Why Dave Miller Won 2nd VP of the SBC (by Alan Cross)

Alan, who blogs at Downshore Drift, reflects on the SBC 2012 meeting.  

Last week, I was asked by Iowa pastor and editor of SBCVoices.com, Dave Miller, to give his nomination speech for 2nd VP of the SBC in New Orleans. It was an honor to do so. Dave was not supposed to win. He threw his hat in the ring on Friday evening, June 15, with the convention starting just a few days later. Also running for the position was Eric Hankins, pastor of First Baptist Church, Oxford, MS and author of the infamous Traditionalist statement on Baptist soteriology.  The convention was in Louisiana, the home state of Eric’s father, David Hankins, the executive director of Louisiana Baptists. We were effectively playing on Eric’s home turf, and home states and origin mean a lot in Baptist politics.  I called a friend of mine on Friday to ask him what he thought about Dave running for 2nd VP and me giving the speech. This guy knows his stuff when it comes to Baptist life. He said that he thought Dave would get beat badly. I tended to agree because everyone knows a blogger/pastor from Iowa can’t win an SBC office, but I liked the insurmountable odds and more than that, I liked Dave. I was hoping for 15-20% of the vote, honestly. Nothing against Dave, but I thought I knew enough about Baptist politics to know that you don’t beat an establishment candidate at the last minute on his home turf. You just don’t.

Well, Dave won. He had 40% of the vote on the first ballot leading to a runoff because Brad Atkins, pastor and president of the South Carolina Baptist Convention, also entered the race on Saturday. In the first ballot Dave got 40%, Eric Hankins got 35%, and Brad Atkins got 25%.  After I gave my speech, I left the Convention Hall and went and did some other things. I did not expect Dave to win, so when I heard about how he was leading in the first ballot and it was headed to a runoff. I was surprised, but still did not give it a lot of thought. I went to get some coffee with a few guys across the street and got a text message telling me that they were voting again for the final election. So, I ran back over to the hall to cast my ballot for Dave. Later, I heard that Dave won with 60% of the vote to Eric Hankins 40%. I was surprised.

Since then, I have had a few conversations with people who were speculating as to what the election meant. Was it a repudiation of Hankin’s Traditionalist statement on Baptist Soteriology? Did the Calvinists rise up and elect Dave? Was it a triumph for social media in the SBC? Was it because Dave was from outside of the South?  Maybe it was some of that, but I doubt that 75% of the messengers know what is happening on Baptist blogs and with theological statements that people are signing. A lot do, but probably most do not.

Here is what I think happened:

1. Baptists love missions – Dave is the son of missionary and pastor parents.

2. We want to diversify – Dave pastors in Iowa. We know we need to expand leadership outside the South.

3. Dave’s church led Iowa in CP and Lottie Moon giving – that resonates.

4. Baptists love the idea of unity – Dave is a unifier and that was clearly stated.  Even though, as Jerry Rankin said on his blog, realized unity is often just an illusion in the SBC. We tend to attack and divide from one another. But, I think that deep down, Baptists WANT to be unified with other Baptists. Dave’s election was an appeal to the better angels of our nature. If we aren’t there yet, we want to be.

5. We want to cooperate in missions – Dave calls for that.  We want this for the same reasons that we see in #4, even if we do not always do it.

6.  Blogs/Twitter – While not the reason that Miller won, social media did stir up support and get the word out to a percentage of messengers who would not have known Dave or knew what he stood for. It was not a majority, but enough knew Dave from his role in Baptist Blogs to give him some identity. Plus, there was a big “get out the vote” campaign for Dave on Twitter that did not hurt.

I do not think that Dave’s election was a repudiation of Hankins or the Traditionalist document or an affirmation of Calvinism or anything like that. I am not in favor of the Traditionalist document nor am I a Calvinist, but I don’t think that those issues really came into play because I just don’t think that most of the messengers keep up with all of that as much as we here in blogland would like to think they do.  I think that they saw a guy from Iowa who was doing a good job of calling us to work together who had a heart for Christ and for missions. I think that Dave is who Baptists want to become and who we hope to see more of in non-Southern states.

