Can a woman serve as the President of the Southern Baptist Convention? (Casey Hough)

Much pontification has been digitally uploaded to this site recently regarding the question as to whether or or not it is appropriate for a woman to serve as President of the SBC. My friend Casey Hough offered his thoughts on this subject today at his personal page. I asked Casey if I could post his text in full here at Voices in order to offer another opinion on the subject. Now, I must admit that I am not completely convinced by his argument (although the vast majority of it resonates loudly with me) but his tone and congenial tenor draw me in and I completely understand and appreciate his position. It is sound, valid and reasonable.

Allow me the personal privilege to share at the outset that my position is not a hardened one. However, I do see very clearly the role of SBC President as simply the moderator of a 2 day deliberative assembly, who does indeed give an address (not a sermon even though that is what we are now conditioned to expect) and who does have limited appointment opportunity, but who has no authority other than the act of presiding itself. Maybe I’m too much of a parliamentarian at heart but the fact is, the moderator in a parliamentary proceeding has no real authority. They simply help to facilitate deliberation. Thus, I believe the role, as I mentioned in William’s post, could be filled with a Baptist layman lawyer, a 75 year old deacon, a small church pastor, a female Sunday School teacher or a retired female missionary. From RRNR 10th ed (because that is the one that has 18 years of my ink, highlighting and dogears) we see that the presiding officer of a large assembly…

should be chosen principally for the ability to preside. This person should be well versed in parliamentary law and should be thoroughly familiar with the bylaws and other rules of the organization–even if he or she is to have the assistance of a parliamentarian. At the same time, any presiding officer will do well to bear in mind that no rules can take the place of tact and common sense on the part of the chairman.

Clearly, our 4 wonderful parliamentarians (Dr. McCarty, Dr. Greenway, Mr. Culbreth and Mrs. Whitfield) are tremendous assets during our annual meeting but the Presidents should be able to handle most things themselves. THAT is their job. To guide deliberation. I’m just afraid we’ve given too wide a birth to the presidency and have become conditioned to think of the position in terms of a pastorate and I believe that to be an unfortunate development.

That said, Casey offers a sound, articulate and reasonable argument while offering fair treatment of the opposing position without chastising or misrepresenting the view of others. This is the way brothers disagree without becoming irrational and slipping into bad argumentation. I wholeheartedly suggest a full reading of this article and larger perusal of his page, for more helpful insights from this gracious pastor.

-Jay Adkins

Can a woman serve as the President of the Southern Baptist Convention?

by Casey Benjamin Hough

That is the question that is being tossed back and forth between various groups within my denomination. If you are looking for a definitive answer to that question in my blog post, then I am afraid you will be disappointed. The bylaws of the convention do not exclude a woman from being elected to the office of SBC President. I am not here to argue or speculate about the legal possibility of a such an arrangement. Furthermore, I am not here to question the clear and convictional leadership that countless women provide in our denomination. God has blessed the SBC with an abundance of leaders, many of whom are women. The SBC needs women for the accomplishment of its mission. We need strong, godly women in our churches. So, please hear me again, women are indispensable to the life of our churches and our convention. We need more women contributing to the decisions of our trustee boards and committees, which function as corporate bodies in our denominational government. God has uniquely gifted women for the building up of the body of Christ, and we must not ignore this reality. With that stated, I do think we need to be careful with our current debate regarding the possibility of a woman serving as the president of the Southern Baptist Convention. The SBC’s custom of electing a qualified male to set the direction and lead the convention in the fulfillment of its mission is not without biblical precedent. Here is the main reason that I believe a woman should not be elected to serve as the President of the Southern Baptist Convention:

The Biblical Pattern of Qualified, Male Leadership in the Home and the Church

The pattern for spiritual leadership in the Scriptures is qualified, male leadership in the home and the church. Ephesians 5:18-33 makes it clear that God has ordered the family to function according to a pattern that derives from the relationship that Christ maintains with the church. The mutuality of the submission mentioned in verse 21 is qualified in verses 22-33. The suggestion is not that husbands are called to submit to their wives any more than Christ is called to submit to the church. The pattern holds. Wives submit to their husbands as the church submits to Christ.

