Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear warned those gathered at the denomination’s annual meeting that churches cannot become a “stooge for one party.”
Speaking before messengers at the annual meeting in Birmingham, Alabama, on Tuesday, Greear talked about the need to put the Gospel over all other matters.
Greear told those gathered that they must show “restraint” on certain issues, including “political affiliation,” which unlike the Gospel was “not of first importance.”
“Political affiliations have a way of obscuring the Gospel. In our political climate we know that if we’re known as the stooge for one party, we’ll lose all audience with the other,” said Greear.
“When we tie our message too closely to a political platform, we put an unnecessary obstacle in the way of the Gospel for half of our mission field.”
Greear clarified that he still believed that churches should speak out on “justice issues” like racial reconciliation and pro-life advocacy, he warned that trying to promote specific political views can “write off half of our mission field.”
Greear gave an anecdote about a woman who after being baptized sent him a letter, explaining how she and him once engaged in a back-and-forth on abortion on Twitter.
He recalled that her Twitter handle was “something like ‘left-lucy’” and that she had started attending his church when invited by some friends.
“I had no idea this woman went to our church,” recalled Greear, who quoted her as saying in the letter that she was glad Greear “did not make this the Republican church” and that if he had done so, she “would have never been able to bring myself to go.”
“Politics is important to me, it’s important to our society. But the soul of ‘left-lucy’ is even more important to me. Do we care about almost half of the country that identifies with her? I really want to reach a generation of ‘left-lucys’ and I know you do also.”
Greear felt that this was especially “crucial going into the next election,” and that pastors needed to review their sermons and social media posts.
In an interview with The Christian Post in May, Greear explained that he believed pastors “have to be clear on the things that we disagree with as much as we champion the things that we agree with in our particular candidate.”
“If you feel like that at the end of the day Trump is the right one or the better of the options, be clear about the dignity of the immigrant. Be clear about the need for righteousness and purity in our leaders. Be clear about how much you dislike him speaking in a way that denigrates other people,” explained Greear to CP last month.
“If at the end of the day you look at it and feel like whoever the Democratic candidate is, you feel like that of all the different things, this is the better of the options … make sure you’re clear about the wickedness of abortion. Make sure you’re clear about the preciousness of religious liberty.”
Greear’s comments came on the first day of the SBC Annual Meeting, taking place at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex, the theme being “Gospel Above All,” which was based off 1st Corinthians 15:3-4.
Last year, the SBC garnered controversy when Vice President Mike Pence spoke at the event, with some denouncing the political nature of many of his comments.
While Pence had talked about his spiritual upbringing and the power of prayer, he also focused on President Trump's agenda items of tax cuts, nominating conservative judges, fighting the Islamic State, and the talks with North Korea. He received a standing ovation.
"I know the SBC has welcomed politicians on occasion going back 45 years, but has there ever been a full-blown campaign speech like this one?" tweeted Trevin Wax, director of Bibles & Reference at LifeWay, at the time.
Others, including Pastor Jack Graham of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, supported Pence’s remarks, tweeting last year that he believed the vice president “is a Godly and dedicated public servant who inspired the #SBC and blessed us with words of encouragement. So very glad he honored us by coming and delivering a message that rocked the house.”