David Uth, president of the Southern Baptist Convention Pastors' Conference 2020, has embarked on a 40-day season of prayer and fasting amid dissension over his decision to include speakers and guests who are not Southern Baptist in the upcoming program, including female teaching pastor and spoken word artist Hosanna Wong.
Uth’s reaction comes in the wake of a decision by the SBC’s executive committee stipulating that the SBCPC makes changes to the program by Feb. 24 in response to the dissent. These changes would also have to be made before it is granted space at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida, where the SBC’s annual meeting will be held June 7-8.
In a statement published last Thursday, Uth, who leads First Baptist Church of Orlando, explained that when he learned about the decision made by the SBC’s executive committee, he reached out to the leaders and they agreed that he would have until March 30 to deliver his response instead.
“In separate phone calls I informed J.D. Greear, president of the SBC, Ronnie Floyd, Executive Committee CEO, and Mike Stone, Executive Committee chairman, that I will not have an answer to their inquiry by the deadline of February 24. I am not comfortable deciding something of this magnitude so quickly. Instead, I’m asking our church family to pray with me through this decision,” Uth said in his statement.
“I am asking our people here at First Baptist Orlando, who know me, love me and walk with me, to join me and our pastors on a 40-day season of prayer and fasting. Together we are asking God to guide us through the decisions regarding the SBCPC 2020 so that we will respond in a way that will bring Him the greatest joy and the greatest glory.”
Some SBC pastors have reportedly threatened to boycott the conference over Wong’s inclusion in the lineup. Wong is a network associate teaching pastor at the Chula Vista campus of the multisite EastLake Church in San Diego, California. Southern Baptists do not endorse female pastors.
Southern Baptists have also raised concern over David Hughes, pastor of Church by the Glades, a Southern Baptist congregation in Coral Springs, Florida; Jim Cymbala, pastor of the evangelical nondenominational Brooklyn Tabernacle in Brooklyn, New York; and Wayne Cordeiro, founding pastor of New Hope Christian Fellowship, based in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Prior to the SBC executive committee’s call for changes to the program, leaders like Michael Frost, a missiologist and theologian who founded the Tinsley Institute at Morling College in Australia, asked his nearly 9,000 followers on Twitter to pray for Wong as he outlined efforts by objecting pastors to get Wong removed from the lineup.
“This is Hosanna Wong, the teaching pastor at EastLake Church. She was invited to speak at the SBC’s Pastors’ Conference, but SBC pastors have written a letter of protest, demanding that she repent, and threatening to withhold all funding until she is disinvited. Pray for her,” he said.
Responding to the threat to withhold funding, Uth and his church decided to fund the event themselves.
“We believe that we are part of God’s kingdom. His Kingdom is bigger than us. We can and should hear from and learn from men and women inside and outside our denomination who have meaningful truth to share that can challenge and encourage us, even if they use different methodology or hold to different theology or ecclesiology. Because of these convictions, First Baptist Orlando has decided to assume all of the financial obligations for the 2020 SBC Pastors’ Conference,” Uth said in a Feb. 17 statement.
“We will not receive any financial support of any kind from any SBC entity or auxiliary. Our hope is that this will ease conflicts or tensions that exist over the slated program for the conference. The 2020 SBC Pastors’ Conference is in no way being sponsored, controlled or paid for by the SBC, even though its purpose is still to bless and encourage SBC pastors and wives. We are excited to welcome you, as part of our Southern Baptist family, to Orlando. We do hope you will want to attend the 2020 SBC Pastors’ Conference. We believe you will be encouraged in your personal walk with Jesus and in fulfilling your calling as pastor. If you don’t feel comfortable attending, that’s okay too. Your participation is desired but by no means required.”
Uth’s church also noted that on Feb. 17, they wired the $100,000 required reimbursement for the use of the Orange County Convention Center for the 2020 SBC Pastors’ Conference to Bill Townes, CFO for the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee.
They also noted that they would continue to receive sponsorship and financial support from individuals, churches and non-SBC organizations.