It has been nearly a week since the Task Force reported its findings to the Executive Committee of the SBC and it is safe to say a lively discussion has ensued. Several people have commented here that the issue of the name change is not that significant and that we should be talking about other things.
That may be so, but there is no question that there has been a great deal of interest generated here on the topic. In terms of page views, Tuesday was our busiest day ever, last week was our busiest week ever, and February is already our busiest month ever even though it is only the 27th of the month. Interest in the topic is high and not likely to wane until the vote in New Orleans in June and for some time thereafter.
And I am increasingly concerned about that conversation. I must be honest here, I am not neutral on this subject. I have advocated for a name change for some time and I want to see this motion pass. I hope to be able at some point in the near future to identify our church as a Great Commission Baptist Church.
But right now, I have a bigger concern and that if the current tone of the debate continues to escalate, our conversation on the issue is going to do more damage than can be done by either adopting the moniker or rejecting it.
If we can’t discuss a relatively minor issue like this in a calm and reasoned spirit, we have issues greater than nomenclature to deal with. How we debate the issue and how we relate to one another is at least as important as the issue itself.
Let me be clear – I am not trying to chastise others as if I were guiltless in all of this. By my advocacy of the name-change, I have deeply offended one who I count a friend. I have been angry at things people have said about our leaders, about Bryant Wright, about the Task Force and about me.
I could try to defend my anger and claim it is justified, but honestly, is there such a thing as justified anger over an issue such as this – the debate of a motion to add an official designation to the SBC?
I would apologize publicly to anyone I have offended by my words and actions in the discussion of this issue. Man’s anger does not accomplish the purposes of God, but instead it sows dissension and when I type words in anger it does not serve the Savior’s cause.
I think we need to elevate the level of the debate on this topic.
It is my intention to do two things. 1) I intend to continue to advocate for the issue here right up until the vote. 2) I intend to honor my brothers and sisters who disagree on the issue. I am quite sure I will fulfill the first intention, but whether I can faithfully maintain the proper attitude toward those who disagree on these issues is a challenge I will have to meet in the power of the Holy Spirit and with the willingness to repent if such is necessary again in the future.
But I also have the responsibility to oversee this debate here. I want to try to moderate the debate here fairly and honorably, even though I am anything but neutral. It is my intention to try to enforce some parameters here that will help us to discuss this issue fully in the days ahead without damaging the cause of Christ in any way.
So, in that effort, I intend to enforce the following policies.
1) Any viewpoint, positive or negative, is welcome here as we discuss the issue. In fact, if some of our regular readers want to write guest posts on the issue, please feel free to do so. I do not want to censor any viewpoint on the issue, even if it disagrees with mine.
2) I will ask any who write on the issue from this point forward to show respect for those who disagree on the issue. This is the tricky part. The line between dissent and divisiveness is a elusive one, a subjective one. But I am asking our contributors and our commenters to express their views forcefully but without rancor, accusation or derogation of those who disagree.
I am not trying to stifle debate or discussion. My hope is simply to elevate it here at SBC Voices. What others do is, of course, their business. But I want us to have a lively and productive debate here, free from personal animus.
This will be tricky, and I know that my efforts at fairness will likely be questioned, and probably rightly so at times.
But I am asking commenters and contributors to police themselves. Can you find a way to say what you want to say in a kinder way, in a less confrontational way? Can you make sure that even when you disagree with someone, you honor them as well?
It is not always easy to do this, but it is a noble effort.
Honorable people can disagree about whether we should vote yea or nay in NOLA this summer. But I hope we can agree that how we carry ourselves in the debate is as important as how the vote comes out.
I have set up a special email for use by commenters at SBC Voices. It is firstname.lastname@example.org and you are welcome to contact me there. If I have offended you in some way you wish to deal with, please contact me there. If you think my moderation is unfair, you are welcome to contact me there. I do not generally allow discussion of moderation issues in public, but prefer to keep them private. So, contact me if you have any issue with how I handle this. I want to be fair, but sometimes my passion for the issue may compete with that desire.