At this point, there is a temptation to assume that submission entails inferiority, but this cannot be the case. According to 1 Corinthians 11:3, even Christ, at least for a season, was functionally submissive to the Father. What orthodox Christian would dare suggest that Christ was ever inferior to the Father during His submission? To make such a suggestion would destroy the doctrine of the Triune nature of God, which maintains that God eternally and simultaneously exists as one God in three distinct, functionally-different, yet ontologically-equal persons – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. If submission and difference in role require an inferiority of personhood, then the doctrine of the Trinity evaporates before our eyes. And yet, Paul draws upon the analogy of the relationship between the Father and the Son to demonstrate the difference in role, but equality of person in the male-female relationship in marriage (1 Corinthians 11:3). Paul, however, does not limit the extent of this male-female relationship to marriage and family. He also extends it into the church.

In the church, God intends for qualified men to lead the church as pastors. The requirements for this role are explicitly spelled out in 1 Timothy 3:1-7. It is important to note that not all men are qualified to lead in the church. Only men who, by the grace of Christ, are qualified with godly character and gifting should lead the church. Those who would contend that Paul is merely accommodating the culture of his day have to wrestle with the fact that he grounds his argument in the creation of male and female in 1 Timothy 2:11-15. To overcome Paul’s appeal to creation, some scholars have suggested that submission is a result of the fall, not God’s intended order from creation. Furthermore, they argue that submission has no place in the coming Kingdom of Christ. Such arguments fail to take into account the full storyline of scripture. The submission of a wife to her husband is not a result of the Fall. It is the pattern that God intends for marriage. In Christ’s relationship to the church, God has revealed the pattern that was broken in the Fall. Furthermore, while earthly marriages between husband and wife will cease in the fullness of the coming Kingdom of Christ (Matthew 22:30), submission as a reality of relationship will not cease. It will simply change from the shadow of the submission of a wife to her husband on earth to fullness of the church’s submission to her husband, Jesus Christ. Submission will not cease in the New Heavens and New Earth. Only those in the relationship of submission will change. From earthly wife to earthly husband, we, the church, as the bride of Christ, will be submissive to Him for all eternity as He exercises His Lordship for His glory and our good. In other words, submission is not a bad thing. Therefore, the proper functioning of gender roles in marriage and in the church has an eschatological significance. It is pointing to the day when perfect peace and submission will reign in the fullness of the Kingdom of Christ.

Another approach to Paul’s instruction in 1 Timothy 2:11-15 is to believe that Paul is addressing a particular instance of false teaching in the church in Ephesus and that he does not have a universal principle in mind when he writes, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.” Others have taken the phrase, “to exercise authority,” to be pejorative, and thus meaning, “to domineer,” thus only excluding women from domineering forms of leadership. These attempts, however, to undermine a complementarian understanding of Paul’s letter to Timothy fails on several fronts.

First, whether Paul was addressing a particular instance of false teaching in Ephesus is beyond our information. It may be true that Paul was addressing a particular instance, but that would not necessarily make his instruction less applicable to other churches, especially since Paul goes on in later chapters to give specific instructions about the nature of church structure (1 Timothy 3). Second, while one might be able to demonstrate places where the terms behind “to exercise authority” have a pejorative meaning in extrabiblical literature, it is equally true that the same terms are applied to God in extrabiblical literature. The meaning of words and phrases are constrained by their context, and, in the case of 1 Timothy 2:12, “to exercise authority” is paralleled with “to teach,” which is not pejorative. Whatever “to exercise authority” means, it cannot be construed as pejorative without explaining how “to teach” is also pejorative. Third, if one narrowly takes “to exercise authority” to mean “to domineer,” then they have essentially only proven that women are not allowed to domineer others. This supposed solution would not even address domineering leadership among men. The pejorative understanding of “to exercise authority” creates more problems than it solves. Lastly, some explanation must be given regarding how these few verses in 1 Timothy 1 do not relate to the clear, universal instructions that Paul gives Timothy in 1 Timothy 3 regarding the ordering of the church. Instead of imposing a foreign context to the passage, wouldn’t it be best to read 1 Timothy 2 alongside the rest of the letter that is concerned with relationships in the church?

