Bruce Frank, former SBC abuse task force leader, joins crowded SBC presidential race

(RNS) — A North Carolina pastor who championed intercourse abuse reforms within the Southern Baptist Conference plans to run for president of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination.

Bruce Frank, longtime pastor of Biltmore Church in Asheville, introduced Tuesday (April 2) that he would enable his title to be positioned for nomination on the SBC’s annual assembly this summer time in Indianapolis.

“As the biggest missionary drive in modern-day historical past, I imagine the perfect days of the SBC could be forward of us,” stated Frank in asserting his candidacy, saying that as president he would give attention to evangelism, abuse reform and revitalizing church buildings.

Frank will enter a crowded race for the presidency — a volunteer position that oversees the denomination’s annual assembly and helps affect nominations for key SBC committees.

The SBC presidency can be a bully pulpit, with the president changing into the general public face of the 13 million-member denomination throughout their time period in workplace. Most SBC presidents — like present president and Texas pastor Bart Barber — have served two consecutive one-year phrases.

The Rev. Bruce Frank, lead pastor of Biltmore Baptist Church of Arden, North Carolina, speaks during a meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee on Sept. 21, 2021, in Nashville, Tennessee. (RNS photo/Bob Smietana)

The Rev. Bruce Frank, lead pastor of Biltmore Baptist Church of Arden, N.C., speaks throughout a gathering of the Southern Baptist Conference Government Committee on Sept. 21, 2021, in Nashville, Tenn. (RNS picture/Bob Smietana)

Frank will be part of fellow North Carolina pastor Clint Pressley, Oklahoma pastor Mike Keahbone, Tennessee pastor Jared Moore and seminary professor David Allen as candidates.

These different 4 candidates not too long ago took half in an online forum, the place a lot of the dialog revolved across the denomination’s funds, abuse reforms and a proposed amendment that will bar church buildings the place any lady holds the title of pastor from the SBC.

The following SBC president may play a job in the way forward for abuse reforms within the denomination. Presently, these reforms are being overseen by a volunteer implementation job drive appointed by Barber — and that job drive’s future can be doubtless decided by his successor.

Whereas there was some progress on the state and native ranges, with extra church buildings conscious of the necessity to take abuse critically, reforms on a nationwide degree have stalled. There isn’t a long-term plan to fund reforms and little support so far for a brand new nonprofit referred to as the Abuse Response Fee — which organizers say was integrated not too long ago to assist oversee reforms long run.

The implementation job drive does plan to unveil on the SBC annual assembly a brand new curriculum for church buildings to assist them reply to abuse and can host a gathering with state leaders later this month.

In the course of the latest presidential discussion board, the candidates stated abuse was a major problem for the SBC, however Moore and Allen stated abuse was not a disaster or systemic within the denomination. Keahbone, who serves on the abuse implementation job drive, stated it was a disaster.

Pressley stated abuse was a disaster however that the response to the disaster has precipitated some “fog” and confusion.

“With that fog clearing up slightly bit, we’re seeing this isn’t a system-wide disaster,” he stated, in keeping with Baptist Press, an official SBC publication. “It’s a disaster, but it surely’s not exhibiting up in each church. Nonetheless, each church must be ready. Each church must react.”

In the course of the discussion board, Moore was skeptical a couple of proposed “Ministry Test” database of SBC abusers, which was authorized by messengers to the SBC’s annual assembly. An internet site for the database was launched final yr however no names seem on the location.

Moore stated the database was unworkable.

“As a neighborhood Southern Baptist pastor, it sounds just like the SBC model of the FBI,” he stated, in keeping with Baptist Press. “To suppose that we are able to examine potential abuse claims is so unrealistic and unachievable. I love the zeal, however suppose they’re mistaken.”

Pastor Mike Keahbone, center, leads prayer with the Southern Baptist Convention’s Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force during the SBC annual meeting at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, June 14, 2023. RNS photo by Emily Kask

Pastor Mike Keahbone, heart, leads prayer with the Southern Baptist Conference’s Abuse Reform Implementation Activity Pressure throughout the SBC annual assembly on the Ernest N. Morial Conference Heart in New Orleans, June 14, 2023. (RNS picture/Emily Kask)

In an interview earlier this yr, Keahbone defended the continued work of the duty drive and the SBC’s progress on abuse reform whereas saying there may be extra work to do. He additionally stated he was operating for president out of a deep love for the denomination — saying a neighborhood church in Oklahoma had modified his life.

Keahbone stated he had come from a troubled household that had little to do with the church. Then a volunteer from a neighborhood church invited him to trip Bible college — and he stated he discovered love and acceptance on the church.

“They simply liked me,” he stated. “What we’ve at all times been about as a conference has been the gospel. And once we’re centered on the gospel, it fixes all the pieces else.”

Frank stated that if elected president, he would proceed to champion the abuse reforms handed by native church representatives, referred to as messengers. He stated there have been loud voices on social media making an attempt to downplay the scope of reforms.

“I feel what we’ve seen a number of instances is that loudness on Twitter doesn’t essentially equal the messengers’ convictions,” he stated. He additionally stated he’d give attention to revitalizing older church buildings, which he sees as tied to the SBC’s broader evangelistic mission. Like many denominations, the SBC has seen membership decline in recent times — falling from 16.three million members in 2006 to simply over 13 million at present. A lot of its church buildings — like church buildings in all places within the U.S. — have additionally declined and face unsure futures.

“Math exhibits that in the event that they don’t change their trajectory, they will shut,” he stated — including that he believes many church buildings could be rotated.

Lately, the SBC’s presidential races have been contentious — with candidates backed by a bunch referred to as the Conservative Baptist Community, which claims the denomination has change into too liberal, going through off towards those that suppose the SBC has challenges however stays conservative.

That’s led to fierce debate on social media and pointed variations between candidates. Thus far, this yr’s race has taken a friendlier tone.

Frank stated it stays to be seen if that tone stays.

“It’s going to be an fascinating few months,” he stated.


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