How do you change the SBC? It is no canoe that shifts course easily with every stroke of the oar. It is a giant aircraft carrier and changing its course is not easy.
- Recent history has shown that the appointment of blue ribbon groups such as the Great Commission Task Force and such end up as little more than blips on the radar. Name Change. Blip. Calvinism. Blip.
- If I didn’t believe that blogging and other social media had an impact, I wouldn’t continue to engage this way. Our impact is often as negative as it is positive, but we have an impact on public opinion. We shine a light where the powerful folks would often like to keep things dark.
- Denominational initiatives, slogans and programs, and strategic changes – they can all serve a purpose, but the USS SBC does not change course easily. These things can have impact, but they are not as effective as their advocates would often like to think.
There is one way to change the course of the SBC. It is hard. It takes time, commitment, and perseverance. Our SBC president is at the helm and he has initiated some of the most significant changes we have seen in our convention since 1979. While we are talking about entity openings, which matter, and store closings, which are also important, he is doing something that could steer us in a new direction for decades to come.
And I say “Amen!”
The Conservative Resurgence began in Cafe Du Monde with two men poring over the bylaws of the SBC and figuring out how to change things. Frustrated with the leftward drift they saw in the seminaries, they devised a plan to change things. As a CR foot soldier, who show up at as many conventions as I could between 1979 (my first) and 1990 (the ultimate CR showdown), I look back on the conduct of the war with some regret, but gratitude for the plan, which was flawless and simple.
Elect a president who appoints a Committee on Committees which nominates a Nominating Committee which nominates trustees to the convention. When enough trustees are elected to the boards of the entities of the SBC, real change can be enacted. And that is what we did. Imperfectly, yes. But we elected presidents who supported the cause and elected trustees who did the same and things changed.
Please, let us not relitigate the CR today – we have done that enough. My point here is strategy. It took a decade to accomplish the goal, but it was accomplished. Presidents were elected. Committees on Committees were appointed who nominated Nomcoms who nominated trustees who became majorities on boards.
1. For most of a decade, many of us have been calling and working for greater inclusion of minorities in leadership positions in the SBC. We’ve seen some progress. Fred Luter was elected president of the SBC. Percentages of ethnic minorities in trustee positions and administrative roles at our entities, which while still low, has risen.
2. The progress has been slow and frustrating, to the point that some minorities are wondering if the SBC will ever see real change or will remain a denomination run by white men.
3. There have been some explosive moments where actual racism reared its head in the SBC in recent years, but the vast majority of Southern Baptists are not blatant racists anymore.
4. The movement to be more inclusive has met resistance. Some view inclusion of non-whites with suspicion, as if it must mean a lowering of doctrinal standards. Some of the more radical elements of the 1689 movement oppose any social progress as anti-gospel or cultural Marxism.
All of this is to say that after a decade of calling for Southern Baptists to be more like the congregation of Heaven and less like the all-white conclaves of the past, many have found the progress frustratingly slow.
But, whether we’ve noticed it or not, J.D. Greear is not just talking about racial reconciliation and inclusion, he is doing something about it. He is doing something that can deliver real change. It will not happen overnight but if this initiative continues, if we elect like-minded presidents in the years to come and they stay the course, this path will produce real and significant change.
He is using the power of appointments to effect real change in the SBC.
This week, J.D. Greear named the Tellers Committee. Stephanie Orr of Chipley, Florida is chair and Ray Carr, of Clayton, NC, is vice chair. The committee is split equally between men and women and almost equally between white and other ethnic groups. Every committee J.D. Greear has appointed has been similar in that it has been genuinely diverse.
Now, before the criticism starts, this does not mean he as lowered the standards (it is offensive that I must even clarify this, but I must, based on past discussions). These are qualified Baptists – just as qualified as the white males who have served before. We need not to lower the bar to broaden our fellowship.
Of course, the key appointment, which he has already made, was the Committee on Committees, which was the most diverse we have ever seen. It is that committee that will bring a Nominating Committee to the convention that will nominate trustees. We hope they are as intentional as he has been.
Greear is doing great work with the Sexual Abuse workgroup and we pray that he makes progress there and is not hindered by those forces that resist that important work. He is promoting evangelism and doing other great things as president of the SBC. But the appointments a president makes are his most lasting legacy. With those appointments he can continue to affect the convention for nearly a decade after his term of office is over, as the trustees his appointments set in motion continue to serve.
I am thankful that J.D. Greear is appointing diverse Baptists to serve. May this continue long enough to genuinely change the direction of our denomination.