I’ve been asked several times, “Do you hear any scuttlebutt about who is going to run for president of the SBC in St. Louis?”
The answer is, “No,” – and yes.
I’ve heard nothing specific, nothing firm, nothing absolute. But I have heard one rumor, since way back even before the last convention. Here is what I’ve been hearing.
There is an SBC entity head seriously considering a run for SBC President.
The people that have spoken to me have been non-specific, and have not named the name of the entity head. I have a strong guess who it probably is, if the rumor is true. (I have to tell you, the people who have shared this “rumor” with me are the kind of people who know what is going on – this isn’t wild speculation).
I want to say two things about this.
1. It is perfectly legal according to our governing documents in the SBC for an entity head to be president. The last one to run and win was Paige Patterson back in 1999-2000, while he was president of Southeastern Seminary. It has happened several times over the history of the SBC. It is my understanding that it may have been more common in the early days than in recent years. JP Boyce (1872-1879, 1888) and EY Mullins (1921-1923) were both presidents of Southern Seminary when they served. Lee Scarborough (1939-1940) was president at Southwestern. I’m not familiar with every name on the list, and possibly there are others. But, in my lifetime, I think that Dr. Patterson is the only SBC entity head to serve.
It should be noted that Boyce and Mullins served prior to the CP. Scarborough served in the earlier part of the CP era.
2. I think it is a horribly bad idea for an entity head to be president of the SBC. It’s not against our bylaws, but it ought to be! The Cooperative Program has changed a lot of things, and since the CP has become the dominant force in SBC budgeting, it is ethically wrong for an entity head to be the president of the SBC.
Permit me to make some observations. I’m glad to have the opportunity to write this before a name comes forward, because this is truly not about any individual. There are about 10 entity heads, right? (Six seminaries, NAMB, IMB, LifeWay, ERLC – am I forgetting anyone? – oh, yeah, Guidestone! Make it 11.) I could rank them 1 to 10 for you, but I won’t. But let me tell you who my “favorite” is – and I choose him because I am quite sure he is NOT the one considering a run.
I absolutely love Thom Rainer. I wish we could clone him! His blog is among the best for pastors and churches. His leadership at LifeWay has been exemplary, though not without controversy. I’ve had the privilege of getting to know him personally. He is approachable. He listens to criticism and responds, with humility.
But if Thom Rainer is nominated for the presidency of the SBC, I will oppose his nomination. If he retires and runs the next year, I’ll volunteer as his campaign manager. But if the president of LifeWay runs for the SBC presidency, I will vote against him and do everything I reasonably can to defeat him, even one I think as highly of as Thom Rainer.
There are other entity leaders I like much less – no, I’m not naming them! But if they run, I will oppose them too. It will be for the same reason.
In our current CP-based structure, having an entity head as SBC President is an unacceptable conflict of interest.
Factors in My Opposition
- Even without the CP factor, it’s a bad idea. What is the SBC President’s chief role, according to our bylaws? The bylaws give him one major role, other than moderating the meetings. He appoints a committee that nominates a committee that nominates the trustees for our entities. The boards are supposed to be holding the presidents accountable. But when the president is influencing the appointment process, it is problematic.
- With the CP, the president of the SBC presides over meetings in which the budget for his own entity is discussed and approved. I’m not sure exactly how much influence he exerts, but I think any influence by the entity head over that process is not preferable.
- There are plenty of other good men out there who could serve as president. Do not the entity leaders already have tremendous power in the SBC structure? Do they need this position as well? Wouldn’t we do better to spread the responsibility?
That will do for a start.
It seems to me that in our current SBC structure, there are plenty of good candidates for SBC president. We do not need the same men who lead our entities running our conventions.
- I am unalterably opposed to the nomination of an entity leader to be SBC president. For that matter, an entity VP, or other highly placed person would also be unacceptable in my view.
- I am serving notice, just in case it happens, that I will oppose such a candidacy. It won’t be personal, it will be (convention) business. Whether I’m a fan or not of your work as an entity president, I will oppose your candidacy for the SBC presidency. I’ll probably lose, but tilting at windmills is a hobby.
- There are other good candidates out there. Let’s find someone we can support and will continue the work of our recent string of effective SBC Presidents.
- Perhaps it is time to change our governing documents to make it clear that an entity head (or employee?) should not be considered for the SBC office.
One man’s opinion.