More election analysis . . .

I’ve already written how this year’s Southern Baptist Convention saw the lowest number of votes cast for SBC President since the Conservative Resurgence began in 1979.  After watching the video today of Rev. Bill Dodson’s 2006 nomination speech for Wiley Drake to serve as the convention’s second vice president, I decided to look up some more numbers.

wiley-drake3In 2006, Wiley Drake was nominated for the SBC’s 2nd Vice Presidency, a largely powerless position with mere titular significance.  Also that year, Southeastern Seminary President Daniel Akin nominated the Rev. J.D. Greear for the same position. A colorado minister, Bob Bender, and a pastor from Louisiana were also nominated.  The vote occurred at approximately 6:45 PM ET during the Tuesday evening session.

Like the election for Frank Page to be SBC President, the 2nd vice presidential election was decided on the first ballot.  Wiley Drake of Buena Park, Calif., received 2,408 votes for 50.37 percent.  North Carolina pastor J.D. Greear received 1,508 votes for 31.69 percent, while Bob Bender received 13.34 percent and Jay Adkins receive 4.39 percent.  Here’s the graph:


So, in essence, Wiley Drake received 575 more votes to be 2nd Vice President of the Southern Baptist Convention in 2006 than this year’s winning nominee received to be SBC President.  Unlike the new SBC President, Wiley Drake was never afforded a denomination-sponsored press conference to talk about the humbling experience of having been chosen to serve by a majority of messengers.  In fact, then SBC Executive Committee Vice President for Convention News, Will Hall, refused to publish an op-ed that Wiley wrote about the 2nd Vice Presidency.

I happen to have a copy of that op-ed in my files, and I figure now is as good a time as any to publish the op-ed Baptist Press didn’t want you to read:

The Second Vice Presidency
As submitted to Baptist Press on Oct 6, 2006.
By Wiley Drake

This past June, messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention chose to elect me as their 2nd Vice President. I have to confess that I believed my chances of winning to be equal to those of a three-legged nag winning the Kentucky Derby, but somehow in the providence of God my fellow Southern Baptists elected me on the first ballot.

I’ve never really thought that the 2nd Vice Presidency was much of a job. In fact, I’ve missed more votes for the office than I’ve made in the last twenty years. And when I did vote, I seldom knew any of the candidates personally. It always seemed that a local pastor, often an ethnic minority, was nominated for the job. Likewise, it always seemed that the best nomination speech secured the victory.

People have been telling me since June that I was elected because they thought I represented “the little guy” in the Southern Baptist Convention, and because the nomination speech given by my friend Bill Dodson of Kentucky was a classic moment of comic-relief. Whatever the case, I’m both honored and humbled by the election, and I am eager to serve Southern Baptists wherever and however I can.

But the job of 2nd Vice President doesn’t have any responsibilities. There are no guidelines. There are no qualifications. There are no expectations. Basically, as I’ve watched over the years, the 2nd Vice President gets to hold the gavel at the annual convention for a few minutes, maybe offer a prayer, and then he takes his seat on the platform. If things stay the same, I’ll probably have less time at a microphone as a convention officer than I have had as the “convention gadfly” or “Mr. Resolution,” as some media outlets have labeled me.

So without any job description to direct me, I’m left with no option but to create one on my own. The 2nd Vice President should be a servant role to the convention, not an honorary title. He should be a prayer warrior for convention causes, and the most faithful advocate of our missionaries. He should encourage pastors and reach souls. He should lead his church before he tries to lead the convention, feed the hungry before he feeds his ego, and listen before he speaks.

This year I’m hoping to change the way Southern Baptists think about the 2nd Vice Presidency. I hope to wear out my shoe leather in San Antonio Crossover events. I hope to prayer walk the convention site, asking for a new outpouring of God’s Spirit on our annual meeting. I have vowed to the Lord that I will lift up our president, Frank Page, every day until San Antonio, asking God to give him wisdom and grace to lead our convention. I want to do everything I can to wrap my arms around this world and embrace the down and out with life-changing power of the gospel.

