All is calm, all is bright?

Regardless of what he thought in his final moments, Saddam Hussein is no martyr, and he is no saint. Martyrs go to their deaths like silent lambs to the slaughter. Hussein shouted to the end.

<begin sarcasm>Tonight, he is dead, and I imagine that children in Fallujah are resting peacefully without the threat of terror or violence or the sound of bombs exploding in the streets.<end sarcasm>

America: still making the world safe for democracy.


Saddam refuses hood, hangs.

No blood. No spit.

Calm and subdued.

Bush gets his man.

Making sense of the nonsense.

Jesse Jackson: Saddam was a murderer, but was our ally when he did it.

Moscow: Execution will lead to ‘further aggravation.’

India: Disappointment over ‘unfortunate event.’

Execution footage unveiled…before and after.

To bear the sword in vain…

Sitting at Starbucks this afternoon, I have checked various news feeds with intermittent frequency. Conflicting reports are coming out of Baghdad about the impending demise of Saddam Hussein. Ambivalence best describes my mood about his being hanged in the next several hours.

I will state it up front, to clear any suspicions that my fundamentalist interlocutors may harbor. For the past two years I have waged an internal debate about the political and societal benefit of capital punishment. The death penalty seems less and less like an effective deterrent, and more and more like a momentary satiation of right-wing bloodthirst.

I remember the strange case of Michael Fay, who in 1994 was caned in Singapore for egging cars in the most hygienic of Southeast Asian republics. The 19 year old American student was tried, convicted, and sentenced under Singapore’s code of criminal procedure. He was afforded every due process of law, and his sentence was carried out on May 5, 1994.

The outcry of America was intense. The Singaporean government was unmoved. We all had a good lesson in the cultural differences of East and West that shape our courts of law. Rattan caning, as cruel and unusual as it seems for a modern, Western mind, does seem to be an effective deterrent in Singapore. I doubt many cars get egged or bridges get spraypainted there.

I think what has me raising questions about the moral consequence of capital punishment has more to do with my frustration that American evangelicals are some of the loudest and proudest hordes along the perimeter of the killing fields. Sometimes I wonder whether Jerry Falwell — had he been given the choice of releasing Barrabbas or Jesus or Nazareth — might have told Pontius Pilate to kill’em both and let God sort’em out.

Pundits on talk radio and Fox News are almost giddy basking in the near end of Saddam Hussein’s life. And as soon as he gets his fifteen seconds at the gallows, another “example” will emerge to take his place.

I’ve always respected the consistency of John Paul II and his successor, Benedict XVI. As the world’s most powerful advocate for human life, the Vatican has maintained a hard line against abortion, euthanasia, and capital punishment. The sanctity of human life must be preserved for the physically deformed fetus and the mentally deranged tyrant alike. No life, the Roman Catholic Church has argued, must be weighed in a utilitarian balance of value. If one life is worth destroying, then no life is worth protecting. Or so the argument goes.

But back to Saddam Hussein.

I don’t think the man should be hanged. As the world watches, he’s sitting in his cinderblock cell penning his own version of A Letter from a Birmingham Jail. His execution will only exacerbate the hostility of Baathist and terrorists in the Middle East to an American presence. Some will argue that the United States is not executing Saddam, but few of us disagree that this government in Iraq lacks legitimacy as long as our military presence is required to enforce its every law.

It seems to me that the Iraqi government bears the sword in vain. And it seems to me that the United States government is going to play the Pilate, washing their hands of Saddam’s blood when everybody knows the real authority to execute is theirs alone. Fifty years from now people will be asking who killed Hussein. Was it the Iraqis? Was it the Americans?

Not since Adolph Eichmann was hanged in Ramla prison has a trial so public ended in a death so chilling. Hanging is ugly. But so is death by mustard gas, as certain Kurds discovered during Hussein’s iron-fisted rule.

I do not believe that Saddam Hussein is personally culpable for every brutal rape or horrifying torture that occured during his reign. Rogue soldiers and renegade officers will always step out of bounds. And while it may be easy for us to watch our network news and see the difference between Saddam Hussein’s toleration of crimes against humanity and George W. Bush’s handling of the Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo disasters, we should remember that Muslims in the Middle East are not afforded the luxury of our sterile vantage of reflection.

