opinion by Maylon Rice
Editor’s note: Maylon Rice is a former newspaper reporter, columnist and editor at several newspapers over the past 40 years. He ran, unsuccessfully for the Arkansas House of Representatives in 2012. A native of Warren, Rice lives in Fayetteville.
Opinions, commentary and other essays posted in this space are wholly the view of the author(s). They may not represent the opinion of the owners of The City Wire.
The Reverend Ronnie Floyd of Springdale this week became the third Arkansas-based pastor history to lead one of the largest U.S. religious denominations, the 15.7 million Southern Baptists.
Floyd, back in 2006, came within an eyelash of winning that leadership role. After the 2006 delegates elected someone else to lead their denomination, Floyd, much like the Southern Baptist Convention, went about reinventing themselves.
The re-invention by Floyd may have come from his expansion of the main church’s campus, once called the First Baptist Church of Springdale. The congregation, at Floyd’s leading, dropped the “Baptist” moniker and morphed into what today is known as Cross Church.
That ministry’s congregations include campuses Springdale, Rogers (at Pinnacle Hills) plus two Fayetteville locations. The church recently added a campus/congregation in nearby Neosho, Mo. More than 9,000 attend worship and church related activities each week. Floyd often appears in satellite imagery at each campus with a message for each church.
Floyd was criticized in 2006 for his congregation’s failure to donate but about 1% of the church’s undesignated donations to the SBC’s Cooperative Program. This past year, Cross Church, led the state’s Baptist congregations in donations to the SBC Cooperative Program, giving more than $700,000, according to the SBC.
Southern Baptists have also re-invented themselves, since 2006, by electing the Rev. Fred Luter, the pastor of the Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, the first African-American leader of the denomination.
Overall the Southern Baptists have experienced a seven year drop in attendance and is on a two-year decline in baptisms by immersion. Floyd, a noted conservative in the leadership of the church and widely known for his bedrock Biblical teachings, began this week with the lead sermon message opening the pre-convention’s Pastors Conference. Floyd will also write a weekly blog for the Southern Baptist, posted each Monday, during his tenure as President, something new for the denomination.
Floyd received 1,834 of the total 3,553 ballots cast (51.6%); he easily led the Rev. Dennis Kim, pastor of the Global Mission Church of Greater Washington D.C. (headquartered in Silver Springs, Md.) 1,446 votes or 41.6%, and the Rev. Jared Moore, pastor of the New Salem Baptist Church in Hustonville, Ky., 210 votes or 6.8%.
Floyd, a native of Texas, has led the Cross Church for the last 27 years. He is the third Arkansas based pastor to lead the SCB. First, was former Arkansas Governor James Philip Eagle of Lonoke, who served as SBC head for three years 1903-1906. The second Arkansas-based SBC leader, the former Congressman Layman Brooks Hays of Little Rock, served in 1958-59.
While the convention of the Southern Baptists elected a new leader, the delegates continued their conservative denunciation of government-sponsored casinos and lotteries. Delegates also denounced any government recognition of transgender identities for individuals – the resolution noted the identifier for persons was set by biology, not by a cultural choice.
Also the SBC delegates passed a non-binding resolution encouraging a parent’s right to choose the type of schools their children should attend. The group also gave a religious liberty award to the family owners of Hobby Lobby of Tulsa, Okla., for standing up to the Obama Administration’s attempts to force private company insurance plans to pay for employees contraceptives on the company insurance plan.
Back in 2006 it might not have been the “right time” for Floyd. SBC delegates apparently decided 2014 would indeed be the year for his leading their denomination. Few Baptists in Arkansas, we think, would disagree.