The 2nd Vice President of the Southern Baptist Convention may be third in line to lead the denomination, but I want to be first in line to pray for God’s blessing, to encourage people to be interested and involved in convention work, and to extend God’s helping hand to folks who need a cool drink of water in Jesus’ name.

So if Southern Baptists think of it as they pray for our convention and its president, I hope that sometime they might send up a prayer for me, and for every small church pastor out there who’s trying to make a difference for the Kingdom with the small tools and the insignificant titles that God has given him.



Al Mohler’s gamble . . .

Today was Ronnie Floyd’s big day, one he’s been planning for a long, long time. Even in the press conference following his election to the Southern Baptist Convention presidency — within a few short hours, if that — Floyd disclosed that he had already begun planning travel to new work areas. He’s wanted this moment.

He’s anticipated it. He’s worked to secure it.

He even had a little iPad on hand to read prepared remarks at the opening and closing of his press conference. Screen Shot 2014-06-11 at 12.22.47 AM

So it is, that in the year of our Lord 2014, on the tenth day of June in Baltimore, Md., the Reverend Ronnie Floyd of Northwest Arkansas was chosen by 1,834 messengers of the Southern Baptist Convention to serve one year as their president.

Thus, we at Baptist Blogger find ourselves wanting to borrow the signature salutation of the Washington Post’s Chris Cilizza, who concludes his regular column, “The Worst Week in Washington,” with these words:

“Congrats, or something.”

So now for the election breakdown.

As of the time of voting this morning, 5,001 convention messengers were registered. To win, Floyd needed 50 percent of all ballots cast, plus one.  Apart from 63 disqualified ballots — usually due to mismarking or other messenger error — there were 3,490 ballots counted.  That means a voter turnout to elect the next SBC President was a little more than 71 percent.

Floyd took 51.62 percent (1,834 votes) to Maryland pastor Dennis Kim’s 40.7 percent (1,446 votes), in a three way race.

Not bad, right? Not so fast.

Let’s look at some history.

In 2010, the last time there was a seriously contested election for SBC President (Florida’s Ted Traylor versus the winner, Atlanta-area pastor Bryant Wright), the voter turnout for the run-off election was close at 69.7 percent.  And that was a run-off, which usually gets lower turnout because they are not scheduled and messengers must be on the convention floor to cast a ballot at the time of the run-off election.  In the end, Wright got 4,425 votes to Traylor’s 3,371 — or 55.11 percent.

Or put another way, Bryant Wright received 2,591 more votes in a contested run-off election four years ago than Ronnie Floyd received in Baltimore today. In fact, the other candidate, Ted Traylor, received 1,537 more votes in the 2010 runoff than Floyd did this year in his own three-way race, and still lost that year’s election. But enough about Bryant Wright.

Let’s look back a little further.

In 2008, the Southern Baptist Convention met in Indianapolis, Ind.  Another Atlanta-area pastor, Johnny Hunt, faced his own six-way race to become the next SBC President. At the time of voting, there were 7,196 registered messengers and 5,586 ballots cast for a 77.6 percent voter turnout. Of those, Hunt won 52.94 percent of the vote (3,100 votes) — enough to avoid a run-off election entirely. Incidentally, he was nominated by Florida pastor Ted Traylor, mentioned above.

And just for fun, let’s go back to the last time Ronnie Floyd was in the running for president (nominated by no less than Johnny Hunt). The year was 2006, and it was another three-way race. There were 11,639 registered messengers, with 8,961 ballots cast for SBC President. Voter turnout was 76.99 percent. South Carolina Pastor Frank Page — now President of the SBC Executive Committee — received 4,546 votes, or 50.48 percent, also enough to avoid a run-off.

Ronnie Floyd received 2,247 votes (24.95 percent), and then pastor of Nashville’s Two-Rivers Baptist Church, Jerry Sutton, received 2,168 votes (24.08 percent).

So what’s my point with all this math?

Today, Ronnie Floyd received 413 more votes than Dennis Kim, which means that 207 votes could have swung the election the other way, assuming the third candidate received the same number of votes and no additional messengers cast ballots.

