J.D. Greear
SBC President J.D. Greear during the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention at the BJCC, June 11, 2019, in Birmingham, Alabama. (RNS photo by Butch Dill.)

SBC President J.D. Greear: “God did not call Southern Baptists to save America”

By Bob Smietana

Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) President J.D. Greear called out fellow Baptists who he said were sowing dissension and lies in the nation’s largest Protestant denomination at the meeting of the SBC’s Executive Committee on Monday.

Greear,  who pastors The Summit Church, a North Carolina megachurch, defended his three years as the denomination’s president and highlighted the convention’s growing diversity. But he said political divides are distracting the convention from its mission work.

“We are not, at our core, a political activism group,” he said in an address to the denomination’s Executive Committee. “We love our country, but God has not called us to save America — he’s called us to build the church and spread the gospel and that is our primary mission.”

In recent months, Southern Baptist leaders have been embroiled in a debate over Critical Race Theory, an academic framework that seeks to explain systematic racism.  Leaders of the denomination’s seminaries labeled CRT as incompatible with the SBC’s statement of faith.

That led several prominent black Southern Baptist pastors and congregations to announce they were leaving the denomination.

Greear called on his fellow Baptists to focus on the gospel, instead of things that divide them. And the gospel, he said, demands diversity.

“If we are going to be gospel above all people, it means that we will be a church that engages all of the peoples in America, not just one kind,” he said. “And that’s hard. Bringing together people of different backgrounds and cultures and ethnicities into the church creates challenges. Anybody that says it’s not hasn’t actually done it.”

While he said that he agreed with some of the concerns about CRT, he also lamented that criticism of CRT had alienated people of color and pledged to work harder on racial reconciliation.

Some Southern Baptist leaders, including Greear and ethicist Russell Moore, have been accused of leading the denomination in a “liberal direction” because of their openness to addressing issues of race and social justice. Others were criticized for not being supportive enough of Donald Trump.

Greear said that COVID-19 has revealed fault lines in the denomination.  

“The last year has revealed areas of weakness in our beloved Convention of churches,” he said. “Fissures and fault lines and fleshly idolatries. COVID didn’t produce these crises, it only exposed them.”

Greear said that Southern Baptists have always come together to send out missionaries and to train leaders. He said the denomination spent years fighting to get its theology right.

But its culture, he said, has failed at times to reflect that theology and was more shaped by Southern or conservative culture than the gospel. That culture has often made life difficult for people of color while allowing racists to be at home.

“We should mourn when closet racists and neo-Confederates feel more at home in our churches than do many of our people of color,” he said. “The reality is that if we in the SBC had shown as much sorrow for the painful legacy that racism and discrimination has left in our country as we have passion to decry CRT, we probably wouldn’t be in this mess.”

As president, J.D. Greear said that he and other leaders have been lied about, called liberal, and accused of trying to destroy the convention.

He then outlined some of his conservative credentials — his church’s commitment to sending missionaries and baptizing new converts, his prayer at the U.S. Senate on the day that Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed, and his belief that homosexuality is sinful.

Greear also joked about rumors that he had received funding from progressive philanthropist George Soros and that he flew around the country in a private plane paid for with Southern Baptist donations.  The SBC president said that he had seen neither a check from Soros nor an SBC-funded plane.

Greear labeled lies about SBC leaders and entities as “demonic” and said that the SBC could no longer tolerate such sinful behavior from critics that he compared to the Pharisees, a religious group that opposed Jesus in the New Testament gospels.

Southern Baptists fought against liberal theology in the past, he said. They should also oppose those who try to divide Baptists with lies.

“Brothers and sisters, in the 1980s, we repudiated the leaven of the liberals, a leaven that threatened to poison the gospel,” he said. “Are we now going to repudiate the leaven of the Pharisees, which can choke out the gospel just as easily?”

Those controversies, Greear said, distract from the denomination’s largest mission.

In the end, he said, Southern Baptists had to decide what was more important to them.

“Do we want to be a gospel people, or a Southern culture people? Which is the more important part of our name — Southern or Baptist?” 

Bob Smietana is a national reporter for Religion NewBob Smietanas Service.

