In one the most historic meetings in the Southern Baptist Convention's 167-year history, messengers meeting June 19-20 elected the body's first African American president and voted to keep the convention's name while narrowly approving a descriptor, "Great Commission Baptists," for those churches that wish to use it.
The issue of Calvinism also was addressed from the platform several times, with each speaker urging messengers to remain united for the Great Commission. Executive Committee President Frank Page – who said he's not a Calvinist – addressed each side of the debate.
The "elephant in the room" in the Southern Baptist Convention is the tension between "traditional" Southern Baptists and "Calvinists," Southern Baptist Convention President Bryant Wright said in his message to the SBC annual meeting June 19 in New Orleans.
Nearly equal numbers of pastors in the Southern Baptist Convention consider their churches as Calvinist/Reformed as do Arminian/Wesleyan, although more than 60 percent are somewhat or strongly concerned about the effect of Calvinism on the denomination, according to a new survey from LifeWay Research.
The descriptor "Great Commission Baptists" was approved by messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention by a vote of 53 percent to 46 percent after nearly a half-hour debate June 19 at the SBC annual meeting in New Orleans.
Messengers approved nine resolutions reaffirming their convictions regarding the means of salvation and the inerrancy of Scripture while indicating their intention to continue cooperating in the Great Commission despite some theological differences.