The SBC Annual meeting in Houston seems destined to be one of the less confrontational in recent history. There is no GCR Report to debate, no Traditionalist document recently released to stir up passions, no major kerfuffles, no intense race for office as yet. It looks to be a peaceful time.
But looks can be deceiving. I’ve gone into business meetings thinking there was nothing of significance that could spark a debate and left the meeting an hour later feeling like I’d been hit by a hurricane. When Baptists gather for business meetings there is an unpredictable volatility attached. Perhaps some issue will arise in the next month that will nullify my predictions.
The most likely candidate for that would be, of course, Dr. Page’s Calvinism study committee. More about that later.
Here are the things I see happening this year. You need not remind me of the warnings in Deuteronomy 13 about prophecies that do not come to pass. These are my (somewhat) informed opinions – no prophetic mantle is claimed.
1) A new SBC 2nd VP will be elected – one who does not own a lime green suit. I’ve been asked if I’m running for reelection and the answer is no. While the president traditionally runs for two terms, the VPs do not. I understand that there is no term limit officially, but it is traditional. However, if David Worley will wear the lime green suit (it might fit him) I will arrange to have him nominated for 2nd VP.
2) A motion or resolution (likely the latter) will be made concerning the situation at Louisiana College. It will be properly ruled out of order. We are all entitled to our opinions on the situation there, but the SBC has no right to intervene, interfere or even opine on the subject. If the SBC took a stand on the LC issue (or any of the other Baptist colleges encountering stress) it would violate our cherished principle of autonomy. Dr. Page, the EC and the SBC are required to stay out of the affairs of a state convention and a college it owns. Autonomy is the least understood principle of Baptist life.
3) Dr. Page’s Calvinism study group will likely provide a report. It will probably focus on the need for mutual respect and cooperation – the keys to both Baptist and biblical behavior. I doubt there are going to be any radical systemic changes advocated. If such does occur, there will be fireworks, of course. Frank Page is not a provocateur and I doubt his study group will be either. We’ll see.
4) Houston will be brutally hot and humid. It won’t matter to me. The one perk of being 2nd VP is a room in the convention hotel, which will mean I can stay in the air-conditioning 24/7. That’s my plan.
5) I suspect that there may be some test-case resolutions or motions offered by the self-identified Traditionalists. I have no idea what they will be, but I suspect they will be something on the order of the Sinner’s Prayer resolution last year. They will be designed to get the convention to go on record supporting their views. It would not surprise me if some sort of resolution concerning the spiritual condition of children appears – that has been a constant point of debate. On this site, several of the more prominent folks on that SBC extreme have promised that they are planning to go on offense. I tend to believe them.
6) The Q&A sessions for the various entity heads may be among the more tense and politically charged moments again. Let’s face it. In the last couple of conventions, the Q&A sessions have been some of the more interesting moments of confrontation. Attempts at “gotcha” questions. People stacking the deck at the microphones to make sure an entity head only had to field softball questions. Intense questions and intense answers.
Permit a momentary rant: the SBC is a huge entity, and the fact that our entity heads have to stand before the convention and take questions from the floor is one of our true moments of popular accountability. It should be treated with respect and integrity. Orchestrated attempts to control the mics and prevent an entity president from fielding tough questions are perhaps not illegal by our bylaws, but they are unfortunate.
No one ever died from fielding a tough question. Too many leaders act as if a contrary opinion is a personal attack. It is not. Those who voice dissent and even ask tough questions are not enemies of the organization. Leaders ought to face those questions head on, not dodge them with political shenanigans!
Who can forget the famous question Peter Lumpkins asked to Dr. Mohler a couple of years ago. Some thought Peter’s question was somehow wrong. Others did not like Dr. Mohler’s answer. But I think that was a great moment in SBC life. Peter would likely be described as one of the more vocal opponents of Calvinism in the SBC. But he got a chance to go to the mic and boldly challenge the de facto leader of the SBC Calvinist contingent. Peter asked his question. Dr. Mohler answered it.
I’m glad that the SBC is a denomination in which a powerful entity head has to take questions from one who might be considered a blogging antagonist!
The entity Q&A sessions are important. Let them unfold with integrity. People with issues ought to be allowed to address those issues.
7) Fred Luter will bring it! I was at the fall Executive Committee meeting and Fred had prepared a president’s report. He was chided by the members of the EC. They wanted to hear him preach! He promised that his future president’s reports would be sermons. I’m pretty sure he’s going to use his president’s address to bring the Word in a powerful way. I won’t miss that part.
8) Hopefully, there will be increasing evidence of the growth of multi-racial participation in the SBC. There have been hopeful signs. Two major entity hirings recently have been African Americans. Obviously, Fred Luter is our president. We have a long way to go, but progress is being made. One thing we know – the podium will not be lily-white this year. Thank God!
9) The Pastor’s Conference is going to be good. However, I will be a bad boy and hang out in the display area, hit restaurants, and hang with friends during good portions of it. Am I unspiritual if I just can’t sit through that many sermons in one day?
10) I’m going to blog and tweet, but perhaps not as much as previous years. In recent years, SBC Voices has been the most active blog during the SBC. I hope to keep the site active during those days, but I’m going to have a couple of other responsibilities that will not permit me to devote the entire convention to working the blog.
The SBC is kind of like the old story of the six blind men and the elephant. Each touches a different part of the elephant and forms opposite opinions about what the elephant is. I sat through discussions and votes at previous SBCs and came away with certain strong impressions. Then, when we start talking about it here, I realize that some people at the same convention saw completely different discussions. I guess that is to be expected.
Last week, I asked who was going. Today, the question is what you think will happen. Please, let’s not turn this into another Traditionalist/Calvinist food-fight, okay? But tell us what you think might happen in Houston.
One question: I’ve not seen any announcements of nominations for the VP positions. Any of you know who is running?