At the 2018 Southern Baptist Convention, I made a motion that beginning in 2019 the SBC would refrain from allowing elected officials to speak at the Convention. The exception was for the host Mayor or appropriate official to give a welcome greeting and to receive thanks from the Convention for hosting the Convention.
The reason I feel it is time for such a position for the Convention is multi-fold. It has nothing to do with Vice President Mike Pence speaking at the 2018 Convention. In my opinion, Vice President Pence and Mrs. Pence are good godly people.
Though some were calling for the Convention to disinvite Vice President Pence, I felt it would have been inappropriate to disinvite the Vice President once the SBC leadership had agreed for him to speak. That move would have produced fodder for the news media and reflected poorly on our Convention. It would have been like inviting someone to your house for dinner and then publicly telling them not to show up. That’s not who we are!
Briefly, my reason for the motion is that the SBC members are not politically monolithic! In our SBC churches we have people that ride elephants; some ride donkeys; some ride both and some ride neither; some are fiercely independent; and some even sip tea. And that is just reality! However, when the optics appear that any political party is embraced at the Convention, no matter what is said by SBC leadership in an attempt to make it palatable, the results cause division and confusion in the body.
In addition, the SBC should be fiercely independent politically! Unfortunately, when politically elected officials are given primary platform time, the optics outweigh our words of being independent! I’ve heard some say that it looks like “The SBC is a wing of the Republican Party” and “The SBC is in bed with the Republican Party.” The SBC must be fiercely independent in order to speak truth to power and not give the appearance of being co-opted by any party.
Now I fully endorse SBC officials having a dialogue with an administration; being advisors and counselors to an administration; and praying for and with an administration. I think we see throughout the Old Testament God’s people engaging with pharaohs, governors, rulers, and kings. But always uncompromisingly independent!
In addition, I don’t know if a President Bill Clinton would have been allowed to speak; I don’t know if a President Barack Obama would have been allowed to speak; and I don’t know if a President Hilary Clinton would have been allowed to speak at an SBC annual meeting. The Bible will challenge us enough, we can avoid creating an environment that divides us politically and unnecessarily!
I hope and pray that my SBC will embrace that Convention time is not the time for politically elected officials. It is time that all Southern Baptists come together as one Body in Christ, our Lord and Savior.
I hope and pray that the leadership of the SBC sensed the concern in the body as they deliberate and make decisions for 2019 and beyond.