Ok, yea, so what?

At this point, someone might say, “Well, I agree with everything that you have said about the family and the local church, but what do patterns of leadership in the church and in the home mean for the Southern Baptist Convention?”

Well, it seems as though the pattern of the local church and the home extended into the larger cooperative efforts of the universal church. In Acts 15, when the churches sent representatives to Jerusalem to discuss the matter of circumcision among Gentile converts, the meeting was made up of apostles and elders. I recognize that there is a debate about the identity of Junia as either well-known “to the apostles” or a well-known “apostle” in Romans 16:7. Suffice it to say that I agree with Moo, Dunn, Cranfield, Fitzmeyer, and Schreiner as understanding Junia as a woman who was esteemed among the apostles as a traveling missionary. The term “apostle” can, and often does, mean simply “messenger.” And given the fact that Paul specifies in 1 Corinthians 15 that there were 12 apostles, it is almost certain that he does not include Junia in that designation. So, when we come to Acts 15 and find Luke’s designation of “the apostles and the elders” who descended upon Jerusalem to address the matter of circumcision, it is most reasonable to assume that Luke has the 12 apostles in mind with Paul serving as the one “untimely born” (1 Corinthians 15:5-11). Furthermore, it is also most reasonable to assume that these leaders were men who came from their local churches and families to discuss the business of the broader church. In this, I discern a pattern from the family and the local church that informs the broader mission and leadership of the broader church in Acts 15. Furthermore, I believe this pattern would rightly extend to the leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention.

When messengers elect a president, they are electing someone who will set a direction and lead the convention on matters regarding the church and the family. Furthermore, the president will often be called upon by churches and other denominational entities to bring spiritual leadership and direction. Based upon the biblical pattern of qualified, male leadership in the church and the family, I believe it wise for Southern Baptists to continue its custom of electing qualified, male leaders to the presidency of the SBC. This is in keeping not only with the biblical pattern found in Acts 15, but also the pattern of church leadership that we find in the earliest centuries of church history. As best as I can tell, qualified, male leaders from regional churches attended the ecumenical councils of the early church. Thus, the SBC’s custom is shaped by both the testimony of Scripture and the testimony of the early church.

The argument that the Southern Baptist Convention is not the church and that the president of the SBC does not function in a pastoral role, and thus, therefore, can be fulfilled by a woman, seems to ignore the significance of a biblical pattern of qualified, male leadership in matters concerning the family and the church. The question is not, therefore, whether or not a woman “can” serve as SBC president, but rather, “should” a woman serve as SBC president. For me, the pattern of Scripture seems to suggest that in matters of spiritual leadership, particularly concerning the family and the church, God has assigned this role to qualified men.

Therefore, I believe it is biblically warranted and wise to maintain the SBC’s custom of only electing qualified men to serve as the president of the SBC because it is in keeping with the biblical pattern of qualified, male leadership in the family and in the church.

SBC & Politics: Why I Made a Motion to Exclude Politicians from the Annual Meeting (Dr. Marshal L. Ausberry, Sr.)

At the 2018 Southern Baptist Convention, I made a motion that beginning in 2019 the SBC would refrain from allowing elected officials to speak at the Convention. The exception was for the host Mayor or appropriate official to give a welcome greeting and to receive thanks from the Convention for hosting the Convention.

The reason I feel it is time for such a position for the Convention is multi-fold. It has nothing to do with Vice President Mike Pence speaking at the 2018 Convention. In my opinion, Vice President Pence and Mrs. Pence are good godly people.

Though some were calling for the Convention to disinvite Vice President Pence, I felt it would have been inappropriate to disinvite the Vice President once the SBC leadership had agreed for him to speak. That move would have produced fodder for the news media and reflected poorly on our Convention. It would have been like inviting someone to your house for dinner and then publicly telling them not to show up. That’s not who we are!

Briefly, my reason for the motion is that the SBC members are not politically monolithic! In our SBC churches we have people that ride elephants; some ride donkeys; some ride both and some ride neither; some are fiercely independent; and some even sip tea. And that is just reality! However, when the optics appear that any political party is embraced at the Convention, no matter what is said by SBC leadership in an attempt to make it palatable, the results cause division and confusion in the body.

