Vice President Mike Pence addressed the 2018 Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting Wednesday, praising it for renewing America and for the power of prayers.
Pence spoke before the 161st session of the SBC in Dallas, Texas, hailing them as “one of the greatest forces for good, anywhere in America.” He recounted how the faith they espoused shaped his life, praised the Trump administration’s accomplishments over the last 500 days, and exhorted Southern Baptists to continue fervently in their ministries, which he said were more powerful than any policy or legislation. (RELATED: New Southern Baptist Convention President Urges Cultural Change, Supports Women In Leadership)
“I’m a Christian, a Conservative, and a Republican. In that order,” Pence declared after a lengthy introduction from Dr. Steve Gaines.
He then shared the testimony of the night that he professed faith in Jesus, during a church music festival in Kentucky in 1978.
“And I walked the sawdust trail that night in 1978 and gave my life to Jesus Christ and it’s made all the difference,” Pence said to cheers and applause.
Pence thanked the SBC for what he saw as their historic work “to bring about the renewal of America and new beginnings,” adding that the nation is now in a time of renewal, due in part to their support and to actions of the current administration.
Pence’s compliments to the SBC came amid scandals of sexual infidelity and mishandled abuse and rape cases that have rocked the denomination and sullied the reputation of some of the convention’s leaders. Some of these scandals heralded the downfall of Paige Patterson, a man once hailed as a Southern Baptist hero for his role in the 1979 Conservative Resurgence. The Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary board of trustees recently fired Patterson for his inappropriate treatment of female students who reported rape. (RELATED: The Fall Of The Southern Baptist Convention’s Paige Patterson Part 2: We Shall Make Them In Our Image)
“I think there’s only one way you can sum up this administration,” Pence said. “It’s been 500 days of action, 500 days of accomplishment. It’s been 500 days of promises made and promises kept.”
Among the administration’s accomplishments, Pence listed the strengthening of the U.S. military, “restoring the arsenal of democracy,” a tougher approach to illegal immigration and removing dangerous criminals, “drug dealers, and gang members” from the streets “in record numbers.”
Pence then praised President Donald Trump for reaching agreements with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during the Singapore Summit for the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and the repatriation of the remains of over 5,000 MIA soldiers who gave their lives in the Korean war. He honored the family of Otto Warmbier as well, and asserted that their courage was instrumental in the summit. He also recounted the return of three American hostages from North Korea as “a night I’ll never forget.”
“But what happened that night, I really didn’t expect. It happened to the president too and it happened to the secretary of state,” Pence said.
“These three men, one of whom who’d been in captivity for nearly two years, as they came down off the stairs, one of them pulled out of his pocket a small index card written on the front and on the back. He grabbed my hand vigorously and they thanked me for my prayers.
On the front of the card it read ‘Dear Mr. Vice president. We praise the lord who has done great things for America and for us. We deeply appreciate your prayers and the U.S. government bringing us home. God bless great America.’
And then I flipped over the card and looked on the back. And they had transcribed a portion of Psalm 126, ‘When the Lord brought back the captives to Zion we were like men who dreamed. Our mouths were filled with laughter, and our tongues with songs of joy.’
It’s a moment I’ll never forget,” Pence said.
Pence listed several other accomplishments of the administration, for which he thanked the SBC for its support, before addressing the issue of the persecution of Christians and religious minorities around the world and said that he and the president were touched by their plight, “especially in the Middle East, where we’ve literally seen the largest exodus of believers since the days of Moses.”
Pence also extolled Southern Baptists and communities of faith for demonstrating their values by consistently serving the needy and vulnerable during times of crisis and natural disaster. He called upon them to exhibit “American resolve and courage” for what he said was the “arduous work” ahead for the country in navigating a pivotal year.
Trump “and I both know that the effective prayers of a righteous and fervent people can availeth much more, so let’s all pray. Let’s pray for peace for the Korean people and the world,” Pence said.
“No policy we enact will ever be more meaningful than the ministries you lead” and no action “we take will ever be more powerful than your prayers,” he added later.
Pence exhorted the SBC to continue their Christ-centered work throughout the nation, at all times.
“Preach the word. In season and out of season. Always be prepared to give a reason for the hope that you have. Keep changing lives. Keep ministering to the spiritual and the practical needs of the American people, especially the most vulnerable,” Pence said.
He closed with a reminder of the words of the late Rev. Billy Graham, who he quoted as saying “to get nations back on their feet, we must first get on our knees,” and urged them to “pray for America. For all the people of America.”
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