The Southern Baptist Convention has arrived at a moment that was unforeseen one year ago. Leaderless for twelve months, and seemingly rudderless, the institution charged with acting on behalf of the convention in between annual meetings has devolved into confusion. Consider a few events of recent weeks:
- Responding to back channel expressions of frustration from a handful of megachurch pastors that SBC President J.D. Greear publicly stated that 10 churches — including Second Baptist in Houston — warranted inquiry into the handlings of sexual abuse claims, the EC Bylaw Workgroup (1) rebuked Greear in a half-baked statement that (2) prematurely exonerated at least one Southern Baptist Church and (3) claimed no authority to undertake the very action they were reporting.
- At the insistence of EC Chairman Mike Stone and with the blessing of Augie Boto, the Bylaw Workgroup approved a poorly-worded and structurally ill-advised constitutional amendment which, if approved by 2/3 majority of messengers in two consecutive annual meetings, serves to permanently empower the Executive Committee to take actions it is woefully inadequate to perform. If allowed to come to the floor of the convention in June, it is unlikely the amendment will receive the required 2/3 majority vote. (More on that tomorrow)
- EC leadership — including acting president Augie Boto — communicated with pastors of churches named in the Houston Chronicle stories and, in at least one instance, apologized to the pastor of a church with a confessed child molester serving in a senior ministry position. The pastor of that church has now publicly repented of his actions and asked forgiveness. The executive director of the Georgia Baptist Convention has likewise apologized for his hasty statements in support of the church. Meanwhile, no clarifying statement or transparent account of Augie Boto and Mike Stone’s actions have been offered.
- The Bylaw Workgroup — led by former chairman Ken Alford — cobbled together a preliminary report on ten SBC churches that is now nakedly inaccurate and negligent. Alford resigned — citing his own sensed inability to lead the effort — and now acting Chairman of the Bylaw Workgroup is Mark Ballard, a graduate of the Criswell College who continues to give Paige Patterson a platform and have him lecture at the Northeastern Baptist College, where Ballard serves as president. Additionally, a former Southwestern Seminary professor who was terminated, in part, because of actions that violated the confidentiality of a sex abuse victim, now serves as a trustee of Ballard’s school. (page 80).
Meanwhile, the presidential search team has yet to name their candidate, whom EC Chairman Mike Stone claimed is “God’s man.” Augie Boto has fallen deafly quiet, while officers of the Executive Committee openly question the prudence of the direction taken by Chairman Stone. In short, there is reason for EC members to express disappointment — even anger — that they were asked to act on good faith that the Bylaw Workgroup had done due diligence, only to realize now that hasty and premature actions were recommended for consideration by the convention. Meanwhile, the workgroup was issuing ill-advised statements that further confound efforts to deal effectively with sex abuse in the Southern Baptist Convention.
If Mike Stone were a physician, he could be subject to a malpractice claim. If Augie Boto were a lawyer. . . well never mind. (Keep in mind, Augie has had more than 10 years to develop a plan to deal with scenarios that are now playing out.) Either the EC’s disastrous actions of recent weeks are the intended product of Augie’s 10-year plan — in which case he is incompetent — or there was no plan at all, in which case he is still incompetent. You cannot blame Mike Stone — who was trained as a music minister — for his seeming inability to grasp the problematic consequences of his proposed actions. But Southern Baptists should certainly ask some hard questions about what Augie’s been thinking.
Nevertheless, the convention needs to find a prudent path forward. How may the Executive Committee take action before messengers arrive in Birmingham to foster clarity, certainty, unity, and integrity as the convention grapples with a crisis of its own making? Short of replacing the EC’s senior leadership — including its general counsel — and electing a different board chairman (which it will have opportunity to do in June anyway), what are the options?
Or more simply stated, what can Mike Stone do in the final months of his current chairmanship to restore confidence in the Executive Committee’s actions? We see three necessary steps:
- The Executive Committee Bylaw Workgroup needs a new chairman who was not party to its prior actions. Simply put, no person who signed off on the disastrous “preliminary report” regarding sex abuse should be asked to formulate an action plan going forward. Mark Ballard must not become chairman of the Bylaw Workgroup. Chairman Mike Stone must, as a first action item, name a new chairman of the workgroup. We would support whole heartedly the selection of Robyn Hari of Brentwood, TN, to serve as chairperson of the newly organized workgroup.
- The newly-configured workgroup must rescind its preliminary report without prejudice and issue a new, straightforward statement that the Bylaw Workgroup is working with SBC President J.D. Greear and the Sexual Abuse Presidential Advisory Council to consider all options for effectively and efficiently addressing the issue of sex abuse, including but not limited to appropriate amendments to the SBC’s governing documents. The workgroup must vote to request the full board rescind the current proposal to amend the SBC Constitution that was drafted and promoted by EC Chairman Mike Stone. Augie Boto should recuse himself from all participation in this course of action, and SBC Attorney Jim Guenther — who represents the convention and not just the Executive Committee — should be asked to provide necessary legal counsel.
- Once the matters of the constitutional amendment and the preliminary report have been resolved, the Bylaw Workgroup should prepare for consideration by the Executive Committee at its June meeting a bylaw amendment that stands up the SBC Credentials Committee as a permanent, standing committee of the convention. Such an amendment would bring the SBC’s governing documents up-to-date with demands on the committee, expand the committee’s role to address numerous issues affecting convention participation, preclude the need for a two-year vote to amend the SBC constitution, prevent a floor vote that would be framed as a referendum on the Executive Committee’s recent failures, and provide an appropriate mechanism to begin establishing sound, proactive protocols to maintain standards of confessional and ministry integrity among Southern Baptist churches.
In tomorrow’s post, we will explore #3 at length.
2 thoughts on “It’s not too late for the EC to do the right thing…”
When one drives some tortuous route to some faraway destination, it will take as long and be just as tortuous to get back home, as it was to get there.
It occurs to me that such may be the case with the situation the SBC has gotten itself into.
This analysis is brilliant.
Looking forward to the detailed explanation of #3. Hopefully, it isn’t too late.
I learned a long time ago during my service at the IMB that SBC leaders tend to act first and think later. Trustees should know that once actions are in-acted it’s hard to get them un-acted. It’s like spilling oil on the garage floor and then attempting to get it back in the can.