ST. LOUIS (Christian Examiner) –Steve Gaines, 59, pastor of the Memphis area Bellevue Baptist Church was elected by acclamation as the new president of the Southern Baptist Convention today following a historic and unprecedented delay the first day of the June 14-15 SBC annual meeting.
The surprise announcement came at the start what was to be a third vote for president at the end of the June 15 morning session.
North Carolina pastor J.D. Greear withdrew his nomination to lead the largest non-Catholic denomination in America after two inconclusive votes, but then made a motion to elect Gaines by acclamation.
"I've said from the beginning it is tricky to lead the SBC," Greear said. "I've spent a good amount of time praying and I believe for the sake of our convention and our election we need to leave St. Louis united. ... We are united by a Gospel too great, and a mission too urgent, to let a lesser message stand in our way. I am respectfully withdrawing my candidacy as president."
When a first vote split three ways between the three nominees for president – Gaines; Greenville, North Carolina pastor J.D. Greear; and New Orleans pastor David Crosby – failed to secure a 50 percent vote for any candidate, a second vote was cast.
At the conclusion of the late afternoon session, SBC President Ronnie Floyd declared that vote, too, was inconclusive.
With 7,230 messengers registered at the time of the runoff, 4,824 ballots were cast.
Gaines received 2,410 votes or 49.96 percent while Greear received 2,306 votes or 47.80 percent. However, 108 votes were considered illegal because the wrong ballot was used or an indistinguishable mark was made.
Gaines followed powerhouse Adrian Rogers at the Memphis-area church after pastoring churches in Alabama, Tennessee and Texas.
He was nominated for president by Johnny Hunt, a former SBC president, and pastor of First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Georgia.
Calling Gaines "a man of deep intense prayer," Hunt said in nominating Gaines, the pastor has a "passionate desire for spiritual revival in our churches and nation."
With Gaines' leadership, Bellevue had lead evangelism training in 34 countries since 2007 and has planted 10 churches, including work in the Northwest and with Native Americans.
A unique outreach, Bellevue Loves Memphis demonstrates the church's love for its city and meeting needs while sharing the Gospel, Hunt told Baptist Press. In 33 workdays, 30,000 volunteers have served 106,505 hours to complete 945 projects, resulting in 510 professions of faith.
Leading in service to the SBC, Gaines preached the SBC convention sermon in 2004 and served as president of the SBC Pastors' Conference in 2005. He has served as as a member of the SBC Committee on Nominations, a trustee of LifeWay Christian Resources, a member of the committee that proposed a revision of the Baptist Faith and Message in 2000, and chairman of the SBC Resolutions Committee.
Gaines succeeds Ronnie Floyd, pastor of Cross Church in Northwest Arkansas.