By Riley Manning/NEMS Daily Journal
The Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting had no shortage of divisive issues last week, but local pastors and Convention leaders left with a renewed sense of unity.
The Rev. Keith Cochran, newly minted pastor of West Jackson Street Baptist Church, said his first trip to the June 11-12 meeting in Houston, Texas, was encouraging.
“I was really happy that the biggest focus of the convention was the great commission,” he said. “It’s easy to bicker over membership numbers or the finer points of our theology so that it can be distracting.”
Cochran said the SBC acknowledged it has made a bad habit of telling people what they are against far more than telling people what they are for. By drawing so many lines in the sand, the SBC gained the public perception of an out-group in the Christian world as well as the political arena.
“In the 1970s there was a big conservative resurgence that happened to coincide with the Republican Party,” he said. “The issues the SBC had a stance on were Biblical issues, it’s just that those issues have been politicized.”
Dr. Marc Howard, director of missions for the Lee and Itawamba Baptist Associations, agreed it was time for the SBC to overcome a combative mind-set.
“One of the speakers gave a great analogy,” he said. “He said when soldiers are trained to fight and they run out of enemies to battle, they end up fighting each other in the barracks.”
A renewed focus on being positive “commission people,” he said, would help correct image problems as well as membership decline. When the floor was opened for recommendations, the SBC was urged to address the sex traffic epidemic, lack of male role models in communities, and planting churches in areas of need.
As for Calvinism, Cochran said the Conference bid pastors to peacefully agree to disagree. Scripturally, notions of predestination and free agency are both present.
“In Romans, the Bible says ‘For those God foreknew, he also predestined,’ but in John it says ‘whosoever’ believes will have eternal live,” he said.