The purpose and most basic task of the SBC’s Executive Committee is “to act for the convention” between our Annual Meetings. Can we pause and think together about what that means – that the EC should act for the convention? There are multiple definitions of the word “for” but only one of those really makes sense in this case. The EC is supposed to work “on behalf of” Southern Baptist messengers when the convention is not in session.
Can we make a basic assumption together? If the EC’s duty is to work on behalf of the convention’s messengers, doesn’t it follow that it shouldn’t act against the wishes of the convention’s messengers? If an action or position is specifically taken by the convention, or can be obviously inferred from official action, doesn’t it stand to reason that the Executive Committee shouldn’t take action contrary to those wishes? Isn’t that at the core meaning of what it means for the EC to act “for the convention”?
But instead of acting for the convention, we got the opposite. Tuesday, during closed executive session, the SBC Executive Committee voted to create a task force to ‘review the activities’ of our Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission (ERLC). The creation of this task force constitutes a betrayal of the clear wishes of the convention as well as a betrayal of the duties of the Executive Committee.
This Task Force is a Betrayal of the Clear Wishes of the SBC
The SBC has voted on multiple occasions over the past three years on motions and nominations directly relating to the work and leadership of the ERLC. We don’t have to guess where the convention stands. We don’t have to rely on surveys or counting social media interactions.
In 2018 a motion was made to defund the ERLC and send the money to the IMB instead. The messengers got to vote. Ballots were raised. Greater than 99% of the messengers rejected the motion to defund the ERLC. Just watch this and listen to the cheers at the end of the clip.
Also in 2018, the Nominations Committee tried to replace an ERLC trustee with someone who would be antagonistic toward Russell Moore. In an highly unusual move, and after a dramatic floor debate, the convention defied the recommendation of the Nominating Committee and placed the original ERLC trustee back on the board to serve his second term. Nominations reports are occasionally challenged from the floor but they are very rarely successfully amended. This vote was a huge statement by the convention.
We have a clear record of voting over the past several years. Again and again the anti-ERLC and anti-Moore contingent have tried to get the convention to take action against the ERLC. Again and again they’ve been soundly, resoundingly defeated as messengers have raised their ballots.
The official actions of the convention have been clearly and overwhelmingly supportive of the ERLC. I know there are some people upset about the ERLC, but they seem to all visit the exhibit hall when it’s time to vote. Either that or the group isn’t nearly as large as the noise they make.
To drive this point home, I’d like you to imagine yourself in Birmingham during last year’s convention. Let’s say a motion came from the floor or even from a committee to create a task force similar to the one the EC has decided on its own to create… You and I both know the messengers would have overwhelmingly rejected the formation of such a task force. The members and leadership of the Executive Committee know that too. And that’s exactly why their actions to create this task force against the wishes of the convention are nothing less than a betrayal of the convention’s messengers and their wishes.
The Executive Committee should never take an action they reasonably expect the messengers would reject. Yet that’s exactly what we have after Tuesday’s closed door executive session.
This Task Force is a Betrayal of the Duties of the Executive Committee
Let me give a short list of reasons why I believe the formation of this task force contradicts the purpose of the Executive Committee, which includes ‘encouraging the cooperation and confidence of the churches’:
- This task force is redundant and therefore wasteful of time and money. We had a nearly identical investigation in 2017 by the Executive Committee over the exact same questions and issues. Duplication of this effort is unnecessary and, honestly, silly. Do we expect a different outcome?
- This task force undermines the structure of the SBC where no entity has control or power over another. Jay Adkins laid out the case for this in a compelling post this morning.
- This is an attempt to usurp the role of the ERLC Board of Trustees, whose responsibility it is to “review the past & present activities” of the ERLC. Read this thread from one of the ERLC trustees who makes the point really well.
- The composition of this committee is absurdly concocted. Read the details. Mike Stone, chairman of the EC, not only gets to be the chairman of the committee, he also gets to personally select all six task force members completely by himself. No. For real. You read that right. Earlier I asked if we expect a different outcome. Well, if you answered “yes” to that question it’s probably because you know Mike Stone gets to single handedly choose and determine the makeup of this task force and you suspect he’s going to put people on the committee who will produce a different outcome. Why don’t we just save the time and suspense and Mike can go ahead and tell us what the outcome is going to be?
- Rehashing this from three years ago further destroys unity within the convention. This debate – the question of funding the ERLC and if Russell Moore should be leading it – was fought and finished back in 2017. Nothing has changed. If anything Russ Moore has been more cautious on subjects people were upset about back then. We’re already seeing plenty of anger and infighting without bringing this subject back up. As if we don’t already have enough to fight about.
I’ll tell you what I suspect this is about. It’s a power play in attempt to embarrass the ERLC & Russell Moore. For critics to be able to say “the ERLC is under investigation!!! So there MUST be a serious problem! (cue sinister music and a blurred shot of Rachel Denhollander). To make sure Russell Moore doesn’t say anything negative about Trump during election season (surprised the task force concludes in September? meaning its work will cover the bulk of election season?).
This is overreach. It’s petty. It’s destructive. It’s a betrayal of the SBC’s messengers and the role the Executive Committee has been tasked with by the convention.