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29 thoughts on “SBC President J.D. Greear: “God did not call Southern Baptists to save America””

  1. JD has a flawed viewpoint. the final question in this article assumes that those disagreeing with CRT are Southern racist. The fact is the gospel has no room for CRT. It is the gospel that unites, CRT forms division. CRT prey’s on the false premise of “white privilege.” It asks for Christians to apologize for the amount of melatonin God placed in their skin. Those in the church that push CRT, need to repent and be a gospel people more than a CRT people.

    1. David S…Very true. For anyone reading this article and then comments I highly recommend a podcast called “Just Thinking” by Darrel Bernard Harrison and Virgil Walker. They take these questions/issues head on and always do so first and foremost from a biblical perspective. They dont care about what politics or factions say but start with scripture and it alone and recognize its sufficiency in this, as well as other cultural, matters.

      1. The Church has become bored with Jesus Christ. The written witness of Scripture declares Gods top priorities as the great commission great commandment and Gods great purpose for His Church in John 17. JESUS came to earth to inaugurate a New Covenant via His New Covenant blood offered in heaven once for all our eternal redemption…. Lose the distractions of CRT. Abide with Christ in His yoke.

      2. I am not involved with SBC in any way, though I have some dear friends who do. As I have read through the comments, I can only begin to imagine how God must grieve public disharmony, evident divisiveness, and. Yes, thinly veiled name calling by His people, His torch bearers. I grieve the fact that Christianity itself is difficult enough to share with those who are exploring it for their own lives, and the impact that inner squabbling within its ranks, such as this, is so public. What must they think? It’s so brutally simple in the Bible—-love God, love man. Since there are no qualifying statements to those two commands in the Word, I can only assume that it means ALL men. It seems to me that the need to be heard on lesser “issues “ trumps following that second command.

        1. Joe…unfortunately there is a lot more to consider. Yes it is love God…and then by direct measure the love of man flows from that. With the CRT issues and “wokeism” going around in the church those items are dividing the church and by the nature and “teachings” of CRT etc… it is perverting the gospel.
          I highly recommend listening to podcasts that I mentioned above called “Just Thinking” by Darrel Harrison and Virgil Walker. They lay the issues out from a biblical perspective first and foremost.

          They would deny the aspects of CRT and as Darrel Harrison mentions CRT basically accuses people of “Sin by Proxy”. That just because one is white we are guilty automatically, by proxy, of the sin of racism. That according to CRT we are “by proxy” oppressors. The whole CRT movement fails to recognize that ALL men are capable of ANY sin. Melanin count doesnt make one more or less an oppressor or racist. That is what CRT and the woke movement teaches and as such is antithetical to the gospel. THat is why it is so important to point it out as a wrong and destructive teaching for the church.

        2. Joe–here is a primer on their podcast..the actual podcast is entitled “Sin by Proxy”. It is a good start to look into the issue. Also in one of their 2019 episodes they speak about the sbc conference where CRT was “adopted” as a means to look at items in the SBC. I would probably suggest that as well.
          At the end of each podcast are additional items to read/view. Such as the article “The problem is enmity not ethnicity” at the end of the Sin by Proxy episode.

          Enjoy

          https://justthinking.me/ep-023-sin-by-proxy/

          https://justthinking.me/ep-075-sbc-reflections-part-1/

          https://justthinking.me/ep-076-sbc-reflections-part-2/

        3. loving God means keeping his commandments, respecting the truth in his Word and respecting his creation. Jesus said himself he is truth and the Bible says the devil is the father of lies. The Bible speaks of love as a test of Christian life, but also speaks of truth and righteousness as being tests of Christian life just the same. Failing to speak against the lies and racism of CRT would be failing to love God and man.

    2. This is so true, Dave. JD refuses to deal with that issue as he likes to be liked. We all have idols in our lives – his is people pleasing. I wish Julie herself would respond with an article on this as Bob Smietana is showing “the one side.” (Bob used to work with Lifeway. That says a lot and not necessarily in a positive way.) JD’s inaction and lack of response on Bryan Loritts, etc, never came out in this. Also, the seminary presidents don’t really care if CRT does not gel with the Baptist Faith and Message, but care about if it can go along with the Word of God. JD labels everyone who does not agree with him, a racist, etc. No, just read Tom Ascol and some of the other men……They are concerned with the Word of God. They live out John 1:14. Tom is the one behind raising the needed money for Voddie Baucham and family right now. A racist? I don’t think so. JD has never apologized or even mentioned his part in the sneaky, underhanded way Proposition IX was handled in 2019. He needs to stop hiding behind his same old message, calling out his detractors as racists, and deal with some in-house messes he personally has made. Julie needs to hold JD accountable on some of these levels and not back off. The Bryan Loritts issue is a good example but she also needs to watch carefully “By What Standard?”

