengers challenged individuals and churches to increase support for the IMB financially and by raising and sending 500 additional missionaries by 2025.


While reaffirming their belief that sexual behaviors which are premarital, extramarital or same-sex in nature are contrary to God’s design and will, messengers advocated expressing these convictions with respect for the intrinsic worth and dignity of every human being and with genuine love for those who do not share our biblical worldview.


Calling on South Carolina Baptists to multiply efforts in their communities to intentionally reach across racial and ethnic boundaries, messengers encouraged establishing new relationships, promoting improved understanding between races, building genuine friendships and seeking mutually beneficial ministry relationships. While expressing a commitment to eradicating racism, they also expressed appreciation and commitment to praying for members of law enforcement who carry out their duties with integrity, courage, and selflessness.


Stating their belief that the descriptor of Great Commission Baptists represents the mission of the state convention, messengers expressed support for churches that choose to use the descriptor. The resolution noted that messengers to the 2012 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting had approved a motion that affirmed churches, entities, and organizations which desire to use a descriptor other than Southern Baptist in using Great Commission Baptists.


The Christian Life and Public Affairs Committee presented the 2020 E.A. McDowell Award to Pattie Kelly of Lake Bowen Baptist Church in Inman. Kelly founded PK Outreach in Inman, a ministry that helps those on the border of homelessness and hopelessness.

Other award recipients included Rock Hill Dream Center Church, led by Pastor Paul Crosby, 2020 Impact Your World Award; and Rep. John McCravey of Greenwood, Public Servant Award.

Joe Mack, who retired this year after serving as the convention’s liaison to the CLPAC for more than 20 years, received a Lifetime Achievement Award. Since 1997, Mack has championed traditional family values, defined church rights and monitored trends in education, expressing the Baptist viewpoint among members of the South Carolina General Assembly.


Kevin Smith, executive director of the Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network, gave an impassioned appeal for Christian unity during the morning session.

Exhorting Baptists to “live worthy of the calling that God has given us,” Smith emphasized that a Christian’s life should be marked by humility, gentleness, patience and forbearance. “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” for the sake of the gospel, Smith urged. “In other words, don’t mess it up!”

Other keynote speakers were Steve Ellis, an affinity group leader for the International Mission Board, and Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.