Dave talks about a new Baptist majority. I think that we might just see one and I think that it might look a lot like Dave Miller – regular guys who are working hard for the Kingdom in out of the way places with a focus on Christ, a love for the lost, and a desire to work together.  I am not trying to pump up Dave here – I am talking about us, what we want and who we hope to be. I think that the election of Fred Luter goes along the same lines. Rev. Luter is imminently qualified, but I think that we are also saying that it is time to stop being a white denomination and truly be multiracial. We believe that Rev. Luter is the person to help us do that.

In a year when we voted to allow for an alternative name to help us in ministry outside the South (Great Commission Baptists), we elected our first African American president, we voted to pass a resolution on unity in the gospel according to the BF&M, and we elected a 2nd VP from a small church in Iowa, I think that the message is clear: Baptists want to unify around Christ and His gospel, we want to be diverse both ethnically and geographically, we want to cooperate in missions to the ends of the earth, and we want to stop arguing about small things.  Those are pretty strong statements and I think that Dave Miller’s election was part of it. I hope we live up to them.


    • says

      Saw this comment elsewhere, it makes as little sense here as it did there and whoever is posting it seems to be making up names along the way.

    • Dave Miller says

      For the record, the “Peter L” here is not Peter Lumpkins, but a spoofer.

      I just thought it was funny and posted it anyway.

      • John Wylie says

        Peter I hope that you’re just trying to be funny and that you’re not another anonymous bomb throwing coward.

          • Bryan Potts (aka that_atheist) says

            I admit to this. Apparently I started my negative ad campaign against Dave too late; it seems the elections are over. My only regret is that I couldn’t find a higher res photo of him.

            Also, I have no idea what a Calvinist is. Well, someone let me know when the debate is over so I can continue reading SBCVoices :-)

  1. Smuschany says

    Dave won because his neon lime green suit blinded everyone and they didnt know who they were voting…That is the REAL reason. At least so I heard.

  2. John Wylie says

    Isn’t it a wonderful thing when God sometimes surprises us? I think Dave won for all the reasons enumerated above. I also think it’s because he’s not a mover and shaker heir apparent. The good ole boy syndrome is a bit tiresome after a while and I think that people voted expressing that same sentiment. Instead of always promoting the up and comers I think the SBC is ready for just one superstar and His name is Jesus.

  3. says

    (originally posted over Alan’s blog)


    I believe all of those factors were important. My question is, why did Dave represent all of those things in the minds of the messengers and Eric Hankins did not, or did not to such a degree as Dave? I believe the Trads Document was a stench in the nostrils of those who knew about it and thus Dave was a more “unifying” candidate.

    I believe the election of Dave Miller over Eric Hankins was heavily affected by the Eric Hankins Trads Document. As you mentioned, we must not forget where this vote took place. It took place right next to Mississippi, in the city of Trads supporting New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, in the state of Louisiana where David Hankins is the Executive Director. The fact that only 3 Louisiana Baptist Convention employees have signed the Hankins Trads Document is very telling as to where Louisiana Baptists stand. We want genuine unity and not marginalizing agendas.

    • cb scott says

      “The fact that only 3 Louisiana Baptist Convention employees have signed the Hankins Trads Document is very telling as to where Louisiana Baptists stand.”


      I would walk softly with statements like that one right now if I were you. The wind is just now beginning to blow down Louisiana way as far as the direction in which the majority of Louisiana Baptists think.

        • says


          I can’t speak for CB, but I read him to mean that Louisiana is unsettled on the issue and you can’t know which way it is going to go yet. The controversy is just starting to kick up. That might be totally wrong, but that’s how it read.

          As far as Hankin’s agenda goes, I would not worry about it at all.

          • cb scott says


            You are correct in your interpretation of my comment.


            I have no personal idea of what David Hankin’s agenda is or will be and I certainly would not tell you to fear him.

            My caution to you is to make no assumptions as to the “stand” of Louisiana Baptists based upon the number of Convention employees who have signed the TradDoc. There is always a multitude of reason as to why any denominational worker will not openly declare a position on any issue as controversial as is the TradDoc at this present time.

            Yet, I must add that there are some things far from settled within the Louisiana Baptist Convention.

