Johnny Hunt, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga., has been elected the new president of the Southern Baptist Convention.
It's not a huge surprise: he's a megachurch pastor with a lot of support among the SBC leadership. It is a bit of a surprise that he won by so much. With 3,100 votes, he had more than twice as many as the next candidate, fellow Atlanta-area megachurch pastor Frank Cox of North Metro Baptist Church in Lawrenceville, Ga. With six candidates for the position -- the most since 1979, when the conservative resurgence in the denomination began -- many expected the vote to go to a runoff.
What does Hunt's presidency mean for the SBC? So far, it's hard to tell, though I'm sure the Baptist bloggers will be full of analysis tonight. Hunt's main emphases were preaching and missions (he was particularly vocal about finding new ways of funding missions). But his stances on controversies within the denominations may have had an effect as well.
It's clear that Hunt is no fan of the growing Calvinist movement within the Southern Baptist Convention. He's hosting a major conference to refute Calvinism at his church in November. But most of the candidates were not friendly to Calvinism, and Hunt has given indications that he's not out to purge the denomination of Reformed influences.
Now, Johnny Hunt may be firm in his Arminian beliefs, while I (in case you can't tell) am a full-bloomin' TULIP. That said, what does this mean for the SBC? It was a very good decision. Our church has sent many of us men to the men's conference they hold at First Baptist Woodstock every year. And never once have I ever heard him equivocate on the supremacy of Jesus Christ. You will never hear him say anyting other than Jesus is the only way to salvation. In fact, other than the fact that he is Arminian, I have never heard him say anyting that waters down or takes away from the gospel message.
Pastor Hunt even went so far as to say,
"I am not overwhelmingly concerned about Calvinism," Hunt told Baptist Press two weeks ago. "I am concerned about hyper-Calvinism, simply being defined as those that take election to the point that they feel that the Gospel should not even be shared with the whole world. ... I trust that Calvinists, and those who love Jesus of other persuasions, would come together for the common cause of making Jesus Christ known to the nations. There is plenty of room for all of us in this Baptist family."
Now, when he talks about "those who love Jesus of other persuasions" he is not talking about accepting Mormons or Jehovah's Witnesses as Christians. He is talking about people whose doctrines may be different, but who worship the same Jesus (which is not true of Mormons). Would I have rather seen Al Mohler get the nod? Yes. But let me make this abundantly and adamantly clear--Johnny Hunt is a wonderful man of God and will fill the position he was chosen to very well.
Because, you see, whether we believe that God chooses us, or we believe that we choose God--it doesn't matter. I happen to believe that the Bible is quite clear on the matter, and that we cannot come to know Christ as our Lord and Savior unless God draws us to Him (You know the passages. John 6:44. Ephesians 1:3-6. 1st Corinthians 12:3). But will Pastor Hunt take the SBC in a direction that steers it away from the necessity of submitting to Christ Jesus as God in the flesh, as Lord and Savior in order to be saved? Absolutely not. That much, we do agree on.