The way forward, Part One…

Tensions are growing as Southern Baptists approach the 2007 annual meeting in San Antonio. Eighteen months ago, none of us could have foreseen the whirlwind of events that have brought us to this critical moment. Consider the following:

  1. For the first time in Southern Baptist history, a sitting trustee is recommended for removal by his fellow board members for taking his concerns to the wider audience of Baptists through the use of internet technology.
  2. For the first time in Southern Baptist history, the same trustees reverse course, allowing the trustee to continue his service though denying him any committee appointment.
  3. Caucuses of younger leaders form and issue competing declarations with approximately the same number of signatures.
  4. Robert Reccord is forced to leave the North American Mission Board after an unprecedented exposé in a state Baptist paper of the fiscal mismanagement and irresponsible stewardship of Southern Baptist mission dollars.
  5. The heir-apparent for the convention presidency and much sought after preacher, Georgia pastor Johnny Hunt, surprises his peers by announcing his decision to pull out of the race. He then announces his intention to nominate Ronnie Floyd.
  6. Seminary presidents use the resources afforded them by the Cooperative Program to endorse a candidate for SBC president.
  7. In a surprise move, Tennessee pastor Jerry Sutton jumps into the race for SBC president, splitting the Patterson-Pressler coalition for the first time since the Conservative Resurgence began.
  8. A dark horse candidate from South Carolina with a stellar Cooperative Program record joins the race for SBC president. Frank Page wins on the first ballot in a three way race.
  9. Wiley Drake is elected 2nd Vice President on the first ballot over three other candidates. Many messengers credit the humorous nomination speech as the reason for Drake’s election.
  10. A record number of motions are submitted for consideration by the Southern Baptist Convention.
  11. Southern Baptists adopt a resolution on alcohol consumption that prompted more debate on the convention floor than any resolution in recent history.
  12. The doctoral dissertation of Frank Page is circulated by the president of Southwestern Seminary. The dissertation, written in the early 1980s, endorses the ordination of women for pastoral offices. Frank Page is forced to explain how his views have changed to shield against ongoing rumors about his commitment to the BFM2000, or lack thereof.
  13. Several megachurch pastors begin experiencing trouble because of congregational unrest that takes to the blogosphere. Former SBC President Bobby Welch’s successor at FBC Daytona Beach resigns in the face of insurmountable challenges. Adrian Roger’s successor, Rev. Steve Gaines, faces criticism of his refusal to remove a confessed pedophile from his church staff. Bellevue erupts in strife, forcing Joyce Rogers to defend the legacy of her husband on the radio.
  14. Texas pastor Dwight Mckissic preaches a sermon at Southwestern Seminary in which he acknowledges his own private use of glossolalia and criticizes actions of the IMB board to restrict missionary appointments on that basis.
  15. Southwestern Seminary president Paige Patterson censors McKissic’s sermon and issues a public rebuke of his own trustee, calling his message “harmful to the churches.”
  16. Southwestern Seminary trustees pass a statement aligning the Fort Worth school with the IMB policies and restricting the appointment of faculty who affirm private glossolalia, in spite of the fact that several current professors hold that view.
  17. The Southern Baptist of Texas Convention passes a resolution, authored in part by Drs. Bart Barber and Malcolm Yarnell, that denies that glossolalia were ever given by the Spirit for private use. SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards explains this position by suggesting that Baptists who share Dwight McKissic’s views may “ride on the bus,” so long as they don’t try to drive the bus.
  18. An organization of sexual abuse survivors begins petitioning Southern Baptist leaders to deal more thoroughly with the problem of clergy abuse. Reciprocal press releases are fired back and forth between the survivors network and SBC leaders.
