Here’s the list showing the long line of Calvinistic SBC presidents

It’s looking, sadly, like some in the SBC will be consumed by a hot denominational war over the SBC presidency. A few colleagues have objected to the martial terminology. While I think it is a good fit, in consideration of the sensitivities of the most militant participants, I’ll call it a clerical collar ecclesiastical conflict. That’s the kind where folks in suits smile at you and offer syrupy Christian fellowship platitudes from behind their howitzers.

Since, according to some, our denomination faces a critical moment, a crucial election, the first such of year-after-year-after-year contested elections, I’ll start with the examination of all those presidents who must have stacked trustee boards with non-Trads to the point where we need a drastic course correction.

There’s no question the convention is more Calvinistic than when I first began to follow denominational matters. There’s no question that there is behavior by some Calvinists in the SBC that I have found objectionable. My interest here is in trying to explain how all the entity machinery came to be, as is asserted, excessively Calvinistic. The key to controlling the SBC is the election of presidents, said Paul Pressler decades ago; hence, the Conservative Resurgence and, here we go again.

Have we gotten to the point today where there are too many Calvinist-dominated trustee boards and entities through Calvinistic friendly presidents that the SBC has elected? Here’s the list, and I start with the first prez of the CR, Adrian Rogers:

  1. Adrian Rogers. Nope, not a Cal. In fact, I’ve heard him preach stuff that would set Calvinists’ hair (and beards) on fire.
  2. Bailey Smith. Nope. Have you forgotten his evangelism tours where there were great multitudes of rebaptisms?
  3. Jimmy Draper. Nope.
  4. Charles Stanley. Nope.
  5. Jerry Vines. Nope. Signer of the Traditional Statement that is adopted by not one Baptist body of which I am aware.
  6. Morris Chapman. Nope. As Executive Committee Chairman, he was an early voice against Calvinists in SBC churches.
  7. Ed Young. Nope.
  8. Jim Henry. Nope.
  9. Tom Elliff. Nope. As IMB head, he said the BFM was sufficient.
  10. Paige Patterson. Nope. Singer of the Trad statement. Perhaps the most prominent non-Cal voice in the SBC.
  11. Jim Merritt. Nope.
  12. Jack Graham. Nope.
  13. Bobby Welch. Nope. He had that baptism bus tour that set the Cal beards on fire again.
  14. Frank Page. Nope. He’s got this book, The Trouble with the Tulip, that would probably have gotten him executed in 16th century Geneva.
  15. Johnny Hunt. Nope.
  16. Bryant Wright. Nope. He’s often on the radio near me and I have yet to hear the Cal dog whistle from him.
  17. Fred Luter. Nope. He said that “we [the SBC] have a major, major issue with Calvinism.”
  18. Ronnie Floyd. Nope. A Trad…nominated for SBC president by a Cal. That’s the way we ought to work.
  19. Steve Gaines. Nope. A Trad who is being commended for his appointments by the anti-Cals but whose demeanor and relationship with J. D. Greear is a great example for those who see him as the Great Trad Hope.

So, there’s your list presidents. Not a Calvinist in the bunch.

I will agree that there is some import in this year’s election but that it is from a generational, not theological, viewpoint. My wish for this year’s election and especially for these months preceding it is that Southern Baptists would demonstrate grace, love, and comity…just like we did in 2016.

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For the record, this is strictly my opinion and not that of Dave Miller who is in Africa as I write, and whose hair might be on fire when he gets back and reads this. Neither is it the view of any other of the contributors here. As opinion, it may be worthy of not much more than being drop-kicked into the Mariana Trench and forgotten. Also for the record, I plan to vote for J. D. Greear and have so declared since before he was nominated in 2016. I think highly of Greear for a number of reasons, the same for Ken Hemphill. I think Greear will be a great president, that his appointments will be fair and equitable, that his enthusiasm for evangelism and missions will be positive for the SBC.

Perhaps the Lord will give us another authentic Moment of love and grace at the 2018 Annual Meeting.

 

Quotes of interest to Southern Baptists

Russell Moore, “I think gun control proponents are misguided in trying to persuade others of their position in the way they usually go about it,” Moore wrote in an email. “There are not two sides here about whether shootings should be stopped, laws enforced, and criminality punished, but rather two sides about whether gun control is a prudent way to carry out those common goals.” Source.

