DALLAS (BP) -- The Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee has disfellowshiped a Georgia church for alleged "intentional discriminatory acts toward individuals based solely on the color of their skin," according to a recommendation adopted at the EC's June 11 meeting in Dallas.
The EC also honored R. Albert Mohler Jr. for serving 25 years as president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, elected a slate of officers led by chairman Mike Stone of Georgia and heard a report from the EC presidential search committee.
'Standing against racism & prejudice'
In disfellowshiping Raleigh White Baptist Church of Albany, Ga., the EC acted ad interim on behalf of the Southern Baptist Convention, stating the congregation "does not presently meet the definition of a cooperating church under Article III [of the SBC Constitution] and that messengers from the church should not be seated at meetings of the Convention until such time as the church declares repentance for its actions and takes appropriate steps to restore its fellowship with the Convention."
Outgoing EC chairman Stephen Rummage told Baptist Press, "Southern Baptists are not only on record but strongly committed to standing against racism and prejudice. And if a church stands for racism and prejudice, then they do not stand with us, and we do not stand with them."
According to written background material provided to EC members, Raleigh White -- a small congregation comprising predominantly senior adults -- invited a predominantly African American congregation about three years ago to share its space but subsequently experienced conflict with that congregation, New Seasons Church of Albany.
The conflict "reportedly came to a head in March" after two years of escalating tension, when New Seasons visitors inadvertently arrived at the shared facility during Raleigh White's homecoming service and were turned away, according to the background materials. "A daughter of one of the visitors asked to use the restroom and reportedly was told she could use the convenience store down the road."
The Georgia Baptist Mission Board (GBMB) and the local Mallary Baptist Association both tried unsuccessfully to mediate the conflict between Raleigh White and New Seasons, according to the background material. The Mallary Association withdrew fellowship from Raleigh White April 3, and the GBMB sent a letter April 9 informing the congregation it was no longer affiliated with the Georgia Baptist Convention.
An EC staff member contacted individuals aware of the situation at Raleigh White, the EC's Administrative Committee was told during a June 11 meeting. Those contacts confirmed reports about Raleigh White from the association and the GBMB.
Disfellowshiping Raleigh White "was the right decision for us to make," said Rummage, pastor of Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Brandon, Fla., but "it is always a sad decision to make when we withdraw fellowship from a church."
Mohler 'visionary & effective'
In the resolution of appreciation for Mohler, the Executive Committee noted that upon taking office at Southern he restored the seminary to its "founders' commitment of a confessional school based on fidelity to the Bible as God's inerrant word."
The resolution noted that Mohler "courageously withstood fierce opposition and sometimes deeply personal attacks against himself and his family by those determined to see his vision for Southern Seminary unfulfilled."
Mohler has played a strategic role of leadership in the SBC, the resolution said, as longtime president of the Council of Seminary Presidents and by serving on key task forces and committees, including two Baptist Faith and Message study committees (1998 and 2000).
The resolution said Mohler is "widely recognized as an innovative communicator of evangelical convictions to the broader American society through his extensive writing ministry," through his active social media presence and as a frequent theological commentator across media platforms.
During Mohler's tenure at Southern, the seminary has conferred degrees on more than 11,000 graduates, the resolution stated, and Mohler "continues to train generations of Southern Baptist pastors, missionaries, and church leaders; equip multitudes of Christians to think through cultural issues with a Christian worldview; and faithfully represent Southern Baptists in the public square."
The Executive Committee commended Mohler "for his steadfast commitment to God's Word, his devotion to the Great Commission" and his 25 years of "visionary and effective leadership" at Southern "on behalf of all Southern Baptists for the advancement of the Kingdom of God."
Election of officers
Stone, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Blackshear, Ga., won 51 percent of the vote for EC chairman and was nominated by SBC recording secretary John Yeats, executive director of the Missouri Baptist Convention. Kent Choate, people development pastor at Foundation Church in Sapulpa, Okla., and Joe Knott, an attorney in Raleigh, N.C., also were nominated.
Rolland Slade, pastor of Meridian Baptist Church in El Cajon, Calif., was elected vice chairman, and Stacy Bramlett, a member of First Baptist Church in Collierville, Tenn., was reelected secretary, both as lone nominees for the positions.
Tom Tucker, pastor of Sisk Memorial Baptist Church in Fort Mill, S.C., was elected chairman of the Administrative Committee; Steve Goss, president of Mercy Clinic in northwest Arkansas, was elected chairman of the Business and Finance Committee; and Hoyt Savage, pastor of Foothills Baptist Church in Las Vegas, was elected chairman of the Cooperative Program Committee.
'Careful & deliberate' presidential search
The EC's presidential search committee, Rummage reported, has surveyed EC members and other Southern Baptist leaders to develop a profile of the person who will succeed Frank S. Page, who resigned in March as EC president.
The search committee has not set a date for completion of its work and "will be careful and deliberate," said Rummage, a member of the seven-person search team. "We are committed not to rush this process unduly."
The search committee held a meeting immediately following the EC's plenary session. Stone joined the committee as an ex officio member based on his election as chairman.
In other action, the EC:
-- heard from SBC president Steve Gaines, who read Philippians 2:5-11 and told EC members that "in everything we have experienced in the last two months, I want to remind you of something: Jesus is Lord."
Jesus was Lord before He came to Earth, He was Lord while He was on Earth, He was Lord on the cross, He is Lord now and He will be Lord when He comes back, Gaines said.
"Now put your day in perspective. Now put this convention in perspective. Now put your life in perspective," Gaines said. "... You are never alone if you know Jesus."
-- Heard a report from interim EC president D. August Boto that the District of Columbia Baptist Convention received in May "a formal notification letter" that the SBC had severed its relationship with the DCBC over the DC convention's failure to take action regarding a cooperating church that called a legally-married lesbian couple as co-pastors.
The church at issue, Calvary Baptist Church in Washington, does not cooperate with the SBC.
The EC voted Feb. 20 to give the DCBC 90 days to "secure" the "removal of any churches from its fellowship that have demonstrated a faith or practice affirming, approving or endorsing homosexual behavior."
-- Adopted a recommendation stating it has "reviewed numerous strategies" to help churches in decline and, as a result, commends "church revitalization efforts" by local churches, "ministry affinity groups," Baptist associations, state conventions, ethnic minority fellowships, the North American Mission Board and other SBC entities.
-- Recognized six members for completing their terms of service: Wayne Myrick and Ron Madison of Alabama, Dan Summerlin of Kentucky and David Hamilton of Mississippi, all 2010-18; Becky Illingsworth of Texas, 2011-18; and Terry Montgomery of North Carolina, 2012-18.
-- Adopted the EC's 2018 annual report to the convention printed in the Book of Reports.
-- approved the employment of Batts, Morrison, Wales & Lee as auditor for the Executive Committee for three years beginning with the fiscal year 2017-18.
-- received for review the 2018-19 SBC Comprehensive Budget, which includes statements of income and operating budget summaries for all SBC entities.