  19. Lifeway Christian Resources releases a study that reveals 10% of Southern Baptists identify themselves as Calvinists. Not even Malcolm Yarnell questions the legitimacy of the statistical data.
  20. In spite of the swirling controversies, the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering reaches its highest receipts ever.
  21. Southern Seminary reports record enrollment, surpassing Southwestern and Southeastern in total headcount. Southwestern reaches the lowest enrollment since Southern Baptists have been using the new formula to calculate CP allocation to the seminaries.
  22. Former Southwestern faculty member Sheri Klouda files a lawsuit against the school, citing Paige Patterson’s breach of contract, fraud, and defamation as the grounds for her suit. Accreditation agencies begin an investigation of Southwestern’s alleged violations. Southwestern’s trustee chairman, Van McLain (NY), says that Klouda’s hiring was a “momentary lax of parameters.”
  23. Union University President David Dockery succeeds in bringing the factions of the Southern Baptist crisis together for a three day conference at the Tennessee school. For the first time since Wade Burleson’s near ouster, the groups talk to each other face-to-face.
  24. The Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention affirms the BFM2000 as a sufficient guide for SBC agency policies and doctrinal parameters.
  25. Missouri Baptist layman Roger Moran takes swipes at Ed Stetzer, Danny Akin, and others in his effort to purge the Southern Baptist Convention of “emergent” theology and practices.
  26. The Missouri Baptist Convention ousts 19 churches whose members designate a portion of their mission dollars to go the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. A new church in St. Louis becomes the source of controversy due to its ministry in a local pub. MBC Executive Director David Clippard is terminated.
  27. The Tennessee Baptist Convention sues Belmont University for control of the school.
  28. A million dollar debacle in the Texas valley brings the ouster of several top BGCT staff. Charles Wade announces his retirement.
  29. Louisiana College, the only Baptist College in the State of Louisiana, continues to suffer loss of morale due to ongoing disputes between the administration and the faculty.
  30. Richard Land, president of the ERLC, counsels Mormon candidate for the United States presidency how he can attract evangelical voters while denouncing the candidacy of Rudy Giuliani, raising suspicion in the blogosphere and elsewhere.
  31. Fulfilling a promise to balance his appointments, SBC President Frank Page appoints BGCT and BGAV pastors to serve on key convention committees.
  32. Not once, but twice, resurgent warriors gather in Dallas, Texas at a meeting hosting by Criswell College president Jerry Johnson. No candidates emerge to challenge Frank Page.
  33. NAMB trustees choose Geoffrey Hammond to replace Bob Reccord at the helm of the Atlanta-based mission board.
  34. Texas pastor Dwight McKissic hosts two “roundtables” to discuss the policies of Southwestern Seminary and the International Mission Board. From the first meeting, letters are sent requesting that Lifeway conduct a study to determine the position of Southern Baptists on the issue of tongues. After the second meeting, a conference on the Holy Spirit takes place.
  35. Lifeway Research releases its report on Southern Baptist view of tongues. Supporters of the IMB/Southwestern policies cry foul, denouncing the research methodology as flawed and rejecting the findings as accurate.
  36. As never before, resolutions submitted to the Southern Baptist Convention are publicized on blogs, allowing potential messengers information leading into the convention previously inaccessible.
  37. After a one year reprieve from the traditional SBC Pastor’s Conference under the leadership of Marietta, Georgia pastor Bryant Wright, new conference president Hayes Wicker returns the format to its earlier style. Younger pastors continue to opt for non-Southern Baptist conferences with increasing frequency.