    3. …”the false premise of “white privilege.”
      Only a White person with zero experience of racism; zero empathy for those who have; zero desire to humble himself to learn from those who have struggled lifelong against the disadvantage of dark skin; a poor intellect; and a non-existent understanding of history could write something so unbelievably crass.

  2. James Lutzweiler

    If we follow JD’s paradigm re: Blacks in particular, we will have more people like Brian Loritts on the staffs of our churches. I commend JD in theory but not in practice. For his foolishness re: Loritts alone perhaps he should be impeached. He certainly does not lead me. This is to say nothing about his treatment of Paige Patterson in the Houston Chronicle and elsewhere. In a word: abominable. Until JD publicly apologizes to Paige, the SBC is not going anywhere but further down.

    James Lutzweiler
    Archivist (1999-2013)
    Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

    1. Thank you, James. JD is cherry picking what he wants to address and not dealing with some key issues. I believe too, he needs to apologize to those that were at the SBC convention in 2019 about the sneakiness of how Resolution IX was handled and the fact that those who were actually “left behind” for the last hour of the last day of the convention, pretty much did not have a clue WHAT they were voting on. This is the day I lost respect for him – and later heard about Bryan Loritts past. I knew for years that they were good friends but I would hope a godly good friend of mine would hold me accountable. Counting the days until he steps down. Maybe then he can be honest about what he has avoided.

  3. Greear is mixing sound teaching about the church’s primary Gospel mission with unsound reasoning. There is a serious problem with conflation in his statement. It’s actually racist of Greear and insulting toward many African Americans for him to equate white Christians being accepting of African Americans with white Christians accepting the demonic lies of CRT. And it’s slanderous of him to imply Christians who oppose CRT are closet racists. He’s obviously not fit for convention leadership.

    What does he mean when he says the church is not called to save America? Is the alternative abandoning America? Is God calling us to abandon America? Would God not want us to do something to preserve the lives and liberties and good government of our country if we can? It’s too vague a statement even if meant to convey something godly.

    When he spoke of those sowing lies was he speaking of those proclaiming critical race theory and the existence of systemic racism in today’s America? After reading the article I see he was condemning lies that he was funded by George Soros and flew in an SBC funded plane. I never heard those lies but I have heard an awful lot of the lies of CRT and systemic racism going around. There may be problems with Pharisee-like false accusations and such, but he is a much bigger Pharisee for straining the gnat of the gossip about George Soros that probably hardly anyone even believes and expressing intolerance toward his critics while swallowing the camel of the very widespread and destructive false teachings of CRT, in being so dismissive and tolerant toward it.

    The gospel does not demand a diversity that includes lies along with truth.

    1. “What does he mean when he says the church is not called to save America? ”
      I believe he’s addressing the “America First” mindset. Many Southern Baptist have
      the “God and Country” mindset, and uncritically treat American culture and politics
      as something sacred. I think the statement is meant to challenge the blending of “love
      of country” with the higher, eternal, and universal love for Christ and His gospel. It’s
      like saying I love my wife and my pet. It’s ok to love your pet, but you’re not married
      to it. When you start loving your pet as much as your spouse, something needs to be
      addressed.

      1. I have always said that the so-called “Bible Belt” comprised mostly of Southern Baptists are just very good “cultural Christians” with all that God, Country and Apple Pie national civic religion. They view the Scriptures through the lens of politics and wrap the Cross with the American Flag. Ironically, I would argue that even though places like the Northeast are extremely secular, a higher percentage of the attendees to churches are not “cultural Christians” than those in the Bible Belt. Because unlike the South, there is no cultural pressure to do the church thing on Sundays.

      2. ok, if that’s what he meant he poorly communicated that. He could have said God does not call us to worship our nation or something like that. Though I doubt you are accurately portraying the majority of southern Baptists as loving country as much as God. The saying I’ve heard usually makes a point to put country after God.

