Whenever we have discussions about selecting leaders, people will often argue that we approach the process in a color-blind way and base our decision on finding the best man for the job, without regard to race or ethnicity. I personally believe the idea of a “best” person for a leadership position is a myth. When it comes to our selection of leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention and, particularly, the selection of our next IMB president, we should rather look for the “right” person. We must ask ourselves, who is the right person for the position now? And, as my previous post suggests, is that “right person” a person of color?
When we ask for the best man for a job, we are already making an assessment of which things we think are important and which things are not. “Best man” terminology implies at least two things: (1) That competence in ministry is the only criteria that really counts or is at least the deciding factor in decision making (assuming that the most competent person can actually be determined), and (2) that we see the presidency of the IMB as merely as a job with a task for which we must find the most capable candidate. I submit to you that neither of these things is true.
In selecting our next IMB president, we are not merely seeking someone to effectively manage our missions agency and the 5000+ missionaries we employ. We are seeking a person who will have a much broader responsibility. We expect our IMB president to be strategist, catalyst, fundraiser, statesmen, vision-caster, cheer-leader, and spiritual leader. We are not hiring a person to merely perform a task, but to lead our great Convention of churches to faithful obedience to the Great Commission. You can’t choose such a leader by comparing résumés. IMB president is more than a job.
Now competence is indeed a factor. No one wants an incompetent leader for such an important position. But is competence all we care about? Much of the selection process has a subjective side. If all we cared about was “competence” then we could hire a person on the résumé alone or merely use the interview to further explore issues related to job performance. In reality, however, few persons are ever hired this way. Interviewers ask questions to explore subjective issues like temperament, character, sense of calling, personality, winsomeness, philosophy of ministry, and vision. Most of the time, decisions about leadership are not made on competency alone. Quite often, multiple candidates are found to be equally competent for a position and the deciding factor is something other than that they are “best” at what they do. Other criteria help determine which of these qualified candidates is the “right” person for the position.
The question we must ask is whether race/ethnicity is a valid criteria in addition to competence and the other subjective factors that go into the selection process. To help answer that question, consider whether the race/ethnicity of the next IMB president would have any impact on the role we are asking him to fill. For example:
Do you think that a person of color brings a different set of experiences and perspectives to a position than a white person and might those different experiences/perspectives be helpful in helping us reach the nations? Do you think that a non-Anglo will be received differently in the global evangelical missions community than a white person? Do you think that selecting a person of color to represent our missions agency would have any impact on how we are perceived as a denomination by the watching world? by the non-Anglo members of our own denomination? Do you think that selecting a person of color to lead our missions organization would have any impact on the involvement of our minority churches and church members in our global missions effort? Do you think that there is any moral/ethical basis for intentionally including persons of color in the highest positions of leadership in our cooperative work? OR, as my previous post suggests – Should we, at this time in our history, intentionally seek diversity in executive leadership?
If the answer to any of the above questions is “yes”, then I submit that Race/Ethnicity is indeed a valid criteria in addition to competence and the other subjective factors that go into the selection process. Thus, it is not unreasonable or unfair to make race/ethnicity a significant factor in our selection. Neither is my more pointed suggestion that we hire a non-Anglo as our next IMB president.