When the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) gathers in Baltimore tomorrow for its annual meeting, they are expected to discuss their declining numbers as well as cultural hot buttons such as homosexuality and transgender issues. As Yogi Berra once said, “It’s like deja vu all over again.” Membership and baptisms within the denomination have been declining for years and the SBC never misses an opportunity to publicly weigh in on the political and cultural issues du jour.
But the larger question hovering over the Convention this year seems to be whether the nation’s largest Protestant denomination can thrive in the 21st Century. American culture is morphing at light speed on matters such as secularism, sexuality, and spirituality. Can the Convention remain relevant in such a moment?
To address this question, I talked with Dr. David Dockery, the newly elected president of Trinity International University and author of “Southern Baptist Consensus and Renewal: A Biblical, Historical, and Theological Proposal.” Here, we discuss the denomination’s decline, sexuality, and racial reconciliation.
RNS: The Southern Baptist Convention has reported an annual decline in baptisms since the late 1990s with another decline and membership has declined for the past seven years. Some have called this “a spiritual problem” while others speculate that it is “a cultural problem” brought on by an increasingly post-Christian, pluralistic society. In your opinion, what’s driving this decline?