Two weeks ago I placed a call to SBC President J.D. Greear, whom I have known since 1997 when we both attended Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest, NC. Through the years, we have had a distant but always cordial and fraternal friendship. Our conversations in those early days were about Scripture, preaching, and at times, the convention.

In the past few years, our conversations (albeit infrequent) have been about sundry SBC kerfuffles. One thing I love about JD (and Veronica) is that even when the stress is high and the issues are controversial and conflicted, he always manages to have a cheerful disposition. You can’t be around him long without realizing he loves people…all kinds of people.

One of the highlights of my denominational engagement was in 2006 when I orchestrated the nomination of California pastor and much-loved SBC rabble-rouser, Rev. Wiley Drake. The speech, if we must admit, was the best that has ever been given. My late friend and one of the early advocates for Guidestone’s Mission Dignity ministry, Dr. Bill Dodson of Kentucky was a great sport and executed the speech flawlessly.

Wiley Drake beat J.D. Greear (and Jay Adkins) on the first ballot, thereafter earning the consternation of the SBC Executive Committee as he routinely mailed letters to political leaders far and wide on letterhead he’d created himself, improperly utilizing the convention’s official logo, of course.

The downside of helping get Wiley elected was that I had to work against my friend, J.D. Greear. He took it in stride, and we’ve shared plenty of laughs about it through the years.

But our phonecall the other day had a more stern tone.

I’d called J.D., against my better judgment perhaps, to let him know what I was planning to do on Tuesday afternoon in Nashville.

SBC Bylaw 10 (On the election of officers and voting) stipulates that only one (1) speech may be given for each nominee to convention office, and that speech may not exceed three (3) minutes.

It was my plan, and was until this morning, to go to the microphone during the first election of officers and make a nomination. It would have gone something like this:

ME: “Mr. President, I am Benjamin Cole, a messenger from Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, TX. Before I make my nomination, I put a parliamentary inquiry to the chair. SBC Bylaw 10 stipulates that no more than one speech may be given for each nominee, and that speech may not exceed 3 minutes. Do I understand the bylaw correctly?”

JD: “The chair advises the messengers that Bylaw 10 does stipulate exactly that.”

ME: “Thank you, Mr. President. I nominate Mike Stone of Georgia.”

At that point, I would just walk away from the microphone.

The result, of course, would have been that Mike Stone’s preferred nominator would have been legally barred from giving a second speech for Rev. Stone, unless the messengers voted to suspend the rules.

JD laughed for a moment, and then got quiet.

“Ben, what am I supposed to do with that?”

”Your job is to enforce the rules, JD. You’ll have to decide if you are going to do that, or if you’re going to break them.”

”But I don’t think what you have proposed is fair to Mike Stone. I want to ask you NOT to do that.”

”What won’t be fair is when you break the Bylaws to let Mike Stone have two nomination speeches and none of the other candidates to have the same.”

”I’m still going to ask you to stand down,” JD said.

We ended the call, and I went on with my day. A handful of friends have learned in recent weeks that I was planning such a parliamentary hijack. Everyone has laughed.

It then became a running joke. I thought about wearing a MAGA hat, or a Confederate lapel pin. I thought about wearing a face mask that read “Come and Take It” or was emblazoned with the Jolly Rogers.

But early this morning, I decided JD was right.

This election needs to be straight down the middle, fair and square. No monkeying around with the rules, and no abuse of the rules to score a momentary parliamentary advantage.

Messengers arriving at the Music City Center this morning do not know who is going to win the election, or any of the associated ballot votes that will be put to us.

But we can have absolute confidence that JD is going to play it straight. No favoritism. No shenanigans. No funny business.

If my instincts are right (and they usually are), the convention is about to behold the closest thing we’ve seen to Adrian Rogers command of the platform in 1987, 88.

And that, dear readers, is the kind of leader J.D. is. He loves his friends, but he’s not afraid to tell them he thinks they are wrong.

It would have been a CORRECT application of the bylaws to do what I planned, but it would have been an UNCHARITABLE appropriation of the parliamentary rules to do that to Mike Stone.

If he wins today, we hope next year he will be just as fair to others as JD has been to him, even when he had no clue.

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