(Updated Feb. 2, 2:50 p.m.)
Kenneth Hemphill, member of First Baptist Church in Hendersonville, N.C., and former president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS), will be nominated for president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) at this year’s annual meeting, Louisiana’s Baptist Message reported Feb. 1.
The announcement came from a “group of distinguished Southern Baptists,” according to the Message. At this time it is unclear who will make the nomination at the SBC annual meeting June 12-13 in Dallas, Texas.
Baptist Press photo
“Some interested Southern Baptist pastors and leaders have been thinking together for several weeks about whom God might raise up to follow Dr. Steve Gaines as our SBC president,” David Hankins, executive director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention, told the Message.
“We desire to elect a man who is a Southern Baptist through and through, values our understanding of the gospel, and, has an established record of affirming the cooperative work of our local churches through the associations, state conventions and national entities.
“We sought Ken out because of his record in these areas as well as his impeccable character, remarkable breadth of experience in Southern Baptist life, passion for missions and evangelism, and an active ministry of re-vitalization to pastors and churches.”
Hemphill, 69, was SWBTS president from 1994-2003 and national strategist from 2003-11 for the SBC’s Empowering Kingdom Growth (EKG) emphasis, an initiative launched in 2002 calling Southern Baptists to renewed passion for God’s Kingdom.
When EKG transitioned from the SBC to North Greenville University (NGU) in 2011, Hemphill became founding director of the university’s Center for Church Planting and Revitalization, continuing EKG’s emphases under the acronym CPR. After retiring from that position, he returned to NGU to serve as special assistant to the president for denominational relations.
Hemphill also pastored churches in Kentucky and Virginia and led the Home Mission Board’s (now the North American Mission Board) Southern Baptist Center for Church Growth in the early 1990s.
Hemphill told Baptist Press he wants the SBC to “reclaim our heritage of cooperative partnerships.”
“I think there has been an erosion of how local churches, associations, state conventions and the national convention really function together in every dimension of the Great Commission,” Hemphill said.
In a written statement to Baptist Press, he underscored his commitment to the Cooperative Program, the Baptist Faith and Message and the “Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation.”
First Baptist Hendersonville recorded 20 baptisms in 2017, with an average worship attendance of 1,475, according to Annual Church Profile data. Over the past decade, the church saw a high of 78 baptisms 2009.
The Message reported First Baptist Hendersonville’s Cooperative Program (CP) giving exceeded $860,000 for the last two years combined.
The congregation told Baptist Press it has given 10 percent of undesignated receipts through the CP annually since at least the mid-1990s. It is among the top CP-giving churches in North Carolina.
Richard Land, president of Southern Evangelical Seminary in Charlotte and former president of the SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, endorsed Hemphill, saying “Ken has served Southern Baptists his entire adult life, having been a successful pastor and seminary president,” according to the Message.
“He has championed the local church and has challenged Southern Baptists to fulfill the Great Commission,” he continued. “I believe that Dr. Hemphill’s entire ministry until now has been used by God to prepare him to serve as our Convention president at this propitious moment.”
NGU President Gene Fant called Hemphill a “great Convention statesman.”
“Dr. Hemphill’s passion for the local church, for personal evangelism, and for intentional and careful cultural engagement is a model for all of us,” he said. “His desire for discipleship is exemplary, as is his love for cooperative missions. I am grateful for his willingness to extend his lifelong service to us in this way.”
Rick Patrick, pastor of First Baptist Church in Sylacauga, Ala., said, “God has given Dr. Ken Hemphill a brilliant mind, a pure heart, a passion for souls, and a clear vision to make Southern Baptists great again.”
The Message also reported endorsements from Alex McFarland, radio host and director of NGU’s Center for Christian Worldview and Apologetics, and Kie Bowman, pastor of Hyde Park Baptist Church in Austin, Texas.
Hemphill and his wife, Paula, live in Greenville, S.C. He holds degrees from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Cambridge University, and has authored multiple books, including Revitalizing the Sunday Morning Dinosaur, The Antioch Effect, and Life Answers: Making Sense of Your World.
J.D. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., is also a candidate for SBC president.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled from reports by Baptist Press and Louisiana’s Baptist Message.)