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The most prominent vote at the meeting will be the election of a new president. a race whose leading candidates are Mike Stone, a Georgia pastor who is the darling of many conservatives, including Mr. Nelson and Mr. Jolly; Ed Litton, an Alabama pastor who largely avoided culture war battles and has the support of the denomination’s first black president; and Albert Mohler Jr., a denomination Lion who contributed to a conservative revolution decades ago and is now in the predicament of being labeled a moderate “compromise candidate.” Mr. Stone, a former outsider, is considered a serious contender.
No matter which side emerges triumphant from next week’s meeting, a split threatens.
“Many of us will know if this convention is for us when it’s over,” said Dwight McKissic, pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas, who led anti-racism efforts in the denomination. If Mr Mohler or Mr Stone win the presidency or if decisions are made that affirm racism, he thinks he will go. Several other black pastors announced their departure last year.
Hostility to critical racial theory among Southern Baptists, which came to the fore after Thanksgiving, when seminary presidents denounced them, was intertwined with their arming by the GOP, he said.
“The litmus test of being a Baptist is that you have to denounce CRT the way they do?” He said. “We’d be totally off submitting to giving that kind of power to a white denomination, especially on the subject of race.”
The convention has historically reflected divisions in the country. The most recent meeting two years ago in Birmingham, Alabama, focused on sexual abuse in evangelical churches. The year before, the tensions were political. Mike Pence, then vice president of the country, delivered a keynote address to gather evangelical support for Mr. Trump ahead of the midterm elections.