Hemphill Election Website Secretly Sponsored by Louisiana Baptist Convention

If I have learned anything during my time as a pastor in Louisiana it is confirmation that power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely (originally from a letter by John Dalberg-Acton 1st Baron Acton to Mandell Creighton dated April 5, 1887). Please no jokes about the political irony of living here in the home state of Huey Long where “Every Man is a King.” For years I’ve wondered… what will it take for my fellow LA Pastors to see through the obfuscation, manipulation and bad stewardship which we allow to continue unchecked in Alexandria. I’m flummoxed as to what will it take to make significant changes in leadership in our state convention?

  • If the outright rejection of engagement with even the possibility of a 50/50 CP split is not enough to convince you we have problems (the LBC keeps a higher percentage of CP money in the state than any other state convention and we were told that such a split would only be considered if our Louisiana churches gave more to Alexandria);
  • If the inordinate amount of money given to Louisiana College and the earlier SACS validated concern of undue influence is not enough to convince you we have problems (Louisiana College gets more money from the LBC than NAMB gets from the LBC and at the time of my research a few years back they received more than any other state convention connected college or university);
  • If the lack of transparency in financial accountability from the Executive Committee is not enough to convince you we have problems (I’m not suggesting fiscal illegalities or mismanagement of that kind, but some pastor friends have regularly attempted to get information or reports regarding LBC expenses but to no avail);
  • If the heavily anti-reformed (arguably fundamentalist) tilt of the Baptist Message and its apparent distrust for certain SBC entity heads is not enough to convince you we have problems (over the last few years not one published article regarding the entities have offered anything but negative critique regarding leadership at the IMB, NAMB and the ERLC as well as a possible SBC presidential candidate);

…then maybe this will be the issue that will finally convince you we have a problem.

For years there has been an unwritten practice that candidates for the Presidency of the SBC do not actively engage in campaigning. Certainly, we know that campaigning goes on between friends and acquaintances at the coffee house, in the seminary student center, during Sunday school classes and at association meetings, but the practice has generally been relegated to those private, person-to-person meetings and not been espoused by the candidates themselves. However, that is certainly not the case in Louisiana. Political expediency rules the day here in the Pelican state’s Baptist Convention. (In my opinion, this unwritten practice feigns humility and as far as I’m concerned I’d rather forego it and have a deliberate statement from the candidate’s mouth as to why I should vote for him and not for the other guy, but that’s just me.)

In a full plenary session of the Executive Committee of the LBC in 2016 Dr. David Hankins, during his Executive Director’s Report, presented a statement (with the caveat that he’d never done this before) on something akin to “5 reasons why Baptists shouldn’t vote for JD Greear.” Again, for transparency’s sake, I was not at this meeting but I was contacted by a number of attendees and told about the shocking display of impropriety which took place before the historic convention in St. Louis. I wish I had specifics to offer regarding his talk, but none of that portion of his speech was reported upon in the Baptist Message the following week. When asked why that portion was not reported on in the print media it was said, “Well, we can’t print everything that happens in the meeting.” Keep in mind, it wasn’t just something that was said, I understand that it was the key portion to his address.

Forward to yesterday afternoon (March 15th). I was sent information that the LBC is the host of and likely designed the website for Dr. Ken Hempill’s 2016 presidential campaign, www.kenhemphill2018.com. Can you imagine? A large state convention’s Executive Director publicly and in his official capacity during a plenary speech, forcefully and deliberately lobbying against one of the candidates and then two years later, that same state convention actually HOSTING the CAMPAIGN website for their particular candidate on the state convention servers. It is unheard of and it is inappropriate.

Think about this friends, Pastors in Louisiana who are either still deciding who will receive their vote, or for those who, God forbid, intend to vote for Dr. Greear, our state convention is the online (and arguably print) headquarters of the “traditionalist candidate.” In all honesty, given what we have seen from the Baptist Message and the actions of LBC leaders, this turn of events should not surprise anyone. Yet, I remain shocked by this action. I must ask, does ANYONE else in this state have a problem with this terribly inappropriate use of our convention resources and the clear lack of concern for those of us who might be on the other side of this aisle as it relates to the coming election?

