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GCR Task Force already ‘talking about big issues,’ chairman says

Group holds first meeting, news conference


ATLANTA (FBW) – The Great Commission Resurgence Task Force met Aug. 11-12 in Atlanta, burdened by the “absolutely enormous” and “extremely challenging” responsibility placed upon it by the Southern Baptist Convention, Chairman Ronnie Floyd said Aug. 12 at a news conference after the group’s first meetings concluded.

Photo by James A. Smith Sr

SBC President Johnny Hunt (l) and GCR Task Force Chairman Ronnie Floyd hold a news conference Aug. 12 in Atlanta following the first meeting of the group authorized by the Southern Baptist Convention to explore how the denomination can be more effective in carrying out the Great Commission.

Floyd, pastor of First Baptist Church in Springdale, Ark., said the group is already “talking about big issues and looking at big questions” pertaining to Southern Baptists doing the Great Commission.

“I trust that all of us understand this, but we have a huge job to accomplish and looming deadline before us. This much is already clear – our great passion is the Great Commission,” he said.

“With that as our passion, we will work long, hard and tirelessly to develop a report that will unleash a passion for the Great Commission that will energize Southern Baptists and prioritize our work together,” Floyd said.

The task force was appointed by SBC President Johnny Hunt in June after the SBC authorized its creation to study how Southern Baptists can work “more faithfully and effectively together in serving Christ through the Great Commission.”

The task force met privately with only members permitted to attend, although two of Hunt’s staff and his wife, Janet, participated on a limited basis. Other invited guests participated for portions of the two-day meeting, including Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources, and SBC chief parliamentarian Barry McCarty, who was in Atlanta Aug. 11 to assist the North American Mission Board in its trustees’ deliberations concerning President Geoff Hammond.

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Floyd said the task force prayed several times during its meeting on Aug. 11 while the NAMB trustees were deliberating over the future of Hammond, who ultimately resigned with three associates late in the day.

Floyd said Hammond’s resignation “adds to our urgency and our burden. It adds to the challenges we have before us. But we are going to trust the trustee process of the SBC and really, it’s really not our issue to talk about.”

The task force heard presentations by Rainer, and task force members R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., and Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C.

Hunt, pastor of First Baptist Church of Woodstock, Ga., serves on the task force as an ex-officio member, along with Floyd and 21 other Southern Baptists. Only two members – Ted Traylor, pastor of Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola, and David Dockery, president of Union University – were not able to participate in any part of the meetings.

Hunt joined Floyd for the news conference at the Renaissance Concourse Hotel near the Atlanta airport, but spoke only briefly, noting the group has designated Floyd as its spokesman.

“I’m excited about the start,” Hunt said during the 30-minute news conference. “I feel like it was a very engaging time, a very challenging time. I feel like the longer we were together, the more open and honest we could be to share how we really felt, not always what we wanted to hear, but what kept the conversation open and flowing that can lead to change.”

Hunt added although “change is difficult,” the task force desires to “come together, lead for change, that would bring positive change as it pertains to being more effective and more efficient with the Great Commission.”

Floyd said the group engaged in an “extended period of prayer and then immediately got busy with the job that Southern Baptists have assigned to us.”

Asked by Baptist Press, The Alabama Baptist, The Christian Index and Florida Baptist Witness about various details of the task force’s discussions, Floyd declined to elaborate on the group’s deliberations.

“The nature of the work is so – it’s got to be confidential to a degree, because of the kind of things we have to discuss,” he said. “We do not want to get us off on side streets that take us away from the main street we’re trying to go on right now.

Floyd confirmed the task force has received and discussed a missions funding analysis written by Southeastern Seminary staffer Daniel Palmer first reported Aug. 10 by the Witness.

“Yes, it has been made available, and yes, we did discuss it. And I have no further comment beyond that,” Floyd said.

The analysis found that Southern Baptists spend per capita $1.31 for missions in North America compared to $0.04 for the rest of the world.

Floyd declined to answer whether the task force agrees with Palmer’s assertion that the Bible prioritizes the “ends of the earth” in missions.

“I really don’t believe that at this time we need to be talking about that document to the degree that you all would like to talk about that. I just think it will sidetrack us from the discussion. So I’m just going state that, please,” Floyd said.

Because many members of the task force do not know each other, Floyd said one of the goals of the first meeting was for the members to become acquainted, adding that the membership of the group reflects the diversity of Southern Baptist life.

The task force spent much of its time talking about the future of the Southern Baptist Convention and “what that needed to look like,” he said.

Floyd said that task force has not yet planned any future meetings, other than the previously announced gathering set for Aug. 26-27 in Rogers, Ark.. That meeting will be preceded by a luncheon hosted by Floyd’s church and a listening session with Hunt. Invitations have been mailed to approximately 1,800 Southern Baptists within a two-hour radius.

Floyd said he received a letter from SBC Executive Committee President Morris Chapman “probably within two weeks ago” confirming the EC will fund its work and requesting a budget for the group’s work. The EC will consider the matter at its meeting in September.

“So he made that initiation himself, which we greatly appreciated,” Floyd said of Chapman.

Last month, Hunt told Florida Baptist Witness the matter of funding the task force’s work was unresolved and there had not been any contact between himself and Chapman who opposed the creation of the task force before and during the SBC annual meeting in Louisville.

Floyd said more than 2,500 Southern Baptists have pledged to pray for the task force via the group’s Web site, www.Pray4GCR.com, representing 800 cities, 44 states and nine countries. He has set a goal of 5,000 participants.

The Web site has already begun to receive recommendations from Southern Baptists, Floyd said.

“We want to hear from them. They can email me. They can write us letters,” he said, adding that his church is developing ways for Southern Baptists who do not use the Internet to participate in the effort.