SBC EC grants Uth extension for pastors' conference response

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ORLANDO, Fla. (BP) -- SBC Pastors' Conference president David Uth has been granted an extended time for fasting and prayer before responding to the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee's stipulation that program adjustments be made before space is allocated at the 2020 SBC Annual Meeting venue.


Responding to dissension over the 2020 SBC Pastors' Conference (SBCPC) speaker roster, the SBC EC originally voted Feb. 18 to give the SBCPC until Feb. 24 to make suitable changes to its conference program to be granted space June 7-8 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla. The extension gives the church until March 30 to respond.


Uth has called his congregation, First Baptist Church Orlando, into a 40-day fast to discern his response to the EC vote, he informed SBC EC Chairman Mike Stone, who agreed to the extension on behalf of the EC.


"Yesterday Dr. Uth, 2020 SBCPC president, shared with us that he wishes to call his congregation to a period of 40 days of prayer and fasting that the Lord would give him guidance as their pastor," Stone informed EC members in a letter Thursday. "Therefore, (Uth) could not, in good conscience, provide an answer by the stated deadline of February 24.


"The officers recognize the need of Dr. Uth to shepherd the wonderful people of First Baptist Church of Orlando through this very public matter," Stone told the EC. "In the spirit of cooperation, we are agreed that the extension of the deadline to March 30 is not only wise but is also within the spirit and scope of the Executive Committee's decision on Tuesday."


Uth informed Baptist Press of his decision Thursday.


"Yesterday, in separate phone calls I informed J.D. Greear, President of the SBC; Ronnie Floyd, Executive Committee CEO; and Mike Stone, Executive Committee Chairman that I will not have an answer to their inquiry by the deadline of February 24," Uth said in a statement dated Feb. 19 and emailed to BP Thursday. "I am not comfortable deciding something of this magnitude so quickly. Instead, I'm asking our church family to pray with me through this decision.


"So, I am asking our people here at First Baptist Orlando, who know me, love me and walk with me, to join me and our pastors on a 40-day season of prayer and fasting," Uth wrote. "Together we are asking God to guide us through the decisions regarding the SBCPC 2020 so that we will respond in a way that will bring Him the greatest joy and the greatest glory."


The EC has not specified which changes must be made to the program. "Amendments to its proposed program" must be made "to the approval of the SBC Executive Committee Officers," the EC voted Feb. 18, "due to our belief that multiple aspects of its proposed program as of February 18, 2020, are sufficiently beyond the parameters of the faith and practice of Southern Baptists in accordance with The Baptist Faith and Message."


In social media posts and other comments, Southern Baptists have voiced varying concerns regarding speakers currently confirmed for the pastors' conference, including musical guest Hosanna Wong, a spoken word artist who serves as teaching pastor at multisite EastLake Church in the San Diego area; David Hughes, pastor of Church by the Glades, a Southern Baptist congregation in Coral Springs, Fla.; Jim Cymbala, pastor of the evangelical non-denominational Brooklyn Tabernacle in Brooklyn, N.Y.; and Wayne Cordeiro, founding pastor of New Hope Christian Fellowship, based in Honolulu, Hawaii.


Earlier this month, Uth told BP he had hoped Southern Baptists could learn from a diverse group of speakers and performers he considers friends.


"My goal, my prayer was that we could open ourselves up to hear from people that maybe were good friends of ours, but not in our Southern Baptist Convention," Uth has said. "I feel like they 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."


First Baptist Orlando originally responded to concerns by offering to cover all costs associated with the 2020 SBCPC. Instead the EC determined the SBCPC will be responsible for the standard $100,000 reimbursement for meeting hall space if such space is granted.


Full responses from Stone and Uth are included below.


Stone's full statement to EC members:


"This past Tuesday, you authorized the EC officers to handle the challenging matters related to the 2020 SBC Pastors' Conference and its requested use of convention space. Yesterday, Dr. Uth, 2020 SBCPC president, shared with us that he wishes to call his congregation to a period of 40 days of prayer and fasting that the Lord would give him guidance as their pastor. Therefore, he could not, in good conscience, provide an answer by the stated deadline of February 24.


"The officers recognize the need of Dr. Uth to shepherd the wonderful people of First Baptist Church of Orlando through this very public matter. In the spirit of cooperation, we are agreed that the extension of the deadline to March 30 is not only wise but is also within the spirit and scope of the Executive Committee's decision on Tuesday.


"While our commitment is firm regarding use of the convention hall for the presently proposed program, we wish to invite the Executive Committee and all Southern Baptists to join in a specific season of prayer to end on March 29 with a promised response from Dr. Uth on March 30."


Uth's full statement:


On Tuesday, February 18, I learned that the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee voted to disallow the use of the 2020 SBC venue at the Orange County Convention Center for the 2020 Pastors' Conference unless we adjust the program of the Pastors Conference to meet the approval of the Executive Committee officers. The action issued a deadline of February 24 for me to decide if we are going to submit an amended program.


Yesterday, in separate phone calls I informed J.D. Greear, President of the SBC, Ronnie Floyd, Executive Committee, CEO and Mike Stone, Executive Committee, Chairman that I will not have an answer to their inquiry by the deadline of February 24.


I am not comfortable deciding something of this magnitude so quickly. Instead, I'm asking our church family to pray with me through this decision.


So, I am asking our people here at First Baptist Orlando, who know me, love me and walk with me, to join me and our pastors on a 40-day season of prayer and fasting.
Together we are asking God to guide us through the decisions regarding the SBCPC 2020 so that we will respond in a way that will bring Him the greatest joy and the greatest glory.


I'm thrilled to report that Ronnie, Mike and the other officers of the Executive Committee have affirmed the plan that God laid on my heart. J.D. also offered his enthusiastic support. I want to call on every member of our SBC family to join us in this as well. Join our church as we pray: 'Make us one so we can influence many' (John 17:21)!


While we pray, I will not be issuing any statements or commenting on any SBC actions in order to protect the unity that has been created by our common desire to seek God's perfect plan for us. I invite you to do the same.



I expect to have an answer for the Executive Committee on March 30, 2020."



Diana Chandler is Baptist Press' general assignment writer/editor. 

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