People living in mud homes along streets littered by the shrapnel of U.S. artillery and the remains of terrorist self-detonations don’t see things as clearly as we sophisticated Westerners do. They don’t see that Saddam was much worse than we are. They don’t see much difference in a suicide bomber and a Marine sniper. We have lost the war of public opinion in Iraq, and I’m not sure that dropping Saddam fourteen feet by the neck will help us stabilize the country or get our soldiers home any sooner.

I wonder if somebody will slip Saddam Hussein a capsule of cyanide. I wonder how unsatisfied the bloodthirst would be if he offed himself like Hermann Gorring the night before he was supposed to die. I wonder what causes Saddam Hussein to be more afraid, death by hanging or life in prison without cameras to capture his hirsute visage blustering and blistering the “American invaders.”

At some point in the next hours, I hope that the deposed dictator finds himself fearing him who can destroy both the body and the soul more than those who can only destroy the body.

Our Iron Lady…

This evening I listened to Joyce Rogers defend the integrity of her husband during a brief interview on the Mike Fleming show. With calm resolve in her voice, the lifelong sweetheart of the late pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church said precisely what she needed to, and nothing more. She explained how challenges to the legacy of her husband brought her from silent grief to express sorrow for friends and strength for the many Southern Baptists who are watching the strife in Memphis from a distance. When asked about the year-long struggle at the church, she politely declined to comment.

It’s painful to watch what is happening to Joyce Rogers. The church where her husband bled and cried and died is suffering from a crisis of leadership. The husband and pastor whose testimony is blamelessly above reproach is being questioned for reasons no person of sound judgment can comprehend. The flood of allegations and confessions and denials have pulled Adrian Rogers’ widow from quiet service to preserve with courage the legacy of a man whose commanding voice was prematurely silenced by cancer’s cold grip.

I remember seeing Joyce Rogers at conventions over the past eleven years. She was forever by his side, poised and patient with the endless line of men and women whose lives were transformed by the gospel Adrian Rogers preached. I remember sitting in convention halls watching Adrian walk to his seat, Joyce ever by his side, his hand holding hers. He always treated his wife with such delicate grace. At times she seemed frail standing next to him, bold and broad as he was.

I remember the times she sang before he preached, and I remember watching him walk to the pulpit and wipe a tear from his cheek. I remember hearing the same jokes he always told about not kissing his wife before they were married, or about her popsicle leaking down his back when they embraced in gradeschool. I remember the time he told us about inverting his body in the bed one night, putting his feet on the pillow and his head under the covers. I remember the twinkle in his eye when he told us about Joyce leaning over and kissing his big toe, and about the laughter they shared over those moments when he would flirt with her like they were newly married.

I remember Adrian telling the story of Joyce crying out to him from the other room when their infant son Philip turned blue from SIDS and died on a Mother’s Day past. I remember him telling us about their times of shared ministry, and about searching for lost RV hubcaps on family vacations to Florida. I remember the story about Joyce scolding their son David for lowering his car window against his father’s command, only to find out that Adrian had lowered it with the driver controls to get a laugh and break up a tense moment.

For many years we’ve heard about Joyce Rogers from the testimony of the one who loved her more than life itself. We watched as she walked through cancer with him. We cried as she said her goodbyes in a nationally televised funeral.

More than five decades ago she made a commitment to God that she would love, honor, and cherish her husband until death would part them. Last year, they were separated by his death. Today she continues to honor him by reminding us of his love for the Lord, his commitment to truth, and his compassion for people. Joyce Rogers is a woman who keeps her vows, a fact Adrian knew more than any other.

Two years ago she had no idea that illness would claim his body so soon. One year ago she could not have anticipated that foolishness would threaten his legacy so tragically.

As I listened to Joyce Rogers on the radio today, I was drawn away from a remote interest in the threatening strife and disintegration of a congregation so built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets. Instead, I was compelled to pray for her. I prayed for the Lord to grant her wisdom to speak and remain silent. I prayed for her to rest in the assurance that no accusation against her husband would rob him of the commendation he surely received when he saw the face of his Savior. And I prayed for the Lord to strengthen her for the very high calling which is hers during these difficult days.

When Joyce Rogers stood before the convention in Greensboro and told us that her husband would never have supported the narrowing trends that have choked out gospel unity, the whole place rose in thunders of applause. Soon after that night, and the next days that saw Frank Page elected on a platform of stopping the narrowing trends, Wade Burleson made an observation to me that I haven’t considered much until this week.

Wade said, “Don’t you think it would be remarkable if this convention elected Joyce Rogers to serve as First Vice President.”

