Devin Haun is a student at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and associate pastor at Grace Baptist Church in New Orleans, LA. He’s a service manager at The Bomb Factory, a hot rod shop in New Orleans, and has appeared on The History Channel’s Big Easy Motors. He also runs a small screen printing shop. He’s been married for five years and he and his wife have one daughter. I asked Devin if he would tell us about the events planned for Tuesday at NOBTS in his own words.
Hello world, my name is Devin Haun and I am a student at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. I am sure many that read this will know what is going on here in New Orleans but for those who do not, please allow me to shed some light on the situation. For starters, despite what you have heard, this is not a protest of Jack Graham, of Prestonwood Baptist Church, or of any other Southern Baptist Church.
This is not a protest of theological, political, generational, socioeconomic, or ecclesiastical differences. This is not a matter of orthodoxy, for that belongs to Christendom, this is not a matter of theology, for that belongs to baptistic denominations, this is a matter of the CP, for that is a matter solely for the SBC. As a matter of fact, what we are doing here is not really a protest at all. We are organizing a simple display of our love for the cooperative program so that Dr. Graham can see, first hand, how we as students feel about the Cooperative Program, in congruence with what we see as a preliminary problem for the convention.
We are not saying that Dr. Graham does not share in our affections, we are simply wanting to show him some of the people that have and will be affected by his, and others, church’s decisions. We do not seek to cause controversy, rather we plead for unity. We would also like to point out a trend that may happen. With the withholding of funds by a large and influential church, many others who give significant portions of their annual budget to the CP may follow suit. We see that the actions Dr. Graham is performing, whether in good faith or not, can quickly become a space for division. Churches following suit can withhold money until every last whim of their conscience is met, this is not what we want nor what we believe Dr. Graham wants. The withholding of funds by Dr. Graham and his public propagation of his actions is concerning due to the fact that others may follow suit.
We hope that our display will compel Dr. Graham and Prestonwood Baptist Church to stay connected to the SBC and remove their money from escrow so that the Gospel can continue to be carried out across this world. As the SBC we are dogmatic about the cooperative program, but understand that this is a way for like-minded Baptist churches to set aside secondary and tertiary issues and fulfill the commands of Jesus Christ on a large scale. The Cooperative Program enables missionaries to be sent out over the entire globe and preach the Gospel. Without the CP this would not be as easily accomplished. The CP allows ministers to be trained in sound seminaries to carry on Baptist teachings and practices. Without the CP many of these institutions would no longer exist and many students would never be afforded the benefit of pastoral and scholarly education. The CP makes it possible for churches to be planted in some of the darkest cities around the globe. The CP affords the SBC a way for the world to know us by our love and unity when we, together, carry out God’s mission.
In showing our affections for the CP and the SBC we aim to do two things. The first is that we will wear and display t-shirts that have “I (heart) CP” printed on them. It is our hope that this t-shirt would spread across the convention to enliven Southern Baptist support of the CP. The second thing we aim to do is present Dr. Graham with an open letter from the NOBTS community. This letter will be accompanied by a list of those who have signed the letter stating their agreement with it. So how are a bunch of financially struggling, extremely busy seminary students going to accomplish these tasks? That’s a good question.
First, the t-shirts are going to be the biggest struggle. We have compiled funds so that we could order two-hundred shirts in various sizes from small to a 3XL. So hopefully everyone on campus who wants to wear one will be able to. The shirts have not been printed and are not ready at the moment. We did not want to order the shirts until we had been given permission from Dr. Kelley, he granted us this permission in our meeting with him Thursday. That night I ordered the blank white t-shirts from an internet wholesale supplier. They are expected to arrive Monday. I am the co-owner of an extremely small silk screen print shop here in New Orleans so we will print the shirts at my shop Monday night. The screens have been burned and are ready to go so all that is left is to print the shirts. Those of us who will be printing them are working frantically to have our Greek, preaching, theology, etc. homework done before Monday so that we can print through the night to have the shirts ready for purchase Tuesday morning. These shirts will literally be hot off the press when they are purchased.
Second, on top of the t-shirt project and making sure that all of our school work is completed we are also preparing a letter to present to Dr. Graham when he arrives to our campus. A group of students is meeting together Saturday night to finalize the letter. After this letter, along with all of the signatures, is presented to Dr. Graham Tuesday, it will be released to the press. Some things that we wish to convey in our letter is our thankfulness and extreme gratitude for Dr. Graham and Prestonwood for all of the work that they have done for the Kingdom. We also wish to qualify their concerns as legitimate and to express to them that we share in many of these concerns. We hope to convey that although we agree with many of their concerns, how they acted on these concerns is not Ethical, Biblical, or practical. We believe that they are setting a precedent that will ultimately lead to a split in the convention and we are trying our best to prevent this. Since this letter will be made public it will also address some of our concerns that we have with the people on the other side of this issue. One of these is that we ask that all sides of this issue be reconciled to each other. In order for all sides to be reconciled they have to listen to each other. So we ask that all sides listen more than they speak, be sensitive to each other, and not negate the way the other party feels concerning these issues.
At NOBTS all students are required to take a class on the Cooperative Program. This is a very beneficial class, and for some students it is the first time they ever encounter exactly all that the CP accomplishes. This class, along with many others here at NOBTS, has instilled a deep love for the CP and all that it allows Southern Baptist to do for the Kingdom of God. Because of this we wish to preserve the CP and we will speak out anytime the CP is in danger. A part of protecting the CP is keeping it from being used as leverage. This is an issue that we would speak to regardless of who the person was. I know there have been other mega church pastors employ this tactic in the past and we are not ok with what they did either. This is not an attack on Dr. Graham or his church. This is us showing our disgust with any Southern Baptist using this tactic to accomplish a certain goal. This is not a greater good situation. We have a way to handle these types of conflicts in the SBC and that is on the convention floor in June. We want all pastors to use this method to handle conflict. As ministers of small churches we do not take kindly to being bullied by mega churches. Although that might not be Prestonwood’s intention, it is one of the messages that is being sent because of their actions.
Again I want to express how thankful we are that Dr. Graham is coming to our campus and how thankful that we are for the work that he and his church have accomplished over the years. We look forward to his time on our campus and we look forward to future discussions with him on these and other issues. We plead with him to return to the SBC in the sense of returning their funds to the CP, we do not do this because we feel that God needs their money to accomplish His will. Rather we plead with them to do this to set a precedent of giving to and of supporting the CP.