For the last few years, I have offered on this site what I would identify as my top 10 takeaways, favorite things or memorable events from the Annual Meeting. This year there were a few more than 10, but I’d like to try to keep my commentary to that number with this one caveat: Can we all agree that the real number one thing that happened in Anaheim was the passage of the Sexual Abuse Task Force Recommendations? With that surely being the unanimous decision, I will move on with “the rest” of that Top Ten. These are things that I personally witnessed. I will also say that Todd Benkert’s breakout should have been in my Top Ten but I was providentially hindered from attending that very important event which helped to offer insight on Trauma Informed Ministry. You can view that event HERE.
Here are my “Top Ten” with a short, but probably still too long, commentary.
10) The Weather: I’m not sure how else to say this… the weather was, perfect! Even my dad announced to me, “I have changed my position on Southern California” (his unfounded disdain for SoCal is a long running joke in our family). “I now love this place just because of the weather!” It really was amazing. Temps in the 70’s with no humidity and beautiful skies that aren’t abusive in the least. In the evening, it was actually a bit cool. What a place! Yay, for SoCal weather. Unfortunately, it will not be like this in New Orleans next year. I need everyone to be prepared for that. It will likely be oppressive heat and you will sweat… a lot. This is just a fact. I need everyone to know that it is gonna be rough (that way, if for some unknown reason, God blesses us with a respite from the wet furnace is that is our home, there might be a few relived folks). Just dress for comfort, friends. I let you know more about that later.
9) Rick Warren’s Address: Using the title “Pastor” for men who serve in staff positions under the leadership of the Senior or Lead Pastor / Bishop / Overseer / Chief Elder (or whatever you want to call it) is regular practice at our church. We have a Worship Pastor and a Student Pastor here in Westwego. To be clear, that was a change I made when I came here 20 years ago. We used to have one “Pastor” and other “Ministers.” I see those type of roles as an extension of the pastoral arm of the church and I like to title them in such a way for the ordained men who help lead us. However, I have come to see the difficulty in our “rope of sand,” that is our convention of churches, having the same vocabulary but using a different dictionary. Our church will never use the phrase “Pastor” for a female. I will never “ordain” a female into the ministry. Rick Warren’s church has done both. That is uncomfortable and awkward to me and his address made it a bit more so as he extolled the virtues of his ministry at Saddleback. At the same time, I know for a fact that the addition of the line, “the office of Pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture” has to do with the “Senior” or “Lead” Pastor. I know this because two friends who served on the BFM2000 Study Committee who added the phrase told me explicitly that was their intention. So, and because Southern Baptists CANNOT require any church to “sign on” to any particular version of the BFM, nor do we have any discernable “theology of ordination,” we need to walk this through carefully. I am in favor of what I believe Dr. Adam Greenway was attempting to do when he offered an amendment to the Credential’s Committee’s motion suggesting the creation of a study group to assess what it means to be a cooperating SBC church, given that the language of our Constitution states that such a church “has a faith and practice which closely identifies with the Convention’s adopted statement of faith.” This is a very important issue and we will have to address this sooner rather than later. Either way it goes, Warren’s likely last address to the SBC, was notable and I will continue to have appreciation for his ministry and I thank God for those who have been added to the Kingdom of God through the ministry of Saddleback Church.
8) Tim Hawkins’ Set at NAMB: I’m generally not much of a “Christian Comic” fan but let me just say that I belly-laughed until I cried during that first half of Tim Hawkins’ set at the NAMB lunch. I knew the him as the “worship hands” guy, but that’s all I knew about him. He hit all sorts of Baptisty things. I was remined that we all really need nnot to take ourselves so seriously all the time. I feel terrible for those who can’t make fun of themselves. What kind of life must that be? Anyway, the guy was a hit and although the last couple of attempts at such a thing kinda fell short (to me anyway), this one was a grand slam. I’d actually pay to see this dude.
7) Meeting with Gene, Scarlett & Willie: On a couple of occasions this past week I had the privilege of visiting with our new lawyers and can I just say… as one who literally is on the record as being very concerned about our SBC lawyers over the last 20 years, these two are WONDERFUL people. Gene Besen and Scarlett Nokes are amazing! They are intelligent, kind, engaging, knowledgeable about our work and most importantly, they understand their role. They are fully aware that they advise the work, not lead it. Not to get into the details, but suffice it to say they understand where we have been as a convention and want to see us thrive moving forword. My conversation with them as well as with Interim CEO/President Willie McLaurin set my mind at ease in a number of areas. Willie was kind, transparent and engaging. He contacted me to set up a meeting and then listened to my concerns. I am very impressed with his leadership and have been thankful for his work since taking the reins. Those folks, along with the 26 new Executive Committee members have helped to set me at ease. I am encouraged for the immediate future of our cooperative work.
6) Josh Wester: Although many who read this blog might know his name, I’m sure the vast majority of Southern Baptists do not and I think he’d prefer it that way. Josh Wester’s influence behind the scenes, although visible from time to time, is unable to be overstated. His voice was rarely heard from a microphone but his influence has been significant. This guy is special and he, maybe more than anyone but the outgoing president himself, has had more to do with the success we’ve witnessed in the convention, over the last year, than anyone else in our cooperative work. Josh has been to Ed Litton what Todd Unziker was to JD Greear and his efforts have been a resounding success. I could go on and on, but let me just say, whether you know it or not, we ALL owe a great debt of gratitude to Josh Wester. Thank YOU, Josh for all of your work and sacrifice. Rest well, friend. You deserve it.