Joyce Rogers doesn’t need a place of service. She has already made her ministry by serving her husband and raising their children and laboring alongside the greatest preacher of our generation to build a great church that exalts an even greater Lord. The years that she had hoped would be spent in retirement by her husband’s side have now been eclipsed by his untimely death and the seemingly endless reports of strife that we are all reading about Bellevue.

Steve Gaines is having his gold refined, and nobody that I know envies him. He’s facing calls for his resignation, rumors at every turn, and he’s standing in the crosshairs of ministry transition. He’s made some mistakes, which he readily admits, and now he is facing a criminal investigation for nondisclosure of abuse involving minors. The Memphis news reports that he could be fined, and even imprisoned. Steve had the poor fortune of filling some pretty big shoes, if not the biggest, and he’s fighting to face challenges he never expected from sources he never thought possible.

Following Adrian Rogers can’t be easy, but if Gaines has a chance of surviving he would do himself a favor by learning from a woman who followed him all her life.

Thursday is for verse…

Twenty seven years before the formation of the Southern Baptist Convention, Percy Bysshe Shelley published a poem that could very well capture — if not the current situation in our convention — our near future.  I give you, dear reader,


I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said:—Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shatter’d visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamp’d on these lifeless things,
The hand that mock’d them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains: round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Driven with a purpose…

Rick Warren is an evangelical anomaly, and some think that’s a good thing. In seminary, I heard countless slams on Rick Warren’s preaching style. I was taught in cheap, pithy platitudes that “seeker-services” were an oxymoron, if not “Satan-friendly.” Saddleback Sam was a joke, a marketing ploy to reach a certain kind of person who could bankroll a certain kind of ministry.

In my home church, there is a lady who is convinced that Rick Warren is the Anti-Christ. He’s compromising the Gospel. He’s a wolf in sheeps’ clothes, a purveyer of odd heterodox ministry philosophies.

And then there are those who think he’s sold out the abortion issue to host Barak Obama at his recent AIDS Conference, or that he’s compromised U.S. foreign policy by visiting Syria and North Korea. Some Southern Baptists still have their BVDs up in a bunch because he still supports the Baptist World Alliance. I have good friends who refuse to read his books, and I have former professors who take regular potshots at Warren’s publishing prowess though they themselves have yet to publish anything of substance in their fields of study.

But Rick Warren keeps pressing on. Perhaps more than any minister in our day, he takes the high road. When his critics are slopping up a third helping of potroast and potatos at Golden Corral, he’s serving up a truckload of grain to an African village. When they’re ranting and foaming about “expository preaching,” Rick Warren is uploading his topical sermons to the internet for them to plagiarize. When they’re hammering the church growth movement in which Saddleback is a key player, Rick Warren is just growing a church.

I may not do everything just like Rick Warren would do it, but I know that I couldn’t do a fraction of what he does. People in my church read his books, and they help them. My taxes are lower because Rick Warren took his case to the highest levels of justice, not to protect his own income — which he gives away at a Bill Gates proportion — but to protect the housing allowance exemption of pastors in small hamlet towns like Whitesboro and Wolf City. My sermon illustrations are more diverse because Rick Warren’s ministry team sends out helpful tools for finding fresh and creative ways to explain the low and lofty principles of Holy Writ.

When Baptists are bickering about booze, or whining about worship styles, or crying over Calvinism, or tilting over tongues, Rick Warren is trying to do everything he can to make a difference in his lifetime. The fact is, Rick Warren doesn’t need the platform of the Southern Baptist Convention to have his voice heard. He doesn’t need our committees, or our seminaries, or our publishing house. He doesn’t need Paige Patterson to approve his sermons, or Richard Land to get him on the White House guest list. He doesn’t need the IMB or NAMB to plant churches, and he certainly doesn’t need a room half-full of ballot-waving messengers to hear him preach when he has entire continents clamoring to hear him talk about Jesus, pure and simple. Rick Warren doesn’t need us, and I wonder why he sticks with us.

His harshest critics, it seems, are those who dwell in the house of his friends. It’s not hard to understand why he’s busy building his own house and not ours.

Bart Barber doesn’t believe the BFM2000…

In today’s post on his blog, Praisegod Barebones, Dr. Bart Barber has stated his public and unwavering dissent from the BFM2000.  I wonder if the folks at SBTC will allow him to serve on another resolutions committee in light of his stated opposition to the statement of faith required for membership in SBTC.

