Bruce Frank, former SBC abuse process pressure chief, joins crowded SBC presidential race

(RNS) — A North Carolina pastor who championed intercourse abuse reforms within the Southern Baptist Conference plans to run for president of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination.

Bruce Frank, longtime pastor of Biltmore Church in Asheville, introduced Tuesday (April 2) that he would permit his identify to be positioned for nomination on the SBC’s annual assembly this summer time in Indianapolis.

“As the most important missionary pressure in modern-day historical past, I imagine one of the best days of the SBC will be forward of us,” mentioned Frank in saying his candidacy, saying that as president he would concentrate on evangelism, abuse reform and revitalizing church buildings.

Frank will enter a crowded race for the presidency — a volunteer position that oversees the denomination’s annual assembly and helps affect nominations for key SBC committees.

The SBC presidency can be a bully pulpit, with the president changing into the general public face of the 13 million-member denomination throughout their time period in workplace. Most SBC presidents — like present president and Texas pastor Bart Barber — have served two consecutive one-year phrases.

The Rev. Bruce Frank, lead pastor of Biltmore Baptist Church of Arden, N.C., speaks throughout a gathering of the Southern Baptist Conference Government Committee on Sept. 21, 2021, in Nashville, Tenn. (RNS photograph/Bob Smietana)

Frank will be a part of fellow North Carolina pastor Clint Pressley, Oklahoma pastor Mike Keahbone, Tennessee pastor Jared Moore and seminary professor David Allen as candidates.

These different 4 candidates not too long ago took half in an on-line discussion board, the place a lot of the dialog revolved across the denomination’s funds, abuse reforms and a proposed modification that might bar church buildings the place any lady holds the title of pastor from the SBC.

The following SBC president may play a task in the way forward for abuse reforms within the denomination. Presently, these reforms are being overseen by a volunteer implementation process pressure appointed by Barber — and that process pressure’s future could be probably decided by his successor.

Whereas there was some progress on the state and native ranges, with extra church buildings conscious of the necessity to take abuse severely, reforms on a nationwide stage have stalled. There is no such thing as a long-term plan to fund reforms and little help thus far for a brand new nonprofit generally known as the Abuse Response Fee — which organizers say was integrated not too long ago to assist oversee reforms long run.

The implementation process pressure does plan to unveil on the SBC annual assembly a brand new curriculum for church buildings to assist them reply to abuse and can host a gathering with state leaders later this month.

Throughout the current presidential discussion board, the candidates mentioned abuse was a major problem for the SBC, however Moore and Allen mentioned abuse was not a disaster or systemic within the denomination. Keahbone, who serves on the abuse implementation process pressure, mentioned it was a disaster.

Pressley mentioned abuse was a disaster however that the response to the disaster has precipitated some “fog” and confusion.

“With that fog clearing up slightly bit, we’re seeing this isn’t a system-wide disaster,” he mentioned, based on Baptist Press, an official SBC publication. “It’s a disaster, but it surely’s not displaying up in each church. Nonetheless, each church must be ready. Each church must react.”

Throughout the discussion board, Moore was skeptical a few proposed “Ministry Verify” database of SBC abusers, which was accredited by messengers to the SBC’s annual assembly. An internet site for the database was launched final yr however no names seem on the location.

Moore mentioned the database was unworkable.

“As a neighborhood Southern Baptist pastor, it sounds just like the SBC model of the FBI,” he mentioned, based on Baptist Press. “To suppose that we are able to examine potential abuse claims is so unrealistic and unachievable. I like the zeal, however suppose they’re mistaken.”

Pastor Mike Keahbone, center, leads prayer with the Southern Baptist Convention’s Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force during the SBC annual meeting at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, June 14, 2023. RNS photo by Emily Kask

Pastor Mike Keahbone, middle, leads prayer with the Southern Baptist Conference’s Abuse Reform Implementation Activity Pressure through the SBC annual assembly on the Ernest N. Morial Conference Middle in New Orleans, June 14, 2023. (RNS photograph/Emily Kask)

In an interview earlier this yr, Keahbone defended the continued work of the duty pressure and the SBC’s progress on abuse reform whereas saying there may be extra work to do. He additionally mentioned he was operating for president out of a deep love for the denomination — saying a neighborhood church in Oklahoma had modified his life.

Keahbone mentioned he had come from a troubled household that had little to do with the church. Then a volunteer from a neighborhood church invited him to trip Bible faculty — and he mentioned he discovered love and acceptance on the church.

“They only cherished me,” he mentioned. “What we’ve all the time been about as a conference has been the gospel. And once we’re centered on the gospel, it fixes the whole lot else.”

Frank mentioned that if elected president, he would proceed to champion the abuse reforms handed by native church representatives, generally known as messengers. He mentioned there have been loud voices on social media making an attempt to downplay the scope of reforms.

“I feel what we’ve seen a couple of instances is that loudness on Twitter doesn’t essentially equal the messengers’ convictions,” he mentioned. He additionally mentioned he’d concentrate on revitalizing older church buildings, which he sees as tied to the SBC’s broader evangelistic mission. Like many denominations, the SBC has seen membership decline in recent times — falling from 16.3 million members in 2006 to only over 13 million as we speak. Lots of its church buildings — like church buildings in all places within the U.S. — have additionally declined and face unsure futures.

“Math reveals that in the event that they don’t change their trajectory, they will shut,” he mentioned — including that he believes many church buildings will be rotated.

Lately, the SBC’s presidential races have been contentious — with candidates backed by a bunch generally known as the Conservative Baptist Community, which claims the denomination has turn into too liberal, going through off in opposition to those that suppose the SBC has challenges however stays conservative.

That’s led to fierce debate on social media and pointed variations between candidates. To date, this yr’s race has taken a friendlier tone.

Frank mentioned it stays to be seen if that tone stays.

“It’s going to be an fascinating few months,” he mentioned.


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