ST. LOUIS (BP) – Questions were posed to four Southern Baptist Convention entity presidents during time allotted for messengers’ questions during the leaders’ respective reports at the June 14-15 SBC annual meeting in St. Louis.
Following are accounts of the four entity presidents’ responses. Not all entity presidents were asked questions.
North American Mission Board
Allen Calkins, pastor of First Baptist Church in Gray Summit, Mo., asked Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board: “Given the fact that NAMB is not part of the prime directive of the Southern Baptist Convention, which is international missions, why should NAMB continue to be spending the amount of Cooperative Program funds it does on domestic projects that are also being carried out by state conventions and Baptist associations? Can we still afford to spend Cooperative Program dollars on these redundant efforts when we have had to lay off over a thousand missionaries?”
Ezell answered: “As [IMB President] David Platt would tell you, 100 percent of the funding of the International Mission Board comes from North America. The stronger our churches are, and the more churches we have in North America, the stronger our ability is to go to into the uttermost parts of the earth. It is both/and, not either/or. We believe, and we can see, even from the class of 2010 –when I say class I mean just the churches that were planted in 2010 – last year gave over $3 million to missions. A state exec [executive director] in a Northeast state recently told me that if we do not continue to plant churches we will not exist. The world has come to us. We have to be strong all over North America, not only to reach this country, but it is imperative if we are going to reach the world. If our churches go down — and we are decreasing, we lose 800 to 1,000 churches as an SBC convention every year – [we will go down]. We are trying to plant 1,200 churches just to keep breaking even. We believe the stronger North America is, the stronger everything will be as we try to reach the world for Christ.”
Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission
Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, responded to two questions at the end of his report.
John Wofford, pastor of Armorel Baptist Church in Blytheville, Ark., questioned how someone in the SBC “can support the defending of rights for Muslims to construct mosques in the United States when these people threaten our very way of existence as Christians in America.”
Moore responded that it is not a difficult issue. “What it means to be a Baptist is to support soul freedom for everybody,” the ERLC leader said.
“[W]hen you have a government that says, ‘We can decide whether or not a house of worship is being constructed based upon the theological beliefs of that house of worship,’ then there are going to be Southern Baptist churches in San Francisco and New York and throughout this country who are not going to be able to build,” Moore said.
The greater issue is not self-interest but the Gospel of Jesus, he told the convention.
Having a government with “the power to outlaw people from assembling together” and confessing their beliefs “does not turn people into Christians,” Moore said. “That turns people into pretend Christians, and it sends them straight to hell. The answer to Islam is not government power. The answer is the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the new birth that comes from that.”
In May, the ERLC and the International Mission Board defended religious freedom for all in a friend-of-the-court brief in support of a Muslim community in New Jersey that has been prevented by the local government from building a mosque.
In the second question posed to Moore during his report, Jason Dees, senior pastor of Valleydale Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., asked how the ERLC is engaged in foster care and adoption issues.
The ERLC is fighting for religious liberty for Christian organizations to serve orphans according to their convictions, Moore said. What pastors and other leaders should say is: “Everybody in the body of Christ is called to minister to widows and orphans in their distress – everybody,” Moore said. “We all have a [role] to play in this. We simply have to have pastors and leaders who are standing up and putting it on the table.”