By Will Hall, Message Editor
Raleigh, N.C. (LBM)—J.D. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., and president of the Southern Baptist Convention, has named the 68 members of the Committee on Committees.
Greear praised the diverse makeup of the committee, highlighting groups he said were underrepresented in the past that are well-represented by his nominees, noting the large number of women and racial minorities in the group along with other profile characteristics.
But Greear did not share any information about the possible theological leanings of his nominees — an issue of ongoing discussion in many Southern Baptist circles, and a significant one during his campaign for SBC president.
However, the Baptist Message looked at public sources of information, including church web pages and online documents, Facebook, LinkedIn, self-posted biographies and personal websites and found two distinct characteristics among Greear’s nominees: a large number of ties to Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and, a higher percentage of elder-rule/elder-led church structures or other Reformed theology associations than estimated for the rest of the SBC.
BY THE NUMBERS
With regard to female representation, the latest U.S. Census data shows a population split of 49.2 percent males and 50.8 percent females. But across the Convention this ratio likely skews higher to females, 60 percent as opposed to 40 percent males, based on multiple church studies.
Meanwhile, the Committee on Committees has 45 men (66 percent) and 23 women (34 percent), according to the information Greear released to Baptist Press.
SBC congregations are about 80 percent white and 20 percent ethnic (with respect to how they describe themselves pertaining to race and ethnicity). However, in the United States the racial composition is 61 percent White (non-Hispanic), 18 percent Hispanic, 13 percent Black, 6 percent Asian and 2 percent other ethnic identities.
Greear reported his nominees included: 34 Whites (50 percent), 10 Hispanics (15 percent), 16 African Americans (24 percent), 5 Asians (7 percent) and 3 people identified as “other/multi-ethnic” (4 percent).
As for the sizes of the 68 congregations represented on the Committee on Committees, Greear indicated 24 percent averaged fewer than 100 in attendance, another 27 percent hosted 100-250 for corporate service, and 49 percent (nearly half) had 251 or more worshipers each week.
The average attendance for the group was 597, per Greear.
But among all SBC congregations, only an estimated five percent have 500 or more in Sunday worship services, data from the Annual Church Profile shows.
Moreover, more than 80 percent of SBC churches average fewer than 150 weekly worshipers, as reported by the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
Greear said that among committee members’ churches the average number of yearly baptisms was 26 (about 4.4 percent of the 597 average worship attendance for the group).
In contrast, all SBC churches combined baptized about 4.8 percent of the average worship attendance for the Convention (5.5 percent based on revised LifeWay estimates that account for non-reporting congregations).
As for giving through the Cooperative Program, the nominees’ churches averaged contributions of 7.66 percent of undesignated receipts, according to Greear. The CP giving average for all SBC congregations was about 4.86 percent, as stated in the 2018 SBC Annual.
TIES THAT BIND
Out of the 68 committee members, seminary affiliations were found for 50 – with 39 nominees connected with SBC seminaries. In the case of an individual or the person’s pastor having earned multiple degrees from the same institution or holding degrees from multiple seminaries, only the highest degree earned or underway was counted for the purposes of the computations that follow.
Of the 39 committee members associated with one of the six SBC seminaries, 15 had ties to Southern Baptist Theological Seminary – almost double the next highest number, eight, connected with Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Seven identified with Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, four with Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, three with New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and two with Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary (now known as Gateway Seminary).
Moreover, 21 committee members or their pastors or congregations were tied to Calvinism through church governance (elder-led or elder-ruled in practice or in the statement of beliefs) or by aligning with one or more groups that identify themselves as exclusively Reformed, such as The Gospel Coalition and Acts 29, or are Calvinist leaning like the Pillar Network.
The 31 percent of the committee with Calvinistic ties compares to 10 percent of pastors in the rest of the SBC as determined by LifeWay Research, and is slightly higher than the 30 percent of recent graduates who are Calvinists, also estimated by LifeWay.
Having such high numbers of nominees affiliated with SBTS follows a national trend with SBC entity leadership. Nine of the 13 SBC institutions are led by SBTS graduates, former faculty members or past administrators (Refer to the entity list at the end of this article).
