Monday, June 14, 2021

Yesterday, Today... and Tomorrow: More Thoughts About the SBC


I went to church... the Southern Baptist church my family & I have attended for the last three years. Our pastor, just back from preaching at a Centrifuge camp site, did an amazing job of teaching Philippians 4. We sang contemporary worship songs and even had a verse of "I Surrender All" acapella. We dedicated a family with their newest child... and we honored our graduates and prayed over them. 

More than once, I teared up as I compared the joyful experience of worshipping with fellow believers to the horror show that has been the lead-up to the annual SBC convention this week.


Later this afternoon, my family & I will make the trek to downtown Nashville and brave the crazy registration process in order to be present for the IMB Sending Celebration, where my nephew and his family will be recognized as new missionaries with the International Mission Board. As I've said before, I couldn't be prouder of them and their faith in Christ.


There's been more information come to light since I wrote my Avalanche of Thoughts post about the SBC last week... in particular, the audio recordings that back up Dr. Moore's letters. And more things have happened... Ronnie Floyd's (dangerously close to gaslighting) response, the frantic action of the Executive Committee to hire a third-party firm to review themselves (though without the proper level of independence and reporting that will bring about meaningful change) - along with their self-congratulatory press release, the foolishness of the Wokeness and The Gospel conference, and a variety of news articles in places like The New Yorker and the Washington Post on what's about to happen here in Nashville on Tuesday and Wednesday.

So... as I pray for justice to prevail, for the truth to set us free, for God to use what some have intended for evil instead to do good, some more thoughts for you to consider.


The only way to end these controversies is to do the right thing. And the right thing is to vote on resolutions that support the sufficiency of Scripture and acknowledge that there are places where racism from the past still systemically intrudes in the present. And no, this does not make me a Critical Race Theorist, no matter how many times people on Twitter lie about that.

If we fail to do so, we will spark an exodus of black, young, and other leaders who care deeply about these issues.

Friends, if you think that Danny Akin is liberal, that black pastors have secretly infiltrated us with Marxism, and that abuse survivors are the enemy, then you’ve been fooled. Instead, I hope you will be discerning as you make wise choices on resolutions, motions, and elections of officers.


The idea that black Christians needed Karl Marx to teach them about *systems of oppression* in a country that had *legalized slavery* and *Jim Crow* might be the wildest take to gain footing in a long time.


Rachael Denhollander:

Guidepost [the firm hired by the SBC Executive Committee] is a highly skilled and qualified firm and I have confidence in their ability to do what the SBC needs.

HOWEVER, the ability to do what they are capable of will depend on the EC letting them do their job. Here's what you should ask for that isn't commissioned yet:

The EC has NOT included all paid, appointed or elected leaders or staff of the Convention in this commission. The scope should be broadened to include these official actors.

The EC has NOT committed to waiving privilege so that Guidepost has access to all data and information. This step is absolutely critical, but the EC alone can make this move, and any firm hired would be inhibited by a refusal to do so no matter how good the firm.

The EC has NOT commissioned a public report on the findings and recommendations. This is a critical component of accountability and transparency that must be included in the commission.

Guidepost is a truly independent, international firm that specializes in policy and cultural analysis and ethical compliance, with leaders that have a strong background in religious dynamics. I've been aware of their work for several years and been very pleased.

But the EC will only get the benefit of what they allow themselves to get. 

Ask for waiver, an extended scope and a fully public report. Only the EC can make those decisions, and they are critical pieces of this assessment and training.


My personal plea for #SBC21:

I pastor a small SBC church in East Nashville (less than 5 miles from where the convention is taking place).

The demographics of our neighborhood have entirely changed in the past decade. As Nashville has boomed, East Nashville (EN) has transformed from a rough neighborhood to the Brooklyn of the South. Most new residents come to us from NYC, Chicago, San Francisco, LA, Boston, etc.

There are more 30-year-olds than children under the age of 18 in my zip code. 1/3 residents are in their 20-30’s. And they are typical Gen-Z/Millennial in posture toward religion plus a good deal more progressive.

Many are non-Christians. Some are exvangelicals. Some never grew up in church. But many new residents don’t automatically find a church to worship in on Sunday.

Over the past 30 years, all of the SBC churches in my ZIP code have experienced significant decline. There were as many people attending my church 30 years ago than in all SBC churches in EN combined today.

Everything religious demographers haves predicted has come true here.

Many of my neighbors don’t agree with our church’s position of theological issues such as the inerrancy and authority of God’s Word, the exclusivity of Christ for salvation, or social issues concerning abortion or LGBT relationships.

At the same time, there is a passion for justice among many of my neighbors. We might disagree about tactics and degree on certain things, but it’s the kind of neighborhood where racial equity is on the fore of people’s minds. People want to help the poor and homeless.

All this to say: the inevitable row at #SBC21 this year is going to reverberate to my neighborhood. All the toxicity that will emerge is going to be on local headlines. They’ll chat about it in the neighborhood FB group.

It’s not going to help at all as we endeavor to engage in outreach and evangelism in our neighborhood.

Furthermore, if there is a failure to address the issues concerning sexual abuse, if decisions made on the floor result in a mass exodus of leaders of color and ethnic churches, if leaders are elected who refuse to address these issues, not only will it be a moral failure…

but it will also give a black eye to churches in my area who are trying to adapt to a changing culture while we proclaim the never-changing truth of the gospel.

It’s not about respectability in our neighbors’ eyes. I know where I’m going to diverge from them in my moral calculus, and it isn’t always going to make me comfortable or laudable to them.

But the all-or-nothing, winner-takes-all politicking, especially by those of the CBN who are literally waving flags with a symbol of death and war on it, it’s just going to besmirch the reputation of humble churches like mine trying to do God’s Work in our context.

It also besmirches the reputation of God and grieves the Holy Spirit.

I’m but a lowly pastor, and this is my perspective. But after the mushroom cloud clears on Wednesday, I’ve got to stay in town.

I’ll have to explain why we affiliate with people who are so uncooperative in the name of “Jesus.”

I’ll have to explain to skeptical neighbors why the Jesus of the gospels – who has the words of eternal life, who calls us into his own glory and excellence, who humbled himself for us and for our salvation – is worth following and worthy of praise.

But then again, so will we all.

But back to that plea: 
Do justice
Love mercy
Walk humbly with thy God

Let’s tackle the bungled response to the sex abuse crisis head on.

Let’s resolve to be a place who is a missions-sending juggernaut AND where we have the highest standard of ethical conduct. No thumping our chests about missions if we can’t follow our Lord’s command (see 1 John)

Let’s not allow decades of efforts toward racial reconciliation be reversed by those determined to demonize black voices.

Let’s not allow falsehoods and half-truths perpetuate by those eager to win power.

Let’s resolve to believe abuse victims and seek justice on their behalf.

Let’s not let disgraced and ambitious men use the SBC as their hobby horse or platform for personal interest.

Let’s pray that the SBC would reflect who Jesus is and who he called the church to be.

Let us heed the master’s words so eloquently captured in the hymn: “They’ll know we are Christians by our love.”

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