This will come as a complete shock, I’m aware, but I will not be voting for Ronnie Floyd for the SBC convention presidency. He is not my preferred candidate, and because my preferred candidate is not running, I will vote for Frank Page. This I will do without a second-thought. Let me explain why.
During the month of January and into February, I hosted thirteen conference calls with more than 300 pastors and laymen across the convention to discuss the IMB situation. Many of these calls were with friends. Others were with complete strangers who had expressed a desire to join. Some of them included Wade Burleson and Marty Duren as participants. During each of these calls, it became clear that an alternative candidate had to emerge, though at the time we were all anticipating that Johnny Hunt of Woodstock, GA, would be running. It became clear to us that an alternative candidate was not only needed, but also electable.
So a number of us discussed the kind of criteria that would make for an acceptable leader for Southern Baptists, and among those critera five were distilled. They were as follows:
1. A candidate for the Southern Baptist presidency must have a full commitment to the BFM2000, the conservative resurgence, and he must be an articulate theologian with broad evangelical appeal. He must represent the depth of our theological commitments.
2. A candidate for the Southern Baptist presidency must recognize that the BFM2000 is an adequate basis of doctrinal fellowship, and he must have a track-record of resisting exclusionary agendas for convention service. He must appreciate the breadth of our theological diversity.
3. A candidate for the Southern Baptist presidency must not have ever been accused of ambitiously seeking the post, or any other post of leadership for that matter, within Southern Baptist life. He must reflect the forgotten virtue of humility.
4. A candidate for the Southern Baptist presidency must have demonstrable graciousness and the steady hand of diplomacy to lead all Southern Baptists in a time of reflective examination and intentional reformation. He must have clean, steady hands, and an irenic, pious spirit.
5. A candidate for the Southern Baptist presidency must be bold and courageous, a man willing to face immense pressure and opposition without compromising the truth. He must have a spine of steel, a hide of leather, and the ability to say “no” to any self-interest in the convention, whether it be emerging leaders or graying tyrants…whether it be bloggers or big-wigs.
As we searched our hearts and racked our brains for the name of such a man, we finally came to one conclusion. There was a man who met all of these qualifications, and I approached him on behalf of many.
Before I tell you who he is, let me touch upon the original reason for the post. The criteria above continue to be my litmus test for the convention presidency. On every count, Ronnie Floyd is unsatisfactory.
First, Ronnie Floyd is not a theologian. He is a “Biblical Life Coach,” as he’ll readily admit. The Southern Baptist Convention doesn’t need a life coach, however “biblical” he may be. We don’t even need a “winner.” What Southern Baptists need is a man with credible and demonstrated theological acuity. Ronnie has written a book on juicing fasting, and that is commendable. He wrote a book about gays, for which he deserves two snaps. And he’s just finished one on “Finding God’s Favor,” and we can all high-five him for that. But after listening to hours of his sermons, I’m convinced the man knows more about John Maxwell than he does John Broadus. He’s more conversant with James Dobson than he is James P. Boyce. He knows more about Wayne Gretsky than Wayne Grudem; more about Max Lucado than he does Martin Luther. The days of firework-filled rallies at Southern Baptist Conventions should be put to rest, and the days of serious, biblical exposition must be restored. Many of us find it difficult to believe that Ronnie Floyd has the theological center necessary to keep Southern Baptists from the fundamentalist fringe or the pragmatic precipice toward which we are being pulled with feverish intensity.
Second, Ronnie Floyd is not a historian. He has little awareness of the rich traditions that have made Southern Baptists what they are today, and we didn’t arrive on the backs of the megachurches. The breadth of our convention is too great, and the churches are too diverse for the highest convention office to fall by default to the next megachurch pastor in line for the job. Sure, we all hear the Horatio Alger stories of how he pastored “small churches” back when he was in his twenties. Times were tough, we walked uphill bothways to a church with wooden pews and feeding-trough baptistries. (Of course, a feeding trough is much preferred over a fire truck) But 70% of all Southern Baptist churches are running 200 or less. Maybe ten pastors in the whole SBC are pastoring two churches at once. The megachurch does not represent what Southern Baptists are, nor where we want to go. It is the megachurch system that has fueled the “good-old-boy” network that continually passes over small churches and unknown pastors for convention service. A Southern Baptist president must appeal to the little guy in the little town with the little church and the little budget who gives a little more than .27% to the Cooperative Program.
