By Van Welton
Ready to Make History . . .
My bags are not yet packed. As is my usual custom, I’ll wait until the last minute and toss a few things in. I always forget some items but figure I can pick up whatever I need on the road. My wife has been planning and organizing for weeks and my approach always stresses her out. She’ll be okay after we leave.
My delay should not be mistaken for a lack of enthusiasm. I am excited! On Saturday, we will leave for New Orleans, where we will attend the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).
Messengers from all over the nation, representing over 40,000 Southern Baptist churches will converge on the Big Easy for a week of meetings, spiritual renewal and fellowship. It is an annual gathering, whose location was chosen years in advance and its messengers take very seriously their obligation to attend and participate.
Unknown to many, the SBC legally exists only during its annual gathering. Although SBC churches, which are completely autonomous, minister throughout the year, the actual convention and the opportunity to conduct business and chart the course of the convention is limited to two days a year.
It is fascinating to see how the messengers will accomplish so much in such a little time. In between musical presentations and ministry testimonies, business sessions are opened for anyone to participate.
Throughout the convention center, microphones will be placed among the 20,000 expected messengers. Anyone may introduce a motion or resolution for the convention’s consideration. If you are a member of a Southern Baptist church, not matter what size or from what location, you have the right to voice your opinion on issues facing the convention. The annual meeting is one of the last great expressions of congregational rule and Southern Baptists treasure it.
This year the convention will discuss three issues of historical significance. Messengers will decide on a potential name change that would better reflect the cultural and inclusive nature of the convention. Second, the messengers will elect an African American as its president, the first in its 167 year history. And third, the convention will introduce new and exciting ministry tools that will impact each and every community.
12 years ago, I attended the SBC in Orlando, Florida and joined thousands of other theological conservatives to adopt the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message. Casting our votes that day, we all sensed that we were making history. We were returning the convention to its conservative roots, a refocus on the inerrancy of Scripture. It was a landmark moment in history that impacted every Southern Baptist church and member.
This year, the SBC will make history again. The impact of the convention will be no less momentous. I can’t wait to go and be a part of the event. I look forward to sharing the experience with you.
Rev. Van Welton, Esq. is the Senior Pastor of Apple Valley Baptist Church in Berryville. Throughout his trip, Pastor Welton will offer first person accounts of the Southern Baptist Convention.