The Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary Board of Trustees meets Monday, October 15. From all of the information available ahead of time, they will be discussing electing Jason Allen as President of the Seminary. We have been discussing his election potential around SBC blogs since his name came to light as the candidate from their search committee. (Or was that a team? I can never keep up.)
Admittedly, I’m writing this before the meeting and so have no idea how it will actually turn out. I would say that the smart money is on the Trustees voting to proceed with Dr. Allen in the position. He is academically qualified enough for the job and none of them will want to be on the immediate new search committee if he is rejected, given the environment that has grown up around the current situation.
The question, then, is how are you going to respond?
First of all, it may be a normal response to look at this and think there is more going on here than just a straightforward election. In my crazier thoughts, I might be inclined to think his nomination was discussed in the Secret Commission Resurgence Task Force Meetings. However, even if everyone is plotting against you, paranoia is not a useful stand alone emotion. You have to take an action.
Now, ideally I’d like to see the process of electingany entity president in the SBC be more open. There should be announcement to the Trustees of the entity first, before it goes to the press. Then, there should be an open time of 3-6 months for the trustees to pray and do their own research on the candidate. This would include the opportunity for all of us to contact an appropriate trustee (did you know that, often, your state has a specific trustee or two? If not, then someone on the search committee should take your contact) and ask them to ask questions. They should then, in a coordinated fashion, get those questions which are appropriate to the candidate.
At the next trustee meeting, or a called one if the scheduling warrants it, the trustees should then finalize their decision after re-examining their research and the candidate’s answers to any new questions. Yes, it’s slower and more cumbersome. When our human judgment is as good as Jesus’ judgment, we should move to spending one night in fasting in prayer and then picking disciples. Until then, it’s either cast lots (Acts 1) or be not over hasty.
The above is my “ideal process” for this work. It’s not going to happen this time. It’s probably not going to happen next time. Instead, we have the process that we have built as Southern Baptists, and so let’s realize we’re going to see the results of that.
The real question at hand for most of us is this: How will we respond? How will we lead our churches to respond?
I see only a few options:
1. If you are against Dr. Allen’s election and he wins, you could stop your church sending any money to Midwestern Seminary. That is certainly a choice you can make. I would raise to you this question, though: looking through the annals of the Conservative Resurgence, I do not see any mass movement of churches to defund any SBC CP entity for being too liberal. I may just not find it, but if you look at the overall pattern, there appear to have been no widespread “cut off” moves over people denying that Scripture was accurate. Is perceived Calvinism so great a threat that it must be fought in a way we did not fight liberalism? Or are you going to take that action and send an apology note to Ralph Elliott?
2. If you are against Dr. Allen’s election and he wins, you could bail on the CP altogether and either remain affiliated with the SBC only through NAMB/IMB or be gone all the way. Again, though, is that really the answer? Is Jason Allen any more of a danger than any other SBTS-connected entity president? Is this really your line in the sand? Stop and think about this for a moment: you are stating that this one person, as President of the smallest seminary of the Big Six Seminary Conference, is going to destroy the ability of the Southern Baptist Convention to raise up the next generation of ministers/missionaries/teachers.
3. If you are for Dr. Allen’s election and the board turns him down, you could throw a hissy fit. You could decide this is evidence of Calvinist witch-hunting (there’s a contradiction, I know Calvinists and I know witches. They don’t mix.) and bemoan that you are unwelcome in the SBC. Except you’re not unwelcome. First of all, if your church welcomes you then you are not unwelcome by Southern Baptists. Second, that vote will be taken in private and it could be that Dr. Allen is rejected because he hates the Chiefs or the Royals (or anything else!). You won’t know. Is it really helpful for the spread of the Gospel to be angry? I doubt that Dr. Mohler will kick him to the curb if the trustees vote him down.
4. If you are for his election and he does not get the job, you could cut your MBTS funding or your CP giving, as above. The same questions apply: is this really worth it?
5. Of course, if you don’t get your way (either way) you could take this as a sign of the continuing collapse of the SBC. What astounds me with that view is this: I can find blogs and pastors that think the SBC is going too: liberal, fundamental, Calvinist, Traditionalist, Anti-Calvinist, Patriarchal, Beth Moore-y, Mohler-y, Patterson-y, and so forth. Both of the wings could likely write their dismayed reactions to the results of this vote without pausing for breath.
Folks, maybe it just is not important enough for that. Are we going to split the SBC over the influence of Dr. R. Albert Mohler when we did not over wandering from Scripture? We, the same people that would tell someone not to abandon a church over one person? (I’ve even told people not to abandon a church because of the pastor, he’ll be gone eventually. And I was.)
Perhaps we should settle on a compromise position: whatever the outcome, let us prayerfully encourage Midwestern Seminary’s faculty, students, and administration to serve the Lord Jesus Christ by serving the Southern Baptist Convention. Let us try to remember that this is what we are about: Christian people, unified by a common mission, standing on the Word of God, sharing a common conviction: that we are to go to all the world, proclaim that Jesus Christ lived, died, and rose again and salvation is available. That we then baptize those who come and teach them how to organize themselves into churches that go forth and do the same thing.
Or we could keep up what we’ve been doing, because it’s far easier to go downhill.