        1. It’s not my place to judge anyone’s heart, but the fact that he even needs to distinguish between “Trumpism” and building the church/ spreading the gospel throughout the world is concerning. Political philosophy is not the church’s primary focus. Seems like more than ever, it has become a distraction and people have gotten their eye off the ball.

      1. Yes. I’m not familiar with the much of the internal politics of SBC but I follow the issues and spiritual warfare at work in the church.

  4. God’s idea of Justice:

    He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?

  5. One more thing that is disconcerting about JD Greear’s lack of wanting to deal with certain issues is that “if” the giving to the SBC and specifically to NAMB and the IMB goes down because churches that “he” would deem as racists because they don’t agree with the direction of our leaders, he has to see that he and his lack of really studying up on things like CRT/I or apologizing for areas where he has clearly misstepped, will be a big part of this lower giving. So indirectly, JD himself is a part of the cause for the giving to these ministries that are all about reaching the world for Christ, being off. I wonder if he would ever admit to that?

  6. Here is a great podcast episode that just dropped today from Just Thinking. The episode material starts about 18 min into the podcast. The material preceding the 18 min mark are. housekeeping materials.
    Pleas look at the info below the podcast episode link that has additional material that adds to this episode.
    It is over 3 hrs in length

    https://justthinking.me/ep-108-critical-race-theory/

    1. CRYING FROM THE MOUNTAIN

      I remember 3 or 4 years ago being in a pastor’s home for a men’s bible study , you know ,one of those one’s where you watch a 10 minute video of a christian speaker speaking on some certain subject and scripture ………….
      Well it was JD talking, I’m pretty sure that I had heard of his name somewhere before………. anyways he finished talking , the video turned off and the lights in the living came back up and before I knew it , in front of 10 men of various ages , I said ” WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?? ” (with my outside voice too) this JD guy spoke such twisted crap regarding certain scriptures and their “meanings” and upset my “insides” that the words just came out.

      IMAGINE MY SURPRISE THAT HE IS IN CHARGE OF ANYTHING from Sunday school , a church or a whole convention ……. IT IS ACTUALLY REALLY REALLY DISGUSTING never mind ALL of the other disqualifying things he is involved with… YUCK , can somebody in earshot REBUKE HIM please., Thank you

      1. Crying…I totally agree. One of the alarming things i heard him say was that the scriptures “whisper” about sexual immorality. He said that in a sermon a while back(2019??) about homosexuality.

        May i ask what they topic was, if you can remember, that the video was on??? If you like doing those types of studies one I can HIGHLY recommend is from Media Gratiae ministries called Behold You God:Rethinking God biblically. Please dont let the word “rethinking” concern you. The study comes from a pure biblical basis and utilizes AW Tozer book Pursuit of God as its basis. I have linked to the first episode of the study…”The Great Attraction” below.
        Here are the contents of the 12 week study. They use Christians of the past, mostly Puritans, as examples in each study topic.
        Introduction – Welcome to Behold Your God
        Week 1 – Beholding God: The Great Attraction AW Tozer
        Week 2 – Beholding God: Clearing the Way For Our Return Timothy Dwight
        Week 3 – Beholding God: In the Bible George Mueller
        Week 4 – Beholding God: In the Face of Jesus Christ Samuel Rutherford
        Week 5 – Beholding God: In the Work of Salvation George Whitfield
        Week 6 – Beholding God and the Response of Personal Holiness Robert Murray McCheyne
        Week 7 – Beholding God: Restoring Worship in Our Lives Charles Spurgeon
        Week 8 – Beholding God and Evangelism Daniel Rowland
        Week 9 – Beholding God and Our Christian Service Amy Carmichael
        Week 10 – Beholding a Lesser God? Charles Finney (as what NOT to do)
        Week 11 – Beholding God: Avoiding the Lies of Pragmatism D Martyn Lloyd-Jones
        Week 12 – Seeking the God We Are Beholding Jonathan Edwards

        I hope and pray it is edifying to you..

        jim

  7. CRYING FROM THE MOUNTAIN

    Hi Jim ,
    Thank you for your kindness towards me in sharing the studies , I don’t remember what JD was talking about that night, I just tried to forget…..
    By the way the “rethinking” word does not bother me , in fact I’ve learned to embrace it because of the rancid fruit on display by “christian leaders” everywhere ……..
    By my estimation A LOT OF THINGS NEED TO BE RETHUNK ! ( not yelling at you Jim , Thanks again)

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