The Southern Baptist Convention wrapped up its 2023 annual meeting in New Orleans this week, having handled several issues hampering the organization for the past couple of years. 

In addition to disfellowshipping two churches for violating the organization's rules preventing women pastors, including Saddleback Church in California, founded by Rick Warren, an amendment was also passed that supporters claim will strengthen and add clarity to the SBC's position on the topic.   

Messenger (the SBC's term for delegate) Chris Guinn, director of missions for Sand Mountain Baptist Association, an Alabama affiliate of the SBC, said it is a much-needed addition to the group's rules of order.

"I am thankful that the amendment passed," Guinn said. "This is a strong step showing that the Bible is the final authority for Southern Baptists. I look forward to traveling to Indianapolis next year to adopt the amendment."

According to Guinn, because of the SBC's constitution, the amendment must pass again with a two-thirds majority at next year's meeting to be adopted. 

It was also election time at the annual meeting, with embattled incumbent Bart Barber seeking re-election to the presidency. In a move that surprised some, Barber came out on top, defeating challenger Mike Stone, a pastor at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Blackshear, Ga., in a vote of 7,531 to 3,458. It was a substantial margin that suggests that, at least for now, the messengers think the organization is moving in the right direction.

"I was pleasantly surprised with how Barber moderated the convention," said Guinn. "Many of the issues that were voted on would not have made it to the floor with some of the past presidents." 

Dwight Everett, himself a messenger and director of missions for the Tennessee Valley Baptist Association, agreed. 

"It's hard to beat an incumbent," he said. "I wish Stone had waited till next year to run." 

The messengers also voted to disfellowship Freedom Church of Vero Beach, Fla., claiming its leaders repeatedly ignored inquiries into sex abuse allegations concerning its pastor, accusations that an independent investigation performed by the Anglican Church in North America later found to be credible. 

"It was a good two days for conservatives," said Guinn. "The messengers showed up to right the ship, and stop the drift to the left."

According to the Encyclopedia of Alabama, nearly 800,000 of Alabama's 4,900,000 citizens belong to churches affiliated with Southern Baptist Convention, based on a study done in 2021.  

The SBC's next annual meeting is set for June 2024 in Indianapolis, Ind.  

Allen Keller can be reached for comment at

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