Who Runs the Southern Baptist Convention?
Southern Baptists will gather today and tomorrow in Dallas for the 2018 Annual Meeting. In our new book, SBC-FAQ’s: A Ready Reference (B&H Academic, 2018), Amy Whitfield and I seek to answer important questions about the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). As a Professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, I cannot remember a semester when I did not have students ask pertinent questions regarding Southern Baptist life. Questions about the SBC, however, are not confined to students. Similar issues frequently come up at church, especially as Convention time approaches. Moreover, as Southeastern’s Director of Communications, Amy can tell you that she fields all kinds of questions on a near-daily basis. Such questions form the core of this project.
Regardless of whether the questions come from the classroom, the pew, or the media, people are curious about the SBC. If you are a new convert or if you are coming to a Southern Baptist church from another religious tradition, you likely have many questions about SBC life. This book is for you. Perhaps you have been a Southern Baptist for years, but you do not know much about your denomination. Maybe you feel like you need a refresher course on the how’s-and-whys of SBC procedure. Or, maybe you are outside the Southern Baptist tradition and you are curious about where the SBC’s history and how they do their business. This book is for you, too, and we hope you find it helpful.
A book about Southern Baptists could get complicated quickly. The questions we address bear on issues ranging from history to polity, and denominational structure. We also explain how one can be a participating messenger at a convention – and that is a lot of territory to cover. So, we chose to write in a Q & A format because it was the easiest way to address our subject matter. It also seemed to be the easiest way to arrange our material. If you have a question, take a look at the book and you may find that someone else has the same question.
Of all the questions we tried to answer, one seems most crucial to us: Who runs the SBC? In point of fact, Southern Baptists “run” the Convention. Our structure is not hierarchical. Southern Baptists have no bishops or prelates. The SBC is a deliberative body where all messengers have a say. It makes no difference whether someone is a megachurch preacher or a “regular church member in the pew,” Southern Baptists all have a voice. If we can get Southern Baptists to see that the SBC is their Convention, we will have met our goal.