Here is a direct quote from Barber’s blog:

Can the historic Baptist distinctive of religious liberty be defined as “the protection of the freedom of individual conscience from doctrines and commandments of men which are contrary to God’s Word or not contained therein, as well as the freedom to form and propagate beliefs within the sphere of religion”? No.

And here is a direct quote from first and last lines of Article XVII on “Religious Liberty” in the BFM2000:

God alone is Lord of the conscience, and He has left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men which are contrary to His Word or not contained in it...A free church in a free state is the Christian ideal, and this implies the right of free and unhindered access to God on the part of all men, and the right to form and propagate opinions in the sphere of religion without interference by the civil power.

Now, of course, I know that Bart Barber believes the BFM2000.  I do think his blanket rejection of that particular language included in the Roundtable Resolution, which was intentionally lifted from the BFM2000, is a good example of how a person can take issue with certain parts of the BFM2000, and still affirm and commend the document.

Iraq and the IMB…

Paige Patterson doesn’t like “suicide bloggers,” according to an article he wrote for Southwestern’s weekly student paper a while back. Russell Moore, the Bill O’Reilly of SBC politics, has offered more than a few public comments about what he perceives to be the destructive power of blogging. Bobby Welch apparently had internet access on his tour bus, from which vehicular vantage point he determined that bloggers were the primary cause of declining baptisms in the SBC. Paul Negrut of Romania thinks that bloggers have replaced General Nicolai Ceauşescu as the primary perpretators of violence, terror, aggression, and torture in Eastern Europe. Blogs, according to not a few Southern Baptist luminaries, are a scourge upon the convention, a serious plague of blight upon the fields decreasingly white unto harvest.

This morning I walked the Weimeraner I’m about to adopt from rescue down to Starbucks, where I picked up a tall drip and a copy of the New York Times. On the cover of the Times, the headline reads, “Panel Urges Basic Shift in U.S. Policy in Iraq.” The bipartisan commission invested with the responsibility to assess the situation in Iraq has determined that “the situation is grave and deteriorating.” The panel has rebuked President Bush for his strategy and outlined a plan for a fullscale pullback within the next fifteen months. In addition to scaling down our military presence, the commission recommends a new “diplomatic offensive” with Syria and Iran.

Trustee leadership at the International Mission Board has allowed the situation to deteriorate. No person, individually, is to blame, but a number of factors have nurtured this crisis. There are, no doubt, angry people with inflamed rhetoric on both sides of this divide, and I recognize the degree to which I have been one of them. There are the prideful protectionists who circle wagons and defend defeated causes without the wisdom to reverse course. There are peace-makers who will do anything to get along, and there are war-mongers who will do anything to start a fight. There are belligerants and provocateurs, troglodytes and troublemakers. All of these have brought our International Mission Board to a crisis that threatens to distract Southern Baptists from the priority of intercession for and contribution to our cooperative efforts in missionary enterprise.

I got to thinking this morning. If I was on a panel charged with the responsibility to assess the current policies at the IMB and map a plan for the future, what would I recommend to trustee chairman John Floyd? It would probably look something like James Baker’s advice to the president.

First, Chairman Floyd should realize he has a year and a half left in office. Fortunately, and in contrast to the dilemma in which President Bush finds himself, he can dismiss any charges that he created this mess and allow his predecessor take the fall for a failed policy. If he moves slowly and carefully, John Floyd can move his board with him. He will be able to bring a majority of the board to a place where they are willing to reverse course for “the greater good of the convention and the greater priority of reaching unreached peoples.” If he does this, the Floyd years on the trustee board will be hailed as courageous and visionary, and the Chairman will have the commendation of most Southern Baptists — even those who agree with the principle of the policies — for his willingness to admit it was too much change, too fast. Rather than facing the prospect of angered messengers at microphones in San Antonio, he will face the applause of the body for leading the IMB with a steady hand.

This is much like the situation pastors face when trying to transition a church. If a new pastor at a church was uncomfortable with private prayer languages, and yet the chairman of his deacons and a long-tenured predecessor in the pulpit both claimed to have experienced such, that new pastor would be well-advised to hold off on a policy against the ordination of men who prayed in tongues. Recognizing that a potential split in the church was imminent, the pastor could hold off until the current chairman of deacons was gone and the former pastor had been off the scene long enough. If he insisted on his conviction that “private prayer languages” were unbiblical, he might get the church to vote with him, but at what cost? John Floyd is a seasoned and mature enough Christian gentleman to realize the prudence of patience in these kinds of scenarios; and even if the IMB wants desperately to restrict missionary service in this way, John Floyd has the ability to convince them that now is not the time to advance such an agenda. Wait until the Rankin years are a distant memory in the minds of Southern Baptists. Wait until Wade Burleson is off the scene. By then, if the convention has expressed a desire to limit missionary service in such a way, pass the policies.

