In fewer than three weeks at our annual convention in Dallas, June 12-13, Southern Baptists will elect a new president. The two announced candidates are Dr. J.D. Greear and Dr. Kenneth Hemphill.
J.D. Greear ran two years ago and lost to the current SBC president Steve Gaines in a close and controversial decision. After his loss, some suggested that J.D. should be elected without opposition this year because he was such a good sport last time. He was a good sport. Almost every losing candidate across the decades of Southern Baptist life has been gracious in defeat.
However, it was never the practice, or even the suggestion that they automatically would be the president the next rotation.
We do not elect two presidents at a time. Things change a lot in two years, as they have this last two. Any group of Baptists or even one Baptist may nominate whom they will for president. But no one can confer the office on someone. It is not our practice and should not be. Only the messengers in session can elect a president. So, again this year, the average Baptist messenger will exercise the right to decide who will lead the convention.
I am supporting Ken Hemphill for the office. It is not because of personalities. I like both of them. They are both honorable Southern Baptist ministers, faithful family men, authors, excellent local church leaders, highly educated, articulate, winsome, passionate, evangelistic, mission-minded followers of Christ. And it has nothing to do with age. Both men have suitable life experience and vigor and energy to lead, and to influence Southern Baptists of all ages. (By the way, I am more than tired of identity politics whether its race, gender, age, or geography. It is foolish, divisive, and unbiblical).
I made my choice to support Ken because he stands for things that are crucial to Southern Baptist health and vitality. And he has not had to modify anything to be qualified to be SBC president. He has believed and practiced these things for years.
- Ken is an unabashed Southern Baptist. It is not an incidental or unimportant relationship for him. We are his spiritual family. He is thankful for how God is using us and is proud to claim us.
- Ken is a lifetime champion for the Cooperative Program in word and deed. As president, he will not be in the awkward position of challenging the churches to support something he has not sacrificially supported.
- Ken values churches of every size. He has pastored a mega church but he knows Southern Baptists cannot reach their potential just by depending on the largest churches alone. God has used him across the years to lead many, many congregations of every size to revitalization. (His seminary congregation with a beginning attendance of 40 baptized 50 people the eighteen months he served them).
- Ken affirms the pivotal role of our Southern Baptist infrastructure and ministries at every level – associational, state, and national. He does not believe local associations and state conventions are impediments that need to be discarded or defunded, but instruments for Kingdom accomplishment that need to be generously supported and utilized.
- Ken believes that God loves everyone, that Jesus died for the sins of every person, and that anyone can repent and come to faith in Christ. He is absolutely clear on the “unlimited” nature of the Gospel. He is committed to keeping us out of theological speculation that drains our practice of and enthusiasm for evangelism.
- Ken is committed to advancing the cause of racial reconciliation which Southern Baptists began decades ago, and to do it in a way that unites us rather than divides us.
- Ken does not believe Southern Baptists are perfect but he has confidence in their convictions and their values when it comes to political and cultural issues. Rather than lecture the churches, he believes Southern Baptist leaders ought to be responsive and responsible to the people as we endeavor to be salt and light.
God has given Southern Baptists a statesman in Dr. Ken Hemphill. And God has given Ken and Paula the leading to allow his name to be put in nomination. I encourage you to join me in voting for Ken Hemphill for President of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Please, pray for Dr. Gaines as he finishes his second term. I thank God for Steve’s excellent leadership. Pray for every aspect of the meeting.
And, remember: the candidate with the most messengers voting for him in Dallas will be the next president. This is the time for rank and file Southern Baptist pastors and people to show up and select the man they believe God wants to be our leader. Let’s do our duty.
David E. Hankins
David E. Hankins is executive director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention. This editorial first appeared on his blog.