Tennessee megachurch pastor Steve Gaines was elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention June 15 when another candidate conceded in a runoff election that was too close to call.
Gaines, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., came three votes short of a required majority in a second ballot election due to 108 improperly marked ballots that are counted to compute a majority but do not count for either candidate.
J.D. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., told messengers Wednesday morning he would rather withdraw from the race than for Southern Baptists to leave their annual meeting divided.
“One of the candidates leaving the convention with a 51 to 49 percent majority in a third ballot is just not going to serve our mission well,” Greear said in a session set aside to recast ballots after Tuesdays vote showed Gaines ahead 2,410-2,306.
Gaines said he was also planning to withdraw until meeting Tuesday night with Greear, who told him he believed Gaines remaining in the race was the right thing to do.
“I said I’ll do it,” Gaines said. “It doesn’t matter to me. Number one, I want Jesus to be lifted high and I want us to be together. OK, that’s what I want.”
Gaines finished second in a first ballot with 2,551 votes, ahead of New Orleans pastor David Crosby with 583 votes and behind Greear with 2,601.
In the runoff between the two frontrunners, Gaines garnered 49.96 percent of the votes, three ballots short of a magic number of 2,413.
Gaines, Bellevue’s pastor since 2005, is the third pastor of the 16,000-member church located in a Memphis suburb. In 1979 his predecessor Adrian Rogers was the first president in a line of leadership that came to be known as the “conservative resurgence.”
Rogers did not seek a second term until 1986, when he defeated moderate candidate Winfred Moore to help extend the conservative winning streak until moderates withdrew from SBC politics in 1990 and a year later formed the breakaway Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.
Ramsey Pollard, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church from 1960 to 1972, served two years as SBC president in 1960 and 1961.