Second, John Floyd needs to foster a new “diplomatic offensive” with key groups in the Southern Baptist Convention. He must do everything to repair relationships with Jerry Rankin, and recognize the hand of providence in his reassignment and early retirement from the board. He must become the greatest ally of the president, and his closest adviser. Likewise, Jerry Rankin needs to get out in front of this debacle again, and express his confidence in John Floyd’s leadership. He must publicly and sincerely affirm his respect for and submission to the governing authority of the board. When Southern Baptists see these two men consistently working together for the greater good of missions and church-planting, much of the stress will subside.

Third, Floyd must also restore Wade Burleson to full trustee service on committees, and Burleson must again demonstrate his willingness to work on John Floyd’s timetables, not on his own.

Fourth, John Floyd also needs to talk to the missionaries, the vast majority of whom are opposed to the new policies. He has to give the field personnel a genuine sense that their input is wanted and helpful. He should draft a letter to all IMB personnel this Christmas, reaffirming their work and assuring them that the board is giving full reconsideration to these policies. He should challenge them to let the board finish its study, and to keep pressing on with their God-called task to reach the nations.

Fifth, John Floyd and Jerry Rankin should appear side-by-side in a video recorded message to Southern Baptists, posted on the front page of the IMB website, issuing a challenge for sacrificial giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, for the unity of all Southern Baptists in the global mission task, and for patience with the board as it seeks to follow through on the convention’s requests from Greensboro. Together, these two men should be seen side-by-side at every possible venue. Their signatures should grace letters together. Their images forever burned into the minds of Southern Baptists before we get to San Antonio. Any suspicion of an adversarial relationship between the trustees and the president of the IMB can be overcome if they walk together. Indeed, it would be good and pleasant.

Sixth, and finally, something needs to be done about the sense that Paige Patterson has been opposed to the presidency of Jerry Rankin. Patterson, if he has written any letter to Rankin in the past year asking for his resignation, must write another letter rescinding that request and asking forgiveness. Patterson needs to come clean with Southern Baptists, much like he has done over the seminary’s recent fundraising fiasco, about whether or not he has expressed an opinion about the viability of Rankin’s continued leadership to IMB trustees. He either needs to release copies of his correspondence with Wade Burleson and Jerry Rankin from last November/December, or he needs to stop dodging the questions and tell Southern Baptists plainly and clearly, “I was wrong,” if indeed he has written letters requesting Rankin’s resignation or encouraging his retirement.

Seventh, bloggers, including myself, need to start finding things to praise about the IMB board of trustees. Truly, those things that are praiseworthy should be the staple for our blogging meditations.

It is unlikely that the situation in the SBC is going to get better until these things happen. As Lee Hamilton told the nation at yesterday’s news conference, “Our ship has hit rough waters. It must now chart a new way forward.”

How it all went down…

A reporter from the Fort Worth Star Telegram asked me today how the whole “Dwight McKissic situation” got started in Southern Baptist life, and I determined it might be helpful for bloggers and blogreaders to know the whole story.

Prior to his August 29 chapel address, I had never spoken to Dwight McKissic. I knew who he was, and I knew something of his church. I did not know of his position on tongues or his experience with a private prayer language. On the morning of his chapel sermon I logged into the live webcast on Southwestern’s homepage and began to listen to the service in the background of my church office.

When Dwight got to the point in his message where he criticized the IMB policies, I knew something newsworthy had just occurred. Immediately, I called Wade Burleson to tell him to log in and start listening. Normally, Wade answers his phone immediately. This time, I kept calling back until he answered. He was in a staff meeting, but told me he would try to listen and then call me when it was over.

At that point, I called Marty Duren and Art Rogers to get them to tune in. Dwight had moved on from his momentary reference to the IMB policies and had begun sharing about his own experience with private prayer languages. My single thought at that moment was, “this man does not know what he has just done.” The reason I thought that is because I know Paige Patterson. I knew he would not tolerate the expression of McKissic’s position from the chapel pulpit. The reaction would be swift, and I began recording the sermon via audiotape.

