Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear has urged Christians not to "tear apart" their unity over theological disagreements, such as Calvinism.
"It is the Gospel that is the source of our renewal, and it is the Gospel that should be our defining characteristic as a people," Greear said in his first presidential address at the SBC on Monday in Nashville.
Baptist Press reported that The Summit Church, in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina pastor made a promise to preach the Gospel "above all."
"Our disagreement on finer points of theology should not tear apart our unity in the Gospel," Greear said. "Calvinism is never an issue to me.... I can assure you that what is not biblical is sitting around bickering about finer points of theology when people are lost and going to Hell."
"I agree with (former SBC president) Johnny Hunt. I do not know all there is to know about the particulars of Calvinism," he added, "but what I do know is that the more I go and share Christ, the more people seem to keep getting elected."
Beside his stated presidential theme of the "Gospel Above All," Greear also pledged to tackle some of the major problems affecting Christians and society at large. He revealed that he will appoint a Sexual Abuse Advisory Study, which will address such abuse as a Gospel issue, rather than serve simply as a reaction to current events.
He argued that churches "ought to be known as the safest places on the planet for the vulnerable. Isn't that at least the heart, the most basic thing of our Gospel when Jesus says come unto Me all ye who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest?"
He said that clarity on the issue of sex abuse is "critical to evangelism in the next era."
"If the next generation does not believe that our churches are a safe place," he said, paraphrasing Executive Committee member Bill Prince, "then they won't come to our churches nor to what we do .... If they don't come to our churches, they will probably never learn to trust Jesus as their Savior."
Greear added that the study will have a rotating membership, and envisioned that it will continue on past his presidency.
Among his other initiatives, Greear outlined the importance of church planting and mobilizing students to prioritize the Kingdom of God. As he has in past promises, he also underlined his commitment to cultural diversity among Southern Baptists.
"This has got to be more than a stated desire for Southern Baptists," the pastor said.
"The work of reconciliation is hard work. Anybody that tells you otherwise has never actually engaged in it. There are some things that you are going to have to be committed to that go beyond the tip of the hat."
Back in January, Greear urged in his New Year's Day message for white Christians to share in the burdens believers of color face.
"We need to make every effort to bear the burdens that many of our brothers and sisters of color are carrying. These are burdens that most of us have never had to experience," he wrote.
"And often, sadly, our brothers and sisters of color are carrying the weight of these heavy burdens by themselves. Racial reconciliation involves quite a bit more than simply sharing burdens, but it never involves less than this."