J. D. Greear, (from Baptist Press): Among themes Greear would emphasize as SBC president, he wrote, are “the Gospel above all” as the convention’s source of unity; “cultural and racial diversity”; “intentional, personal evangelism”; “church planting”; and “engagement of the next generation in cooperative giving and mission.”

Ken Hemphill: “I think there has been an erosion of how local churches, associations, state conventions, and the national convention really function together in every dimension of the Great Commission,” Hemphill said in an interview.

Russell Moore:  “We live in a fallen world where things are not as they are supposed to be. I turn directly to the cross to show that God is not distant from this evil. He took that upon himself. Jesus also said this is the kind of world you’re in now. The spirit causes us to groan at the world around us.”  Source.

Tommy Green, executive director of the Florida Baptist Convention, stated, “We ask that our Southern Baptist family join us in specific prayer this Sunday for those impacted by this horrific event. Our prayer is for God to grant comfort, mercy, and peace to these families.”

People Sick Of ‘Thoughts And Prayers’ Demand Action After Florida School Shooting. Warning, some foul language in the article.

David Platt,  I have come to the realization that it is not viable long-term for me to lead as president of the IMB while serving as teaching pastor in a church.

Bobbi Ashford, IMB trustee and mother of SEBTS Provost Bruce Ashford, said, “David Platt’s wise and prayerful leadership has brought us safely through some challenging years, and I am grateful that he will remain in his role as IMB President at this time. May Southern Baptists to be devoted to prayer as a search committee is formed to begin the process of searching for David’s future replacement.”

Platt sought to implement his vision of a new IMB, but his short tenure means we will never know if that vision was going to succeedwrote Dave Miller

David Platt, as reported:  “trustee leaders have communicated a desire” [for me] “to serve with the IMB in the future in some capacity.” Platt indicated willingness to do that “if the Lord so leads.”

 

How about telling what your church pays you?

About 14,000 SBC staff did so in the 2016 LifeWay/GuideStone Compensation Study. Take a look at the summary chart. If you as a full time senior pastor had an annual pay package less than $76,492 you were below the SBC average. But don’t get depressed about that. You’re not in it for the money right?

My opinion after following this biennial study (it’s done in even-numbered years) is that it yields numbers that are probably a bit higher than the actual SBC-wide averages and this because most responding churches are larger. Every time I write a piece on the Compensation Study commenters complain that the numbers look a lot higher than their compensation.

Take the 2018 survey. You could win an iPad. If there is just one iPad to be given away (and that’s kinda cheap and shabby, GuideStone and LifeWay, who should give us all an iPad) your odds of winning it are about 1 in 14,000. Beats the lottery odds but SBC clergy aren’t supposed to play that.

Seriously, this is one of the best things LifeWay and GuideStone do. The more responses the better the data. Do it.

Here are a few random nuggets from the 2016 Compensation Study:

  • Somewhere in the SBC there is a church of 25-49 people (Sunday attendance) whose pastor is paid $123,525. Give ’em my resume, please.
  • There’s a church with over 1,000 membership that pays it’s pastor $26,000. Let me guess, serious membership roll-cleaning needed here.
  • There’s a church with a budget between $75,001-$100,000 whose pastor’s total pay package is $134,735. What? Got a huge trust fund? Oil well on church lawn?
  • The lowest paid position for non-senior pastor staff is a music/youth combination. Go figure. You ask someone to do both, practically impossible, and pay ’em less.

Not to worry. All answers are confidential.

Take the survey.

Why the SBC is unlikely to follow the pattern shown in the Olympic doctor sex abuse scandal

The widespread publicity surrounding this scandal cost the leader of Michigan State University her job as well as that of various other MSU and Olympic officials. It is a sad, sordid tale of sex abuse, enabling, cover-ups, and girls victimized by a child sex predator. One of the victims, Rachel Denhollander, is an authentic hero in all this and some were surprised when she said,

It is with deep regret that I say the church is one of the worst places to go for help. That’s a hard thing to say, because I am a very conservative evangelical, but that is the truth. There are very, very few who have ever found true help in the church.

The church? Ouch.

In response to that and other aspects of the scandal Dave Miller brought to this site the opinion that The Church Needs More (and fewer) Rachel Denhollanders in which he outlined his views of the issue of sex abuse and the church and concluded by saying,

We live in a world filled with victims of sexual abuse. Unfortunately, the church is not immune to that. Rachael Denhollander is a wonderful example of how we can respond – upholding the holiness of God, responding with grace and not bitterness, and advocating for the victim.