I worked the phones laboriously at that point, calling my contacts at the Dallas Morning News, the Fort Worth Star Telegram, the Associated Press, Baptist Press, Associated Baptist Press, Ethics Daily, and the Austin American-Statesman. Within ten minutes — and before McKissic’s sermon was over — I had alerted every major media outlet in the North Texas area and numerous state Baptist paper editors. Before noon, the blogs were already buzzing.

Shortly after the service was over, Wade called me back and told me that he couldn’t get the message on the archives. “Surely he won’t censor it,” I told him. “You watch,” Wade replied. “Patterson won’t let that message out.”

At that point, I decided to call Southwestern Seminary and ask for the audio-visual department. After a few transferred calls I was able to speak to a seminary student employee who was working on the internet archives. I identified myself as a “local pastor” who was “trying to access the archive of Dwight McKissic’s sermon” from earlier that day.

“Well, ordinarily we would have it archived immediately. But we’ve just received instructions from the administration that McKissic’s sermon is not to be archived until further notice,” he told me.

I thanked him for the information, hung up the phone, and fired a follow-up email off to twenty-something reporters/editors that Patterson was going to censor McKissic’s sermon. By early afternoon, Patterson’s statement was released on Southwestern’s website. A few reporters emailed back asking for a statement, which I provided.

I had not yet spoken to Dwight McKissic, though I had emailed a few denominational leaders about the ordeal so as to apprise them of what was about to go down in Ft. Worth. The next day, while I was at the hospital making a pastoral visit, Wade called me and told me that I needed to contact Dwight.

Before the afternoon was over, I called Dwight, who told me that he was considering resigning the trustee board. He didn’t need the headache, he said, and would rather not deal with the controversy. I asked Dwight to wait 24 hours before he made any decision, and told him that I would call him back the next day.

That night, I placed a few dozen phonecalls to pastors around the convention who I knew would be willing to call Dwight and encourage him to stay at it. I called BGCT pastors and SBTC pastors. I called pastors in North Carolina and South Carolina. I called a pastor in Tennessee and one in Florida. I told them all what was happening, and I asked them to contact Dwight and encourage him to stay on the board. By the next day, I had his chapel sermon transcribed and Wade Burleson posted it on his blog.

A flood of phonecalls and emails and letters hit Cornerstone Baptist Church from every conceivable corner of convention life.

In mid-October, Wade, Dwight, and I planned a meeting in Oklahoma City so that the two of them could meet face-to-face for the first time, and so that we could plan how best to respond to the narrowing trends in convention life. Early one morning, I picked Dwight up in a rented black-and-chrome Hummer H2 and we cruised to OKC to meet Wade for lunch. Along the way, I called Art Rogers to see if he was going to be around town. Art restructured his schedule and drove to meet up with us at a hotel in Bricktown. We spent several hours together planning, and what we came up with was the Roundtable and the Conference to be hosted this coming April.

At one point in the last two months I had the privilege to sit in Dwight’s office and talk about the chapel sermon. On his desk was a file. In that file were some copies of pages from commentaries he had studied in preparing his chapel sermon. On the shelf of his library was a copy of Paige Patterson’s commentary on First Corinthians. Dwight and I talked about how Patterson’s published comments on the issue of ecstatic utterance and Corinthian tongues could lead a person to believe that Patterson recognized McKissic’s position as an acceptable interpretation of the biblical texts. McKissic told me that “never in his wildest dreams” did he think what he was saying would be unacceptable to Patterson. If he had known, he would either have preached a different sermon, or he would have declined the offer to preach altogether.

Of course, I can sympathize with Dwight’s confusion. Anybody listening to Patterson introduce Jerry Rankin over the past ten years, or reading his public correspondence (not his private correspondence) would assume that the president of Southwestern Seminary supported Rankin’s leadership at the IMB. Anybody who’s watched things up close, however, can sift through the sweetest of accolades dripping from Patterson’s lips or flowing from his pen and find the bitterest of criticisms.

The same reporter from the FW Star Telegram who asked me how it all got started asked me to characterize my role in the SBC. I’ve never really been asked that question before, and it sorta stumped me. Just when I was about to give the whole, “I’m just a small church pastor, etc.” speech, another reporter chimed in.

“He’s the Karl Rove.”

I laughed, of course, and walked away a bit flattered thinking, “At least I’m not the Jack Abrahamoff of the SBC.”

And that is how it all went down…