  4. says

    Gee, we want more churches in the North. Dave pastors a church in the North.

    He pastors a small church. The SBC is mostly smaller churches. And we’ve been yelling for years that we need more small-church pastors in prominent positions.

    We’ve been discussing the “establishment” and wishing it weren’t so, for as long as I’ve been active in the SBC. Dave’s not “establishment”.

    Sounds like a lot of reasons to me.

    And he looks good in green, the color of money, and that ought to appeal to even the megachurch guys, too.

    OK, that last one was joking. I don’t think Dave would want me all serious.

  5. William Thornton says

    My appreciation of Dave Miller has been stated elsewhere but I think you miss the mark in a few ways here.

    Your #1 and #2 are common in nominations for the VP slots. Almost always, the megachurch or better known pastor is easily elected rather than the mission area, lesser known pastor. Happens all the time.

    Your #3 is solid but Hankins church is a very strong CP supporter as well making it hard to imagine that folks were swayed in great number by this.

    I do think that many SBCers have a dread of another lengthy, bloody internecine fight and would rather have serious discussions yet get along and cooperate without demonizing any SBC sub-group. Hankins was so closely identified with the Statement that generated so much discussion that it hurt him, I think.

    An SBC runoff is tricky because it’s not on the schedule and we know how SBCers like to gab and eat. Social media can gather people around the convention hall and drive a vote if the numbers aren’t too great. I still haven’t seen the original vote totals but I understand the number voting in the runoff was less. The numbers of SBCers who follow the various blogs have grown substantially since 2006 and Dave is not unknown among the SBC hoi polloi.

    I would ask, Alan, why you describe the Traditionalist Statement as “infamous”? That is a poor choice of words and unnecessarily incendiary, especially in the light of your article which promotes unity and cooperation.

    • says

      As I recall, there were a little under 2000 votes cast in the runoff. I’m not sure that totals were released for the first round, just percentages.

    • says


      I did not mean to offend. I chose that word because it has been the source of much controversy – or, the reaction has. Perhaps it was a poor choice of words. I was looking for a word that captured the idea that it was the source of discussion, confusion, charges of heresy, and a good amount of handwringing. That word seemed to fit in my mind. If I used it poorly, I apologize.

      • William Thornton says

        Thanks, Alan. ‘Infamous’ is highly negative. ‘Controversial’ is neutral.

        Some odd words fit my mind occasionally also.

        Wish I could have been there for your scintillating nomination speech.

      • Dave Miller says

        The “Three Amigos” made it clear that “infamous” actually means, “more than famous.”

  6. John K says

    I think William is right. Dave got elected because it was grazing time for the flock. The Sheep must eat. The shepherd herded the sheep.

  7. William Thornton says

    If one of you has the vote count for both elections, I’d appreciate your putting it here. I’m lazy. Thanks.

    John K, I wouldn’t diminish Dave’s upset win. Look for bloggers to start being schmoozed by denominational leaders.

  8. says


    There are probably lots of reasons Dave was elected, including some you mention and some you don’t. One reason that you (understandably) didn’t mention is the nominating speech. You delivered a great nominating speech, and as proven with Wylie Drake’s stint as 2nd VP, a great nominating speech and even a little bit of name recognition can go a long way. Well done.

    Oh, and Dave, I’m totally comparing you to Wylie Drake.


    • Dave Miller says

      Wow. Wiley.

      And yes, when I heard Alan’s speech, I suddenly thought to myself, “After that speech, I might win this thing.”

    • cb scott says

      Has anyone other than me noticed that Nathan Finn is wearing “floaties” under his shirt to make his arms look bigger?

      • Dave Miller says

        Normally, I would not encourage insults, but since Dr. NAF compared me to a certain former SBC 2nd VP, he is now fair game.

        • cb scott says


          Of course it could be that you are hitting the gym early in the morning with my kid and some of his pals there before work and classes begin. Either way, floaties or pumpin’ iron, you are getting that “tough and seasoned look” there, Nathan.

