Southern Baptist Convention elects new president Steve Gaines after J.D. Greear withdraws

Southern Baptist Convention, the largest non-Catholic denomination in America, has a new president in Tenenessee pastor Steve Gaines. His opponent, North Carolina pastor J.D. Greear, withdrew from the race when, after two votings on Tuesday, no winner could be declared.

Steve Gaines, Ph.D. in Memphis, TN. | Wikimedia Commons/Dillonsherlock

"I spent a good amount of time last night praying and believe that for the sake of our Convention and our mission, we need to leave St. Louis united," explained Greear on Wednesday, as quoted by Christianity Today. "In this room, we have various minor points of difference between us ... but we are united by a gospel too great and a mission too urgent to let any lesser thing stand in our way. And one of the candidates leaving the convention with a 51 to 49 victory on a third ballot is just not going to serve our mission well. So I am respectfully withdrawing my candidacy as president."

The election was held during the SBC's annual meeting in St. Louis on June 14. According to the Baptist Press, on the first ballot cast by 5,784 messengers, Gaines received 2,551 votes or 44.1 percent while Greear received 2,601 votes or 44.97 percent. The third candidate, New Orleans pastor David Crosby, received 583 votes or 10.08 percent.

In the run-off where 4,824 messengers cast their votes, Gaines received 2,410 votes or 49.96 while Greear got 2,306 votes or 47.80 percent. There were 108 votes that were declared illegal, but SBC then-president Ronnie Floyd said that the illegal votes ought to be counted to determine the majority.

To be declared winner, a candidate needs to earn more than half the votes or a minimum of 50 percent plus one ballot. A second run-off was scheduled for June 15, the second day of the meeting, but before it could be conducted, Greear made his announcement, with Floyd and Gaines onstage with him. He also made the announcement on his website.

Following Greear's withdrawal from the race, Gaines also said that he, too, was planning to back out. According to The Christian Post, he said he does not like division -- tension could be felt, something he said he did not support. He did express his support for Greear, saying that he is one of the "finest men of God" that he knows.

Gaines, the new SBC president, is the pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis.