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Gaines reelected as SBC President, leads diverse slate of officers


Steve Gaines, president; John Yeats, recording secretary, back; Jose Abella, second vice president, front right; and Don Currence, registration secretary. Not pictured is Walter Strickland, first vice president. (Photo by Adam Covington)

PHOENIX—Tennessee pastor Steve Gaines was reelected by acclamation to a second term as president of the Southern Baptist Convention during the SBC annual meeting in Phoenix.

He will lead a diverse slate of officers including Walter Strickland, an African American leader of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Kingdom Diversity Initiative, first vice president; Jose Abella, a bilingual church planter from Miami, second vice president; John Yeats, who has served as recording secretary for the past two decades; and Don Currence, pastor of First Baptist Church in Ozark, Mo., registration secretary.

Gaines was nominated by his son Grant Gaines, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Jackson, Tenn., who noted his father’s first year in office had been marked by wise leadership, personal prayer and personal evangelism.

The elder Gaines, pastor of Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., called on Southern Baptists to pray and rekindle a passion for personal evangelism during his first year of service. He has championed the Cooperative Program, Southern Baptists’ unified method of funding missions and ministries in North America and internationally.

In nominating his father, the younger Gaines said, “First, he has been a consummate statesman in a year full of political and moral turmoil in our nation. Through his example, he has shown us all how to combine both a prophetic voice when need be, as well as wise restraint when need be.”

“Second, through his emphasis on prayer, he has encouraged thousands of Southern Baptists to a deeper prayer life. Anyone who knows Steve Gaines knows him as a great man of prayer, and I would love to see his passion for this spread to even more people.

“Third, his emphasis on personal evangelism has been a needed reminder in our convention,” Grant Gaines said. “It’s important that we be reminded that without personal evangelism, church planting and global missions cannot be effective.”

First vice president Strickland was nominated by former SBC President James Merritt. “Walter Strickland encapsulates who we are as Southern Baptists today and where we need to go as the SBC tomorrow,” Merritt said.

As a “young, vibrant African American” believer who seeks to foster racial reconciliation in the convention, Merritt said, “if we are going to survive and thrive, we must become more racially diverse.” 

Strickland, a member of Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, N.C., has been special adviser to the president for diversity at Southeastern since 2013. He also teaches theology at Southeastern and since 2015 has operated a consulting service to assist churches and other organizations with diversity-related issues.

Also nominated as first vice president was Abel Galvan, family life minister of First Southern Baptist Church of Anaheim, Calif., by his pastor, Victor Chayasirisobhon. Strickland garnered 1,295—or 68 percent—votes to Galvan’s 590 votes—or 31 percent.

Georgia Pastor Michael Lewis nominated Abella, lead pastor of Providence Road Church in Miami, for the office of second vice president. There were no other nominations.

The church planter “is a living picture of what we want to become as Southern Baptists,” Lewis said, “working to engage in an urban context, multiply churches, reach different generations ethnicities and social groups, all while being faithful to Scripture.”

Yeats was reelected without opposition as recording secretary, a position he has held for the past two decades.

In a departure from recent memory, someone other than Jim Wells of Missouri was nominated for registration secretary. Wells had held the office for the past 15 years, but chose not to run this year due to his declining health.

A crowded field of five persons was nominated for registration secretary, resulting in a run-off between Currence, the current acting registration secretary and pastor of First Baptist Church in Ozark, Mo.; and Waylon Owens, a Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary professor and administrator, the two top finishers in the first ballot. Currence received 554 votes (69.2 percent) and Owens received 231 votes (28.8 percent).

Messengers elected Paige Patterson as the 2018 convention preacher, Kie Bowman as the alternate preacher and Mark Blair as the convention music director. (BP)

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