ANAHEIM, Calif. — In recent years, the Southern Baptist Convention has grappled with declining membership, high-profile departures and a sprawling sex abuse scandal. The country’s largest Protestant denomination has also seen bitter internal clashes over race, gender and politics. This week, with all those pressures bearing down, thousands of Southern Baptists are gathering for an annual meeting that may prove to be its most consequential in decades.
The Southern California meeting comes less than a month after the release of a bombshell report alleging that leaders in the denomination suppressed reports of sexual abuse and resisted proposals for reform. Delegates will also elect a new president — a decision that will shape how the denomination will engage in national politics, and how it will handle the abuse scandal that has shaken its members.
“This has to be one of the most historic and important conventions in the history of the convention,” Jared Wellman, a pastor in Texas, said on Monday, a few hours after he was elected chairman of the convention’s executive committee, which helps direct the group’s activities and finances.
overturn the longstanding constitutional right to abortion.
the fractious group’s long-term priorities and its approach to an array of increasingly contentious social issues.
Early signs looked promising for those hoping to carry out reforms in response to the report on sex abuse. Mr. Wellman, the newly elected head of the executive committee, spearheaded efforts as a member to waive attorney-client privilege in support of the third-party investigation that led to the report. The committee’s next vice president and secretary, David Sons and Pamela Reed, supported those efforts. Their challengers had opposed the move.