The last couple of weeks have been momentous in the life of our beloved convention.
- Southwestern Seminary is still dealing with financial issues, exacerbated by the COVID-19 shutdown. Departments were reorganized and we understand there were some personnel reductions. Of course, the biggest news was their dealings with the fraudulent Dead Sea Scrolls scraps purchased by the Pattersons.
- Southern Seminary also made some significant budget cuts. Of course, what created the stir was that they laid off three professors due to the financial crisis and possibly a fourth is heading in that direction.
- A few days ago, LifeWay announced several actions, but the idea that they intended to sell Ridgecrest was not universally well-received.
- There were also rumors abounding when another staff member at the ERLC announced he was leaving for another job. There has been a significant turnover of ERLC staff recently and among those who claim but often fail to practice discernment, that is evidence of big news coming down the pike.
The responses to many of these have been predictable, but not encouraging.
- The conspiracy-theorist, black-helicopter Baptists have, of course, seen CRT/I behind all of this. Without a shred of evidence, they declared this an attempt by Mohlerites to banish conservatives from Southern and make it a safe-haven for cultural Marxism and liberalism.
- I have seen strong opinions expressed about the future of the ERLC, about Ridgecrest’s sale, and about the SBC in general, and I find myself feeling conflicted about it.
I would make the following simple observations.
1. Big things are happening in SBC entities.
If this blog existed simply to garner traffic and drive hits, we could follow the example of the nonsense bloggers like Capstone and the unsubstantiated insinuations of Jon Harris (and others) and drive traffic through the roof. The fact is that these are big stories, real issues. Major things are happening at our entities – perhaps as a result of the shutdown.
2. Getting our facts before going to press isn’t a bad idea.
I had a long conversation with a prominent journalist a few months ago and he told me about several explosive stories he was working on. He hasn’t published any of them yet, because a secular newspaper is careful to get their facts in order and check their sources before they publish their stories.
Why don’t Christians follow such an ethic? We seem to feel free to pass along rumors and insinuations, as long as they further our agendas. I read a tweet in which a pastor “expressed concern” about the appearance of bias at Southern. When challenged, he denied that he had lodged any accusations and his weasely wording gave him that option. He publicized false information in such a way that he could deny responsibility for it. Too often, we are masters at that. I do not believe it honors God.
We simply have to do better.
3. Having the facts doesn’t give us the right to determine motives.
The vortex of much of this is a guy named Jon Harris – no idea who he is or where he came from. I saw him the first time when he was pushing conspiracy theories in support of CBN. He declared that four conservative professors at Southern had been fired in a purge so that CRT/I could win the day.
The facts? There were three professors let go, and a fourth is a possibility. Is there any evidence that this has anything to do with CRT/I? Only his tinfoil hat theories. If you assume that Southern is an increasingly liberal, “woke,” CRT/I-sympathetic school, then you can assume these firings are evidence in support of your assumptions and publish them as fact.
But assigning motives to actions is hardly a godly thing to do. These “discernment” guys generally seem to regard themselves as having a nearly infallible insight into the minds and hearts of those they bite and devour. I have been told my ungodly motives by these fellows often, even though I was quite sure those were not my motives at all.
Did something happen at Southern? Yes. Did professors get let go? Yep. Has there been any evidence that it was a CRT/I motivated action? Who needs evidence when you have an agenda to promote?
4. The biggest problem in the SBC is not CRT/I (or any other issue) – It is SIN!
So many involved in SBC social media lie and spread false information and insinuations and conspiracies – all while claiming to honor God. They are dishonoring the Savior with despicable, sinful behavior. Can you imagine the toll these lies and false accusations take on men and their families? Yet bloggers and “ministry leaders” continue to bite and devour without conscience (all in the name of protecting the gospel). We can have a reasonable discussion over whether CRT/I can ever be used in any way by Christians. We could have reasonable discussions about race, about abuse, about many of the issues that divide us. But there should be no question that the character assassination, the lies, the false accusations, the absolutely satanic slander that is being spewed out by some of these sites needs to stop. Tearing asunder the Body of Christ is not acceptable, even if it furthers your agenda.
We cannot ask God’s blessing on our convention when we are walking in lies instead of the truth.
5. It would help a LOT if our entities would be a bit more transparent.
The fact is, our entities are far more secretive than they need to be or than they should be. The EC has been going into executive session far more than it should. LifeWay has given us its opinion that Ridgecrest is not a priority investment for the future, but making such a radical seems to me to call for greater explanation.
I realize that our entities are governed by their trustees and are not required to account to the convention for every action, but if they were less secretive, less guarded, more transparent, it would be better.
6. The entities are complicit in creating the environment in which the distrust has grown.
These “discernment” folks who lie and attack and assign false motives and make false accusations and engage in character assassination and personal destruction – you know who I am talking about, I doubt I have to name names, right? – will give account to God for their wickedness one day.
But the soil in which that kind of distrust, that viciousness, that evil grew has been fertilized by the entities who have treated the people of the SBC as if we shouldn’t know what is going on. The person saying this has argued (to great hostility, even somewhat from other contributors here!) that I do not think entity salaries need to be published. Still, I think too much is done in secret. Too many executive sessions. Too much behind the scenes politicking. Too many public statements that we all know do not reflect private actions.
Trust the trustees. That is an operational principle for the SBC because we have no choice! But if the leadership wants the SBC to trust the trustees, they need to create an atmosphere of sunshine. Their secretive ways cause much of the distrust.
I was preparing a fairly explosive article one time and I talked to the chairman of the trustees of that entity about it. He was so open and honest with me that I decided to hold back the story. He told me the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth (time had upheld that belief) and I realized he was dealing with it. His openness inspired trust in me.
Obviously, some of these folks won’t behave in a godly manner because their hearts are full of sin. They want to get their way and they will not be satisfied by godly people behaving in godly ways. But there are a lot of good and godly people who have been swayed by the liars and accusers because of the atmosphere of distrust that exists in the entities.
I want the SBC to work. I think our leaders are good men who love Jesus and want to do right. I sometimes disagree with them but then again…gasp…they may sometimes disagree with me! That’s okay. We simply have to do better all around or we will continue biting and devouring one another until there is nothing left to bite and devour.
God help us.