It’s a foregone conclusion that the Conservative Baptist Network (CBN) is more than “just another network.” Its own Steering Council members say so. Jim Gregory, went as far as to say, “Get out of our way or get run over.”
The reason many are confused is because the CBN’s messaging is often double-minded. For example, CBN Steering Council member Rod Martin in an interview with The Alabama Baptist described the organization as just “a group of Baptists acting together to advance the Baptist Faith and Message 2000.” In other comments, however, Steering Council members said the organization is leading a new Conservative Resurgence because, “the emphasis (of the SBC) has shifted in a direction that is diametrically opposed to the Word of God.”
The question as to whether the SBC is in need of a new Conservative Resurgence is not the purpose of this article. The purpose is to let Southern Baptists observe how leaders of the CBN, the organization leading the push for a Conservative Resurgence, are operating within the Convention, particularly as it concerns its Steering Council members serving in positions of leadership on the SBC’s Executive Committee (EC) and how they are attaining those positions.
In the most recent EC meeting, the former Chairman, CBN Steering Council member Mike Stone, used his Chairmanship to ensure new EC leaders would include members of the CBN’s Steering Council, a group that wasn’t known to exist until, strategically, the day after the EC Officer and Chairman elections took place.
In an unusual move, Stone nominated Chairmans for the EC’s Committees against the recommendations of the Chairman-elect Rolland Slade, a conservative, BF&M2000-affirming Southern Baptist who is not part of the CBN. If this is confusing, it is not unlike a retiring Pastor recommending new staff members against the recommendations of the newly called Pastor.
While it is not against the bylaws for an outgoing Chairman (or anyone) to nominate new Chairmans, it is highly unusual for an outgoing Chairman to compete with the nominations of the incoming Chairman. Usually these decisions are made in conference with one another along with the EC President, the latter a bylaw. Stone, however, didn’t previously share his nominations with Rolland Slade.
Ben Kelley, a former Committee Chairman of the EC, researched how this process has functioned in recent years and learned it has been altered. Until recently the Chairman used to “hand pick” the EC Chairmans, without an EC vote. The process was changed in recent years and “the intent was for the outgoing chair and perceived incoming chair to meet together to discuss the nominations. Then the outgoing chair would place in nomination the recommendations of the incoming chair.” Kelley further said, “I do find it unusual that Mike Stone and Rolland [Slade] presented different slates of officers. It is apparent Mike must have had some concerns about Rolland’s nominations.”
Pastor Rolland confirmed Stone never asked him about his Chairman nominations. This means Stone wasn’t concerned about who Pastor Rolland would pick. He was concerned with who Pastor Rolland wouldn’t pick. We’ve since learned the concerns were that Pastor Rolland’s nominations wouldn’t include CBN Steering Council members.
The concern, unfortunately, goes much deeper.
As an EC member I received a packet with the upcoming meeting’s discussion topics and was able to observe language that would discourage the incoming Chairman from taking the lead in selecting Chairmans.
The Executive Committee had restructured the Committee into four new Standing Committees that had not yet been populated, and I recommended during the meeting that we wait until those Committees were populated which would allow the new Chairman to have the opportunity, like former Chairmans, to have a significant part in electing new Chairmans. This recommendation was declared “out of order” by Stone because it would have “substantially changed the nature of the bylaw.”
Here lies the conflict of interest.
It’s moot now whether the motion was “out of order” because the ruling came from a member of the CBN’s Steering Council who ended up exploiting the ruling in order to nominate other CBN Steering Council members, while the rest of the EC was unaware these nominations were CBN Steering Council members (since the Council wasn’t announced until the following day).
On top of this, in response to my recommendation, there was another recommendation to forego the original bylaw amendment altogether, a nuclear option that would have forfeited the ability to nominate Pastor Rolland, allowing Stone to remain Chairman for another year. Later, Jim Gregory, Stone’s pick for Chairman of the Committee on Southern Baptist Relations and CBN Steering Council member, said he “wish[es] [the Chairman] could have stayed in place another year.”
What this means is that while, technically, Rolland Slade, the first African American Executive Committee Chairman in the history of the Southern Baptist Convention was “unanimously affirmed” by the EC (he was unopposed and so Stone called for a vote of affirmation), it was only unanimous after some voted against the bylaw amendment that would have made his nomination possible to begin with, which means it really wasn’t unanimous. This “unanimous affirmation” is an example of the kinds of exploits that create talking points that don’t tell the whole story.
The entire June 16 EC meeting can be viewed at this link: https://vimeo.com/429286135/8a376d98
While the bylaws were technically followed (of course they were), the actions of the CBN’s Steering Council as it relates to the EC should concern Southern Baptists. Conservatism isn’t limited to what we believe but also expressing the conservatism of our theology in how we operate. Unfortunately, there is a growing track record that shows the CBN is not an entirely forthcoming organization, as evidenced by Tim Patterson’s open letter which also expresses concerns over the Steering Council’s methods. 
In theory, there is nothing wrong with a “Conservative Baptist Network.” But there is something wrong when a network exploits positions of leadership and bylaws to force agendas that undermine the spirit of cooperation under the BF&M2000. Networks are supposed to make the SBC stronger, not divided.
As it stands, six of the 48 individuals of the CBN’s Steering Council are also SBC EC members, and four of these are now serving as leaders of the SBC’s EC, while one is the immediate past Chairman who helped get them elected. The CBN achieved this mischievously and now has more representation on the EC’s leadership than non-CBN leadership.
If the CBN’s Steering Council (an organization that is objectively more than just another group of Baptists) intentionally abused their positions of leadership and the bylaws to ensure other CBN Steering Council leaders became leaders of the EC, then it expresses a conflict of interest with the spirit of unity under which Southern Baptists operate according to the BF&M2000. And if they did it unintentionally, then it also expresses a conflict of interest because it shows their leadership on the EC is colored by their positions on the CBN’s Steering Council. What’s more, they will be unable to represent non-CBN, conservative, BF&M2000-affirming Southern Baptists effectively, as all of their decisions will be suspect.
In light of this, I call upon the newly elected EC Officers and Chairmans who are part of the CBN Steering Council, Rod Martin, Jim Gregory, Joe Knott, and Tom Tucker, to resign their positions in order to respect BF&M2000-affirming Southern Baptists and to allow new officers who will represent all Southern Baptists and our agreed-upon articles of faith to serve in their places.