We are blessed to have three candidates running for the presidency of the SBC, and I’m glad that all three are running. I have already opinined as to why I am glad that Ronnie Floyd is running. On this blog I mentioned that I am glad that Jared Moore is running, because it is a demonstration of the strength of our convention that anyone from any member church of any size or circumstance can seek any office in our convention (Yes, when some of you were clamoring for me to run, I declared it impractical for a small-church pastor to preside over the convention. I still believe that. But just because I think it is unwise to elect someone from such a circumstance does not mean that I think such Southern Baptists ought to be forbidden to run). Absence from blogging has prevented me, as of yet, from saying how glad I am that Dr. Kim is now in the mix as well. It is good to see robust participation from churches outside the traditional fourteen-state area that contains the vast preponderance of SBC churches and that provides the vast preponderance of support for SBC ministries. We are all in this together.
As I reviewed the announcements and the reactions surrounding Moore’s and Kim’s candidacies, I noticed one concept that appeared frequently had to do with assessments of whether people were or were not “qualified” to hold the office. That is, to put a sharper point on it, I noticed that this word appeared frequently, but generally without further elaboration or substantive definition.
And so, as we all prepare to go to Baltimore, I thought it might be helpful to theorize a bit about just what makes a person well-qualified to serve as President of the SBC.
The President of the Southern Baptist Convention presides over the annual meeting and appoints a very important committee. Those are the only significantly important duties that accompany the job.
How can we know whether a man is qualified to preside over the meeting? Well, knowledge of parliamentary procedure isn’t all that important, so long as he does whatever Barry McCarty tells him to do. And yet, the presiding officer does still retain some discretion over the way that he conducts the meeting, the parliamentarian’s assistance notwithstanding. Therefore, you should ask yourself one question about a presidential candidate, I think, in order to assess his fitness to preside over the meeting:
Is he fair?
What I want, and what we all should want, in the conduct of our presiding officer is that he will wield the Broadus gavel in a way that respects the rights of all messengers and promotes the participation of all churches that are truly in friendly cooperation with the convention.
How can we know whether a man is qualified to make presidential appointments? This one is a bit more important and more involved. I ask myself a number of questions at this point:
Is he a known, proven, dedicated conservative?
I don’t want to go back to 1978. I want to know that our elected presidents are committed to the nomination exclusively of known biblical inerrantists who are committed to the employment only of known biblical inerrantists (both parts of that definition are important). I want there to be a pre-announcement track record demonstrating this to be the case.
Does he know enough people throughout the geography of the convention to be able to find enough qualified appointees?
I don’t know everyone in the convention, but I’ve come to know a lot of people in the SBC. Particularly, I know a significant portion of the conservative Southern Baptists in my region of the SBC. To decide whether I can support someone for election as SBC president, I’m going to ask around to see how many of my peers know the candidate and know him well. If there is not significant overlap between the people he knows in Texas and the people I know in Texas, I’m prepared to worry that he does not know enough people across the convention for him to do his job well if he were elected.
Of course, these days the Southern Baptist Convention is visible enough that the President has some non-official duties. Anything he says publicly will reflect upon the convention as a whole. The details of his life will serve as an example of sorts to young pastors throughout the convention. What questions do I ask about these items?
Is he sober, clear-headed, and self-controlled?
The president of the SBC needs not to be gratuitously pugilistic. Rather, he needs to be someone who exudes a calm diplomacy even while he is unyielding with regard to the truth.
Are there scandalous aspects of his life or ministry that would embarrass the convention?
I want to know that the candidate has been vetted thoroughly. The last thing we need is an unpleasant surprise.
Is he eloquent, thoughtful, and cautious with his speech and writing?
I think it is likely that the president of the SBC will be bushwhacked by an unexpected and difficult question or statement at some point during his term. I want some level of confidence that he will meet that challenge well.
Can he preach well?
I want to have heard a representative sample of his preaching and I want to have liked what I heard. He’s going to be preaching not only at our annual meeting but also at a number of meetings throughout the year. He needs to represent us well when he does so.
No, I will not apply these criteria to the three candidates presently running. I do not believe it would be appropriate for me to do so. Let the messengers make their choice. But I have no qualms about disclosing this to you as constituting the most important elements of my own decision-making process as I face this question every two years. I also have no qualms about recommending this approach to you all.