What is the SBC?
The Southern Baptist Convention is a partnership arrangement for roughly 45,000 churches in the United States. Through established agencies, governing documents, and theological parameters, these churches cooperate to spread the gospel, plant churches, and train pastors throughout the United States and to the ends of the earth.
Technically, the Southern Baptist Convention exists for a couple days out of the year to conduct Convention business during the annual meeting. I’m not sure whether it’s still the case, but for a long time the annual meeting was the largest deliberative body in the world. In the interim between annual meetings, the Executive Committee manages operations for the Convention, and various agencies carry out the mission.
What are those agencies?
In addition to the Executive Committee, the International Mission Board (IMB) focuses on international evangelism, church planting, and pastoral training. David Platt was recently elected its president. The North American Mission Board (NAMB) performs similar functions in North America.
Six seminaries train pastors, missionaries and other Christian workers, listed here in order of size: Southern (Mohler, 2,000), Southeastern (Akin, 1,588), Southwestern (Patterson, 1,497), New Orleans (Kelley, 1,335), Midwestern (Allen, 507), and Golden Gate (Iorg, 433). (Incidentally, it might be interesting to compare the size of the smallest SBC seminary with the total full-time equivalent enrollment of IFB seminaries at BJU, PCC, DBTS, CBTS, VBTS, FBTS, BBS, and MBU.) The SBC operates no colleges except those that function under the umbrella of some of these seminaries.
The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) trains churches to engage with issues related to ethics and policy both internally and in the public square. It also serves as the public voice for the Convention on those same issues. Guidestone Financial Resources manages insurance products and retirement savings. Lifeway Christian Resources publishes curriculum, performs research, and provides training resources. The Woman’s Missionary Union mobilizes churches for missions.
The SBC president (presently Ronnie Floyd) serves no more than two years. This role is largely ceremonial, similar to British royalty, though its appointment powers were pivotal in the Conservative Resurgence and remain crucial to the long-term fidelity of the Convention. The Executive Committee president (Frank Page) exercises administrative oversight of the Convention's year-round operations. In other words, he’s really the most powerful person in the Convention. Russell Moore’s leadership in the ERLC makes him the functional spokesman for the Convention. He’s the guy you’re mostly likely to see speaking on behalf of the Convention in the media.
Just a little prediction I can’t resist. And let me say first that I have zero—repeat, ZERO—inside information. When Ronnie Floyd’s second term as president ends in 2016, watch for Al Mohler to be elected the next president. And I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if Frank Page announces his retirement from the ExComm about the time Mohler’s presidency ends in 2018. Then, well, you can see where I’m going with this.
More info on the SBC agencies here, and again, that stuff is all fact-checked and official.
Lot's more questions to come (though no promises on when), including . . .
- What does it mean to be an SBC church?
- Are SBC churches autonomous?
- Is the SBC a denomination?
- Should I lead my independent Baptist church to join the SBC?
- What was the Conservative Resurgence, and why was it necessary? Is the Resurgence over?
- Are there liberals in the SBC?
- And much more…
Feel free to suggest questions in the comments.