I’ve attempted in times past to point to the manipulation and hubris of the actions of some of our state leaders, but most of those words fell on deaf ears. Surely now my brother Pastors will now finally speak up about this action. Surely this is such a clear violation of common cooperation and convention work that someone will do something about it. Or will it be more of the same… good pastors, not wanting to rock the boat for fear that they might be blackballed from the cool kids table, or worse yet be passed over for that big church in the parish seat?

Please Pastors do the right thing and call for change. Call for change in the tired and entrenched leadership, call for transparency, call for a laying down of arms, call for the inclusion of all our churches that voluntarily function in accordance with the BFM, and call for an end to the divisive and mean-spiritedness which has gone on for too long in this state convention.

I am calling on pastors of the LBC to contact the Executive Office of our state convention and demand that (1) convention employees cease their open (meaning in their official capacity as a convention employee) campaigning for one candidate over another, (2) to cease the open negative speak about one candidate over another and to (3) immediately cease hosting the “campaign website” (I can’t believe I’m even writing these words) of any candidate for the Presidency of the SBC, unless of course, they want to host sites for BOTH candidates as a ministry and service to the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention. However, something tells me it won’t get that far.

In the same paragraph of the earlier mentioned Lord Acton quotation he also wrote, “There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it.” It’s time we open our eyes and admit that the Louisiana Baptist Convention is broken and is in desperate need of real and lasting cultural change. We CAN do something about it! The question is, who has the backbone?

Click here and scroll to the bottom of my original article to view the digital proof of the above accusations and concerns.


Even If The Foundations Are Destroyed Fear-Mongering is Not an Option

“if the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” –Psalm 11:3

In America we are seeing many of our foundations destroyed. There are godly principles upon which for hundreds of years we have stood. These pillars of our society are being decimated by an increasingly liberal and progressive culture. So, what should people of faith do? What will happen to this great nation when these foundations are destroyed?

The answer for many of our evangelical leaders is to fight for these foundations while they are only tottering. In their mind, we must keep fighting for these foundations of our society, so that our freedoms will be preserved. If we do not fight then we will be left with the same question as the Psalmist. If our foundations are destroyed what hope will the righteous have here in America? So we must preserve these foundations no matter the cost.

I believe a good argument could be made for working to preserve the Christian foundations of our nation. But the fear-mongering which comes from this logic is unhealthy. In fact, this way of thinking is the exact opposite of the point of Psalm 11:3.

Psalm 11:3 is connected with Psalm 11:2 and is to be placed on the lips of the cynic who is telling King David he ought to flee to the mountains. The cynic is the voice of the modern hand-wringing evangelical. But the Psalm begins with a rebuke of such a thought. The king is trusting in Yahweh as his refuge, therefore it is not fitting to say that he ought to flee to the mountain because the foundations are destroyed.

Those who peddle fear would have us believe that it is on some particular point that the foundation is still teetering. To not follow the party line on this issue will be to surrender every foundation and if this one falls then to the mountains we must go. And so if we desire to protect the foundations then we must hold our nose and vote for immoral men. We must overlook sexual immorality and accept pride and narcissism as a necessary evil to maintaining our foundations.

All the while we do not realize that when we buy what the fear mongers are selling and begin to peddle their words ourselves we are grabbing a sledgehammer ourselves and swinging at our foundations. The gospel is not made of fear but of hope. And hope has no home in a world driven by fear.

Psalm 11 paints a different picture. Here we see a world in which the one who trusts in the LORD can be immovable even when the foundations crumble. The mountains are no refuge, nor are they an option. Our foundation is immovable. Psalm 11 reminds us that we can be assured that God will vindicate His own righteousness. Was this not the point and hope of the religious right? To see God’s righteousness realized within the world. If this is the case, if it is not power but love for a life patterned after God and His Word which we seek, then we can res assured that God’s righteousness will win the day. He is not blind to the ways of the wicked nor deaf to the cause of the righteous.