In addition, the SBC should be fiercely independent politically! Unfortunately, when politically elected officials are given primary platform time, the optics outweigh our words of being independent! I’ve heard some say that it looks like “The SBC is a wing of the Republican Party” and “The SBC is in bed with the Republican Party.” The SBC must be fiercely independent in order to speak truth to power and not give the appearance of being co-opted by any party.

Now I fully endorse SBC officials having a dialogue with an administration; being advisors and counselors to an administration; and praying for and with an administration. I think we see throughout the Old Testament God’s people engaging with pharaohs, governors, rulers, and kings. But always uncompromisingly independent!

In addition, I don’t know if a President Bill Clinton would have been allowed to speak; I don’t know if a President Barack Obama would have been allowed to speak; and I don’t know if a President Hilary Clinton would have been allowed to speak at an SBC annual meeting. The Bible will challenge us enough, we can avoid creating an environment that divides us politically and unnecessarily!

I hope and pray that my SBC will embrace that Convention time is not the time for politically elected officials. It is time that all Southern Baptists come together as one Body in Christ, our Lord and Savior.

I hope and pray that the leadership of the SBC sensed the concern in the body as they deliberate and make decisions for 2019 and beyond.

Marshal L. Ausberry, Sr.
President, National African American Fellowship of the SBC

Dr. Marshal Ausberry is the senior pastor of Antioch Baptist Church in Fairfax Station, VA and is the President of the NAAF. Among other degrees, he holds a D.Min. and Th.M. in Preaching from Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary. You can find him on Twitter at @MAusberry.

Understanding Diversity and Its Denominational Implications: Unmasking Marginalization as Southern Baptists (Vinh T. Nguyen)

Many memories have been etched into my mind in both the years I’ve spent as a minister and an academic, but one memory stands out in particular. I had just finished my third semester as a bible student at Ouachita Baptist University and was visiting the church I grew up in where my father-in-law was serving as the student pastor. The youth group looked different in at least two different ways. First, it was quite a bit larger than it was when I was a teenager growing up. Second, the room now had just as many, if not more, African-American and Asian teenagers as it did Caucasians. Like many first-year bible students, I was excited to hear the bible lesson (aka offering my two cents from what I had learned in an introductory hermeneutics or exegesis course). Little did I realize how much I would end up learning on that night, from the most unexpected person, in the most unexpected environment.

Sitting in the corner was a young black teenager (we will call him Zane because that was his name). In typical fashion, the lively and talkative group of teenagers began to quiet down when the student pastor (we will call him “big Mike” because that was his name and the adjective was accurate) asked “who wants to read our bible verses today.” As every eye sheepishly looked to their left and right to see who would rise up to the challenge, Zane—who at this point was halfway sunk into the all familiar donated youth room sofa—slowly raised his hand. Panic and perhaps a bit of embarrassment began to set in as Zane frantically flipped through the pages in front of his peers, scrambling to find the book of Acts. After being reminded to use the table of contents, Zane located Acts 13 and began reading the passage. A snicker and quiet laughter filled the room as Zane began stuttering and stammering through the passage. With his voice booming above both the reading and the laughing and snickering, big Mike interjected and said, “and which one of you guys volunteered to read—I didn’t think so.” Suddenly panic and embarrassment seemed to switch places and the room was attentively listening. Big Mike, as far as I could remember, seemed to have this effect on people. Zane, now full of confidence, resumed to stutter and stammer through the reading mumbling over the words he couldn’t pronounce. As Zane approached Acts 13:1 and began reading through the names of the prophets and teachers in the church at Antioch, he got to Simeon with eyes wide and jaw dropped and said, “Simeon called ‘and a word I can’t say’….”

I share this story for two particular reasons. First, I was struck by Zane’s thinking concerning the word Niger, that is, his acknowledgment, whether conscious or not, about the negative connotations that have come to be associated with the word even as an African American. Second, the ability (and arguably unlikely nature) of a six foot something, bald headed youth pastor with little formal theological training, to grow a ministry full of diverse students whose thinking about life and God were even more diverse. I think there is something to be said and to learn about diversity in churches when it comes to this, considering that same ministry is now only a fraction of the size it was and only has Caucasian student since undergoing new leadership.