  9. says

    The problem with poverty and age is you miss all the fun. To see David get elected would have been a pleasure. Now if he just won’t let it go to his head, but, then, wearing that outfit that he showed some months back raises serious navel questions, issues of contemplation. Reminds me of some of Ogden Nash’s poems, one in particular seems relevant”
    There was a young missus from Natchez
    Whose garments were always in patches,
    When comment arose on the state of her clothes
    She relpied, When I itchez. I scratchez.

  10. says


    I went to get some coffee with a few guys across the street and got a text message telling me that they were voting again for the final election.

    You stated the reason Dave won very eloquently in the text I have copied and the emboldened section. We do not have the political backing of the Twitter world that our entity VP’s at Lifeway controls.

    • says

      Tim, I had to smile at that statement. Actually, I went back and looked at my phone and think it was a phone call. At any rate, it came from my associate pastor who was in the convention hall. The guy I was with getting the coffee also got a text from someone in the hall that he actually knew. No twitter army necessary for that. You guys have phones too. You even have Facebook groups and stuff, so I know that you are technologically adept. Probably way more so than I am.

      • says

        I was with a fellow pastor and we had both slipped out for breakfast after the earlier vote. We got back into the hall earlier than I had planned and walked in just as they were announcing the runoff vote. 2 minutes later and we’d have missed it. No message was sent to us, it was just providential timing. I sent a tweet as soon as I saw what was taking place but it would have been too late for anyone not already there.

  11. says

    I also should add that both Brad Atkins and Eric Hankins stood for many of these things. I don’t know either of the men, but I hear that they are good men. I really liked what I read about Brad Atkins in his bio in Baptist press and it was a real comfort to speak with Johnny Touchet, his nominator, before the speeches. I enjoyed meeting and talking with Clint Pressley, Eric Hankin’s nominator as well. We were all kind of in the same boat up there and were encouraging one another. It was a good spirit with absolutely no competition between us.

    • Dave Miller says

      I also had the chance to sit and talk with Brad Atkins for a few minutes. He seemed like a real kindred spirit.

    • says


      That is encouraging to hear. I thought all 3 of you did each candidate well.

      Glad to hear the pre-election talks went better than the post-election talks.

  12. William Thornton says

    Someone might speculate about how the blogs figured into the VP vote. Eric Hankins was closely connected with the popular, and connected itself, SBC Today blog. It’s not hard to conclude that a slam dunk election of the most prominent Traditionalist turned into a surprisingly easy defeat.

    But, I’ve blogged that I hate to see the whole thing end up in partisan electoral battles. That cannot be good for any of us and is totally unnecessary.

  13. Ben Stratton says

    Here’s a few things that some of you may have overlooked.

    1. I was shocked at the low vote totals for 2nd Vice President. I had lots of friends at the convention who left on Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning to come back home. I also personally noticed the large number of messengers who arrived at the meeting too late to vote in this election on Wednesday morning.

    2. This tells me that the few that actually voted in election of our 2nd Vice President are the ones that deeply care about Southern Baptist life. They (and I include myself because I was there and voted) are the ones who read and follow Southern Baptist newsletters and / or blogs. To say they didn’t know much about the controversy over Eric Hankins and the Traditionalist statement on Baptist soteriology is to misunderstand the crowd that was present for this vote.

    3. There was a large number of young pastors and students at this year’s SBC. I have been attending national and state conventions for several years and this was one of the largest crowds of young preachers I have ever seen. Now it is common knowledge that the reformed movement is strongest among the younger crowd – while the traditionalist movement is strongest among older pastors. (I know there are numerous exceptions to both statements) This tells me there were a lot of younger pastors present who voted against Erik Hankins simply because of his views on soteriology.

    4. The home field advantage has been way overrated. There were only 943 messengers present from Louisiana and only 792 from Mississippi. Only a faction would have present for the vote on Wednesday morning. In addition the folks from Louisiana and Mississippi (like other states) are all over the map when it comes to soteriology.

    5. I’m not saying that Cooperative Program giving, emphasis on missions and unity and nomination speeches were not a factor. However I strongly believe that the key issue was the Traditionalist statement on Baptist soteriology. Many voted against Hankins because they did not agree his views or didn’t want to see Southern Baptists fight over this issue.