Still, a decent win. But comparatively, the vote might be a little harder to swallow.

Consider this: Ronnie Floyd received 334 fewer votes this year to become SBC President than Jerry Sutton — the 2006 third-place losing candidate received the last time Floyd was on the ballot.  And he received 413 fewer votes than he himself received in 2006, meaning the number of people who supported him this year over Dennis Kim is the exact same number of fewer people that supported Floyd the last time he ran for SBC President — and lost.

So in winning today’s vote, Ronnie Floyd actually lost votes compared to the last time he ran and lost. And it’s by the exact same number of votes — 413.

That’s just fascinating. Here’s a chart that shows my point. (Click to enlarge)


Here’s why I think Ronnie Floyd should take today’s election very, very lightly.

It was the lowest voter turnout in a contested SBC Presidential election in the last 8 years.

He received fewer votes from SBC messengers than he received in 2006, when he lost.

He received fewer votes from SBC messengers this year than every other major losing candidate has since 2006.

In fact, Ronnie Floyd is the only man to win a contested election to be SBC President with less than 3000 votes since the beginning of the Conservative Resurgence. (Click on the chart to enlarge)

Screen Shot 2014-06-11 at 1.42.43 AM

Ronnie Floyd said in today’s press conference that he was “blessed and extremely humbled” to be chosen by Southern Baptists. I’m not sure the SBC Presidency can be called a blessing, but given the way the numbers shake out there’s good reason to be humble.


So why do I call it Al Mohler’s gamble?

Because there has been near unanimity among Southern Baptists that Al Mohler is their most articulate, most intelligent, most persuasive, and most formidable figure.

He’s theologian, politician, statesman and strategist. And yet, this is the outcome?

Al Mohler doesn’t strike me as a man who likes to play in the little leagues. He’s never really seemed like a man who enjoys small wins or razor margins.

So today his candidate won, but in winning, he may have lost.

Whether or not today’s election proves pyrrhic for Mohler — winning the election but losing that sense among Southern Baptists that you’re their heaviest hitter — will become apparent in time.


Baltimore . . . and then some.

There’s this great section in Jean Paul Sartre’s autobiography where he reflects on a childhood experience that ended with a burn on his grandmother’s bathroom carpet, a torrent of profanity, and a look in the mirror.  It was that moment, Sartre writes, that he left God behind:

“You ask me if I ever think of God? I think of him like an old beau thinks about a belle from his childhood. You always wonder what might have been.”

To some degree, that’s what I felt like today walking around the Baltimore Convention Center as a few thousand Southern Baptists milled among various tents and tabernacles in the Exhibit Hall, in and out of the Preacherpalooza that is now a shadow of the former glory once known as the Southern Baptist Pastor’s Conference.

I was nostalgic, but not wistful. Thoroughly grateful for the years that have passed, and equally grateful that their number is set. I was happy to see old friends, and interested to make new ones.

I found some things funny, some things peculiar, some things pleasant, and some things sad.


The music is just awful, and when you hear it thumping and droning fresh for the first time in years, you realize why men like Jerry Vines and Fred Wolfe prefer to kick up their heels in the Hilton hotel lobby and visit  instead of enduring the awful unappealing din of contemporary Christian worship songs. At some point, I swear the praise team was backmasking an old Carmen song.

But what I find funny is this. The central element in Southern Baptist worship is the proclaimed word. It is, after all, supposed to be a Preacher’s conference.  But during the preaching, there is constant motion, constant noise.  People are walking around, talking with each other, coming and going.

But when somebody says, “Let’s pray,” the motion comes to a complete stop.  It’s like the only time you can’t walk or talk is when somebody on stage is praying.

Reading Scripture? What the heck, go ahead and talk on your cell phone.

Somebody’s preaching? Sure, talk to your buddy about last night’s dinner.

But somebody prays? Full stop.

What I find funny is that Southern Baptists got all hung up a few years ago about prayer walking. But now, it’s like ministerial multitasking no longer exists during intercessions of one form or another.  If I was running the Pastor’s Conference, I’d have some fun with that, like having the convention center crew remove a few seats every time somebody prays so the end result would be like musical chairs.