Third, ambition is the dry-rot of Southern Baptist life. Sure, Coach Floyd assures us that he “never sought the job.” Just like, I’m told, he never sought the job at Lifeway, or the job at Southwestern Seminary, or the job at First Baptist Dallas, or the job at the North American Mission Board, or the job at the Annuity Board, or the job at whatever position has been open. No, we are repeatedly assured on Ronnie Floyd’s blog that he doesn’t want the SBC Presidency, but that he is only allowing his name to be placed in nomination to follow some twisted application of the Macedonian call in Acts 16. He has been “supernaturally drafted by God,” we are told. And just in case you didn’t catch that he wasn’t running for the job, he was sure to post Al Mohler’s email in big, bold letters. And if you missed it the first time, he posted a second endorsement from Johnny Hunt. But no, Southern Baptists are convinced that Ronnie isn’t “campaigning” for the post.
Well, I guess I’m not campaigning against him either then.
Fourth, Ronnie Floyd is a polarizing nominee. Listen to people across the convention. Have you heard anybody but Ronnie Floyd who is ecstatic about his nomination? Word on the streets is that the SBC leadership is searching for anybody to run so they don’t have to live with Ronnie Floyd as president for two years. People have approached Frank Cox, who declined for family reasons. Now there is much talk about Jerry Sutton of Two Rivers Baptist Church in Nashville, TN, running for the spot. They’re afraid that Frank Page is too close to Wade Burleson, and they’re afraid that Ronnie Floyd is too close to Joel Osteen. I’m not trying to be brutal here, I’m just saying in public what everybody else is saying in private. It’s called transparency. We need to get used to it. I don’t wish any harm done to Ronnie Floyd. I don’t doubt his commitment to his wife, his love for the Lord, or his financial integrity. He’s not a thief, a drunkard, or a glutton. But he’s not a consensus builder, and he’s not a man that the convention will follow. End of story. Ronnie Floyd has as much chance of fostering renewal and reformation within the Southern Baptist Convention as I have being elected to the faculty at Southwestern Seminary.
Fifth, Ronnie has courage. I’ll give him that. But does he have the courage to tell Paige Patterson that he’s not going to appoint the wife of a Southwestern vice-president to a key committee? Will Ronnie appease the men who pulled out the stops to get him elected, or will he thank them for their support and do the right thing anyway? I have my doubts. Any man who asked for Al Mohler to serve as his “theological accountability” after a bungled pastor’s conference in 1997 is probably going to buckle under the kind of pressure that gets put upon a convention president.
So those are some of my reasons, and surely some people will take offense or offer objections. But they don’t have to be your reasons. I’m not trying to convince anybody how to vote. I’m merely telling you how and why I’m going to vote the way I am. It’s not just the firetruck baptistry. It’s not just the .27% CP giving. It’s not just the silly nomenclature of a “life coach” or the shoddy exposition of Scripture. It’s not just his connection with Jerry Falwell or the paternalism of Paige Patterson’s endorsement. It’s not just questions about raw ambition or swelling pride. It’s not the rags-to-riches biography, or the pages and pages of “accomplishments” he’s posted on his website for us all to read. It’s not a Macedonian call or a “supernatural drafting.” It’s all of them put together, and more.
For months I have been telling people, now numbering over a thousand, that there is a man who can lead Southern Baptists. He can lead us to renew our center and reform our system. He can lead us to reaffirm our heritage and reinvigorate our mission. He can touch all Southern Baptists and bring us together as one people of one faith, one Lord, and one baptism. There is a man in Southern Baptist life who will resist the narrowing trends and reassess our denominational efficiency. He’s got a mind as keen as Calvin’s and a passion as hot as Luther’s. He can speak the truth in love, stand firmly with grace, and call all Southern Baptists back to the heart of our cooperation with integrity, skill, and sincerity.
His name is David Dockery, but he has thrice declined. Another man came to mind, and he also declined. But David Dockery was the first pick, and he continues to be my preferred candidate.
I pray God his mind will change. Until then, I’m willing to vote for Frank Page, because when I spoke with him about my concerns, he not only listened, but he has pledged to address them in short order. So far, he’s done a fantastic job. Sure, I’m concerned about the anti-Calvinist vitriol, though I’m not a Calvinst. But tomorrow I’ll post my “nomination speech” for Frank Page, were I the one to offer it in Greensboro. ;)
Today, I wanted to let you know that David Dockery was always my choice…and the choice of many, many across the convention who called, wrote, emailed, and visited with him during the week of May 8-12, 2006, pleading with him to stand for nomination.
Maybe it’s not too late:
Email him and let him know that you’d support him this year, or next, if he is willing to accept the responsibility and the stewardship of so noble an office.