This is only 11 months worth. There’s still time to make some news.
Our Sacred Clergy Tax Break takes a hit in federal court. The minister’s housing allowance, which allows clergy to exclude a considerable portion of their income from income tax, is ruled unconstitutional by a federal district judge. If you live in a parsonage the decision did not apply to you, only to those who receive a cash HA. Oh yeah, we’ve been here before…same court, same judge, same plaintiff, same outcome. Nothing changes for now, so max out your HA for 2018, just do it properly.
Russell Moore gets spanked. A megapastor threatens to escrow his Cooperative Program over Moore’s criticism of Donald Trump and Moore eventually apologizes. What leaves a bitter taste in my mouth about this is that some accounts said he had to grovel (my word) before a handful of prominent SBC pastors. After being jerked around by a single megapastor’s threats, I’m inclined to suggest that SBC entity leaders ignore the next megapastor who gets his nose out of joint.
The Alt-right at sbc2017. The sausage making resolution process at our annual meeting gave the SBC a big black eye back in June. Sure, the opinion of the people in the hall on that one overbaked June day in Phoenix was to denounce the alt-right racists; however, people are still asking questions six months after the fact why the SBC didn’t vote against it (we eventually did, it just took some prodding). What happened was that while the alt-right flooded the SBC app with their racist venom, our Resolutions Committee met and declined to report out for a convention vote a resolution condemning the alt-right. This was corrected but even after endless explanations of the messy process we are getting slammed for being racist. One can make a good case for dispensing with resolutions at the annual meeting out of this but fat chance of that.
Texas mass church killing. A miscreant gunman killed 26 at a small Texas church. Included in the dead was the pastor’s own daughter and three generations of one family. Churches everywhere are addressing security.
SWBTS has financial problems. Once the world’s largest seminary, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary struggled with financial problems this year, leading to forced layoffs of about 10% of their fulltime workers. This may be a harbinger of things to come in our seminaries and schools. With the Cooperative Program footing less than a third of the bills, and few if any SBC leaders expect it to increase much, schools have to attract students who can afford increasing tuition and other expenses along with individual donors to pay the bills. Some of our schools are doing well, some not so well.
No-name Pastor’s Conference is a big hit. Pastor’s Conference president Dave Miller and his greater team did a splendid job. Now, perhaps we can elect a non-megapastor as SBC president. This is long overdue.
David Platt moonlights. Leader of our largest entity, The International Mission Board, David Platt accepted an unpaid staff position, Teaching Pastor, for a formerly non-denominational megachurch in McClean, VA. Some Southern Baptists are looking askance at this. Trustees are monitoring the situation and will take a close look when they meet in February.
NAMB gets sued. A former state convention executive is suing the North American Mission Board for interfering with his employment by a state convention that receives considerable funding from NAMB, proving that some among us are perfectly willing to explain away Scripture if the cause or possible reward is sufficiently large.
Roy Moore exposes Alabama Baptists. Alabama senatorial candidate and former judge, Roy Moore, who made a living being the Ten Commandments judge, has multiple, credible reports of his involvement with teenagers while he was in his 30s. This has put a major constituency, conservative Southern Baptists in Alabama, in a bit of a bind. While details of some of the accusers may be debated and the accusations go decades in the past, the fact that there are so many accusers and witnesses makes it difficult to deny that his behavior was abhorrent. If the Ten Commandments guy doesn’t see his way to tell the truth about his past, that puts those who preach and teach “Thou shalt not bear false witness” in a tight spot. Whether he is elected or not, we will know next week. Either way, religious conservatives don’t look so good after this.
SBC State Conventions portion of the CP slides below 60%. For the first time in over 65 years, the state conventions kept less than 60% of Cooperative Program revenues. Whether or not they will continue to move toward a 50/50 split is questionable but this is progress.
First female parliamentarian at the SBC. Amy Whitfield, communications director for Southeastern Seminary was the first female appointed as an assistant parliamentarian for the SBC annual meeting.
Florida Baptists sell their headquarters building for millions and inexplicably give the money away. They gave over $3 million of the proceeds to the Cooperative Program thereby setting a wonderful precedent for other states. Very unbaptistic but quite an example for other state conventions not to mention Florida Baptist churches and individuals. This was an authentic Cooperative Program moment. Other states have sparkling, very valuable real estate. What will they do?
Not top stories but worth a mention:
- Was that Jack Graham standing beside the thrice married prosperity preacheress at the White House?
- The Higher Learning Commission put Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary on notice. “HLC took this action because it determined that the Seminary is at risk of not meeting HLC’s Criteria for Accreditation related to issues including governance and integrity, institutional leadership, degree program offerings, and institutional planning unless improvements are made in these areas.”
- A number of state conventions passed resolutions against racism.
- Survey finds that the most exciting thing about one’s Baptist association is “nothing.” That was the most popular answer.
- Convention president appoints a personal soul winning task force whose intent is to reduce the decline in evangelism in the SBC. Although more than half of active SBC members are female, there is not a single female on the task force.
Did I overlook anything? Feel free to add…