As for the high numbers of elder-ruled or elder-led congregations, Greear’s congregation is led by “directional elders.” Greear also has organizational or personal ties with each of The Gospel Coalition, the Pillar Network and Acts 29.
GREEAR’S HIGH VIEW OF SBC INSTITUTIONS
In the run up to the 2018 SBC presidential vote, Greear explained his reasons for belonging to the SBC in terms of the SBC’s institutions.
Responding to the question, “Why are you in the SBC?” during an interview with The Gospel Coalition, Greear said, “Networks, denominations, which are just really glorified networks, are tools. They are tools for the Kingdom, They are not eternal realities. The church is eternal.
“If it’s dull, you sharpen it. If it gets to the point that it’s no longer helpful to sharpen it, you throw it away and get a new tool,” he said. “But, getting a new tool can be really, really, expensive.”
Quoting Tim Keller, retired pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, Greear went on to explain the symbiosis between movements and institutions and how “they both need each other,” noting in particular that “movements without institutions lack staying power.”
Describing Acts 29 as a movement, Greear said “Mark Driscoll was just, everybody knew him, and he had a bazillion Twitter followers.”
But Greear pointed out that “when you actually had done the number of church planters” Acts 29 was turning out and “compare that like to the SBC, which has the institutions” that just the sheer number of SBC seminary graduates each year was evidence of “the staying power of an institution.”
“I have been very attracted to remain within the SBC because in large part the staying part of the institution when it comes to international missions, their theological training,” Greear continued to explain. “I’m pretty excited about the leadership of most of them right now: Kevin Ezell at the North American Mission Board is fantastic. He’s very humble and approachable. Of course David Platt at the IMB. Russell Moore is a great representative at the ERLC. Our seminaries, several of them are led by people who are willing to do things differently in how they do it.
“We’ve just felt like it’s worth being a part of the conversation with them to keep it going in the right direction,” Greear said.
The Committee on Committees is instrumental to the oversight of Southern Baptists’ cooperative missions and ministries in that it determines the makeup of the Committee on Nominations which selects the trustees for the six seminaries, two mission boards, publishing arm, retirement and health insurance board, and, public policy commission, as well as the standing committee that acts on behalf of the Convention when messengers are not convened to conduct business. The SBC’s women’s ministry is an auxiliary organization that voluntarily relates to the Convention and selects its own leaders.
SBC entities (* entity head has SBTS ties)
Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary (Gateway Seminary)
*Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary
*Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
*Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
*Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
*International Mission Board
*North American Mission Board
*LifeWay Christian Resources
GuideStone Financial Resources
*Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission
*Woman’s Missionary Union
Committee on Committees (listed by state)
AL: Terrence Jones (The Master’s Seminary), Strong Tower (elders), Montgomery; Whitney Alexander (husband & Pastor Mat, SBTS), First, Gadsden.
AK: Dinna Natcher, Filipino Bible, Anchorage; Brian Hicks (Pillar Network), True North, Girdwood.
AZ: Delia Comon (Pastor Noe Garcia, SBTS), North Phoenix (elders), Phoenix; Shannon Jennings (husband & Pastor Josh, SBTS), Aletheia, Sedona.
AR: Matt Hubbard (SWBTS), Immanuel, Little Rock; Courtney Reissig (SBTS, TGC), Midtown (elders, deaconesses), Little Rock.
CA: P.J. Tibayan (SBTS, TGC), Bethany, Bellflower; Shirley Pugh, Reach for the Son, Poway.
CO: Kathy Routt (husband & Pastor Mike, SBTS), Redemption Hill, Colorado Springs; Kenna Moreland (husband & Pastor John, GBTS), Denver Christian Bible (elders), Denver.
FL: Jose Abella (Pillar Network), Providence Road (elders), Miami; Ashlyn Portero (MBTS; info only:Pastor Dean Inserra, SBTS), vice chair, City Church, Tallahassee.
GA: Sky Pratt (SWBTS), chair, Prince Avenue, Bogart; Milton Campbell (Luther Rice), Midtown Bridge (elders), Atlanta.
