What Will Wiley Do….next?

Check out ABP’s new article on our 2nd Vice President, Wiley Drake. I can’t say that I would do things just like Wiley has, but I can certainly say that I’m enjoying the sense of humor that Wiley has about his convention role. I’ve received more than a few phonecalls in recent weeks from people asking me to “get Wiley under control.”

But we’ve had too much control for too long in the SBC. No Baptist minister worth his ordination certificate would try to control a man’s voice, or his prayer life, or his church, or his trustees, or his blog. And while Wiley is giving some folks headaches for his “irrepressibility,” I’m loving that somebody is out there reminding everybody that Baptists are a bunch with diverse personalities and a common commitment to making a difference for the Kingdom.

You may not like Wiley…but you gotta love him.

Our 2nd Vice President…

Late yesterday afternoon, I received a phonecall from the 2nd Vice President of the Southern Baptist Convention. Wiley Drake and I have been distant friends for several years, but in the past two years we have enjoyed greater fellowship.

Wiley is a character. Of that there is little doubt. He’s the only person other than ERLC President Richard Land who walks around the convention hall year after year wearing a radio headset, holding a microphone, and doing live broadcasts for his own talk show.  One day several weeks ago I decided to call in to Wiley’s show, completely ignorant of the day’s topic. Wiley was doing a show that day on the problems of gluttony in Christian churches, and he was spending a good bit of time sharing his reviews of various diets that had helped him start to get control of his own weight.

Most people know Wiley because of his resolutions, or microphone antics, or his flag-waving, Minute-Men supporting, Clinton-bashing, Disney-boycotting ways. For ten years, that is how I knew him.

But I’ve come to know him differently.

I first decided to get to know Wiley more personally when I read about all that he had done to help the homeless and hungry of Los Angeles, CA. They say a prophet is without honor in his own hometown, but Wiley seems to have bucked the trend. He’s ridiculed by many elites across the convention, but around Los Angeles, the dopers and drunks and hookers and homeless love him. Wiley is a true friend of sinners. He feeds them when they’re hungry. He clothes them when they’re naked. He gives them a place to rest when the burdens of the world have weighed them down heavy-laden.

When Wiley Drake discovered that a prominent denominational executive had experienced a recent tragedy in his family, he did not hesitate. He picked up his phone and called the man to express his sympathy and promise his prayers. When Wiley hears about a strung-out crack addict lying on the curb outside his church, he takes out the door with a blanket and lifts them up and helps them come down. He is not intimidated by kings, and he is not affronted by paupers.

This week, our 2nd Vice President is visiting San Antonio, Texas, the site of next year’s Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting. He’s there to prayer walk the city and meet fellow pastors. He’s there to spend some time at a crisis pregnancy center, and tell boys and girls in afterschool programs about Jesus. All of this Wiley is doing at his own expense, simply because he believes God has called him to serve.

When Wiley finished telling me about his flight delays and travel frustrations getting there, I asked him where he was staying.

A homeless shelter, he tells me.

So while we are blogging and caucusing and converging and declaring on and on about the problems in the Southern Baptist Convention — while we are posturing and politicking and pontificating about ways to solve them — one man is sleeping in a Salvation Army shelter with the kind of people Jesus came to save.

I think the SBC would be better off if there were more Wiley Drakes and fewer of the rest of us.

Reflections on the Executive Cmte Meeting

This past Monday and Tuesday marked the first meeting of the SBC Executive Committee since Frank Page took office in June. I arrived in Nashville on Monday morning, and checked into one of two hotels hosting trustees, convention executives, and visitors. The Executive Committee meeting is like a micro-convention of Southern Baptists. Everybody who is anybody is there, as well as a few nobodies like Art Rogers, Marty Duren, and me. Mingling around the hotel lobbies are presidents of SBC institutions, their vice presidents, and Executive Committee trustees.

