An award presentation for the Green family of Oklahoma will be one of the highlights of the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting set for Tuesday and Wednesday in Baltimore.
Russell Moore, president of the convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, is set to present the 2014 John Leland Religious Liberty Award to the Green family, owners of the Oklahoma City-based Hobby Lobby craft retail chain, during the commission’s report Wednesday at the annual gathering.
In a statement published on the commission’s website, Moore said the Green family was chosen to receive the award for demonstrating a commitment to religious freedom “against a federal government demanding that they, along with countless other for-profit businesses, provide insurance for services that violate their core religious convictions.”
“The Greens are, in such a time as this, standing for the religious freedom of all of us,” Moore said. “They rightly recognize that the government is not lord of the conscience. Their allegiance, they’ve rightly understood, belongs first and foremost to God, not government.”
Steve Green, Hobby Lobby’s president, and his wife, Jackie, plan to accept the award. Steve Green is the son of David and Barbara Green, who founded the Oklahoma City-based company of 565 stores. Mart Green, another of Steve and Barbara Green’s sons, is founder of Mardel, a Christian office and educational supply store chain.
Also on tap
The annual gathering of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination also will include the election of a convention president.
Delegates to the meeting, called messengers, are expected to elect a leader to replace the convention’s outgoing president the Rev. Fred Luter Jr., of New Orleans. Luter will end his two-year tenure as the denomination’s first black president. Convention presidents typically serve two one-year terms, as Luter has done.
Messengers also will vote on a number of resolutions, which are expressions of the convention’s views on issues of interest and concern.
The meeting to be held at the Baltimore Convention Center comes at a time when the denomination is experiencing membership decline for the seventh straight year.
An annual report released by the Southern Baptist Convention’s Lifeway Christian Resources puts total membership in the Nashville, Tenn.,-based SBC at 15.7 million in 2013. That’s down from 15.9 million in 2012, a decrease of a little less than 1 percent.
Weekly church attendance decreased more than 2 percent last year.
The report also notes a 1.5 percent decrease in the number of baptisms, falling to 310,368. Baptisms are an important measure for the denomination because of its strong commitment to evangelism.
The total number of SBC-affiliated churches increased slightly in 2013, to 46,125.
CONTRIBUTING: The Associated Press