HI: Arjay Gruspe (SBTS), Pawa’a Community, Honolulu; Sterling Lee (SBTS), First, Pearl City.
IL: Michael Allen (Trinity Intl. Univ.), Uptown, Chicago; David Sutton, Bread of Life Missionary, Chicago.
IN: Reginald Fletcher (MBTS), Living Word, Indianapolis; Alan Scott (SBTS), Oakhill, Evansville.
KS/NE: Jonathan Castillo, First Southern, Topeka, Kan.; Diane Ravenstein, CrossPoint, Hutchinson, Kan.
KY: Beth Holmes (husband Chris, SBTS), Yellow Creek, Owensboro; Todd Linn (SBTS), First, Henderson.
LA: Ryan Rice (NOBTS), Connect Church of Algiers, New Orleans; Michael Wood (SWBTS), First, West Monroe.
MD/DE/DC: Dan Hyun (Missio Seminary), The Village (elders), Baltimore, Md.; Ken Fentress (SBTS), Montrose , Rockville, Md.
MI: Josh Tovey, Redemption (elders), Grandville; Eric Stewart (SBTS), ONElife, Flint.
MS: Dawson Zhang (Moody Bible Institute), Hattiesburg Chinese Christian, Hattiesburg; Reid Guy (NOBTS), Carterville, Petal.
MO: Sam Bierig (MBTS), Liberty (elders), Liberty; Kyle Hubbard, The Gate (elders), University City.
NV: Heiden Ratner (SEBTS), WALK (elders), Las Vegas; Danny Reyes-Escobar (Pastor Vance Pitman, Mid-America), Hope, Las Vegas.
NEW ENGLAND: Kaleigh Adams, Harbor (non-denominational), Hyannis, Mass.; Itamar Elizalde, Iglesia Casa De Oracion, Worcester, Mass.
NM: Kyle Bueermann (Rockbridge), First, Alamogordo; Amber Celoria (husband & Pastor Matt, SWBTS), Bethel Baptist, Alamogordo.
NY: Roscoe Lilly (Liberty), Starpoint, Clifton Park; James Roberson (SEBTS), The Bridge (elders), Brooklyn.
NC: Kallie Wade, Mercy Church (elders), Charlotte; Betsy Bolick (SEBTS), Perkinsville (elders), Boone.
NORTHWEST: Audrey Evans, Pathway, Gresham, Ore.; Matthew Savage (SBTS), Journey (elders), Everett, Wash.
OH: Peyton Hill (SEBTS), Highland, Grove City; Robin Smalley (husband & Pastor Travis, Liberty), Lakota Hills, West Chester.
OK: Vanda Wall (Pastor Jon Wohlgemuth, SEBTS), Henderson Hills (elders), Edmond; Sophia Geiger (Pastor Nick Johnson, MBTS), First, Snyder.
PA/SOUTH JERSEY: Carlos Pacheco, Iglesia Central Hispana, Morris Plains, N.J.; Venus Sanders, Ezekiel, Philadelphia, Pa.
SC: Philip Pinckney (SEBTS), Radiant, North Charleston; Stephanie Powell (Pastor D.J. Horton, SEBTS), The Mill, Moore.
TN: Damon Conley (Mid-America), Brown Missionary, Southaven, Miss.; Bruce Raley, First (Pastor Bruce Chesser, SWBTS), Hendersonville.
TX: Alexandra Canales (Pastor Juan Sanchez, SBTS), High Pointe (elders), Austin; Michael Criner (SWBTS), First, Bellville.
UT/ID: Bryan Catherman (GBTS), Redeeming Life (elders), Salt Lake City, Utah; Daniel Savage (NOBTS), Redemption, Ogden, Utah.
VA: Vernig Suarez, First (Pastor Eric Thomas, SWBTS), Norfolk; James Ford, Remnant (Acts 29), Richmond.
WV: Mason Ballard (SEBTS), Resurrection, Charleston; Timothy Marr, North Charleston, Charleston.
WY: David Grace, Trinity, Laramie; Don Rushing, First Southern, Powell.