We are now just 21 days from the start of 2019 Southern Baptist Convention. You know by now that the theme established by SBC President JD Greear is Gospel Above All from 1 Corinthians 15:3-4. I am looking forward to being in Birmingham for a couple of days as we hear reports, consider recommendations, and celebrate what God is doing in and through our convention of churches.
The schedule for this year’s annual meeting was released a few weeks ago. You can find it on the annual meeting website or at Baptist Press. The proposed schedule must be approved by the messengers once we arrive in Birmingham, but we saw last year just how difficult it is to amend the schedule from the floor. That is probably a good thing.
There are a couple of things that stand out about this year’s schedule.
First is a panel on racial reconciliation called Undivided: Your Church and Racial Reconciliation. This will take place on Tuesday afternoon at 3:20pm and is scheduled to last for 30 minutes. We do not yet know who will be participating in the panel, or at least I haven’t seen a list of names. But there is not doubt that this is an important topic for us as Southern Baptists. I’ll be sure to be in my seat for this.
Second is the President’s Sexual Abuse Study Group presentation. The mishandling of sexual abuse has been a major issue in our Southern Baptist Convention over the past year. This study group was formed prior to the series of stories published in the Houston Chronicle, but the importance of this group’s work is even clearer in the wake of that report. We’ve heard some limited things from Greear and the ERLC on the issue, but it will certainly to be interesting to see what is included in this presentation.
This year’s schedule does have some positive changes in it as well.
One positive change is the longer lunch break on Tuesday. The Tuesday lunch break goes from an hour and a half last year to two hours and fifteen minutes this year. This will provide messengers not attending one of the on site luncheons enough time to get to a restaurant and back.
The most important change to this year’s schedule is the new time for the IMB’s Mission Sending Celebration. It has been moved to Tuesday afternoon at 4:20pm. This celebration has been scheduled on Tuesday night for the past few years. The problem with that time slot is that people are either tired and ready for bed or they have other late night commitments that they need to get to. The participation in this commissioning service has been embarrassing when it goes late into the night due to long-winded preachers who don’t stay within their allotted time. Where’s Craig Culbreth, A.K.A. “The Enforcer,” when you need him?
When you look at this year’s schedule, you will notice that there is no Tuesday evening session this year. While I am glad that the Mission Sending Celebration will not be pushed to the wee hours of the night, I am mostly neutral on the absence of a Tuesday evening session. If there was one, I would likely be present. Since there won’t be one, I’ll find something else to do. This has been touted as a wonderful change, but it really doesn’t matter to me.
I do have one gripe with this year’s schedule. Last year the closing prayer was scheduled for 4:55pm on Wednesday. The last time when messengers would need to vote on something was 2:55pm on Wednesday during the time allotted for previously scheduled business. This year the convention doesn’t conclude with prayer until 6:15pm on Wednesday. The Committee on Resolutions Report is scheduled for 4:40pm with previously scheduled business following that at 5:20pm and the election of the convention preacher at 5:40pm.
I realize that the convention doesn’t revolve around me. I also know that I am responsible for arranging my travel plans in accordance with the schedule. But based on last year’s schedule, I planned my flight out of Birmingham for 5:45pm on Wednesday. I knew I would not be there for the closing prayer, but I figured I would have plenty of time to get to the airport after all the voting matters were over. Had the schedule been published before I made my travel arrangements, I would have chosen a later flight. As I said earlier, I don’t have a problem with changing the schedule. But significant changes that will affect people’s travel plans should be communicated much earlier than a month and a half before the convention.
Overall, I’m looking forward to a great couple of days in Birmingham. The countdown is on. See you soon!