OLMSTEAD, Ky. (KT) – The president of the second-oldest Southern Baptist seminary spent more than 90 minutes answering the questions of Kentucky Baptist pastors and church leaders at a town hall-style forum on Sunday night at Dripping Spring Baptist Church in Logan County.
Pastor Jeff Noffsinger invited Adam Greenway, the ninth president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, to speak about the current state of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) and reflect on this summer’s SBC Annual Meeting in Nashville.
“It’s like we’ve been hit by a superstorm,” Greenway said. He pointed to the many ways the COVID pandemic has affected society including the church. Greenway believes it will be a long time before the toll of isolation and separation caused by the pandemic will be known.
He said at least some of the turbulence surrounding this summer’s Southern Baptist Convention was caused by the cancellation of the meeting in 2020. “For the first time in 75 years since the end of World War II, we were not able to have an in-person Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting,” Greenway said, “I think that sort of exacerbated or highlighted some tensions, if you will, that were there.”
Greenway pointed to the wrong use of social media as another cause of tensions surrounding the meeting. “Social media has the opportunity to inflame tensions and to exacerbate emotions, oftentimes not based upon fully accurate and complete information. And, unfortunately, today one of the ways by which people are choosing to make names for themselves and to generate recognition for themselves is by being combative, divisive, antagonistic, and having the kind of spirit that, again, is the antithesis of James 1:19.”
A repeated theme of the meeting was cooperative missions. “I believe very firmly that Christ's commission to his church is to do everything we can to reach the world with the life-changing gospel of Jesus Christ, and I still believe that happens more effectively, more exponentially, when churches cooperate together to do what no one church could do in and of itself,” Greenway said.
Greenway said some of the tension should be viewed as a healthy sign. “Some of the tension that we see today is natural because we've got people from very diverse backgrounds, very diverse cultures. Southern Baptists are now a more diverse constituency than perhaps any time in our history. That is a sign of strength.”
A number of participants asked Greenway about issues being faced by Southern Baptists. He was asked specifically if he believed there was a liberal drift in the SBC. “I do not believe that to be the case. I think if that were the case, grassroots Southern Baptists would rise up and stop it. And I can assure you, in terms of my stewardship, there is no liberal drift,” he said.
Noffsinger said when he asked Greenway to join the meeting via Zoom, he offered to come in person. This reinforced his belief in the importance of cooperative mission work. “We all cooperate collectively to do what we could not do alone as effectively. And I am thankful for that.”