It has become apparent, at least to me, that one major reason, though there are others, diversity continues to be an issue in churches is because people have limited it to what a person looks like. I would like to suggest that marginalization will continue to happen in churches, particularly in Southern Baptist life, if such a limited understanding of diversity persists. Merriam-Webster, for example, offers two glosses for diversity:

1) the condition of having or being composed of differing elements: variety; especially: the inclusion of different types of people (such as people of different races or cultures) in a group or organization.

2) and instance of being composed of differing elements or qualities: an instance of being diverse; a diversity of opinion.

The first gloss, while offering a description of what diversity often involves (i.e., different types of people such as races or cultures) is quite limiting—I think. The second gloss, while a bit vague, does a better job at capturing what diversity is about. A diversity of opinion relates to how one thinks about matters more so than what one looks like.

Let me first explain what I mean by diversity having to involve more than what a person looks like before offering suggestions for a way forward. I was honored to be asked to write a quick post about the important topic of diversity (which I suspect happened first because I was Asian and only second because I might be able to offer a different thought on the topic). In many ways; however, I fulfill the role of what some may consider a “token” Asian because I pretty much grew up in America and think a lot like many American Christians do. This is one of the glaring problems in the understanding of diversity seen in many churches today (even those who claim to be multi-ethnic, though I have witnessed particular churches do multi-ethnic well). Christians often mask marginalization by describing their churches as being “diverse” simply because they have a few different races represented. In 2008 in Indianapolis, Indiana, Southern Baptists celebrated the “growing ethnic diversity” of their churches and LifeWay Christian sources. But “ethnic” on what grounds and growing in what way? Nearly a decade later, SBC messengers denounced the “alt-right” movement as a “virulent and destructive form of racism.” Perhaps we took one “small step” in 2008 and one “giant leap” in 2017, but I doubt it. Perhaps the celebration came prematurely considering Jarvis Williams 2010 book “One New Man” along with his recent contribution (along with Kevin Jones) in 2017 “Removing the Stain of Racism from the Southern Baptist Convention.” Diversity needs to include differences in thinking and not just differences in appearance (backed by the familiar and often cited Rev. 7:9 passage describing the innumerable multitude standing before the throne) if there is going to be a reason to celebrate.

In what ways, then, should we understand diversity? I would like to offer just a couple of preliminary suggestions that are meant to be less controversial and more to spur on the conversation. First, true diversity can only take place in the presence humility. In my experience, learning best takes place when one takes a posture of humility. First, I emphasize humility because I think it should be the prerequisite to any theological conversation. Second, I emphasize conversation because, in my estimation, it is significant and needs to take place if we want to see true diversity in our churches. Conversation necessarily involves listening to others and asking questions rather than dismissing those whose opinions and perspectives don’t align with our own. In many ways, humility undergirds the points I emphasize because it leads one to engage in conversation, then to actively listen during the conversation, and (perhaps most important) shift one’s positions if need be. This by no means implies that one should abandon all of their own convictions, but to listen in such a way that the breaking of bread, and the bond of fellowship, is not so easily broken or abandoned on the grounds that some people just don’t think about matters of theology, the church, and the world in the same way as others do. While this is not the place to have a discussion on matters of soteriology, the SBC has faced numerous consequences because of the insufferable behavior of some of its members (from both sides) concerning their thinking the topic.

Understanding diversity as something worth celebrating, particularly as Southern Baptists, means no longer marginalizing those who do not think about things in the way we want or would like them to think. I would challenge all of us to be more willing to practice humility, engage in conversation, actively listen, and to not be afraid to move from our long-held positions if need be. If, as Southern Baptists, we cannot do this within our own convention, how then will we embrace true diversity from those whose theology and perspectives are not shaped by our own Western American context? Sandra Maria Van Opstal, in her book The Next Worship: Glorifying God in a Diverse World says it well when she comments:

As long as our worship makes people feel excluded or in constant visitor status, we are not accomplishing the ministry of biblical hospitality. . . . However, when we are creating an inclusive table in which there is room for all, the meal and the experience will represent all who sit at the table. . . . In a multiethnic community no members should be made to feel like they are perpetual guests.

