J.D Greear has been elected as the president of the Southern Baptist Convention, two years after stepping out of the 2016 election.
Greear ran against the Southern Baptist Convention statesman and former seminary head, Ken Hemphill, 69 to 31 percent. This margin was largely greater than the 45 (Greear) to 44 percent (Gaines) that leads to a runoff vote in the 2016 election between Greear and Steve Gaines.
Greear takes over as the youngest president in 37 years, the 45-year-old coming from The Summit Church, a megachurch in North Carolina.
Leaders from all over congratulated Greear on his election, saying that his presidency will signal a new and optimistic future for the SBC.
— Jimmy Funchess (@jimmyfunchess) June 12, 2018
Philip Bethancourt the VP of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention tweeted: “Congrats to
@jdgreear, who was just elected as the new SBC president! Just like the Dallas convention in 1985, this moment solidifies a new chapter for the denomination. I couldn’t be more excited for my friend and for our network of churches! #SBC18 #SBCAM18”
Congrats to @jdgreear, who was just elected as the new SBC president! Just like the Dallas convention in 1985, this moment solidifies a new chapter for the denomination. I couldn't be more excited for my friend and for our network of churches! #SBC18 #SBCAM18 pic.twitter.com/WEfWGDWgR0
— Phillip Bethancourt (@pbethancourt) June 12, 2018
Ryan Broadhurst, pastor to students & young adults at Crossgate Church tweeted: “Proud to have cast my vote for J.D. Greear as SBC president & see him elected to serve! I am as optimistic about the future of the SBC as I have ever been.
— Ryan Broadhurst (@RyanBroadhurst) June 12, 2018
Ken Hemphill also tweeted his congratulations to Greear saying: “Congratulations to JD Greear. He will be a fine president.”
Congratulations to JD Greear. He will be a fine president.
— Ken Hemphill (@KenHemphill) June 12, 2018
The role of the president at SBC is more of a symbolic leadership role than one of decision making. Most decisions are made at a smaller level, at the independent SBC agencies.
Greear is coming in at a time where the Southern Baptists are looking for someone to shake up the leadership. The SBC is fielding great amounts of pressure from members and outsiders who want the church to address things like abuse in the church, following the incidents with Paige Patterson.
Part of the reason Greear was voted in could be due to his plans to revamp the SBC church planting and evangelism factions. He wants to engage with the younger generations and build bridges between all generations.
Greear also hopes to build bridges between different cultural groups and speak out on racial dialogue. He spoke with Atlanta pastor Dhati Lewis about diversity being one of his top priorities in January and said: “We need to recognize the leadership gifts of brothers and sisters of color that God has placed in our midst and embrace their leadership,” Greear stated. “This should have happened a long time ago, but in this new era we desperately need their wisdom and influence.”
Greear studied at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS), under many strong leaders. He was also taught by Paige Patterson, who was recently forced out of the seminary, due to claims of abuse against him.
Greear is seen as a fresh face for the SBC, bringing new ideas for ministry and leadership. Although he has many who love him and are excited for him, there are critics who are worried he does not hold strong enough Baptist views. This is partially due to the fact that his church, The Summit Church, does not have ‘baptist’ in the title.
On the other hand, worship attendance is increasing, by 2.3 percent in 2017. The SBC also added 270 new churches this past year.
The funding for the Cooperative Program which raises money for SBC entities has raised $132.6 million, which was 3.6 percent over the predicted amount. Another program, The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, which is a program dedicated to international missions, saw their donations increase to $142.7 million which was up by 3.75 percent from the previous year.
“When Southern Baptists are facing a secularizing American culture, some people are tempted to panic about that. J. D.’s not panicked,” Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, told Christianity Today earlier this year. “He’s been reaching secularized people with the gospel for a long time, so he’ll be a very able spokesperson for leading the denomination.”