Southern Baptists report fresh unity at convention

lifestyle_religionBy Riley Manning

Daily Journal

TUPELO – Area pastors returned from last week’s annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention with renewed focus.

“You had the standard business things you always have, but the main focus was a new desire for revival,” said the Rev. Wes White, pastor of Smithville Baptist Church. “A refreshing, renewing and rekindling of evangelist fire.”

White said the atmosphere at the Baltimore meeting was more familial and united than last year, when divisive issues like Calvinism and the Boy Scouts commanded the discussion.

The Rev. Keith Cochran, pastor of West Jackson Street Baptist Church in Tupelo, agreed.

“It was nice and uneventful,” he said. “Nothing garnered any argument. We were mainly charged with going out and being the church.”

White said the amount of giving from the SBC’s international missions board had increased, but the denomination of some 16 million Americans struggled with a plateau in membership.

“You know we look at the number of baptisms and some of those numbers are alarming,” Cochran said. “But it doesn’t account for Christians being baptized in other denominations. Either way, we have got to be reaching people.”

The convention made no move to suggest a change to its positions on homosexuality. On June 10, a resolution was overwhelmingly passed opposing the idea of transgendered identity and affirming the divine creation of “two distinct and complementary sexes.”

In addition, the convention elected a new president, the Rev. Ronnie Floyd, pastor of Cross Church, a megachurch in northwest Arkansas.

“I like him,” Cochran said. “He brings a really creative element to the table. A lot of things he’s done with his church have been pretty revolutionary. I’m looking forward to his leadership as an outside-of-the-box thinker.”

White said the Rev. Fred Luter, former president and the convention’s first African-American president elected in 2012, had left the convention primed for action.

“Luter brought a real unity to the denomination, and I think his tenure will be a real asset to (Floyd).”

Returning home, Cochran said Luter’s marching orders fell on the personal side.

“The idea is if I’m personally seeking God, that’s going to affect other people around me to where they seek the presence of God, not me,” he said.

riley.manning@journalinc.com