The SBC functions as a bottom-up convention of churches.
It is often said that the headquarters of the SBC is in the local church. We say this for good reason. It is true.
Between our annual meetings, our entities and their trustees carry out the will of the Messengers, who represent the churches.
Whenever you have people involved, processes in place, and decisions being made, you have politics, which is not necessarily a problem. In part, it is just the way groups of people navigate collective decision-making. Thus, it is no surprise that the SBC, for many years, has operated with a highly political dynamic.
However, when the desire for gaining control animates the politics, that’s when the problem arises.
The SBC structure is not designed for powerplays or control. It is designed to administrate the way like-minded believers serve together and cooperate for missions. We need to come to terms with the fact that when we weaponize the SBC’s system to build our kingdoms and agendas over God’s, everybody loses—especially those we are called to reach with the gospel.
This is precisely the situation we find ourselves in as we approach the 2021 Convention. There’s a group of people within our Convention vying for power and control.
The Conservative Baptist Network (CBN) is a faction of Southern Baptists who have the publicly stated intent to gain control over the SBC. In 2019, one influential member of the CBN, Rod Martin, conspired with Jon Harris, non-SBC podcaster and conspiracy theorist, to “talk plans” regarding the SBC.
Last year, the first phase of their plan succeeded at the Executive Committee (EC). When Mike Stone, the outgoing EC Chairman, nominated EC officers that opposed the nominations that the incoming Chairman, Rolland Slade, desired to see elected. Among those that Stone nominated, the majority were revealed as Conservative Baptist Network Steering Council members soon after.
The timing of all these developments was by design, confirmed by a former CBN member. This is to say, the CBN held off announcing their steering committee until after the EC officer election was held.
According to a former EC chair, Stone’s measures failed to follow the “tradition of cooperation.” Ernest Easley confirmed that as the incoming Chairman, his predecessor, Roger Spradlin, asked him for who he would like nominated on his behalf, and Easley afforded the same opportunity for his successor, Mike Routt. In many, many years, Stone was the first EC Chairman to forego the spirit and tradition of cooperation between outgoing and incoming Chairmans as it concerns EC Officer nominations.
We share this background only to help you see that a handful of men on the EC are using their position not to facilitate our cooperative work but to accomplish their own agenda– advancing CBN’s strategy to take over the SBC.
Here’s what we believe is their strategy: the CBN intends (a) to retain control of the EC, (b) to gain control of the SBC through its Presidency, and (c) to give the EC more control through a few additional moves.
The purpose of this post is not to rehash the past, but to help Messengers understand some of the CBN’s plans as it concerns the Southern Baptist Convention.
Here are a few issues every Messenger should be aware of concerning the CBN’s plans for the 2021 SBC.
1. Tom Tucker’s Renomination as the Executive Committee’s Vice Chairman
Tom Tucker is a current EC member from South Carolina and the current Vice Chairman (VC) of the EC. In addition, he serves as the CBN steering committee member. He was elected last year to serve as the Vice-Chairman and then re-elected this week, but his EC term is scheduled to end at this Convention because the Committee on Nominations (CON) has opted not to renominate Tom Tucker for the Executive Committee.
Tom’s re-election as the Vice Chairman is designed to apply pressure on the Messengers to override the CON’s nomination, as well as a strategy for the CBN to have one of their SC members “next in line” for the Chairmanship.
Retaining control of the EC officers is vital to the current CBN-dominated EC officers. In a highly questionable move, Mike Stone, an EC member and SBC Presidential candidate, sent a letter to the CON to lobby that Tucker’s name should be on their slate of nominees.
It is important to note that Tucker’s nomination to serve on the EC is a part of the 2020 nominees, meaning their decision not to renominate him preceded the release of his name as a CBN SC member. Thus, the committee decided not to renominate him before his election to VC in 2020 and before the announcement of the CBN steering committee. We are told that at the time of the nominating process, he had been removed as pastor of the church he was serving. When the committee made its decision, no other church had agreed to seat him as a messenger for 2020 SBC. We have not talked to the CON about Mr. Tucker. We trust them. After consulting with pastors and leaders in South Carolina, the committee decided to forego his renomination.
The point is, the CBN had a strategic purpose for Tucker’s election to the VC. The EC’s VC has historically been the individual who is “next in line” to serve as the EC’s Chairman. What this means is that on Wednesday, the Messengers will have the opportunity to decide if Tucker serves another term on the EC, as well as Vice Chairman.
Messengers are encouraged to listen to the CON’s report on Wednesday at 9:00. If the EC reelects Tucker to serve as VC of the EC, messengers will likely have the opportunity to vote on whether to affirm the CON’s slate of nominees or amend it. Messengers should vote their conscience based on what they hear, knowing that Tucker’s renomination to the EC means he is verified as Vice Chairman and “next in line” as the Chairman.
2. Approving a Revised Business and Financial Plan
A new Business and Financial Plan (BFP) will be voted on at this year’s Convention, and Messengers should be concerned about the revised version as it invests more power in the Executive Committee.
