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The SBC Was a Train Wreck 100 Years Ago and Found a Way Through. Can It Do so Again?

Howe also called for trustees to band together to act with humility to fulfill their mission, reminding them they serve the denomination’s churches, from the smallest rural congregation to the largest megachurch.

“We serve the Southern Baptist Convention,” he said. “It does not serve us.”

Oklahoma pastor Mike Keahbone gave an update from a task force charged with implementing a number of reforms meant to address sexual abuse in the denomination. Chief among those reforms is setting up a “Ministry Check” database of abusive pastors.

Work on that database continues, but no names have been added to it so far. Keahbone said no date had been set yet for when names would be added but added that he hoped it would be soon. He also said that the volunteer task force is committed to making SBC churches safer for everyone.

Along with the work on the database, Keahbone said the task force has partnered with state conventions on abuse prevention tools. They are also searching for an entity that can oversee abuse prevention on a permanent basis.

“We will not retreat from this fight,” he said.

Barber closed the evening with a call for Southern Baptists to rise above their current troubles. A Texas pastor with a love for Baptist history, he began his report by promising not to preach. Instead, he gave a history lesson to trustees, reminding them of the denomination’s troubles in the 1920s and 1930s.

At that time, he said, Southern Baptists faced financial crisis, doctrinal divides and failed leadership, including a pair of leaders who embezzled more than a million dollars from the convention’s two missionary boards. Southern Baptists, he said, also faced a political crisis: After winning the battle to ban alcohol with the passage of the 18th Amendment in 1919, they faced a backlash against Prohibition, only to see the Democratic Party, which they then supported, nominate New York Gov. Al Smith, who was both Catholic and “an imbiber,” said Barber.

In the 1930s, the Great Depression derailed a major campaign to fund missions and one of the SBC’s prominent seminaries was set to close when a last-minute infusion of cash saved it, said Barber, who called the era “the moment of our deepest despair.”

When all seemed lost, Barber said, Baptists created what is now known as the Cooperative Program, a shared mission funding program, and the statement of faith, known as the Baptist Faith and Mission, to bind them together.

Today, with Baptists once again facing division, financial woes, political turmoil, doctrinal divides and a crisis of leadership, Barber called on his fellow SBC leaders to once again overcome those challenges with a common mission.

“We do not lack money. We do not lack planning. We do not lack opportunity,” Barber said. “God help us, what we lack is inspiration.”

Barber, who recently appointed a “cooperation group” to help the SBC move forward, asked his fellow trustees to stop following those who want to tear things down and instead work together.

“The dream of cooperation carried us through the 1920s and 1930s and it will carry us through the 2020s too,” he said.

This article originally appeared here.