5) Scarlett Noke’s Floor Statement: I have already mentioned my appreciation for Scarlett Nokes as part of our current (and hopefully continuing) new legal counsel team. For those who did not know, she is also a member of a Southern Baptist church and was a messenger to our convention this year. When the opportunity presented itself for her to speak to a question concerning her employer and the bruhaha that came about due to a decision of the media department for the corporation for whom she works to advertise their support of a cultural position that is antithetical to our statement of faith, she absolutely brought the house down. She spoke of the many Southern Baptists who receive their income from secular corporations and how those incomes then provide the gifts that make up the Cooperative Program. Her explanation and her defense of her role as a minister of the Gospel in the world was compelling. No doubt her words resonated with all those who work outside the local church world and that of denominational interactions. Ultimately, we all make decisions based on our conscience. I use an iPhone (a company that is as socially liberal as any) and often stay at Marriott hotels (founded by a family who is a part of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints). It would be nice to live in a world where we agree with the cultural philosophies of everyone with which we do business but that is not the world in which we live. I hope we will continue on with Gene and Scarlett as our new legal team. They are followers of Jesus and they know who we are and what we are about. Scarlett’s powerful testimony is one everyone should hear. You can find it located at the Acts 2 website (be sure to also download the app on your phones). Then go to the Wednesday Morning session of the SBC meeting in Anaheim. You can find her address at the 1:49:50 mark.
4) Bruce Franks’ Report (& Mic Presence): What can be said about Bruce Franks? He and the Sexual Abuse Task Force team have done an outstanding job navigating what has been a monumental task of starting to fix something that has been broken for a very, very long time. The work they did with the recommendations are thorough and I beleive what we can expect to come from that work will make us better at serving and caring for others. They have helped to guide our work in a way that was sensitive, transparent, prayerful and within the scope of their task. Bruce Franks in particular has been a blessing to our Convention. In fact, about half way through his report, my 17 year old son, Canon, turned to me and said, “Why hasn’t THIS GUY been elected the President of the SBC? THIS is the stuff we need to hear!” I agree with him completely.
3) Don Currence getting the giggles: I know Don well. He and dad served concurrently on the NOBTS Board of Trustees where I’ve heard Dr. Kelley remark that Don was the best Trustee he ever had. I have no doubt. Don would read up for every subcommittee meeting. All of them… even the ones he didn’t serve on. He would attended every plenary as well as every subcomittee meeting and he listened so he’d know how to best serve the school that he loved. He is a kind and Godly man with a heart of gold. My dad was his first nominator to the office of Registration Secretary after the passing of Jim Wells. At one point, President Litton rose to call up the RegSec to give us a vote total or to prepare us to vote and announced “Dandy Don Currence” was coming to the microphone. Don got the giggles and it was one of the best and most enjoyable parts of our meeting. Dad’s right when he said, “you know, there was not a person in that room that doesn’t love Don.” No doubt about that. He too is a gift to our convention.
2) Sweep of all CBN efforts: This one confuses me. Clearly, this group is much smaller than those organizing it thinks it is. The votes attest to them having been dominated over the last few conventions. But here is the thing which is most strange to me, other than a couple of motions and 1 election, this group has not been able to do much of anything at the microphones. Some of thier number suggests this is due to a diabolical manipulation of the mics, antagonistic attitudes from the stage, and all sorts of other various charges of a nefarious nature. But the fact is, they just don’t appear to know how to work parliamentary procedure. This is evidenced by the confusion of how to engage with points of order, et al. and a lack of understanding what happens to the general pshyce of the body when a group bombards the time for new motions. Maybe I shouldn’t be offering this but when you come at the body with relentless motions (although all the motions this year were far better articulated and thus not necessarily immediatly out of order as in years past) it is disconcerting and it causes folks to become restless. Also, everyone needs to understand that generally speaking (not always but generally) the body is going to yield to the recommendations of committees and work groups. That’s nothing over which to become angry. You just need to make your argument stronger than that of your opponent. You have to understand how it all works in order to be successful with what you are trying to accomplish. Playing by the established and agreed upon rules is by definition not manipulation of the process, it is how things are done in order to keep peace and protect the assembly.
1) Abbie Maggio and the Redemption Worship Band: I’ve been going to SBC meetings for a couple of decades now and I don’t believe I’ve ever experienced a more spirit-filled, musically-gifted, and tight / talented worship band than Abbie and her team of singers and instrumentalists. The arrangements alone were amazing. I can’t tell you how much it made an impact on the gathering. If you were there you know what I’m talking about. Seriously! In fact, I had a conversation with someone with whom I have little to nothing in common. Honestly, I doubt we would agree on much of anything… other than the Lordship of Christ. I’m only withholding his name because some of his friends might not like that we had a cordial conversation. 😉 As we talked he said, “Man, can we just cut out all the business and disagreements and worship with this group. They’ve been the best part of this convention.” I couldn’t agree more. They were a unifying factor this past week and I don’t think that point can be overstated. Thank you, Abbie and band for leading us so well and thank you, Ed Litton for sharing that great group with us. They set the stage for a wonderful and unifying time of worship to what otherwise could have been an even more contentious gathering.
OK so… I can’t help it… here are some other notable things from last week…
- Juan Sanchez’s Sermon (wonderful and challenging)
- The Election of Jared Wellman as EC Chair (this is big)
- The plaza area with the food trucks (I really liked this a lot and hope to do this in NOLA if possible)
- The NomCom not receiving any more push back than we did 🙂
- The Election of Bart Barber as SBC President (I did call the 60/40 vote… even if it did take 2 tries)
What are some of your own favorite moments from SBC22?
P.S. An article is on its way regarding what it was like serving on the Committee on Nominations. This was much more difficult than I ever knew it would be. Also, Leah Finn and Amy Thompson are my new heros. More to come on that.