This past Monday and Tuesday marked the first meeting of the SBC Executive Committee since Frank Page took office in June. I arrived in Nashville on Monday morning, and checked into one of two hotels hosting trustees, convention executives, and visitors. The Executive Committee meeting is like a micro-convention of Southern Baptists. Everybody who is anybody is there, as well as a few nobodies like Art Rogers, Marty Duren, and me. Mingling around the hotel lobbies are presidents of SBC institutions, their vice presidents, and Executive Committee trustees.
When I pulled into the porte cochere of the desperately dated Holiday Inn Express, I observed the chairman of the NAMB trustees standing at the entrance, talking on his cellular phone. I’ve always liked Bill Curtis, ever since my earliest days at Southeastern Seminary. Our first and only visit occurred on the evening I was to preach for my homiletics course. My professor and Patterson son-in-love, Mark Howell, was absent on the night of my sermon. His replacement, and thus the man who graded my sermon, was Bill Curtis, who was working at that time on his PhD at the seminary. After the evening was over, Bill asked that I walk back to his office with him, and along the way offered extra encouragement and advice for honing my preaching art. We have not visited since that night, but one has a way of remembering such investments.
The first session of the Executive Committee meeting began with a preaching challenge offered by ExComm Vice President Kenyn Cureton, followed by a roll-call of trustees in attendance. Most seats were full, though a few convention notables were absent. Jack Graham (TX) was absent due to a preaching assignment. Georgia pastor Earnest Easley of Roswell Street Baptist Church was absent his first meeting, and Roger Moran of Missouri stayed home to be with his son, who has suffered serious injuries from a horseback riding incident.
All but one of the entity executives were there, and some came with more than adequate representation. Phil Roberts and Danny Akin, Al Mohler and Jeff Iorg all came to the meetings without their wives. Chuck Kelley was accompanied by his wife, Rhonda Harrington Kelley. Paige Patterson was joined by the behatted first lady of Southwestern, Dorothy, as well his provost, Craig Blaising, his Vice President for Development Mike Hughes (who also was joined by his wife), Malcolm Yarnell, a professor and dean at the seminary, and his personal attache. Richard Land was there, invoking God’s blessing on America, as was Roy Fish, the interim president at the North America Mission Board. Thom Rainer took a seat in the very back of the room, sitting alone and quiet for most of the meeting. Jerry Rankin was in Korea, doing the work of an evangelist and busying himself in the harvest fields.
Frank Page was there, of course, joined by his 2nd Vice President, Wiley Drake of California. At the beginning of the meeting, Page invited Wiley to sit by him, which he did…for the rest of the week. In fact, while most observers in the gallery seating were afforded the comfort of both armrests, Frank Page was obliged to sit with his arms folded for most of the meeting because Wiley understood the invitation to “sit by him” to mean “right by him.” Of course, I teased Wiley at length about his suffocating our convention president.
I didn’t notice any African-Americans or Hispanics among the trustees. There were a few women.
When the plenary sessions began, it was immediately clear that the Executive Committee knows what it is doing. The trustees run the meeting like a well-oiled machine. Absent are the parliamentary gaffes and lapses in decorum that I observed last year at the IMB under Chairman Hatley’s leadership. Votes are clean and neat. Motions are clear and concise. Trustees are demonstrably aware of the weight of their responsibility.
There are no trustee forums at the Executive Committee used to harrangue the staff or discuss pertinent convention business behind closed doors. There are no executive sessions used to shield the board’s activities from public scrutiny. All committee meetings are open for observers, and the trustees are approachable and open to dialogue between sessions.
In the coming months, the Executive Committee will have to determine how best to respond to the McKissic letter requesting a study of the BFM2000. However they respond, Southern Baptists may have the confidence that the committee will do its job with an open ear and a steady hand. Seminary presidents are already positioning themselves for opposition to any tinkering with the BFM2000. Some of them are intentional about efforts to pin the whole McKissic matter on yours truly, about which assertions I shall post in short order.
The only person I had hoped to visit during the trip to Nashville that I did not get to visit is a new trustee from North Carolina, replacing former NC convention president Greg Mathis of Hendersonville. Stephen Rummage was my professor for an advanced homiletics course, and I had the privilege of serving as his grader during my final semester in seminary. He serves currently as the preaching pastor at Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte, NC, and he is the chief organizer of a meeting scheduled to occur in a few days in Orlando, FL. This meeting of “next generation” Southern Baptist leaders could become newsworthy in the next week, so I had hoped to ask him about it. Rummage is an incredibly gifted preacher with an affable disposition and a keen mind. He has been kind to me over these many years, even going an extra mile to defend me on occasions when I needed it most. Without a doubt, he is a true “younger leader,” which is more than can be said for many who claim the moniker or disparage those who are thus described.
2 thoughts on “Reflections on the Executive Cmte Meeting”
Does that mean you’ll be taking a trip to Florida? That should be interesting.
Here I am listening to the latest and greatest Passion worship CD. There was an overabundance of them at Lifeway, so they were on sale. :) I’m kind of in a reflective mood, which doesn’t bode well for this comment.
I wonder what it used to be like. I wonder what it was like to have a convention that wasn’t based on “us and them.” When people really did get along and work together toward a common evangelistic goal. When we didn’t get wrapped up in power plays, censored sermons, and character assasinations. I’m not old enough to remember the “good ‘ole days” of yester-year. Heck, they might not have ever been that way.
Dr. Page hit a string with me when he talked about the shape of the convention as a whole. It’s the same pretty much everywhere, in all denominations. If we really are in a post-denominational age…what place is there for the SBC or any other convention? What happens when most of the younger pastors start churches that partner more with the Willow Creek Association (or some other network) than the traditional National/State conventions? What if we go more toward the “simple church” that Rainer talks about?
Bad for conventions (and even full time clergy). But, perhaps it will be good for the Kingdom.
Thanks for sharing this info and for taking a stand for the Thruth of God’s Word.
A Brother in Christ
In His Name