Also in response to the Olympic gymnast sex abuse scandal Southern Baptist outlets made the point that a Southern Baptist Church [was] at the Center of Sexual Abuse Discussion. The church was a Louisville church and you can listen to the SBC This Week podcast and read the Christianity Today Denhollander interview article for details. It has to do with the Sovereign Grace Ministries sex abuse scandal (multiple links of it and related stories are in CT, here where a statement from Sovereign Grace Churches disputes Denhollander’s remarks. You can read up on that. It is too complicated for this article.

In the wake of the sex abuse scandal involving Roman Catholic priests one of the main victim advocacy organizations, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) targeted the Southern Baptist Convention. More than a decade ago SNAP made this request to the SBC Executive Committee back in 2006 (emphasis mine):

We request that, at the 2007 SBC annual meeting, the SBC Executive Committee seek approval for the establishment of an independent review board as an auxiliary to the SBC, but with adequate and assured funding from the SBC. Its purpose would be to receive and investigate reports of clergy abuse and to arrive at a determination of whether the report should be deemed credible. All reports should be archived, and as part of its investigatory powers, the review board should establish a procedure for notifying people in the pews whenever a report of abuse is made about a minister who worked in their congregation. In this way, the denomination can reach out to other possible victims, allow for the possibility of legitimate denominational investigations, and put parents on notice so that they can talk with their kids. Whenever a report of abuse is deemed credible, the review board would also be responsible for reporting that decision to the people in the pews in every congregation in which the minister has worked. This board should be composed of independent professionals, including non-Baptists, who have extensive experience in dealing with the dynamics of clergy sex abuse and whose careers will not be vulnerable to any sort of political considerations within the denomination. 

Neither the SBC, nor any SBC state convention, nor any SBC Association has ever established an independent review board to receive, investigate, arrive at a determination of such reports credibility, and archive the reports. The SBC Executive Committee’s response to the SNAP request said that “Baptists would never authorize or recognize such a panel if it were composed of people outside their local church” a statement that was true in 2007 and remains true today, I suspect.

Except for those ministers who are employees of our various entities and institutions, no one hires, supervises, and fires church pastors but an individual, autonomous church. No church must have approval of any association, state convention, or the SBC for any minister that they have on their staff. No church is forced to do any evaluation of any prospective staff member nor to contact his or her former churches for references. Churches can be smart about hiring staff, or stupid. With the median church at an attendance of around 70 in worship, I suspect that most are somewhere in between.

As one with daughters and grandaughters who I hope and expect will be involved in SBC churches, I want the SBC to do all that can be done to keep them safe from the miscreants like the Olympic doctor. I’d like to know that my church is doing all they can do in this area but also my Association, State Convention, and all SBC-level agencies and institutions. I don’t think we are doing as well as we could.

Here’s what I observe,

  1. Training, education, and resources for churches on child protection are abundant and available at about evey level of SBC life. No church is forced to do the right and proper thing, though. Only insurance companies have demanded that churches adopt protection policies. I am unaware of any reason why an association, state convention or the SBC could not require the same for “friendly cooperation” although administering this would be difficult, especially at the ‘higher’ levels.
  2. Our publicity outlets, mostly state papers, Baptist Press and a few others are doing what they would not do a decade ago, publicizing news of sex abuse scandals involving SBC churches. Good. No one is helped if we ignore it. They shouldn’t shy away from churches of prominent SBC leaders, either.
  3. The SBC has passed resolutions on sex abuse. State conventions have done this as well. I’m not sure what can be done beyond this but am open to additional measures. Another, more current, resolution would be a positive move.
  4. Our entities must, be more diligent in vetting those whom they recommend to the churches. If there are credible reports of scandal for a minister, he should not be recommended to any church. This is problematic unless there is a confession or conviction.
  5. I join most every suggestion made by Todd Benkert in his recent piece, Before the #metoo moment: Act NOW to address sexual assault in your church
  6. On a personal level, SBC clergy, independent operators every one of us, need to be proactive if we know or suspect a colleague of being a sex abuser or adulterer.
  7. We should be firm at every level in excluding from our common work and ministry any and all confessed or convicted sex abusers.

I don’t expect to see, ever, any independent review board in the SBC or state convention. At times like the present, I wish there was a workable way to do something like this.

But, there are people smarter and more optimistic than me in the SBC. Perhaps someone has thought of a solution, or partial solution, that I have not.

I’m wide open to it.