The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Executive Committee (EC) voted Feb. 18 to allocate meeting space for the 2020 SBC Pastors’ Conference on the condition that leaders make changes to the speaker lineup for the event.
The EC said “multiple aspects” of the proposed program for the Pastors’ Conference “are sufficiently beyond the parameters of the faith and practice of Southern Baptists in accordance with The Baptist Faith and Message.”
The action called for “amendments” to the program by Monday, Feb. 24 that must be agreed upon by the officers of the EC.
Since the program was announced earlier this month, some Southern Baptists have voiced concerns that not all speakers were Southern Baptist and that scheduled performer Hosanna Wong, a spoken word artist, is also a teaching pastor at her non-Southern Baptist church.
Others have been critical of the inclusion of David Hughes, pastor of Church by the Glades, a Southern Baptist congregation in Coral Springs, Fla. The church has received attention for various performances in its services, as well as sermon series with sensual themes.
Mike Stone, chairman of the EC, said the decision was reached after “lengthy deliberations” in the days since the Pastors’ Conference lineup was announced Feb. 10.
“My desire would be that there would be a change in the lineup so we can proceed in keeping with who we are as Southern Baptists,” Stone said. “I would love for that to happen.”
Pastors’ Conference president David Uth, pastor of First Baptist Orlando, has thus far declined to make lineup changes.
“My goal, my prayer was that we could open ourselves up to hear from people that maybe were good friends of ours, but not in our Southern Baptist Convention,” Uth told Baptist Press Feb. 11, in responding to initial concerns raised over the event’s lineup. “I feel like they have a message for us. I feel like God wants to speak to us through them. So my goal and my hope was that we could hear their message, we could learn from them, and we could embrace it.”
While the EC does not have oversight of the SBC Pastors’ Conference, it makes space available to hold the event each year – this year, at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla., where the 2020 SBC Annual Meeting will be held in June – and requests the conference to reimburse the EC for a portion of the cost to use the meeting hall and facilities. Currently, that reimbursement totals $100,000.
A spokesperson for the EC told the Biblical Recorder it has no contractual agreements with Pastors’ Conference leaders related to meeting space or financial reimbursement for the event.
Monday, First Baptist Orlando announced it would pay the full cost of the 2020 SBC Pastors’ Conference, in hopes “this will ease conflicts of tensions that exist over the slated program for the conference,” Matthew Robinson, First Orlando pastor of administration, said in the release.
Robinson declined comment Tuesday to CP on the EC’s action, which he said had not yet been formally communicated to the church. Stone was expected to call Uth to discuss the action.
The EC also requested that its staff develop written guidelines for future use of the meeting spaces at the SBC Annual Meeting; the EC anticipates reviewing those guidelines during its September 2020 meeting.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Seth Brown, executive editor at the Biblical Recorder, contributed to this report. George Schroeder is associate vice president for convention news at the SBC EC.)