Except only like 1/4th of the chairs are being used anyway.

I also thought it would have been funny to shell out a few hundred bucks and get some local students from the Baltimore School for the Arts to dress up as Pashtun tribesmen, carry their prayer rugs right into the Exhibit Hall, and conduct their ritual salat at the Southwestern Seminary booth.


Why was there a giant Transformer?

And who let Tom Ascol and his Founders cousins have a booth this year?

And where can a guy get his hands on a student newsletter from Cedarville University?


O.S. Hawkins is a class act.  Always has been.

Frank Page handles awkward moments with grace. Like when his Executive Board Chairman announces to a packed room that the reason the meeting hasn’t started is because the ExComm President is late. Yeah, that time.

And the lonely little lady in the prayer room by herself who is quietly sitting there with a stack of prayer cards in her hand, going through them one by one.

Or the fact that more and more people are wearing jeans, without ties, and that pointy pocket squares are increasingly absent.

Or that Danny Akin’s toothy grin is authentic.

Or that a handful of people still remember that time you helped Wiley Drake get elected 2nd Vice President.  And they still laugh about his nomination speech.


At some point in the afternoon, my iPhone battery died. In desperate need of a charger, I went to the Hilton concierge to see if they might have one.  Standing there in front of me was a man who could look like hundreds of other men at the Southern Baptist Convention.

He had on a Hawaiian shirt. He was wearing ill-fitted, pleated chinos with dress shoes.  He had apparently never gotten the memo about mustaches.

So there he was, asking the nice girl at the concierge for restaurant recommendations. He wanted a nice restaurant to take his wife to for their anniversary — at church expense, no doubt.

I read his name badge carefully. I remember his face.

He was quite demanding, though I’ve grown used to that at Conventions. Lots of pastors have it rough, and when they get to the one vacation they have every year they like to splurge, live like the other half, bark orders at waitresses and “the help.”  It helps them feel powerful.  Truth be told, I’ve acted like that more times than I care to admit.

The whole thing was painstaking.  He groomed over the menus she printed. He looked over her shoulder as she typed and at times, he was condescending.  Finally, at long last, she made his reservation and he walked away.

No tip.  None.

And it turns out he wasn’t even staying at the Hilton, but down the street at another hotel.

When he’d walked away, she rolled her eyes at me and said, “I’m really sorry about that.”

But I was the one who was sorry.  And he probably will be if he ever reads this.  Or at least he should be.

The only other thing that seemed sad to me was the talk about the SBC Presidential election tomorrow.  Nobody really cares who the president is anymore, and most people almost pity the guy who gets elected. I suspect Ronnie Floyd will win tomorrow, perhaps on a second ballot.

I worked hard to keep that from happening 8 years ago this month. At the time, it seemed like the SBC Presidency was something worth fighting over.  But a good friend of mine put it like this today:

“It’s like watching two kids fight over a toy truck. At that moment, they both think getting that little truck is the most important thing in the world. But the adults in the room know better.  There’s a whole world out there. Why would you want that one little plastic truck so badly?”

There was a time I cared about who got the little plastic truck.  That I spent so much energy making sure one little boy got it, and not the other, also seems sad.


Baptist Blogger will return for 2014 Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention

283568_10100136555284003_4071397_nThis Tuesday and Wednesday, the Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention will take place in Baltimore just 40 miles away from my home in Washington, D.C. For the remainder of the convention, I’ve re-opened by blog to reflect on the way the convention has changed, the way I have changed, and perhaps offer some perspective that will keep messengers and convention-watchers a little more intrigued about the various politicized machinations that make the SBC what it is Today.

I’ve just had a wonderful dinner at Capital Grille with Wade Burleson and one of his church members, and we’ll rendezvous again tomorrow morning to enjoy some of the pastors conference.  I will be back Tuesday afternoon and evening, and Wednesday.

Looking forward to seeing some old friends and a few hostile fundamentalists here and there.  I mainly intend to use my smart phone and capture images that tell the true story of what goes on behind the curtains at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention.