Southern Baptist Convention
Steve Gaines (far right) now leads the Southern Baptist Convention and has led Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church for 11 years.
A Memphis-area pastor now leads the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) following votes Wednesday that ended the organization’s annual meeting, which reviewed the group's stance on the Confederate flag, women on the battlefield, homosexuality, journalism, and more.
Steve Gaines now leads the Nashville-based SBC after votes during the group’s conference held in St. Louis over the past couple of days. Gaines has led Bellevue Baptist Church for 11 years. Gaines previously led churches in Alabama, Tennessee, and Texas.
Bellevue gave $1 million this year to support SBC’s mission and ministries, according to SBC. Gaines was nominated by former SBC president Johnny Hunt, noting Bellevue’s baptism record. The church averages 481 baptisms per year, according to the SBC.
“For such a time as this, when baptisms are at a 15-year low, we need Steve to lead us in a great soul-winning resurgence," Hunt said to the Baptist Press. "It's time to make soul-winning a major priority.”
The SBC’s resolution committee reviewed 11 measures this year. One of those called for members to limit or discontinue the display of the Confederate flag because of the “undeniably painful impact of the flag's symbolism on others.” An approved amendment asked to discontinue the display “as a sign of solidarity of the whole body of Christ, including our African American brothers and sisters.”
Another resolution called for prayer and support for those affected by the mass shooting in Orlando. While another affirmed SBC’s commitment to “biblical sexuality.”
Here is how the Baptist Press, a group under SBC’s umbrella, presented some of the resolutions:
— affirmed Southern Baptists' commitment to biblical sexuality and urged the protection of religious free exercise.
• called for prayer for and pledged support to those affected by the June 12 killings in Orlando.
• encouraged faithful proclamation of the Gospel by churches and intentional evangelism by individual Southern Baptists locally, nationally and globally.
• declared “unrelenting opposition” to efforts by military leaders and the Obama administration “to increase the likelihood that women will be placed in harm's way” along with voicing support for service members and their families.
• called on the government to enact strict security in screening refugees and for Southern Baptists to compassionately minister to and share the Gospel with them.
• urged participation in voting and prayer for God to provide “spiritual, moral, ethical, and cultural renewal.”
• encouraged churches to consider increasing ministries to Alzheimer's and dementia patients and their family caregivers.
• called for pastors to support freedom of the press and journalists to practice that freedom responsibly.
• affirmed “In God We Trust” as the national motto and encouraged its public display.
• supported Israel's right to exist as a free state and encouraged renewed prayer for peace in and salvation of Israel.
• expressed gratitude to God as well as Southern Baptists in the St. Louis area and all others who helped with this year's meeting.