Concerns raised over SBC Pastors’ Conference lineup
February 12th, 2020 / By: Joshua Owens | Managing Editor / comments
Orlando, Florida—Some SBC pastors and leaders have expressed concerns after an initial lineup of speakers was announced for the 2020 SBC Pastors’ Conference in Orlando, Florida.
According to a Feb. 10 announcement on the Pastors’ Conference website, sbcpc.net, speakers include Wayne Cordeiro, pastor of New Hope Christian Fellowship, a Honolulu, Hawaii-based church of the Pentecostal denomination International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, and Hosanna Wong, an associate teaching pastor at EastLake Church in San Diego.
In the hours after the announcement, various concerns were raised on social media. On Feb. 11, David Uth, 2020 Pastors’ Conference president and pastor of First Baptist Orlando, Florida, told Baptist Press, "I feel like [the speakers] have a message for us. I feel like God wants to speak to us through them. So my goal and my hope was that we could hear their message, we could learn from them, and we could embrace it."
Mike Stone, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Blackshear, Georgia, and current chairman of the SBC Executive Committee, told the TEXAN, “Southern Baptists have spoken clearly through the BF&M about female pastors. The inclusion of a female pastor is in direct contradiction to our own doctrinal statement and has been officially for 20 years. There are other concerns but this one garnered the most attention.”
“That’s not to say that all program personalities should be required to be Southern Baptists,” Stone said. “The conference president has a right to invite whomever he pleases. But Southern Baptists also have a right to respond personally and organizationally in keeping with their conscience and convictions.”
Uth told Baptist Press that Wong is “not preaching. She’s not coming as a preacher. She’s coming as a musical artist.”
According to Baptist Press, Uth noted that only 9 percent of conference speakers will be non-Southern Baptist, including Wong, Cordeiro, and Jim Cymbala, pastor of Brooklyn Tabernacle in Brooklyn, New York. The Pastors’ Conference website listed 12 speakers at publishing time, suggesting another 21-22 speakers yet to be announced.
In written comments to the TEXAN, Uth said that, “We are taking into account the input received, both positive and negative, regarding the program for the SBCPC.”
“Each participant was invited to deliver or present a specific message or element of worship,” Uth said. “Every aspect of the program aligns with our overall theme and with our desire to encourage our pastors. I have no desire to bring anyone into an environment that is not welcoming to them. I am communicating with our invited program guests and together we are determining the best plan going forward for each.”
Uth noted, “A few have bemoaned SBC funds being used for this event. As an elected volunteer in this role of Pastor's Conference president … I have the unenviable task of raising the hundreds of thousands it costs to actually produce the event. That includes $100,000 we reimburse to the Executive Committee of the SBC for the use of the space for our four sessions.”
Both the North American Mission Board and the International Mission Board are listed as sponsors according to sbcpc.net.
NAMB has “a great deal of respect for David Uth and intend[s] to fully support the Pastors’ Conference,” said executive director of public relations Mike Ebert, in written comments to the TEXAN.
The International Mission Board declined to comment for this story.
As Southern Baptists prepare to head to Orlando in June, Stone said “This matter has been a needless distraction, including the way some have handled themselves on social media. But still, I think there is wisdom in withdrawing the more troubling invitations. ”
“I would encourage program personalities to not use the conference to take ‘shots’ at the SBC,” Stone said. “The issue here is not a narrow minded convention. Pastors don’t need to be rebuked because they expressed disagreement on this matter.”
“Dr. Uth is a godly, capable leader so I am confident he will respond prayerfully under the Lord’s direction,” Stone said.
Uth told the TEXAN, “We will soon be releasing additional details about the program that we hope will help clarify our reasoning on the program participants. In the meantime, please pray for us as we continue to hear, know and do the will of the Father.”
—With additional reporting by Diana Chandler at Baptist Press.