Here is my completely subjective list of the top Southern Baptist news stories of 2016. Presumably, all of our colleagues will be occupied with Christmas gaiety and not make news between now and the end of the year. The rankings are meant to be generally taken.
1. Russell Moore’s strident opposition to Donald Trump and reaction from some segments of the SBC
The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission CEO, Russell Moore, was a heavy critic of Donald Trump. Some segments of the SBC objected to what was seen as imbalance in his anti-Trump. One mid-level SBC personage spoke of defunding. Others called for investigation.
2. International Mission Board completes personnel reductions. All missionary resignations were voluntary.
The IMB finished the several-phase program of personnel reductions and is on a more solid financial footing than they have been in years. No overseas workers were fired. All who left did so voluntarily, although some critics of IMB and CEO David Platt ignore this and often use “f” word relative to the reductions.
3. IMB has a record Lottie Moon offering for 2016.
Response to the IMB’s personnel reduction plans was seen in the record offering of the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions. The offering total was $165.8 million, over $11 million greater than the previous record.
4. J. D. Greear withdraws from close SBC president election
After the first vote for SBC president was very close between Steve Gaines and J. D. Greear, Greear withdrew as an expression of unity. Gaines was only a few votes from a majority. Greear set the tone by his gracious and selfless act. Is is unreasonable to hope that this will be imitated? I hope not.
5. Steve Gaines elected as SBC president.
…by acclamation following Greear’s withdrawal. Gaines’ church, Bellevue Baptist in Cordova (formerly Memphis), TN now can note that since 1927, every pastor of their church has served as SBC president: R. G. Lee, Ramsey Pollard, Adrian Rogers, and now Steve Gaines.
6. Dave Miller is elected as president of the SBC Pastor’s Conference
Miller’s election is noteworthy because it was an authentic grassroots event and because Miller and his collaborators proposed a different format of speakers. Anything that derails the SBC’s celebrity system is healthy in my view and this was a very positive development. We will know in June if the concept was accepted and supported by pastors.
7. Cooperative Program shows a healthy increase for fiscal year.
Our venerable Cooperative Program at the SBC level showed a $6.57 million increase when the fiscal year books were closed on September 30, 2016. This is encouraging and was attributed by Frank Page, Executive Committee CEO, to sacrificial giving by SBC churches and to strategic decisions by some state conventions to reduce the proportion of CP revenues kept in-state. It is not clear if this is a trend but it is good news regardless.
8. Many state conventions vote to move towards a 50/50 split.
Several states continued movement towards dividing the Cooperative Program revenues equally, half for the state convention and half for the Executive Committee. The overall average though is still above 60% for the states and less than 40% for the SBC allocation budget.
9. SBC baptisms and membership are down, again.
One hopes that this doesn’t become un-newsworthy but when the SBC statistical report was announced in June, baptisms were down by more than 10,000 and membership down by more than 200,000.
10. SBC reports number of churches is up.
Despite baptisms and membership both being down, the statistical report showed that the number of churches is up by 294.
Baptist Press usually does a Top Ten story around this time. I reserve the right to change mine in case they include something that I did not remember.
You are welcome to add your own or dispute my list.