I have never met Mike Stone. A friend told me he is a good preacher and is doing a good job at his church. I have heard a wide range of opinions about him, but I know nothing firsthand about his character, his work as a pastor, or the kind of man he is. I wish to cast no aspersions on him as a man or as a pastor. As they say, this isn’t personal, it’s business.
I believe he has been divisive as the chairman of the Executive Committee and I believe it is time for the members of the EC to stand up to him and tell him not to disrupt the workings of the SBC anymore. He has derailed important initiatives. His latest endeavors, the investigation of the ERLC and the takeover of the Pastors Conference, are the last is a series of controversial acts that show that he is a warrior for one faction of the SBC, not a man of peace who seeks to enable the SBC to function smoothly.
What the EC Should Be
My view of his work as chair is rooted in my view of the Executive Committee in general. They serve Southern Baptists – ALL Southern Baptists – and should not, ideally, become a vehicle for the advancement of one splinter group or the other in our internecine battles. They should be seeking to bring us together and enable all sides to work together.
- Frank Page’s tenure as president of the EC did not end well, and that role is slightly different than the role of the chairman of the board, but his work can serve as an example here. He was known as a non-Calvinist, having written books on the topic. When Calvinism raged as a divisive issue he did not use his power to advocate for his position. He worked for peace, seeking to bring the sides together for the sake of the convention. He put the mission of the SBC ahead of advocacy. That is not what Mike has done.
- When I was elected president of the Pastors Conference, there were some powerful people (read megachurch pastors) who were very unhappy. The staff at the Executive Committee were unconcerned, but rolled out the red carpet and did everything they could to help us. If anyone ever speaks a negative word about Bill Townes or Lynn Richmond or the others around me, it might provoke imprecatory prayers. They served all, not just a few.
It is my view that the Executive Committee should not serve one side or the other in Southern Baptist battles, but should serve all Southern Baptists, to bring us together, and to foster peace among faithful SBC constituents. That is precisely what was done the last time there was a blowup (when Jack Graham withheld 1 million CP dollars because he was unhappy about Dr. Moore’s views on Donald Trump). People brought them together and they talked. I have no idea if Dr. Moore and Jack Graham are golfing buddies now – despite what some think, Dr. Moore and I are not confidantes – but they handled it the right way.
Recently, a network has formed, put together by a small group of powerful men who are unhappy with some SBC leaders. They have presented themselves as a grassroots network but it really isn’t so. Paige Patterson is one of the driving forces behind the Conservative Baptist Network, though this is kept shrouded. The CBN and certain other groups have been relentless in criticizing Dr. Moore, JD Greear, and other younger leaders in the SBC. Many bandy about the term “woke” to describe anyone who believes that the Bible teaches that we should seek justice in this world, hurl terms like cultural marxism as epithets, and call those who disagree with them leftists.
As I said, I am not a confidante of Dr. Moore – I have shared a word or two with him, on conference calls, since the Annual Meeting in Birmingham. But I will say this, anyone who calls him a leftist is a liar (or ignorant and deceived by other liars). Anyone who claims that he is not a conservative evangelical, a faithful Baptist fully in line with the BF&M, is a liar. Anyone (or any ministry or any network) that accuses him of any form of Marxism is lying – and lying is of the devil, not of Christ. It is time we stop tolerating lying and call it what it is. There are networks and ministries and ministers and blogs and people who have trafficked in lies and deception about Dr. Moore, about the ERLC, about JD Greear, and about the direction of the SBC. This dishonors Christ and hurts the SBC I love.
My hope is that in Orlando, Southern Baptists of goodwill and godly values will rise up and deliver a rebuke to the liars and slanderers. Many have been threatening to take their ball and go home, to leave the SBC. I hate seeing a shrinking SBC, but will we really be damaged if liars and slanderers leave?
Okay, rant over! Take a deep breath, Dave.
The Problem with Mike Stone
Here is my ultimate issue with Mike Stone. He has not used the power of his role as chairman of the board at the EC to bring peace to the SBC or to advance a positive agenda, but to advance the interests of one side (essentially, the CBN side, though I’m not aware that he joined that group). He has been a partisan, not a peacemaker. He’s advocated for one side instead of edifying Southern Baptists. It has been said in baseball that the best umpires are those who are not noticed. When an ump inserts himself as the focus of the game, it becomes a problem. It seems that Mike Stone, contrary to other EC chairs, has stepped out and become the focus of attention.
Consider some of these instances of Mike Stone’s questionable leadership.
1. Sexual Abuse
In February of 2019, JD Greear took a bold step in confronting the problem that the SBC had with sexual abuse and churches that covered up the problem. He went so far as to name 10 churches that had been publicly exposed in the Houston Chronicle’s award-winning reports. Barely had he issued his report when Mike Stone began to institute a series of ineffective steps that basically would have nullified the effectiveness of what Greear had initiated. He ignored Greear’s blue-ribbon workgroup and assigned the matter to the bylaws workgroup that immediately cleared all 10 of the churches without even contacting them and then developed a couple of nearly meaningless bylaws changes that eventually were rescinded before the annual meeting and replaced by a meatier system rooted in the credentials committee. It was a stunningly ineffective response to Greear’s initiative.
