Emillie Collins got to go home to enjoy her first Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting.
Collins, a Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary student from northern Louisiana, grew up in a Baptist church and attended a Southern Baptist college. Although she knew about the Cooperative Program and Southern Baptist agencies and institutions, she said that attending this year’s SBC meeting in New Orleans gave her a much better understanding of Southern Baptists’ ministry and missions efforts.
“I was excited to learn about how we function and the forward direction of the SBC; our vision,” said Collins, who is a member of North Wake Church in Wake Forest.
Hearing testimonies from missionaries serving throughout the world helped Collins see the Cooperative Program in action.
“I always knew we gave to the Cooperative Program. But it’s important to educate our congregations on what we do and why. Education is important, especially among youth,” she said.
Collins is enrolled in a class at Southeastern that allows her to earn course credit by attending the SBC, writing reflection papers about the meeting, and participating in a one-day intensive on Southeastern’s campus prior to the SBC. The intensive reviews topics such as the history of the SBC and important topics related to the annual meeting.
Nathan Finn, Southeastern associate professor of historical theology and Baptist studies, teaches the class.
Collins appreciated SBC president Bryant Wright addressing the issue of Calvinism instead of ignoring it. “He addressed that head on. That was a good first word, and I was encouraged by that,” she said.
Collins also appreciated the opportunity messengers have to bring motions and resolutions before the Convention. “Part of our identity is that we are congregational led. We have a say. And it is important to be informed and to participate. We are allowed that responsibility and privilege,” she said.
Also in Finn’s class and attending the SBC for the first time was graduate student Daniel Anderson.
Anderson, 29, has only been in North Carolina for about a year and a half. Originally from Orlando, Fla., Anderson worked for a local marketing company before his wife got a job in New York City. Once in New York, Anderson couldn’t find a job. He ended up at Redeemer Presbyterian Church, helping with a church plant.
BSC photo by Melissa Lilley
Bryce Hantla, a Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary doctoral student, attended his first Southern Baptist Convention. He was the only messenger from Crossroads Fellowship’s Wake Forest campus.
Although not an easy decision, Anderson eventually decided that as much as he appreciated and respected his Presbyterian roots, he needed to serve within a denomination more closely aligned with his theological beliefs.
Remaining active in denominational life was important to Anderson. “Denominations can do more together than individuals can by themselves,” he said.
Anderson soon found himself headed to Southeastern and joining a Southern Baptist church – Imago Dei – in Raleigh. He appreciates the focus of Southern Baptists on church planting and missions.
During this year’s annual meeting Anderson enjoyed meeting other students and people his age from other states. “It hardens a resolve that I want to be part of this and link arms with them,” he said.
Anderson enjoyed his first SBC meeting and said it won’t be his last.
“I plan on being someone who comes back as much as possible. I do believe the SBC is worth fighting for because when it’s on track, and we have a unified message of missions and church planting and reaching the world with the gospel, that’s something I want to be part of. I want to make sure the foundation that was laid continues on,” he said.
Collins and Anderson both expressed gratitude for being able to see Fred Luter elected SBC president and called it the highlight of this year’s meeting.
Bryce Hantla, a Southeastern doctoral student also in New Orleans for his first SBC, said the overwhelming support messengers demonstrated for Luter was encouraging.
“That was something that met and exceeded my expectations,” he said.
He also appreciated the International Mission Board report, hearing missionary testimonies and meeting other Southern Baptists.
Although Luter’s election is a step in the right direction, Hantla hopes that the denomination will continue seeking to reflect more diversity.
“I hope to see the face of the people who come to these events change. The local church level is the most effective way to see that change,” he said. “The local church must reach out to other people groups.”
Hantla was the only messenger from his church – Crossroads Fellowship in Wake Forest – this year, as the church only recently affiliated with the SBC. Yet, he said attending the SBC has proven valuable.
“Coming to the SBC is a ground level, practical, Baptist life experience.”