Furthermore, Psalm 11 confirms for us that God will continually respond to His children in love. Even if it’s tough and painful love in the midst of the wreckage of a broken society. But he is a sure and certain refuge. This means that hope is never gone. We do not have to flee to the mountains, nor do we have to resort to cynicism or use a fear of fleeing to the mountains to engage in fear-mongering.

“If the foundations are destroyed what can the righteous do?” is not intended to be a call to arms. It’s the desperate plea of a cynic. The words of hope are those of David: “In the LORD I take refuge”. This Psalm is realistic in that the foundations may crumble. But it’s also realistic in it’s hope and trust in the omniscient and omnipotent God of history. He will never crumble. This is a much better path to follow because David Murray is correct, “Christian hope has never been dashed on the rocks of reality.” (The Happy Christian, 93)

What will leadership changes bring in the southern, legacy state conventions?

One of the questions that the folks at SBC This Week asked, in January of 2017, was, “Will we start to see leadership transitions in southern states?” The answer for that year was, “no” but this year the answer will be “yes.”

The 14 “southern” states with 16 of the SBC’s 42 state conventions make up most of the SBC’s giving and other stats, 90% or more of some. These are

  • SBC Virginia
  • BGA Virginia
  • North Carolina
  • South Carolina
  • Georgia
  • Florida
  • Alabama
  • Mississippi
  • Louisiana
  • BGC Texas
  • SB Texas C
  • Oklahoma
  • Missouri
  • Arkansas
  • Kentucky
  • Tennessee

These all have executive directors and the average age of the fine brethren is about 62. Most are 60 years of age or older, including three in their eighth decade. The average tenure is about a decade with three being in the position for three years or less and four being in their third decade on the job.

In my own state, Georgia, our very fine ED, Robert White, 71, announced his retirement which triggered my remembrance of the SBC This Week’s question about leadership transition. Will we begin to see much transition to younger leaders? What changes will the next generation of state leaders bring?

I can’t answer those questions other than to look at the younger state EDs and see what looks different. It looks to me like some changes will come. New leadership seems to be plucked from a younger cohort, around 50-55 or so.

I’m curious if the brethren/sistren in states where the ED is new and younger see any changes or trends?

State conventions are still the ‘keeper’ of most Cooperative Program giving, close to $300 million. What needs to change in regard to the state conventions?



Dr. David L. Allen’s “The Current SBC Calvinism Debate” – An Interaction

I hate hidden agendas – they are unworthy of God’s people. Paul said, in 2 Corinthians 4:2 that he renounced secret and shameful ways. So, I want to come clean here and tell you exactly what I am doing.

In the book, “Anyone Can Be Saved: A Defense of ‘Traditional’ Southern Baptist Soteriology” edited by David L. Allen, Eric Hankins, and Adam Harwood, Dr. Allen opens the discussion with an excellent essay entitled, “The Current SBC Calvinism Debate: Observations, Clarifications, and Suggestions.” It is one of the best things I have read on the topic. What I’d like to do is simply copy it here for you to read in full,  but there’s this little hindrance called a copyright and the good folks at Wipf and Stock might object. So, I will interact with what Dr. Allen wrote in enough detail to give you a good idea of what he said without, hopefully, running afoul of any laws!

He begins by asserting the obvious.

Two things are crystal clear. The issue of Calvinism in the SBC is not going away, and finding our way forward is not going to be easy. 

He is absolutely right. Southern Baptists have been “discussing” this topic (with varying hues of red faces) since the convention was founded, with both the Sandy Creek and the Charleston streams flowing free. If the Lord tarries and the convention survives, in 100 years there will be Calvinists and non-Calvinists arguing still. Hopefully, they will also be partnering for the gospel.

Dr. Allen makes eight key points, which I believe both diagnose the problem in our current Calvinism discussions and provide an effective course of treatment.

