Statistically, things are looking bleak in the SBC right now. But I have had my ear to the ground a little recently and have heard some things that give me hope. I have to share some things that I cannot really source, because they were shared with me by people who were not interested in seeing their names in blogs. You have my word that this is reliable information – for whatever that is worth.
1) A highly placed executive within the SBC told me that there seems to be the start (at least) of a coming-together of the denominational structure, getting everyone pulling in the same direction. It seems like Frank Page may be exactly the man we needed at the executive committee to help to bring this together. There is to be a public act of unity at the Convention this week, hopefully followed by real-life partnership in the days ahead.
2) There seems to be a growing optimism about Kevin Ezell and the job he is doing at NAMB. Of course, he got off to a rough start and stumbled a little coming out of the gate. He inherited a dysfunctional NAMB organization. And he came to office soon after the adoption of the GCR report which had a lot of people in NAMB dependent ares like the Midwest very nervous. I have to admit that his “bloggers in housecoats” rant left me with a very negative impression of him – as someone who simply would not tolerate being criticized by others.
But I have asked several people who work closely with NAMB how he is doing. At first, they were very nervous, and even put off a little. But recently, the feedback is growing much more positive.
Contrary to my initial impression, he seems to be a man who listens and can change his plan when he realizes he made a mistake. I have heard constant praise for the selection of his regional VPs – good men all.
We bloggers have not always been kind to Kevin Ezell – and I think it is fair to say that this is a hole he dug for himself. But it might also be fair for us to admit that we are in a redemptive business. I think we all want NAMB to get straightened out and to become a functional missions ministry.
It seems that Kevin Ezell may actually have been the right man for that job. That doesn’t mean I agree with everything he says or does (as if he cares). But as a sometimes critic of the man, I have to say that people who know are saying good things about the work he is doing.
3) There seems to be a growing movement among us to say no to division and to unite around those things that really matter. There are always going to be the voices of separation and division among us, who tell us that if you are not part of my little group, you are not really part of us at all.
But I think those voices have raised a swell of people who are starting to say that we want to unite around what really matters – Calvinist and non-Calvinist, traditional and contemporary, big church and small, whatever the splinter – we want to unite to proclaim Christ, plant churches and support missions.
Even just a few weeks ago, I was sensing that the splintering was almost inevitable. Maybe it eventually will take place. But right now there seems reason to believe that Southern Baptists can rise above it all for the sake of the mission. There are real issues that need to be addressed – genuine differences in vision and philosophy of ministry that pull us apart. But we can say yes to unity while still working on those other things.
It’s a BIFF thing! Group hug!
We are making a choice as a convention about which path we want to take – unity or splintering. There are voices on each side. But I am getting the sense that the voices of unity are growing more confident. Time will tell, of course, if my impression is right.
4) There seems to be some very hopeful signs on the racial reconciliation front. I received a copy of the report of the Executive Committee on Racial Issues (not the official title), and I was very encouraged. After a lengthy conversation with someone at the EC, I decided not to make a motion I had considered about resurrecting Dwight McKissic’s motion from last year.
They have undertaken a study that seems to have come up with some of the exact things we were looking for – intentional efforts to include a broad spectrum of skin colors in SBC leadership.
At the Pastor’s Conference, the podium is not an all-white affair either. It is a good first step.
I am confident that our current EC leadership is composed of people of good will who really want to do something about the racial problems in the SBC. If they do not follow through on those things that they have recommended, we can always bring a motion in the days ahead to force their hand.