For the first time in too long, the Southern Baptist Convention is holding a genuine presidential election, giving delegates a choice on deciding who should lead the nations largest denomination.
Since the conservative takeover of the 16-million-member body in the late 1970s, the SBC has morphed into a model evangelical church, grounded in Biblical theology and focused on mission. Many agree that this successful political maneuvering of bright conservative minds has spared the denomination from the membership hemorrhage of most other historic mainline churches.
However, the politicking has cost the church more than just the loss of liberals from top ranks. It has led to the recycling of leadership, unintended homogeny, and consequently the loss of youth in both the pews and pulpit.
Therefore, the mere nomination of three candidates including one pastor who has been heralding the call for a broadening of the church walls is a good sign of development for a church that has not held a real democratic presidential election in 12 years.
This election is not a step backward to the time of liberal rule, for by no means are any of the candidates liberal all three oppose gay marriage, uphold the integrity of the Bible, and are pro-life. It is, instead, a landmark moment of maturity for the church, mirroring the growing cognitive eloquence in the larger evangelical movement.
No matter which candidate wins the race, the Southern Baptist Convention will be walking in the right direction if it continues to promote greater democracy and a wider voice in determining its future.