  38. Jerry Falwell dies. His funeral and tributes receive more coverage perhaps in Baptist Press for a greater period of time than did Adrian Rogers, Homer Lindsay, or W.A. Criswell. Two weeks after his death, Falwell banners are still prominently displayed on Baptist Press, even getting headline billing over the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention or the New Orleans relief effort.
  39. Both Southwestern Seminary and IMB trustees pass policies that seek to limit the degree to which sitting trustees may speak publicly against board actions. The silencing of principled dissent continues, until SWBTS Professor Malcolm Yarnell takes his aim at Thom Rainer, Ed Stetzer, and the entire Lifeway administration.
  40. Rick Warren, author of the immensely popular Purpose-Driven literature, is scheduled to address the 2007 meeting of the Baptist General Convention of Texas.
  41. Two longtime opponents of SBC fundamentalism die. Houston businessman John Baugh, founder of SYSCO Foods, and Baylor University’s president emeritus, Herbert Reynolds, are gone within months of each other.
  42. SEBTS President Danny Akin draws fire from other SBC seminaries because of his balanced assessment of Calvinism, Emergent churches, and other hot-button issues. Akin proceeds undaunted.
  43. Texas pastor Jack Graham of Prestonwood Baptist Church unites with charismatic leader T.D. Jakes for a second annual “Global Day of Prayer” on Pentecost weekend, after which both churches lead the Dallas community in 90 days of blessing their communities. Graham draws repeated fire from SBC fundamentalists who think building homes and praying with T.D. Jakes are compromises of the doctrine of the Trinity.
  44. Continuing his herculean efforts to fight the “Five Global Giants,” California pastor Rick Warren hosts a conference on AIDS. Among the speakers invited to address the group is Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama, drawing more fire at Warren from SBC fundamentalists who believe his actions constitute a compromise of pro-life social philosophy, and perhaps the doctrine of eternal security.
  45. Julie-Pennington Russell becomes the first woman to pastor the First Baptist Church of Decatur, GA, further evidencing the “vast feminist conspiracy” of the Baptist left.
  46. SBC President Frank Page speculates about reopening the question of Southern Baptist involvement with the Baptist World Alliance.
  47. The Women’s Missionary Union succeeds in defeating a motion brought by the SBC Executive Committee that would lead to more direct control of the Birmingham-based missions support organization by the Southern Baptist Convention.
  48. After a series of tersely-worded emails, a debate between Tom Ascol, James White, and the Brothers Caner falls through. Both sides accuse the other of “pulling out” or “changing the format arbitrarily.” The debate regarding Calvinism never occurs on the campus of Liberty University.
  49. After a minor surgical procedure, Southern Seminary president Al Mohler nearly dies from pulmonary emboli. Miraculously, Mohler makes a full recovery and offers a meaningful commentary on life, death, and the sovereignty of God.
  50. The Southern Baptist of Texas Convention, under the leadership of this year’s First Veep nominee, Rev. Jim Richards, forwards to all their member churches an anti-Calvinistic mailing that warns of a decline in baptisms if Reformed theology gets a foothold in Southern Baptist life. The letter, originally sent under the cover of Evangelism Director Don Cass, is allowed to simmer a few weeks in SBTC circles before Jim Richards sends out his own letter expressing regret that the earlier mailing could have been misinterpreted as a criticism of Reformed theology.
  51. A group of Missouri Baptists who supported the conservative shift in the state convention ban together to oppose the increasingly hard-right fundamentalism of Roger Moran.
  52. Paige Patterson’s sister-in-law, Kathleen Kelley, mysteriously gains an appointment to the International Mission Board, making her the third member of Patterson’s family, including Patterson himself, to serve on the board during Rankin’s administration. The second family member was the former editor of the Southern Baptist Advocate, Federal inmate number 04899-017, Russell Kaemmerling.

