Mike Stone, a Georgia pastor, is challenging president Bart Barber (pictured below) after his first year leading the SBC. Stone ran unsuccessfully for president two years ago, when Barber easily defeated Tom Ascol in a runoff. Stone announced in April he would challenge Barber.
In anticipation of the SBC meeting, AFN has interviewed both Barber and Stone over the election for president and the hot-button issues messengers will debate and decide. On the eve of that June 11 meeting, Stone tells AFN messengers will continue to deal with the lingering issues of sexual abuse and the biblical issue of ordaining female pastors.
“Probably the major issue we're going to face,” Stone predicts, “is the ongoing question related to how we're going to approach the issue of sex abuse reform in the churches of the SBC.”
A lengthy investigation confirmed a sad history of sexual abuse and cover-up in some churches, which led to a database of abusers known as “Ministry Check.” That list includes people accused – but not convicted – of heinous crimes. That category is referred to as “credibly accused” within Ministry Check.
Stone opposes the “credibly accused” category and has publicly criticized. Barber supports that category, and has publicly defended it, because of the four standards that are used before a person’s name makes the list.
Two more issues SBC messengers will deal with are female pastors and the removal of Saddleback Church from the Convention for ordaining female pastors on its church staff. Both issues date back to the summer of last year: Southern Baptist messengers meeting in Anaheim held to biblical orthodoxy on male leadership but chose to mostly ignore Saddleback’s ordination of three women. Five months later, in February, the SBC officially gave the California megachurch the boot after Pastor Andy Woods approved the ordination of his wife, Stacie, to be a teaching pastor there.
Rick Warren, the well-known Saddleback founder and author, is expected to appeal the decision in person next week. In social media posts, Warren is currently feuding with SBC leaders over the issue of female pastors as June 11 nears.
Stone says there is a movement under way to clarify the SBC stance on the issue in the Convention's governing documents.
In his interview with AFN, Stone says the SBC will tackle lingering issues next week but he adds the mission of the Church is to preach the salvation of Jesus Christ to the lost.
The current culture is dark and seems to be growing colder and darker, he observes, which only makes the light of the gospel shine brighter. Outside the church, the pastor says, young people who are being told they can make up their own gender are searching for truth because the "live your truth" culture is leaving them empty.
"Satan has overplayed his hand," Stone predicts.