As you can tell, I was pretty upset yesterday when the Executive Committee took the unprecedented step of asserting authority over the Pastors’ Conference. I don’t know of anyone – literally ANYONE – who is excited about this year’s Pastors’ Conference slate of speakers. I find myself in the odd position of defending the right of David Uth to choose the speakers he wanted even though EVERY SINGLE PERSON I’ve talked to believes it is not a desirable list of speakers. Vance Pitman and Jimmy Scroggins would be bright spots. Personally, I like Cymbala. But comedians and poets and weird mega-pastors who preach about Game of Thrones and Victorious Secrets. That isn’t easy to defend.
There is a principle here, though. I’ve calmed down and cooled off, but I still believe there is a key principle at stake. During all the years of the CR, when the denominational structure was firmly moderate and the EC was on that side, they never sought to interfere with the right of the CR-loyalists in the PC to pick who they wanted. In the past when there have been any number of odd choices for the conference, there has never been an Executive Committee that decided they should take over the PC until Mike Stone became the de facto “president-in-chief.” The elected president now has to answer to him or lose the venue. David Uth serves at the pleasure of Mike Stone.
I do not believe this is right. The pastors of the Southern Baptist Convention did not elect Mike Stone – he is welcome to run – and he has no right to usurp power and control. The EC has never done this. Of course, to the “sky-is-falling” folks, a couple of charismatics, a poet, and a weird mega-pastor are the end of the world, but the SBC pastors could have survived, elected new leadership, and not repeated Uth’s mistakes. We did not need a power grab from Mike Stone and the Executive Committee.
This was a nuclear response to a bow and arrow problem.
What the PC Needs
The fact remains that the Pastors’ Conference has a real problem. When I was elected, I was shocked to find out that there is no structure, no written guidelines, not governing principles. I have never had such absolute power and freedom as I had as PC president. It is unhealthy. The Pastors’ Conference has never had any formal structure. I could do as I pleased. We set up our own guidelines and procedures and provided a complete financial report, but that was our choice.
I spoke to staff at the EC about the desirability and possibility of formalizing the Pastors’ Conference structure, but I knew that certain megachurch pastors were mad at me for winning the PC election and figured they wouldn’t appreciate if I stepped out and tried to formalize the Pastors’ Conference structure. They said they were going to try to establish something, but its been three years and nothing has happened yet. Maybe this mess can motivate us to take some action.
That action should not be placing the PC under the control of Mike Stone and the Executive Committee. There is a better solution that preserves the integrity and independence of the Pastors’ Conference while providing a structure that would enable us to deal with situations that come up.
The Pastors’ Conference should develop its own structure, guiding documents, and accountability process. Clearly, the idea that the PC is an independent monarchy with a new king every year isn’t working. So, I have a simple suggestion.
- Perhaps the 2020 PC could vote to commission the last 5 or 7 or 10 presidents to serve as an advisory council to set up this structure.
- This group of presidents could work to develop a set of governing documents for the Pastors’ Conference. These should be simple while still giving structure to this ministry. They should work with the staff of the EC while developing these governing documents.
- This group could also serve as an advisory council with the right to deal with controversies such as have come up this year. If a significant controversy arose, the advisory council could step in and give some direction to the sitting president.
- After the documents have been presented to the 2021 Pastors’ Conference for approval, they could be presented to the EC for its review as well.
I recognize that we cannot continue with the system in which the PC president is an unaccountable king. It works more often than it doesn’t, but after this year’s debacle, it may be time for a change. But the EC’s solution is an unwarranted power grab and not a good solution.
A simple solution “of the PC, by the PC, and for the PC” is much better.