DALLAS — Vice President Mike Pence praised Southern Baptists for their faith and efforts to spread the gospel while addressing them on Wednesday morning in Dallas.

“The Southern Baptist Convention has always strived to reach the world for Christ and so you have throughout the decades,” Pence said. “I believe with all my heart that your faith has moved mountains.”

Thousands of Southern Baptists are listening to the Republican leader at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center where they are holding their big annual meeting. The evangelical denomination is the largest Protestant group in the U.S.

The vice president is often admired by evangelicals for his Christian faith and his ability to influence President Donald Trump on policies that resonate with conservative Christians, like pro-religious liberty and anti-abortion measures.

Pence, the former governor of Indiana, regularly describes himself as a Christian first, a conservative second and a Republican third.

In February, the vice president addressed another evangelical group. The National Religious Broadcasters invited Pence to speak at its annual convention for Christian communicators, which was held in Nashville.

In Dallas, the vice president was a last-minute addition to the Southern Baptist's annual meeting schedule, but not everyone was happy about it.

From the floor of the annual meeting, some called for the vice president's talk to be switched out for a time of prayer and others asked for a ban on allowing politicians to address the evangelical body.

They raised concerns about giving the wrong impression that Southern Baptists are aligned with the Republican party. They also worried that it would alienate minorities and others who take issues with Trump Administration policies.

An attempt to make the change to Wednesday's annual meeting schedule was voted down Tuesday after Grant Ethridge, chairman of the Committee on Order of Business, explained why they welcomed the vice president's address and made a biblical case for showing hospitality to people in positions of authority.

Before he took the stage Wednesday, those in the room rose to their feet for several minutes of worship and prayer.

Reach Holly Meyer at hmeyer@tennessean.com or 615-259-8241 and on Twitter @HollyAMeyer.