1. As Southern Baptists, our agreements outnumber our disagreements.

To hear some, Calvinists and Traditionalists preach different gospels, but Dr. Allen highlights the doctrines we hold in common. We confess the BF&M 2000, the Lordship of Christ, the inerrancy and sufficiency of Scripture, the lostness of humanity and the exclusivity of the gospel, and that salvation is by grace through faith alone. Bart Barber had a post years ago in which he listed common doctrines of Calvinist and non-Calvinist Baptists. Seems like the list ran over 40 items.

Dr. Allens asserts that this is a necessary discussion, though I’ve seen great damage come from it. If the attitude Dr. Allen promotes can prevail, I’d rethink that. He speaks of the unity of Baptist Calvinists and Traditionalists around the BF&M.

It is sufficiently broad in latitude that we can all live, breathe, and work under its umbrella. In fact, Calvinists and Traditionalists, for the most part, have been doing that already for quite a number of decades. 


2. Because of this common ground, we should avoid “the Scylla of attempting to run all Calvinists out of Dodge and the Charybdis of attempting to return us as a convention to the Calvinistic theology of some of the founders.”

These attempts foster division. Some insist Calvinism is outside of “Southern Baptist soteriology” and others wish to paint the founders of the SBC as monolithically Calvinist. These are attempts to assert “superior Baptistitude” (yeah, just made that us). Instead, we must accept one another as equal partners in the SBC world.

If we are to come together in unity, we must do so as Baptists, not as Calvinists and Traditionalists. We must unite around Baptist distinctives which include the only glue that can hold us together; a biblical, Baptist theology wedded to a Great Commission resurgence of evangelism and missions. We don’t have to cease to be Calvinists or Traditionalists to be Baptists. 

Can I get a witness?

3. We need to love and respect one another even though we are not in complete agreement on every theological point.

He says,

We should speak the truth in love and avoid strident, emotive language. 

Well, there goes blogging.

Seriously, in blogging, few of us avoid the periodic (or frequent) violation of these wise words, but many now see the Bible’s calls to unity, gentleness, and respect as markers of a lack of conviction. One blogger recently labeled unity an idol. Thankfully, he is extreme, but many use the words of Jesus to the Pharisees in Matthew 23 as justification for verbally eviscerating one another and ignoring the calls to build up, to be meek, to guard our words, and to be loving in all we do.  That takes real courage and conviction.

Yes, there are charlatans and sinners who must be confronted, but kindness, love, and respect must be our default.

4. We need to be reminded that the truth of a given position is in no way related to who or how many hold that position. 

Are you saying that a LifeWay survey of how many Baptists identify with each side doesn’t establish truth?

If it could be proven that a majority of our founders believed in Calvinism, it is not proven. If we can show that 97.2% of key leaders in the SBC today reject Calvinism, it does not disprove it. The Berean spirit (Acts 17:11) must prevail as we are guided by God’s word.

Obviously, all sides believe that their position is established in Scripture. That is why love and respect are needed. We accept one another as brethren (and sistern) while we grow in the knowledge of God’s word and its author.

5. Generally speaking, all Southern Baptists are concerned about theology.

Dr. Allen makes an important point, even if we all know Baptists who couldn’t care less about theology and doctrine.

He graciously includes a rejoinder to Traditionalists not to disrespect the theological competency of Calvinists. Some dismiss Calvinists as more concerned with systematics than biblical theology, as shaping their theology from confessions and creeds more than from exegesis, and of tending to get lost in the weeds of hero worship (Piper said it, I believe it, that settles it).

But I’ve been involved enough with Calvinists to deliver a friendly word of rebuke. Many Calvinists tend to look at Non-Calvinists and especially at Traditionalists as theological rubes who just don’t have the insight or intelligence to see the Bible correctly. I’ve heard solid Bible scholars spoken of dismissively simply because they hold to non-Calvinist positions. One can be intelligent, a scholar of God’s word, deeply in love with Jesus, and come to a position different than yours.