I have the privilege of studying alongside Koreans, Africans, Lithuanians, and Christians from other countries whose thinking on matters of theology, church, and the world do not align with my own views. I have listened and I have learned from brothers and sisters all around the world, and my own understanding has grown along with my ability to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which I have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1–3). Some of them have become my closest friends and conversation partners, and even in the midst of disagreement, I never feel like a “perpetual guest” at the table. While much more could be said and expanded on the notion of diversity, I hope this will spur on the conversation in a way that we, as Southern Baptists, can begin to see a bit clearer what the biblical picture of the saints around the throne in Revelation 7 might actually look like.


Vinh Nguyen is a New Testament PhD student at McMaster Divinity College in Hamilton, Ontario Canada. He also holds an M.A. in Biblical Languages from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and a B.A. in Biblical Studies and Christian Ministry from Ouachita Baptist University. He is married to Michele and is the father of the two of the prettiest little girls you’ll ever meet, Ali and Autumn.

And the Next President of SWBTS Is…

Sorry for that clickbait title. No, I have no idea who it will be.

I do hear a fair bit of scuttlebutt from time to time but the dust is still settling on the Patterson fiasco and it is too early to start naming names. I don’t think the search team has even been formed yet. The dedicated Patterson defenders are still laying down heavy fire in their efforts to undo the decision of the trustees, but their efforts will fail. The Executive Committee will be affirmed by the full board as it was by 98% majority at the convention and we will move on. The Patterson era is over and a new day is coming. There is no going back.

It is now time to begin looking forward to what kind of man the next president should be. It is good to reflect on what character qualities and competencies the new president should have, but to begin nominating individuals is premature. Let us all refrain.

Here are my thoughts about what I hope the next

1. SWBTS needs an institutional servant, not a celebrity.

It is not a good thing when the identity of the institution is too heavily wrapped up in the identity of the leader of that institution. The president serves the interests of the seminary and it should never be a personal fiefdom from which the president wields extraordinary power over convention affairs or any other personal agenda.

Paige Patterson was an icon when he ascended to the presidency at SWBTS – and we can and should always be grateful for the work he did. He wielded great power in office and behind the scenes and eventually, that became a problem. Many refused to hold him accountable or to believe he could err. Because of his personal status. many defended him no matter what he did and stood behind him even as the evidence against him piled up. For them, Dr. Patterson was bigger than the institution he served and they sought to defend him even at the cost of the interests of SWBTS.

It would be best if SWBTS avoided the celebrity, megachurch, power-broker candidate. Southwestern does not need someone who would use the president’s office at Southwestern as a throne from which to attempt to rule the SBC and guide its affairs. IT needs a president devoted to building the seminary, not controlling the direction of the Southern Baptist Convention.

2. SWBTS needs a recognized and reputable scholar.

The president of the seminary has several jobs but I believe he ought to be an academic. I think the IMB president ought to have a missions background and the president of a seminary ought to come from academia. There has been a movement in recent years to move megachurch pastors into these roles. I’m not sure it is helpful. If the declining numbers at Southwestern are to be reversed, it must be a first-class theological institution and it needs a president with the credentials to lead in that direction.

It sounds as if I am anti-megachurch. That’s not it. It is just that building a megachurch is fundamentally different from building an entity – whether a seminary or one of the other SBC entities. The president of Southwestern needs more than just a doctorate, but an academic standing.

3. SWBTS needs a preacher who can inspire Baptists. 

Some academics are not great in the pulpit. The president of SWBTS doesn’t need to be the best preacher in the SBC, but he ought to be able to preach competently at pastors’ conferences and churches. This is a bigger part of the job than we sometimes realize.

4. SWBTS needs a forward-focused leader who can raise funds and set a new direction. 

Assuming that the donors fail in their efforts to bully the trustees, there might be a bit of a cash crunch at SWBTS.

