Some 8,500 people—including a significant contingent of Southern Baptists—celebrated the Protestant Reformation's 500th anniversary at The Gospel Coalition's National Conference April 3-5 in Indianapolis.
Five centuries after Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses to a church door in Wittenberg, Germany, the meeting featured sermons on each chapter of the biblical book Galatians as well as historical addresses on key Reformation figures. More than a dozen conference workshops also explored Reformation themes, including the movement's missionary legacy and why Reformation leaders weren't more united.
About a quarter of the meeting's 70 plenary session and workshop speakers had ties to Southern Baptist churches or Southern Baptist Convention entities. Seven SBC entities were among conference exhibitors.
The Gospel Coalition website describes TGC as "a broadly Reformed network of churches" founded by New Testament scholar D.A. Carson and New York pastor Tim Keller. The group seeks to unite believers "across denominational, ethnic and class lines," according to the website.
Daniel Akin, a TGC Council member and president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, called the conference "encouraging and fruitful."
"It is encouraging to see evangelicals come together around biblical fidelity, expositional preaching and Gospel centeredness," Akin told Baptist Press in written comments. "Southern Baptists have been very involved this week, from interactive exhibits and personal contact to multiple workshops, and culminating with a powerful message from pastor Thabiti Anyabwile on the last morning. I have personally been blessed and glad to participate with thousands of people coming together to honor our Lord."
Anyabwile, pastor of Anacostia River Church in Washington, D.C., delivered a plenary address on Galatians 5. Preaching about freedom in Christ, Anyabwile said, "God's will for your life is that you use your freedom to serve others," according to The Gospel Coalition Twitter feed.
Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore participated in a plenary session panel discussion on racial reconciliation and introduced an address by U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb.
Also during a plenary session, the ERLC announced plans to cohost with TGC next year an event on the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination. Known as "MLK50: Gospel Reflections from the Mountaintop," the event will focus on racial reconciliation and occur April 4, 2018, in Memphis, Tenn., the city where King was murdered.
The ERLC hosted an April 3 TGC pre-conference at the Indianapolis meeting on "Gospel courage in a complex culture," with 900 in attendance.
SBC entity leaders to speak at TGC workshops included Akin; Moore; Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr.; and Zane Pratt, the International Mission Board's vice president for global training.
Among pastors to address TGC workshops were Matt Carter of Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, Texas; Andy Davis of First Baptist Church in Durham, N.C.; and Juan Sanchez of High Pointe Baptist Church in Austin, Texas.
Curtis Woods, the Kentucky Baptist Convention's associate executive director for convention relations, was among workshop speakers, as were professors and staff members from Southeastern, Southern, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and LifeWay Christian Resources, which operated the conference's 15,000-square-foot bookstore.
Southern and Midwestern offered courses for seminary credit at the conference, according to TGC's website.
SBC entities represented in the exhibit hall included: the ERLC, LifeWay, Southeastern, Southern, Midwestern, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. The New Orleans Seminary exhibit featured Reformation-themed items from the seminary's Museum of the Bible and Archaeology, including two pamphlets by Martin Luther.
Kyle Walker, Southwestern's vice president for student services, told BP the conference is an occasion for evangelicals of all stripes to unite around the Gospel -- even those who do not fall under TCG's "broadly Reformed" banner.
"TGC was a great opportunity for us to connect with prospective students, alumni and fellow partners in the Gospel," Walker said in written comments. "Amid our theological distinctions runs a shared commitment to the advancement of the Gospel. We celebrated that commitment at TGC and invited those God has called to ministry to see how Southwestern can equip them to 'Be Ready!'"