In an informal meeting last year, Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) President Steve Gaines offered to nominate J.D. Greear for SBC president in 2018.
Gaines, who is now serving his second term, said he would be willing to make the nomination as a gesture of unity after then-candidate Greear decided to withdraw from the 2016 SBC presidential election.
Photos by Paul W. Lee & Bill Bangham
Steve Gaines, left, and J.D. Greear, right, preach at the 2015 Southern Baptist Convention Pastors’ Conference in Columbus, Ohio.
Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, recounted the exchange in a panel discussion hosted by Baptist 21 at the 2017 SBC annual meeting. Several people, including Akin, were present when the conversation took place.
Greear, who serves as pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., and Gaines, senior pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., had both considered withdrawing from the 2016 election due to concerns about division in the convention. Two ballot votes failed to produce a winner on June 14, 2016, and a third was scheduled for the next day when Gaines and Greear agreed at Akin’s request to discuss the situation later that night.
Both candidates thought extremely close vote totals signaled a troubling divide in the SBC, and they were looking for ways to unify the convention.
“I’ve never seen such humility – authentic humility on each one of their parts,” Akin said at the Baptist 21 event. “They were each more than willing to hand over the reins for this year’s leadership to one another.”
When Greear and others convinced Gaines that Greear’s withdrawal was the best option, according to Akin, Gaines said, “Well J.D., I’ll tell you what, come , if you want me to, brother, I’ll nominate you.”
Akin added, “Personally, I’d love to see that happen.”
The third vote never took place because Greear officially withdrew his name from the ballot on the morning of June 15, 2016. Gaines was elected that day by acclamation, and ran for re-election unopposed in 2017.
Gaines confirmed Akin’s account of the discussion in a text message to Biblical Recorder staff, but declined to comment further because he had not spoken to Greear about the nomination since last summer.
The Biblical Recorder asked Greear whether or not he would run if nominated. He said, “When I stepped aside for Pastor Steve to serve as president last year, I knew it was the right thing for the moment, and what God wanted. I continue to be willing and excited to serve our convention in whatever way might be helpful, and for now that is to help [Steve] Gaines advance those things God has put on his heart, which is why I agreed to be on his Soul Winning Task Force.” (See related story.)
Greear continued, “When it comes time for 2018 presidential nominations, I’ll be open to whatever God wants. But I believe it most honors God to consider things in their own time.”
In response to a question about how he would feel if Gaines made the nomination, Greear said, “President Gaines is a friend, and his support in any endeavor would be an honor.”
No official nomination announcements have been made for the 2018 SBC presidential election. Next year’s annual meeting will take place June 12-13 in Dallas, Texas.