Dr. Allen gives a list of 8 errors to avoid in theological debate.

  • Do not subsume one set of Scriptures under another.
  • Prejudicing that which is logical in Scripture over that which is paradoxical. (I believe paradox, or antinomy, may be the key to all hermeneutics)
  • Succumbing to logical fallacies to maintain our particular theology.
  • Doing systematic theology before biblical theology. (This should, perhaps, be #1?)
  • Confusing one’s theological system with the gospel and reacting to criticism of the system as a challenge to the gospel.
  • Confusing a critique of someone’s theological system as a critique of that person.
  • Engaging in ad hominem attacks.
  • Questioning the motives of others in theological discussion.

6. Avoid misrepresenting another’s theology. 

This is at the heart of much of our problem in Calvinism discussions. People say, “This is what Calvinists believe,” and Calvinists say, “but it isn’t.” The Traditionalist then enforces his interpretation of Calvinist belief over what the Calvinist claims to believe. The TS comes out and Calvinists shout, “Semi-pelagian.” Traditionalists say, “We are not Semi-pelagian because….” but Calvinists continue to enforce the Semi-Pelagian accusation. We speak but do not listen.

The key to any discussion is to be able to present the views of the other side in a way that the OTHER SIDE UNDERSTANDS.

I have been in some form of ministry for nearly four decades, and have noticed that every marriage I have ever seen that is in trouble has the same problem. Communication. The problem can present in terms of money or sex or children or a hundred other things, but 100% of the couples that end up in my office for counseling are terrible at talking to one another. No, that’s not it. They are terrible at LISTENING to each other.

Ever heard of active listening? That’s where a man sits on the couch with his wife and asks her how her day went. She speaks and then he says, “What I heard you saying was…” and he tries to accurately restate what she said. If he gets it wrong she helps him clarify until he can succinctly restate what she was saying. Then, and only then, after he’s listened carefully to what she said, does he respond. Then, she says, “What I heard you saying was…” It takes hours to have a simple conversation! But when a marriage is in trouble, it is because man and wife have stopped listening to each other. They are interpreting and overblowing and forming their responses before they’ve actually listened.

The SBC is a giant dysfunctional marriage and we are terrible at listening to one another. What if Calvinists made a good-faith effort to genuinely understand what Traditionalists and other non-Calvinists believed, and the various non-Calvinists did the same thing? It would be a great first step.

Dr. Allen makes a distinction between understanding a theological system and examining its implications. This is always going to be tricky. The key issue with non-Calvinist views of Calvinism is their belief that they are deterministic. Calvinists deny that in various ways. But Traditionalists and other non-Calvinists make the claim that the implications of the Calvinist system are deterministic. Calvinists do similar things when they examine the implications of various free-will systems.

If we begin with a genuine effort to understand the theology the other side believes, then simply argue at the level of implications, it may not lead to easy resolution, but it is a good first step. The key is that we cannot willfully, ignorantly, or through laziness, misrepresent the other side in our discussions.

7. Is the TS divisive?

Dr. Allen distinguishes several kinds of division, some of which are healthy and others not so.

Any Baptist is free to state his or her theological position. Doctrine by its nature is divisive but that division is not inherently unhealthy. It becomes so when we respond badly. Has the TS been divisive? Undeniable so. But it was wholly appropriate for Eric Hankins to write and release this. It was wholly appropriate for others to critique it – to affirm it and to disagree with it. We are a deliberative body. We discuss and we disagree.

But too often our disagreements have been unhealthy because of how we have behaved. That isn’t the fault of the TS but of the way people have behaved either in support of it or in opposition to it. Establishing and advocating for a theological position – that is wholly appropriate. How we’ve done that often is not.

8. The entire enterprise calls for a healthy dose of humility and prayer.

I’m not sure what to add to Dr. Allen’s words.

The goal in this dialogue should not be to win at all costs. The goal should be to win to world to Christ at all costs.

What Dr. Allen said.

David Allen for president. I don’t know of what…but something.