Southern Baptist Convention Makes Radical Shift With Election of New President J.D. Greear

NATHAN CLENDENIN is licensed under CC BY 2.0

J.D. Greear Wants The SBC To Move Away From Trump Administration.

J.D. Greear, the newly elected President Pastor of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), has assumed leadership of the most significant American Protestant denomination at a time when they’re at a crossroads. The organization faces deep divides on politics that reflect a substantial gap between younger and older members.

Greear is already the youngest president in SBC history. He has announced his intention to concentrate more on the commonality between diverse Southern Baptists. In an interview, he admitted that the SBC has multiple ethnic varieties and members are divided on issues like immigration. At the same time, he reminded the interviewer all members agree on the goodness and beauty of the gospel, it’s doctrine, and their mission.

The new leader’s success could hinge on how he responds to the #MeToo movement. The movement helped pressure the former president, Paige Patterson, to retire. Patterson had told female parishioners to ignore spousal abuse. The SBC must also contend with declining membership and their relationship with the Republican party.

Greear has already been praised for his distancing the group away from politics. The most notable example was Greear’s criticism of Vice President Mike Pence for using a keynote speech at the SBC yearly meeting to discuss Trump’s political success. Greear has stressed the identity of the SBC will remain separate from the Republican party, even if they agree on some issues.

Greear represents a radical shift in Southern Baptist support for the Trump Administration. Many of Greear’s colleagues within the church have made multiple trips to Washington to meet the president and other government functionaries. In contrast, he has visited only once. During his meeting with President Trump, he suggested the Republican administration should make it clear they respect people of varied cultural backgrounds and races. Greear, although appearing in a White House group photo, denies being a member of the presidential advisory council.

Critics of the SBC have concerns Greear’s language is purely symbolic. They point out the new SBC president has already broken his non-political emphasis by signing several statements which supported Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to succeed Anthony Kennedy, the soon-to-retire Justice of the Supreme Court.

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