Mike Stone was not an ally in the work of Southern Baptists and JD Greear in establishing a system to combat sexual abuse and coverup, but made himself a hindrance, an agent of the status quo.
2. Ronnie Floyd’s Vision 2025
On February 17 of this year, Ronnie Floyd issued a stirring challenge to the EC, and to all Southern Baptists, to reach people for Christ. He called it Vision 2025 and it included 5 key strategic initiatives. It should have been the thing everyone was talking about after the EC meeting, but because of the actions of Mike Stone the next day, it was forgotten.
- I was told by someone who was present that Stone and Mark Ballard, president of Northeastern Baptist College, sought to get one of the committees to bring forward a motion of censure against president JD Greear. It failed.
- Stone took the EC into an executive session where he convinced them to engage in an investigation, in spite of repeated votes at the Annual Meeting supporting Moore and the ERLC. Even though Cooperative Program giving is up, he used the threats of some to withhold CP as grounds for this. It was an amazing power play. In secret session, he gained the power to chair an investigation of Dr. Moore and the ERLC and to personally appoint the members of that committee. Let me say that again! In a secret session, he made himself the chair of a committee he personally hand chose to investigate Dr. Moore and the ERLC. There has been no convention action to request such an investigation and no clear cause exists. He worked on behalf of one power-bloc of the SBC while ignoring an overwhelming majority of the SBC which in 2017 affirmed the ERLC at the convention (estimates are it was about 97%). He did all of this in secret. (His desire to work in secret is part of my motivation for shining the light on him.) The ERLC has admirably stood up to him and refuses to cooperate in his secret investigation, but it continues.
- While still in secret executive session, Stone did something no other EC chair has ever done before. Do you think there were times that the EC during the CR was unhappy with the conservative lineup? Of course there was, but they did not interfere. They did not threaten to deny convention space to the PC. The last time Jim Cymbala spoke at the PC, did the EC get involved? No. Did the EC give a list of guidelines at the beginning of the year to the PC, principles to guide them? No. But now, Stone essentially has put himself forward as the de facto, unelected president of the Pastors Conference. David Uth, the elected president, has stood up to him, but we do not know where this will go. Granted, many (most?) people (including me) are dissatisfied with the lineup, but the damage of the EC exerting authoritarian control over what has historically been a cooperative but independent PC is worse than any mild annoyance a spoken word poet could bring. We can survive this year’s PC and elect someone who will choose differently next year, but if we allow Mike Stone’s power grab to stand, things have fundamentally changed.
When the EC meeting was done, Ronnie Floyd’s initiative to lead the SBC forward had been blown up by Mike Stone’s moves that advance the objectives of Paige Patterson and the CBN. I do not know if there was any collusion or planning between them and I am not lodging such an accusation. All I am saying is that an initiative that would have been good for Southern Baptists (Ronnie Floyd’s agenda) was sidetracked and blown up by a divisive agenda advanced by Mike Stone.
What Can Be Done?
Many of us have been talking about efforts we can undertake at the convention to show that the SBC does not stand with Mike Stone’s agenda of division and disruption. Unfortunately, there have been rumblings that Mike Stone is now seeking to finish his investigation BEFORE the convention in an effort to stave off the convention’s input. It is my hope that the messengers of the convention will speak loudly and clearly that we do not support Mike Stone’s agenda.
The most effective thing that could happen is that the members of the Executive Committee could stand up and realize that they have been given poor leadership. You are not elected to do as you are told but lead Southern Baptists – all of us. Say no to Mike Stone’s agenda of division. Say no to his attempts to undermine the leadership of JD Greear and to take over the Pastors’ Conference. He will be done as chair in June and hopefully, you can have a chair that will lead you and all of Southern Baptists in unity.
Again, I do not know Mike Stone and am sure he is sincere and believes he is doing what is right. I believe he is wrong and what he is doing is wrong for the SBC. I hope that the elected members of the Executive Committee of the SBC will say no to Mike when he leads them down the path of division.
A Challenge for Mike Stone
SBC Voices always gives people the chance to respond, especially to articles such as this. If Mike Stone would like to respond, we would publish that response.
I would love to hear responses to these questions:
1. Why did you do all of this under the cloak of secrecy? I can understand personnel matters and such being discussed in executive session, but I do not understand why these actions were taken in secrecy.
2. It is my understanding that the EC acts on behalf of the convention. When the convention has spoken clearly on these issues, why do you feel the need to continually initiate investigations?
3. Do you feel responsible for taking attention away from Ronnie Floyd’s Vision 2025 initiative with your actions?
4. With Cooperative Program giving up, what is the justification for the investigation?
5. It seems you are only listening to the critics of Dr. Moore and the ERLC and not the supporters. Are you only listening to one side?
6. Is my basic point in this article fair? I believe you have become an advocate, a warrior for the CBN viewpoint on the SBC. If you believe that is an unfair characterization, please explain.
7. Why not bring this matter to a vote in Orlando, asking the convention to authorize an investigation of Dr. Moore and the ERLC?