- I wrote an article suggesting that the IMB should hire a president with field experience.
- I wrote an article (maybe more than one) detailing the qualities we needed in an Executive Board president – none of which was heeded.
- I wrote that the presence of five entity openings was a perfect time for the SBC to break our all-white history. We have long believed that NOBTS was the best chance and most appropriate place for that to happen.
Clearly, my writings carried great weight!
Literally, NOTHING I wanted, argued or appealed for happened. What should a person like me do? I have limited options. I can grouse and recriminate, becoming a critic of everything that the leaders of these institutions does, hoping to prove myself right in the future. I can say, “Farewell, SBC” and either strike an independent course, search out another denomination, or withdraw into isolation and disinvolve myself in SBC affairs.
There is another option, one I choose. It may not be for everyone, but it is the one for me.
I will continue pastoring a Southern Baptist church, supporting Southern Baptist missions through the CP, and arguing for the things I believe in here on this blog. I will continue to speak my mind and seek to use whatever influence God might give me to move the needle on issues I care about. I am going to keep on keeping on!
I care passionately about the issues I promote here. I believe that the SBC is still the best denominational option out there, as flawed as it is, and I am going to continue to attempt to be a force to make it better. I am not settling for failure or making peace with some of the things that have happened.
But my friends, this is a battleship denomination and turning it is a slow and cumbersome process. It took a decade of consistent and convincing wins at the national level to see changes in our entities back in the 80s, and we are more fractured now than we were then. We do not have an Adrian Rogers leading us, we have a dozen would-be Adrians playing a game of tug-o-war trying to pull us in this direction or that. I lived through the Conservative Resurgence and I think we are more divided now than we were then, that there is possibly more anger and hostility among Southern Baptists today than during that era.
But I will not give up, because I think this convention is worth the effort. We have a good missions program (both IMB and NAMB) and good seminaries (which sometimes frustrate me) and a good publishing house and other things worth contending for. I would make the following observations.
1. Losing votes and not getting your way is a reality in SBC life.
We are a democratic (little d, guys, settle down) institution. We gather and we vote. Last year I was on the winning side of every vote at the SBC that I cared about – by massive majorities. But I’ve been on the losing side too. Honestly, folks, where is our maturity level when losing a vote sends us into recriminatory convulsions? Since I re-engaged with national denominational politics (2006) we have elected Frank Page, Johnny Hunt, Bryant Wright, Fred Luter, Ronnie Floyd, Steve Gaines, and J.D. Greear as president. Only 3 of those 7 were my first choice and I actively supported an opponent to 3 of them. I’ve lost more votes than I’ve won.
Am I so arrogant to think that when the SBC disagrees with me they are wrong, apostate, evil? I voted against Bryant Wright when he ran for election, and I consider him to be one of the best presidents we have had. If one of those six former presidents could be allowed to run again, I’d stump for him. What I’m saying, if it isn’t clear, is that I lost that election and I am very glad I did. My wisdom is imperfect.
I supported the Great Commission Resurgence and now I don’t think it amounted to a hill of beans in the life of the SBC. I still think there were some good concepts there, but it fizzled out faster than a wet bottle rocket.
Here’s the point. When you are part of the SBC, you win some and you lose some.
2. I see tremendous progress on the things I care about.
Yes, I am disappointed that we have not had a trustee search committee break the color barrier, but if anyone says there has been no progress on racial reconciliation in the SBC in the last decade, they are simply not looking at the facts. I’m not talking about Fred Luter – we’ve gotten about all the mileage out of that one we can get, I think.
But have you looked at J.D. Greear’s appointments? They are the most diverse in the history of the SBC. He is not just talking the talk. What he is doing is significant.
And, without divulging anything confidential, progress was actually made in the search process. I noted in an earlier article that at the first few entities there were no minority candidates among the final interviews. That is not the case now. Our voices were heard as a convention. The call to include minorities in the process was heeded.
If you look at leadership in the SBC, you will see more minorities than ever before. Is it enough? Of course not. I can see why men like my friend Dwight McKissic get frustrated with the pace of progress – it has to be a dagger to their souls every time another white entity president is announced and they are told to wait a little longer. Every time someone says, “We should just hire the best candidate” (with the tacit assumption that we will hire another white man), it is a deep sting. I get that. But progress is being made.
I understand why some are ready to abandon ship. I hope they won’t.
3. Racial inclusion is the future no matter how hard some resist it.
Epithets are thrown at those who seek to include Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, and yes, women, in the life and leadership of the SBC. They insult us as being “woke” (being asleep is better?). They call us SJWs (imagine the horror of seeking social justice in this sinful world!). They misuse terms like Cultural Marxism and intersectionality in ways that make little sense. They accuse us of abandoning the gospel (though every person I know seeking racial reconciliation in the SBC also clearly proclaims Christ crucified) and they warn that we stand in opposition to the “sufficiency and authority of Scripture.” I say that is all nonsense.
Those old (or young) white guys who rail against the evils of social justice are not going to carry the future. Those who promote nationalism and value their race more than others will not carry the future. Those who look to the past and do not look to the work of God in the future will not prevail. These groups fail to grasp the heart of God. Our Savior works to gather one people from every tribe and language on earth to worship him and the fight against racial inclusion is destined to fail because it stands against God’s will, against the gospel. We will continue to proclaim Christ crucified, risen, and coming again as the hope of the whole world. The fact is that in 50 years, if everything I’ve read is true, white people will be a minority in America. If the SBC is going to prosper in the future, it must do so by reaching out beyond our Founders’ horrific and disgusting racism and look to build bridges where walls have existed. We must deal with our past, not cherish it!
Racial diversity is the future of the kingdom of God and the future of the church in America. I am an old codger now, but I hope that before I’m too old to attend the SBC it will be a rainbow of young whippersnappers from a wide variety of cultural and ethnic backgrounds.
That is the heart of God and the only future that makes sense for our convention. Anything else is denominational suicide.
4. I realize that I don’t have all the answers.
I talked to a friend about a hire that I opposed. I have written on the importance of breaking the racial barrier in SBC leadership and I wanted this position to be filled by a person of color. When a white man was named as the candidate I was deeply disappointed. But my friend told me that in five years, he believes we will look back and most will agree that this man was the best of all the hires we have made recently.
I hear a lot of things, but I’m not in the discussions. I don’t hear the deliberations. I do not pray with the committee. The next time there is an opening at one of our entities, I will argue that we should give strong consideration to minority candidates and SBCers, we have to break that 150-year white winning streak pretty soon. But the trustees will make their choices. That is why we must continue J.D. Greear’s reshaping of the convention through the appointment process.
There is a lot wrong with the SBC and I get angry, frustrated, and even despair at times. But I still think the SBC is worth the effort, so I’m going to keep on making the effort. Hope you will too.