The president must set a new direction for the school that convinces people that the issues that have become public can be put in the past and inspires them about the bright future of SWBTS. There are some good things going on at Southwestern and a new leader needs to be about those things. This can’t just be hype or ignoring reality, but charting a new and positive course for the school. God’s people are usually generous when they sense that something worthwhile is happening in the kingdom.

We have seen what can happen in a troubled seminary when visionary leadership takes the helm. Dr. Jason Allen’s tenure at Midwestern has led to a remarkable turnaround at that school. As an Iowan, I was well-aware of the dysfunction and difficulty that has marked that school over time. But now it is one of our fastest-growing schools and the future is bright. Southwestern needs that kind of leadership.

What IS does not have to be what WILL be.

5. SWBTS needs a president in the theological tradition of SWBTS. 

The SBC is healthier because we have 6 seminaries with a variety of theological perspectives. Each one of our schools has a personality and a theological perspective. This is not the time to seek to change the theological dynamics of SWBTS. We have Southern and there is no need to make Southwestern like Southern.

It would be much better if someone from the David Allen wing of non-Calvinism/Traditionalism took the mantle of leadership. He holds his views passionately but is kind and cooperative with those who hold Calvinistic and other positions. If a more strident anti-Calvinist who continued the unfortunate attacks we saw during the recent presidential election got the job, it would damage the convention, creating greater division.

But the next president of SWBTS needs to remain in the theological tradition of the school – the cooperative side of that stream, but the non-Calvinist side nonetheless. Let the SBC have blessed variety.

6. SWBTS needs a president of the highest moral character and humble spirit. 

We have seen enough throughout our convention of the results of pride and the downfall of hubris. We have also seen the shipwreck of moral laxity in recent days in stunning and shocking ways. Character needs to be as high on the list as competency.

7. SWBTS needs a conservative president ready for a modern world. 

I had a conversation with an elderly pastor who disdained everything about “the way things are today.” There’s much about the modern world that I disdain as well, but you have to learn and adjust. Time marches forward, not backward, no matter how much we complain.

Institutions tend to drift, especially academic institutions, and Southwestern needs a man who is unalterably and unquestionably committed to the Baptist Faith, as defined in the Baptist Faith and Message. The thorniest issue in the Baptist world recently has been the way we treat women and the roles of women in the church under complementarian views. We have come to realize that our treatment of women has often been sinful, disrespectful, and not based on scripture but on fleshly traditions. The president of Southwestern needs to hold to the truths we profess while also demonstrating a commitment to honor women as image bearers and give them that lane to run in that Jacki King spoke so eloquently of in her recent article.

Southwestern has been a traditionalist institution in more ways than theologically. Holding on to eternal truth while applying those truths in an ever-changing world is going to require wisdom and grace from a unique kind of leader.

Random Thoughts

I have a few thoughts not worthy of a separate point, but I want to mention.

  • The president of SWBTS should honor the past, but not be bound by it.
  • Southwestern is now in a largely Hispanic area of the country. I’ve often wondered what would happen if we could find a Hispanic president for SWBTS and begin to position it as THE school for theological training among Hispanics, even in Central America. Just a thought.
  • The last three presidencies of SWBTS have ended in difficulty. Pray that they find a man who will lead well and long and turn over the reigns on his terms, in peace.

I have no idea who that man is, but neither did many people know who Al Mohler was before he was hired (at age 33, as I remember). I don’t think anyone picked Dr. Allen as the frontrunner at Midwestern. But I guess there is a man ready, willing, and able to lead SWBTS into its next era if the Trustees will pray and seek God’s wisdom. Remember that both Southern and Midwestern were in tumultuous times when these young men were hired and God sent just the right leader.

May God do that again.

NOTE: I don’t know the story of Akin’s hiring at SEBTS or Iorg at Gateway/GGBTS, or of Dr. Kelly at NOBTS. Everyone knew that Patterson was going to SWBTS when the Hemphill saga occurred. I don’t know if Akin, Kelly, or Iorg were “favorites” or “dark-horse” candidates. At this point, I am hoping for someone more in the Mohler/Allen mold (rest your hearts, Traditionalists – I am thinking of the STORY, not the theology).  I think there’s a dark horse out there.