Birmingham Preview Part 1: The Executive Committee


Over the next two weeks as Southern Baptists prepare to gather in Birmingham for the annual convention, The Baptist Blogger will publish a series of reflections about each SBC entity. Having carefully reviewed the 2019 SBC Book of Reports and the appendices with accompanying financial statements, we are confident that Southern Baptists are at a moment of tremendous opportunity.

But that moment of opportunity coincides with the perilous chance that we get it wrong, that we miss the moment and rather than coalescing around the most compelling articulation of our missionary mandate since Bold Mission Thrust, we further Balkanize and fracture.

In short, we will either prove that a cult of personality loosely described as the Patterson-Pressler coalition was the unifying feature of the conservative resurgence, or we will affirm not only in word but in deed that Christ — who is himself the focus of divine revelation —  is Lord.

We will either merely preach — both as men and women — the gospel that is above all, or we will live it and charitably bind ourselves together in pursuit of holiness, humility, truth, justice, and mercy.


The Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention was without competent leadership for more than a year, and it showed on an almost weekly basis. Nevertheless, most of the trains have kept running on time, which is more a testimony to the genius of our polity than a commendation of the Executive Committee’s interim leadership.

There will likely be at least one motion about Baptist Press — which needs serious reorganization and some clarification about its role as either public relations machine for the Executive Committee and its newly elected president, as a news service providing Southern Baptists with partial information, or as a professional media arm of the entire Southern Baptist Convention and its entities that seeks to help the world better understand who we are and what we do as a people of faith.

The 2019 Book of Reports includes information regarding two items of most pertinent interest as it relates to the work of the Executive Committee.  First, the EC will report to the convention how it has addressed the repeated concerns of messengers about inadequate trustee training and orientation.  Our suspicion is that the committee’s action — a minor addition to the SBC’s organizational manual — will not satisfy the messengers who have persistently asked for a more robust and unified process to help newly elected trustees better understand their governance role and equip them to act more prudently on behalf of the convention’s churches.

Second, and more problematic, is the Executive Committee’s apparent determination to proceed with an ill-advised and clunky amendment to the SBC’s constitution. Specifically, the Book of Reports offers no indication that the Bylaw Workgroup or the trustee officers understand the bungled job they’ve done with respect to the investigation of clergy sexual abuse. For more than ten years, the Executive Committee had a chance to prove that they are competent, cautious, and consistent, yet they failed.

Then, this past February, the trustee chairman — aided and advised by the Executive Committee’s acting CEO — pushed through the committee significant changes to the SBC constitution.  The reasons the current trajectory is foolish are many, and if the current proposed language gets to the floor, we are confident they will become a catalyst for the amendment’s defeat. Indeed, the entire discussion — as presently scheduled — will prove confusing, disruptive, and ultimately weaken the Executive Committee’s position and sully its reputation.

So let’s face it, the current amendment will struggle to receive more than 2/3 vote in two consecutive conventions to change the constitution.

Struggle is putting it mildly.  It will fail. Period.

There is a better way, and we are hopeful that the new executive committee president has brought some sensible recalibration to the way Southern Baptists address this matter in Birmingham. Southern Baptists do not have to strip the convention messengers, the elected convention leadership, or an appropriate standing committee of the convention from instituting a fair, thorough, and efficient process of addressing the ongoing participation of churches who fail to protect innocence in their midst.

Finally, there is one other matter that should be considered in Birmingham, and likely will be brought to the floor.

Ten years ago this June, Southern Baptists asked the convention president — at the time, Johnny Hunt of Georgia — to appoint a task force to consider “how Southern Baptists can work more faithfully and effectively together in serving Christ through the Great Commission.” That motion was made by Dr. Albert Mohler, and it passed overwhelmingly.

For more than a year, that task force did its work under the leadership of its chairman, Dr. Ronnie Floyd, and brought its recommendations to the 2010 annual convention in Orlando. Ten years later — again we will be in Orlando —  it seems appropriate that Southern Baptists ask the Executive Committee to assess whether or not the recommendations that grew out of that process have been successful.

And who better than Dr. Floyd, who is now the president of the Executive Committee, to lead the effort in evaluating whether the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force’s recommendations have succeeded in achieving their stated purpose. A good place to start looking for answers to that question might be the recent report from the Annual Church Profiles.

Tomorrow evening, we will consider the International Mission Board’s annual report.

The bee in Owen’s bonnet

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Dr. Owen Strachan, associate professor of Christian theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, is very concerned about church order and protecting the flock of God. The responsibility of the teaching and preaching ministry of the gathered church, according to Dr. Strachan (and the Apostle Paul, we might add), must be shouldered exclusively by those who are biblically qualified.

Which is why, according to Dr. Strachan, the biggest crisis facing the Southern Baptist Convention are the hundreds of ordained sexual predators, rapists, and pedophiles who have been teaching and preaching to God’s people on the Lord’s Day.

Oh. Wait. That isn’t what he said, is it?

No, regrettably, it’s not.

Rather, at a time when Southern Baptists are facing the ugliest, nastiest, most disturbing revelations about the careless handling of sex abuse, the hasty ordination of sexual perverts, and a systemic failure to protect innocence, Dr. Strachan has climbed onto his little platform to denounce with all Boanergian thunder Beth Moore, of all people.

In fairness, it is possible the screams of child victims aren’t heard as clearly at the altitude of sixty five inches.

Indeed, the tone-deafness evidenced in Owen’s latest broadside on women is not just mystifying, it is reprehensible and should be roundly condemned by every thinking Baptist. That any theologian living off the Cooperative Program could survey the ecclesiastic scene at this moment and decide that now was the time to whine about a godly, gifted Southern Baptist teacher exercising her proclamatory calling is worthy of the strongest reproof.

Instead, he’s been given some degree of cover for these ill-timed musings by those who should know better.

This is not to say that Owen’s fringe views are not worthy of consideration, even debate, in the Southern Baptist Convention. To be sure, he is a gifted writer; even an articulate, if curious representative of that narrow slice of Southern Baptist life where the Danvers Statement and the Baptist Faith & Message don’t adequately put women in their place.

But his views, so long as he does not attempt to squeeze Southern Baptists’ confessional framework to make these tertiary aberrations normative, are no threat. In fact, listening to Dr. Strachan expound on themes of masculinity and manliness can be amusing. Particularly when he’s all coifed up with designer hair products and besuited in his best gingham shirts and fancy plaid jackets.

Upon his election to the Midwestern faculty, Dr. Strachan was touted as “a serious man” who would lead a “serious center” that would engage the most “serious and urgent theological and cultural issues of our generation.”

Which prompts the question: is this what a serious scholar does?  Is Beth Moore’s speaking at a church on the Lord’s Day one of the “most serious and urgent” issues of our generation?

But Owen Strachan has a bee in his little Baptist bonnet, and now the convention is buzzing.

Hopefully, by the time we get to Birmingham, other “serious” scholars will address the more “serious issues” that threaten our collective witness and perpetuate cycles of abuse in our churches. And Dr. Strachan can go back to the serious work he was actually hired to do.