I am emerging from my personal hibernation to address an issue and give some information about SBC Voices.
I am coming out of probably the worst 2-year period in my life – I won’t bother to regale you with all the details, but COVID hit me hard and hit my church hard. Two years ago, both my parents went on hospice and I lost both of them and that kinda knocked me back. Ministering in the post-COVID era has been a challenge unlike any I have faced in 40 years. I had surgery recently and I am recovering. All of that has led to a period of significant discouragement in life – yeah, my doctor probably would have called it depression if I’d ever given him a chance.
In the last few months, I find myself bouncing back, but most of my time has been devoted to digging out from under the mountain of office and ministerial work left undone during the last two years during the time when, as Marty Duren has put it, (not sure if that is his term or not) I was listening to “the black dog howl.”
The upshot of all of this is that I have almost completely ignored SBC Voices. There are weeks at a time when I haven’t even opened the app. I wrote an article a week or two ago, and during the recent Executive Committee uproar, I set everything aside to reengage. By and large, though, I’ve been absent.
An Incident Today
Imagine my surprise today when I got some angry tweets about an article by my esteemed colleague William Thornton. I will tell you what I told William. I love that ours is a site where William Thornton can write stuff with which I strongly disagree. From the time I took over as editor, and eventually owner, of SBC Voices (in 2010, I think), I have had this vision for a unique site. My vision was simple:
That SBC Voices would be a Southern Baptist-focused blog that would allow a wide range of views and opinions to be expressed on one site.
I made sure that we were not a Calvinist or anti-Calvinist blog. I wanted us to have varying views on many issues. Anyone who reads this blog knows I am no fan of Donald Trump, but we had a post from someone who explained their reasoning for voting for Trump. I am also less than enthused about the CBN, yet we had a post or two from a member of the CBN extolling the organization. I have posted guest articles that my friends thought I was insane to post. There have been a few things we have united on – we will not allow racist points of view here, and we discourage out-and-out personal attacks on people, though measured criticism of our leaders is permissible. Admittedly, that is a fine line and we often struggle to walk it. We have strayed at times, one way or the other, but I have tried to keep this vision as a guide. Here’s my guiding principle.
If a member of a Southern Baptist church has a point of view expressed well in a Christian spirit that will be of interest to our readers, we will seek to post it.
Today, I got cussed out and called trash for posting an article I hadn’t read. It is clear that people do not understand how SBC Voices operates. You might notice that William decided to take his post down. That was his choice (not mine or anyone else’s), done to lessen the social media storm that had developed, not because he had said anything sinful (unless disagreeing with me is sin).
How Voices Operates
Permit me to mention a few guidelines and principles that we use in operating here. I’ve tried to explain these things over and over, but people do not seem to grasp what we are about here.
1. We are a place where varying opinions within the Southern Baptist context can be expressed.
You will see something here that you do not see at most group sites among Baptists. The “staff” disagree with one another. You should see our private chats – they get pretty direct at times. Any one of us is allowed to post our opinions without consulting with others and then others are allowed to express their disagreements. There are times when we will discuss things among ourselves. “Am I being too harsh?” “What do you think of this?” But each of us is our own editorial board. We accept submissions from others and often post them as well.
It is true, beyond doubt, that most of us in “the team” share some basic values and viewpoints, but we also publish counterpoint articles that are well-written in a Christian spirit.
2. We do have standards.
No, there is not complete free speech at SBC Voices, either in comments or in posts.
In general, our confession is the same as Southern Baptists’ – the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message. We would consider posting content from someone who is not a member of an SBC church at times, but in general, we post Southern Baptist writers who write in line with the BF&M 2000. If one of us questions the content of a post (either a guest post or from one of the contributors) we will discuss it privately. Beyond the BF&M, we are constrained by basic biblical principles of conduct, which all of us fail to uphold at times, but which we seek to enforce.
There are rare times when we speak as one. When that happens, you will see that published under the name of the SBC Voices Editorial Board. That means that we have agreed (at least a strong majority of us) that this speaks for us. Unless you see that, the post is the opinion of the author and the author alone.
We do have a few basic rules we will not allow here.
- We do not countenance racism. Obviously, what is and is not racism is hard to decide, but that is obviously our decision.
- We do not allow attacks on abuse victims.
- We do not allow personal attacks on our leaders, or conspiracy theory nonsense, but we do allow criticism of SBC entities and leaders focused on their work. That is another fine line.
3. We do not have a team of moderators.
Comment moderation is hard.
In general, here’s how it goes. The author of a particular piece is the “moderator-in-chief” for that piece. Any of us can delete a comment we find offensive (it’s all a judgment call; there are no absolute rules) if we come on it. Some are more lenient and others more strict. Your first comment always goes into moderation. If you are a consistent violator, your comments get put on hold until we approve them. If you continue to offend (or give racist comments, or a lot of insults, etc.) then your comments go straight into our garbage disposal.
And, to be honest, there are gremlins in the system. Sometimes comments go into SPAM or trash for no apparent reason.
The main point here is that we do not have a team of consistent moderators roaming the site. It is hit or miss and because of that, yeah, often unfair. Sorry. We try but it isn’t perfect.
4. Each author is responsible for their own writings.
There is no approval process on our posts. Each of us on the admin team has the full authority to publish our own posts. William doesn’t get to approve of my posts nor do I approve William’s. If Todd Benkert or Adam Blosser or Brent Hobbs or any of the others write a post, they publish without getting approval from any of the rest of us. We are not a publishing house but a group blog.
Sometimes, I seek opinions on things I write, but when I hit publish, SBCV is not responsible for my opinions, I am.
If someone says, “SBC Voices said…” they are showing they do not understand how we operate. “Dave Miller said…” “William Thornton said…” “Brent Hobbs said…” SBC Voices is WHERE we say it, but unless it says “SBC Voices Editorial Board,” the only voice speaking is the author. When someone expresses an opinion on Twitter, you don’t say, “Twitter says…” Twitter is where you say it. We are, like Twitter, a place where people speak.
5. Since I am (sort-of) in charge, I can say this: This is not a well-run blog.
While we consider SBC Voices a group blog, people tend to associate my name with it, and so I can share this dirty secret – I do a lousy job of running this place. I think that once I was a pretty good blog leader and built it up but in the last few years my life has gone out of control and I’ve let Voices drift. When we have crises in the SBC, we ramp up and our numbers are amazing, but day to day, I ignore it (as do our other leaders, except William) and we tend to drift.
I am not sure what the next year or so holds. I might end up “retired” and have more time to write and you guys might be longing for the good old days when I ignored the site. The fact is that this site is not run or managed carefully at all.
The very first time I knew anything at all about William’s article today was when someone was chastising me for posting it. Often, the first time I know anything about an article is when a notification hits that it has been posted – and I am the OWNER of the doggone site! We are laissez-faire. I would like to have more time to devote to this, but the last couple of years it just hasn’t been there.
If you have questions about how the site is run, feel free to ask.
One More Thing
An apology. Some of you have submitted articles and they never got posted. That is probably a consequence of my general failures as a person. I was ignoring this site and I know there were submissions where I said I would do that later and just never got back to it. If you have a submission – even one I ignored earlier – send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.