Vice President Mike Pence will address the Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in Dallas on Wednesday. SBC President Steve Gaines and chairman of the Committee on Order of Business announced the Vice President’s address in a press release. Pence will “express appreciation to Southern Baptists for the contributions we make to the moral fabric of our nation.”
The press release included the announcement of tightened security measures at Wednesday’s session. Messengers must show up two hours in advance and go through a screening process and must leave a host of banned items outside the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center.
The announcement did not come without controversy. Many on social media reacted with dismay, citing the SBC’s outreach over the past few years to people of color, many of whom are troubled by the current administration’s treatment of immigrants and refugees.
Others also noted the mixed messages Pence’s appearance might send to women in the Convention. The SBC Annual Meeting convenes just weeks after trustees at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth fired Paige Patterson from his post as President over his handling of sexual abuse reports. Critics noted that hosting Vice President Pence as a representative of President Trump, who famously boasted about grabbing women in an off-camera recording, shows the SBC still does not take sexual abuse seriously.
When the Committee on Order of Business presented the agenda for the two-day meeting, Garrett Kell, pastor of Del Ray Baptist Church in Alexandria, VA, moved to amend the order of business rescinding the invitation to Vice President Pence and replacing his speech with a time of prayer. He argued that Pence’s presence would harm the unity of the Convention, send mixed messages about the Gospel message, and potentially harm SBC workers overseas.
Ethridge responded to Kell’s motion by saying that the White House reached out to the SBC about Pence coming and quoted a verse of Scripture about Christians “honoring the king.” Kell’s amendment failed and the Vice President’s speech will continue as planned.
Other Presidents and Vice Presidents have addressed the SBC Annual Meeting before either in person or via video, including Presidents Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush, as well as Vice President Dan Quayle.
The SBC Annual Meeting is a two-day event which rotates through a variety of host cities. The Convention’s churches send representatives, called messengers, to worship together, hear reports from seminaries and mission agencies, choose a slate of officers, issue resolutions, and vote on business related to its mission. When the Convention gathers each June, it is the world’s largest deliberative body. Any messenger can make a motion during the appointed time, speak for or against motions and resolutions, or ask questions of the Convention’s entity Presidents.
Those interested in the SBC Annual Meeting’s proceedings can view it via live stream. As of Tuesday morning, 8,008 messengers were registered to represent their churches.
Photo courtesy: Wikimedia Commons
Publication date: June 12, 2018