Where the bodies are buried…

Some people are fond of suggesting that we at Baptist Blogger “know where the bodies are buried.” To some degree, we readily admit, the accusation is founded. At the very least, we know where this one is buried, and we’re willing to pay one year’s tuition for any Southeastern Seminary student who can produce the disinterred casket and accompanying invoices at the San Antonio convention:

Patterson Tombstone

SBC Executive Committee Reflections…

I arrived in Nashville, TN, for the Executive Committee meeting on Saturday evening for a three-day stay at the Holiday Inn Express immediately adjacent to the Lifeway and ExComm buildings. Baptist Press has provided a good panoramic picture of the meeting; and our being the only blogger-of-note in attendance, your editor(s) here at Baptist Blogger have accepted the sole responsibility of providing color commentary. I will offer my thoughts in bullet format

  • Leadership — The Executive Committee Chairman, Bill Harrell, efficiently leads the meetings with courtesy to everyone involved. He began the meeting by recognizing those in the gallery, from State Convention presidents to journalists and even our beloved 2nd Vice President, Wiley Drake. Harrell has been assigned the unenviable position of guiding the ExComm board through some troubled waters. Like it or not, more Southern Baptists are looking to the Executive Committee for balance, fairness, and prudence. Earlier in his term, Harrell took a momentary detour from denominational sobriety, proving again that nothing unites Southern Baptists like a few insensible remarks from an otherwise sensible man. Everybody from Timmy Brister to Tom Ascol to Marty Duren to Bill Curtis weighed in with heavy artillery, and it appears that Harrell has cooled his engines and determined to lead all Southern Baptists to walk patiently and carefully through these days of unrest. I truly think Bill Harrell can build bridges so long as he maintains a benevolent neutrality between the warring factions in the convention. The SBC started in Augusta, GA, in 1845, when a group of churchmen came together for the sake of missions. It is possible that Augusta, GA, home of Chairman William Harrell, will serve again as a historic location for brokered peace and renewed missionary zeal.
  • Transparency — The Executive Committee runs like Southwestern Seminary and the International Mission Board should. There are no “trustee forums” or “executive sessions.” Everything is done in the light of day, and every Southern Baptist is welcome to attend and observe. In fact, anybody can sit in on committee meetings and hear the work of the convention getting done. During my stay in Nashville, I attended the Cooperative Program workgroup and had the chance to hear how NAMB is pursuing a course correction when it comes to fiscal responsibility. When I saw that trustees were carrying a notebook of information to guide their meeting, I requested a copy of any available trustee documents from ExComm staff. I was presented with a binder of approximately 300 pages that included background material provided to trustees to assist them in their decision making. I can’t seem to get any response from Southwestern Seminary’s legal counsel about one particular vote of the trustees, but staff at the Executive Committee are willing and able to assist Southern Baptists who are searching for a reason to have faith in the system. At some point, I believe every SBC agency and institution should make documents and data available in electronic format for all interested parties. An institution free of corruption and graft can stand the light of scrutiny, but we all know what the good book says about the reason that some men prefer darkness to light…
  • Dissent — Like every board of trustees in the SBC, there are diverse personalities on the Executive Committee with differing opinions about a variety of issues facing the convention. There are careful and cautious trustees, and there are grenade-launchers. Marty Duren has already discussed how Missouri-trustee Roger Moran used his final board meeting to display his own brand of fundamentalist fanaticism, embarrassing all Southern Baptists but himself and a coterie of Missourians who never thought trustees from the “Show Me” state would be so willing to “show us” their backside. Nevertheless, Bill Harrell gave Roger Moran the microphone and let him rant and hurl his invectives against Ed Stetzer, Danny Akin, and a host of other denominational servants who seem to peeve the Missouri layman to no end. It is probably fair to say that Moran is in a minority on the Executive Committee when it comes to his paranoia of the emergent church phenomenon, but he was afforded the chance to speak on the record without interruption or censure. If former IMB Chairman Tom Hatley and current SWBTS chairman Van McClain and Paige Patterson had more level heads, they would have allowed Wade Burleson’s and Dwight McKissic’s words to go out uncensored and without reprimand. As it is, they are bumbling away their offices to silence minority opinions. Moran will fade into the distant memory of Southern Baptists, and his “statement” will be remembered as a momentary blip of irrational ranting. Burleson’s and McKissic’s dissent will be immortalized so long as their respective boards of trustees try to silence, intimidate, or remove them. UPDATE: People who refuse to believe my contention that the most fanatical fundamentalist fringe can be traced to Paige Patterson should be reminded that Moran was first appointed to the ExComm during Patterson’s first year as convention president, and the following year Paige put Moran on the Resolutions Committee.
  • The Wives — A quick survey of the Executive Commitee meeting room revealed that few denominational wives travel to Nashville to attend the meeting. Rhonda Kelley, Mary Mohler, Charlotte Akin, Anna Roberts, Nellie Jo Rainer, Ann Iorg, Bobbye Rankin, Susie Hawkins, and Rebekah Land are busy enough attending to their respective ministries than to fill their calendar with an unceasing schedule of denominational meetings. In fact, I can imagine that it gets tiring for many of the wives to go to these meetings twice a year, year after year. I have seen only one of these women at the past two meetings of the Executive Committee, though I’m sure their agencies have a budget for them to accompany their husbands on some denominational business. These quiet, unseen servants are deserving of tremendous gratitude for the way they fill their supportive roles without the necessity of draining the denominational coffers to fly around the country at convention expense. More later on the travel budgets of another agency first lady wife. To sum up: Ten agencies represented, one president’s wife accounted for, no presidential pooches in attendance.
  • The Baptist Faith & Message — The convention’s statement of faith was reaffirmed as a sufficient guide for the preservation of Southern Baptist identity and confessional parameters. Baptist Press carried the story, which highlights that the Executive Committee was careful not to overstep their role by instructing the agencies. Rather, ExComm trustees went on record in favor of minimizing encroachments upon the convention-authorized doctrinal statement, leaving many of us wondering how long it will take for the IMB and SWBTS trustees to get the message: Southern Baptists don’t want our agencies and institutions continually tinkering with the fencepost.