Jon Canler, the Church Administrator at Ashland Avenue Baptist Church in Lexington, KY, summarized three concerns over the proposed plan. You can read the original post at sbcvoices.com. Below, we summarize two of his concerns:
First, the new plan allows EC to escrow CP funds to an entity if an entity is considered non-compliant by the EC’s standards. If you were concerned that the EC, against the will of the messengers, could create a task force to investigate the ERLC, then this should definitely concern you. This proposal violates the assignment of the EC to receive and disperse CP funds in accordance with the decisions made by messengers of the SBC on CP allocation. This provision effectively allows the EC to overrule the allocation decision the Messengers make at the annual meeting.
Second, there are also some concerns over the coherence of the BFP with polity and legal structure. It calls for non-EC entities and commissions to abide by the BFP. The problem with this are many. But the biggest problem is the EC is not the sole member of the SBC and has no governing authority over the non-EC entities of the SBC. The only way the BFP is coherent as it stands is for the EC to assert authority it does not have.
The revised BFP will be brought to the Messengers for a vote during the first report of the Executive Committee, which takes place on Tuesday morning at 9:48.
3. A Motion to Move the ERLC’s Ministry Assignment to the Executive Committee, Thereby Disbanding the ERLC
At the EC meeting in February, a CBN EC member belabored the point openly at a microphone whether the SBC needs an Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC). This was prior to Dr. Moore’s resignation. With the recent vacancy, one may reasonably anticipate a motion on the floor of the Convention to disband the ERLC.
We are opposed to such hasty actions on the heels of its President resigning and in the midst of an SBC annual meeting with so many major issues that have to be handled. However, if that were to happen, it is important to consider who would be given its ministry assignment.
It could simply cease to exist.
But, we expect instead their ministry would be reassigned. It is reasonable to assume that the EC would be a consideration for their assignment. Given all that is happening with EC right now and reasonable concerns over whether “their house is in order,” the EC should not be given these responsibilities.
Should a motion of this magnitude occur, it would take place during the Introduction of New Motions at 9:28a and/or 4:10p on Tuesday. If the Committee on Order of Business recommends it for debate, it will be scheduled for debate during “Previously Scheduled” business on Wednesday.
4. The Election of Mike Stone as the President of the Southern Baptist Convention
Mike Stone is the CBN’s choice for the President of the SBC. Stone is a member of the CBN and its SC, and a current member of the EC. He is also the subject of very controversy allegations made by Dr. Russell Moore, former President of the ERLC, regarding how he handled sexual abuse while serving as the chair of the EC. It is not the subject of an independent third-party investigation that the EC has commissioned.
Further, messengers who have concerns about EC overreach and grab for power should recall who was the chairman of the EC as the current problems began and who nominated the current officers that extend the issues over the last year.
It is Mike Stone.
Every indication shows he has not led for the good of the SBC’s cooperative work but to advance the agenda of the CBN–a grievance group within the SBC.
The fact is, the Conservative Baptist Network does not represent what Southern Baptists are about. The organization has aligned itself with individuals who have been involved in events related to racism, sexual abuse, and misrepresentation. Jon Harris, an individual with whom Rod Martin conversed publicly about partnering together to “talk plans” about the SBC, is a Confederate Apologist.
Paige Patterson was terminated after trustees received information “regarding the handling of an allegation of sexual abuse against a student during Dr. Paige Patterson’s presidency at another institution and resulting issues connected with statements to the Board of Trustees that are not consistent with SWBTS’s biblically informed core values.”
Todd Starnes has served as a media outlet for CBN SC Rod Martin. Starnes has been described as a “rogue journalist [with] a history of erroneous reporting and outrageous comments [and a] long history of journalistic malfeasance.” Starnes was fired from Baptist Press in 2003 due to “factual and contextual errors” and “misrepresentations” in his reporting. Starnes then had a short-lived tenure at Union University where the President at the time, David Dockery, current Interim Provost of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, said: “it was best for him to move on elsewhere.”
We are hard-pressed to see the CBN’s plan is really about theology with these various ethical and theological inconsistencies.
These relationships should concern Southern Baptists. The CBN has lied about their formation and aligned themselves with individuals who do not represent what the gospel of our Lord is all about. Mike Stone is one of their founders and leaders, and has platformed his candidacy for SBC president with the CBN.
As we enter the biggest and most controversial SBC in recent years, what we need right now is something other than what the CBN is feeding us. As Jesus said, “which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone?” (Matt 7:9)
May the Father deliver to us not a stone at this SBC.
This article was complied with the help of an SBC insider replying on publicly available information.
BFP – Business and Financial Plan
CBN – Conservative Baptist Network
CON – Committee on Nominations
CP – Cooperative Program
CR – Conservative Resurgence
EC – Executive Committee
ERLC – Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission
SBC – Southern Baptist Convention
SC – Steering Council (of the Conservative Baptist Network)