Vice President Mike Pence will address the Southern Baptist Convention in Dallas on Wednesday.
SBC President Steve Gaines and Grant Ethridge, chairman of the convention’s Committee on Order of Business, announced Pence’s appearance in a press release. “We are excited to announce Vice President Mike Pence will be attending this year’s SBC annual meeting to express appreciation to Southern Baptists for the contributions we make to the moral fabric of our nation,” Gaines said.
“It’s an honor to welcome Vice President Pence,” Ethridge wrote. “While the Southern Baptist Convention aligns itself with no political party, our program recognizes and honors local, state and national leaders in keeping with 1 Timothy 2:1–2.“
Not everyone wanted the Vice President to speak. Garrett Kell of Alexandria, Virginia, made a motion to replace the speech with a time of prayer. On his Twitter page, Kell wrote that he was “hurt and bothered by this invitation,” adding, “This has nothing to do with Mr. Pence personally. From my understanding he is a Christian man who attends the church of one of our pastors.” He argued that omitting Pence could further unity, especially among Southern Baptists of different ethnicities, clarify the Gospel’s centrality for the SBC, and avoid putting overseas workers at risk.
Kell also claimed that allowing Pence to speak suggested that the SBC was aligning itself with the Trump administration, inviting violence against SBC missionaries and workers.
Ethridge disagreed, saying Pence’s appearance affords messengers an opportunity to honor government officials, as commanded by Scripture. He added that he would have supported allowing President Obama to address the SBC when he was in office.
The motion was defeated.
Southern Baptist leaders estimate the number of messengers from the convention’s cooperating churches may approach 11,000 with an additional 4,000 invited guests on the final day of the two-day convention.