When I pulled into the porte cochere of the desperately dated Holiday Inn Express, I observed the chairman of the NAMB trustees standing at the entrance, talking on his cellular phone. I’ve always liked Bill Curtis, ever since my earliest days at Southeastern Seminary. Our first and only visit occurred on the evening I was to preach for my homiletics course. My professor and Patterson son-in-love, Mark Howell, was absent on the night of my sermon. His replacement, and thus the man who graded my sermon, was Bill Curtis, who was working at that time on his PhD at the seminary. After the evening was over, Bill asked that I walk back to his office with him, and along the way offered extra encouragement and advice for honing my preaching art. We have not visited since that night, but one has a way of remembering such investments.

The first session of the Executive Committee meeting began with a preaching challenge offered by ExComm Vice President Kenyn Cureton, followed by a roll-call of trustees in attendance. Most seats were full, though a few convention notables were absent. Jack Graham (TX) was absent due to a preaching assignment. Georgia pastor Earnest Easley of Roswell Street Baptist Church was absent his first meeting, and Roger Moran of Missouri stayed home to be with his son, who has suffered serious injuries from a horseback riding incident.

All but one of the entity executives were there, and some came with more than adequate representation. Phil Roberts and Danny Akin, Al Mohler and Jeff Iorg all came to the meetings without their wives. Chuck Kelley was accompanied by his wife, Rhonda Harrington Kelley. Paige Patterson was joined by the behatted first lady of Southwestern, Dorothy, as well his provost, Craig Blaising, his Vice President for Development Mike Hughes (who also was joined by his wife), Malcolm Yarnell, a professor and dean at the seminary, and his personal attache. Richard Land was there, invoking God’s blessing on America, as was Roy Fish, the interim president at the North America Mission Board. Thom Rainer took a seat in the very back of the room, sitting alone and quiet for most of the meeting. Jerry Rankin was in Korea, doing the work of an evangelist and busying himself in the harvest fields.

Frank Page was there, of course, joined by his 2nd Vice President, Wiley Drake of California. At the beginning of the meeting, Page invited Wiley to sit by him, which he did…for the rest of the week. In fact, while most observers in the gallery seating were afforded the comfort of both armrests, Frank Page was obliged to sit with his arms folded for most of the meeting because Wiley understood the invitation to “sit by him” to mean “right by him.” Of course, I teased Wiley at length about his suffocating our convention president.

I didn’t notice any African-Americans or Hispanics among the trustees. There were a few women.

When the plenary sessions began, it was immediately clear that the Executive Committee knows what it is doing. The trustees run the meeting like a well-oiled machine. Absent are the parliamentary gaffes and lapses in decorum that I observed last year at the IMB under Chairman Hatley’s leadership. Votes are clean and neat. Motions are clear and concise. Trustees are demonstrably aware of the weight of their responsibility.

There are no trustee forums at the Executive Committee used to harrangue the staff or discuss pertinent convention business behind closed doors. There are no executive sessions used to shield the board’s activities from public scrutiny. All committee meetings are open for observers, and the trustees are approachable and open to dialogue between sessions.

In the coming months, the Executive Committee will have to determine how best to respond to the McKissic letter requesting a study of the BFM2000. However they respond, Southern Baptists may have the confidence that the committee will do its job with an open ear and a steady hand. Seminary presidents are already positioning themselves for opposition to any tinkering with the BFM2000. Some of them are intentional about efforts to pin the whole McKissic matter on yours truly, about which assertions I shall post in short order.

The only person I had hoped to visit during the trip to Nashville that I did not get to visit is a new trustee from North Carolina, replacing former NC convention president Greg Mathis of Hendersonville. Stephen Rummage was my professor for an advanced homiletics course, and I had the privilege of serving as his grader during my final semester in seminary. He serves currently as the preaching pastor at Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte, NC, and he is the chief organizer of a meeting scheduled to occur in a few days in Orlando, FL. This meeting of “next generation” Southern Baptist leaders could become newsworthy in the next week, so I had hoped to ask him about it. Rummage is an incredibly gifted preacher with an affable disposition and a keen mind. He has been kind to me over these many years, even going an extra mile to defend me on occasions when I needed it most. Without a doubt, he is a true “younger leader,” which is more than can be said for many who claim the moniker or disparage those who are thus described.