Feel free to add to the list in the comments. Over the weekend, I’m going to reflect on this wild series/chain of events and share my thoughts about the way Southern Baptists — including me — can get beyond the strife to pursue more noble Kingdom purposes. And, of course, those of you who believe small church pastors without wives or children are unqualified to present their views in an forum such as this…well, I invite you to stop reading my blog.

Which brings me down a tangent:

Does anybody else wonder why so many people come around to read things that aren’t worth reading?

11 thoughts on “The way forward, Part One…

  1. It seems to me that blogging, in itself, is other than noble, only where it keeps you from doing “pursuing more noble Kingdom purposes”. Given proper motivation and all that stuff, of course.

    I think I know a little of your motivation. Ignoble it ain’t.

  2. Ben,

    We all used to eat when we were bored, but in light of your new resolution. . . we’ve turned to consuming empty blogs instead of empty calories. Taste great, less filling.

    Good post.


  3. I have a suggestion about the issue of PPL/tongues, which seems to be the hottest button at the present. The article is too long to post in a comment on someone else’s blog, so it’s here,

    I didn’t realize there had been so many key events with such an impact. It puts things into perspective when you put them all in a list.

    The SBC is a system that has developed a specific method of operation which depends on the use of influence to gain power, and the use of power to enhance influence. The structure is outdated, and the method of operation requires the conducting of business through a single convention meeting two days out of the year. The expense of participating in the convention puts smaller churches, which make up three fourths of the churches, and two thirds of the membership of the SBC, at a distinct disadvantage, even though the system for choosing messengers equalizes this. The end result is that a small fraction of churches, less than 5%, send messengers to the convention in any given year. This magnifies the importance of specific issues, which become “hot buttons” for which the outcome can, in some cases, turn on a handful of votes. All kinds of things get distorted.

    If you can trust the statistics that Lifeway puts out (sorry, I had to say that!) half of the members of churches in the SBC are past 55 years of age, a significant number of those are past 60. These are basically the people who were won to Christ during the evangelistic pushes of the late 50’s, early 60’s, and were our “median adult” church leaders in the 70’s. If you look around the convention hall, however, you will see that 80% of the messengers are past 60. If we were on television, we’d be “That 70’s Show,” in movies, we’re the Brady Bunch Movie. The SBC is not equipped, as a system, to deal with the paradigm shifts and changes of post-denominational post modernism. The disputes appear to be arising between those who want to preserve and inherit the mantle of the conservative resurgence, and those who want to modernize and equip the convention for ministry in the future. Resolution will require a paradigm shift in thinking, and a good sized dose of Holy Spirit revival.

  4. I am an alum of SWBTS, and unfortunately I did graduate after Paige became pres so his name is on my diploma and it makes me sick at my stomach.

    I wish the SBC would just hurry up and die. It is a sinking ship. I appreciate what you are trying to do and I follow your blog on a regular basis, but seriously ten years from now the SBC will no longer be an organization with any power, influence or money. I’m sure Lifeway will go on as an independent entity and some of the state conventions will survive but the current power structure has alienated anyone who would continue to carry the torch. The SBC represents much that is wrong with Christianity. Last year we passed a resolution on teen smoking. That kind of action defines our irrelevance. Not to mention we endorsed the war, and a President who has either lied or is completely incompetent (I’m not personally sure which would make me feel better).

    Anyway that is just my two cents on the issue.

  5. Ben –

    Most of the problems you listed seem to be the result of people trying to violate congregational polity by circumventing the local and state conventions and forcing their views on people outside their own church. The local church is the place where most of the issues of women pastors, ppl’s, etc., need to be solved. If the a church (not individual) wants to exclude those churches (not theological positions) that affirm such issues as women pastors, or ppl’s, let a church delegation bring a motion to the local association and then state convention to exclude fellowship. This is exactly what the Austin, Texas association did to University Baptist when they elected an openly gay deacon. FBC Decatur’s positions need to raise issues of fellowship in their local association first. Wade Burleson’s positions need to be censured or ignored in the local association first. Dwight McKissic’s issues need to be settled, or ignored, in the Tarrant Baptist Association first.

    If the Pattersonians forced their fights to the associations, and tried to begin to exclude churches rather than ideas, they would split the convention wide open within a couple of months. The Pattersonians know that as long as they can keep the issue out of the boardrooms they don’t control, they can keep control of the issue.

    Viva the local association and state conventions!

    Ben Macklin

  6. Ben,

    Excellent chronology on the ongoings of our beloved SBC. I noticed a few “nuggets” of insider information that, unless I am mistaken, were not previously revealed. I am referring to numbers 12, 13, 17, 23, 32, 38, 42, 46, and 47. Others can figure out the “nuggets” in those items for themselves. :)


  7. And number 39 has a strange adverbial nugget that hopefully is a typo that will be corrected.

  8. Ben,

    I honestly wish that I could add something of substance. But, as usuall, you are wonderfully exhaustive in your accounts.

    Man, I wish we would have had this kind of access to information, and ability to communicate it, during the Fundamentalist Takeover. Maybe, it would have saved us from a lot of hurt and MIA from Kingdom work. Instead, we’ve continued thru years of irrelevance.


    Tim L. Dahl

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