Tomorrow, Ronnie Floyd will be elected as the next president of the SBC’s Executive Committee. I am told that there will likely be little opposition to his nomination and that a unanimous vote is a possibility. I am not aware of any significant organized opposition to his election.
If you read SBC Voices, you are probably aware that I have not been a strong supporter of Ronnie’s candidacy. I had hoped that they would choose someone else. When I heard that they were focused on Ronnie, back in January, I wrote an article, “The Man We Need in Nashville” which explained some of my concerns about his candidacy. I communicated directly with the chair of Search Team, but received no response.
- I had hoped that the Executive Committee might hire one of several highly qualified minority candidates.
- If that was not going to happen, there were others who were less involved in the Mega Metro power structure I thought would be better candidates.
So, I exercised my right and duty as a Baptist to express my opinions and attempt to influence the direction of the SBC. And strangely, to my eternal shock, they didn’t listen to me or yield to my superior wisdom. Can you believe it? In spite of it all, the Search Committee decided to continue with the candidate they’d settled on. Go figure.
That left me with a decision. What would I do? What do we do when a democratic body does something we do not agree with? Here’s my thinking on the issue.
1. Just because he wasn’t my first choice doesn’t make him a bad guy.
I didn’t want Ken Hemphill to be president last year, and I thought the tactics of some of his supporters were wrong, but I believe Dr. Hemphill is an honorable Baptist statesman. Just because Ronnie Floyd isn’t the man I wanted to be president of the EC doesn’t mean he is antichrist. I am not required to paint those I disagree with in the harshest negative colors.
I have disagreed with some of the things he has done, but I can do that without casting Ronnie Floyd as an enemy of the cross.
2. Just because he wasn’t my first choice doesn’t mean I can’t work with him.
Many Southern Baptists have an idea that they can only fellowship with and work with those who see eye to eye with them on everything. I think that is faulty thinking.
For the cause of Christ, I am willing to partner with Baptists who are 5-point Calvinists and hardcore Traditionalists, Amillennialists and Postmillennialists – I will even fellowship with SEC fans for the cause of Christ!
I emailed Ronnie a couple of weeks ago, and he called me. We didn’t connect by phone but have texted and emailed and he has been gracious. I want to work with him and I think he desires to work with Baptists like me – smaller church, non-mega guys.
As a Baptist, I have every right to express my opinion about an open leadership position. When someone is hired, I believe it is my duty to work in cooperation with that leader as best I can (unless he is some kind of heretic I can’t work with – Ronnie is not that).
The time for me to opine on who the EC president should be is over. The time to pray for, support, and encourage Ronnie Floyd has begun.
3. Just because I opposed him doesn’t mean I couldn’t listen to reason.
Would I still rather have one of those minority candidates or a couple of other folks I know? Well…I’ll keep that to myself. But I made a few realizations along the way that have changed the way I think about this.
- Frank Page left the EC under a cloud nearly a year and my friend Augie Boto has been leading. A year under interim leadership is long enough.
- The recent (and chaotic) response to J.D. Greear’s leadership on the sexual abuse issue has shown that the EC needs strong and experienced leadership right now. Ronnie is a strong leader. I believe Ronnie will lead well on this issue.
- My fear has been his role as a part of Mega Metro’s power structure, and the question of whether he’d seek to continue that role from his office in Nashville bothered me. I have been told by people who have spoken at length with Ronnie that he understands the job (something his video from yesterday seems to support) and will seek to be a servant to all Baptists.
I became convinced over the last couple of weeks that while it wasn’t what I’d wanted or argued for, Ronnie Floyd might be what the SBC needs at this moment. Because of that, I support him.
4. Just because I support him now doesn’t mean we will never disagree with him.
We are going to seek to work with Ronnie Floyd and support him in every way we can. We do not believe that this precludes disagreeing with Dr. Floyd. We do not believe that it is wrong or disloyal to express that disagreement. We will attempt to express our disagreements the right way, but we reserve the right to dissent!
I am an opponent of tribalism in the SBC – I think it is cancer in our convention. Whatever tribe Ronnie is part of is not my tribe. But I want to rise above tribalism and join him in supporting the Cooperative Program, in doing missions together as Southern Baptists, and in seeking to improve the convention in which we both serve.
So, for what it’s worth, and it probably isn’t worth much, I give my support to Ronnie Floyd. I will pray for him and I genuinely hope that in the next few years I look back on my lack of support for his candidacy and think what an idiot I was!
Wouldn’t be the first time.
Baptist polity is great when we get our way, when we are in the majority. But the key to making it work is how we respond when we don’t get our way. What do we do when we find our opinion in the minority?
For you who rejoice in Ronnie’s nomination and think it is a sign of impending revival, congratulations. For those who are less enthused, I’d encourage you to give him a chance, to pray for him, support him, and to work in cooperation with him for the cause of the gospel.
That’s how we do it.