The Southern Baptist Convention elected J.D. Greear as president Tuesday, signaling Southern Baptists’ willingness to embrace massive cultural changes.
Greear, at 45-years-old, is the youngest man to be elected president of the SBC in 37 years. He has spoken openly about abuse scandals that have recently rocked the Southern Baptist Convention and hailed them a sign from God of needed cultural change.
“God is stirring in the SBC. He has exposed a startling amount of sin in our midst. He has shaken many of our foundations. And I actually think that’s good news, because whom the Lord loves, he chastens,” Greear wrote after his election. “He is inviting us, I believe, into an era of unprecedented effectiveness for the Great Commission, if we repent.”
Greear recently called on his fellow Southern Baptists to embrace not a doctrinal change, but a cultural change with regard to their implementation of complementarianism, representation of minorities in church leadership, protection for the abused, and other changes that in many cases repudiated elements of culture that the recently disgraced Paige Patterson promoted. (RELATED: The Fall Of The Southern Baptist Convention’s Paige Patterson Part 2: We Shall Make Them In Our Image)
Complimentarianism is the doctrinal belief that God created men and women with distinct roles. Men are to be servant leaders in the house and in the church, and women are to graciously submit to the leadership, or headship, of men, according to the doctrine. Greear affirmed the doctrine as biblical, but said that a correct interpretation of it acknowledges and values women’s spiritual gifts and encourages the training of women as leaders and teachers.
“Our doctrine and our mission are solid. They are. It’s biblical, it’s faithful, it’s focused. But I think we need a new culture and a new posture in the Southern Baptist Convention, and there are things about our culture that grieve the Holy Spirit and I think that’s kind of what’s being revealed, ” Greear said in a Facebook video in May.
“A complimentarianism that recognizes the gifts that God gives to women in the church and seeks to empower them. That honors our sisters in Christ as equal in salvation, equal in value, and equal in spiritual giftings. All while being faithful to the inerrant word of God,” Grear added, and also said that Southern Baptists “need to be as committed to raising them up in leadership and ministry as we are to our sons.”
Greear also advocated for proportional representation of “people of color” and minorities in church leadership, and said that the SBC had historically “protected our institutions” and positions from minority influence to the detriment of the convention as a whole.
He implored Southern Baptists to “be a people who are committed to protecting the vulnerable and exposing the abuser.”
Greear then addressed recent revelations about abuses of power within the SBC, calling for cultures “that insist on transparency in leadership and just refuse to tolerate or turn a blind eye to abuses of power” and referencing “a number of decisions” that have been made in secret.
Honing in on a specific abuse of power, Greear called on the SBC to “mark those among us of a divisive spirit who seek to create division in our denomination over secondary and tertiary things, and keep away from them,” referencing Romans 16:7.
His statement appeared to address past doctrinal purges that SBC leaders like Patterson waged against those who prayed in tongues and also those who adhered to Calvinism.
The doctrinal purges and leadership decisions made by Patterson and his supporters often led to mudslinging wars between SBC leaders, especially via various Baptist digital publications. Greear rebuked this as well, and called on Southern Baptists to “refuse to tolerate those who slander, backbite, or mislead others.”
Greear concluded his video by calling on Southern Baptists to speak the truth in love to one another and to remove any hint of immorality from among them, in light of the recent abuse scandals.
Greear did not mention Patterson or any other SBC leader recently ensnared in sexual or abuse scandals by name, rather attributing the scandals to an overall culture within the convention. Many of his points, with the exception of minority representation, appeared to be a direct refutation of Patterson’s doctrinal interpretations and leadership decisions, such as the belief that women should not hold teaching positions over men and the practice of handling abuse and alleged rape within the church rather than reporting it to the authorities.
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