Updated: Jun 20, 2022
First things first: Southern California is beautiful!
Tera and I thoroughly enjoyed our time in Anaheim. The weather was in the upper 70’s during the day, and in the upper 50’s in the evenings. Well done, California!
Also, after the convention, we took advantage of our time and road-tripped with some friends to the Sequoia and Yosemite National Parks. Amazing, but more on that later…
2022 Convention Reflections
1 - Drama around the Presidency.
-Leading up to the Convention, there was lots of politicking going on; the majority coming from the CBN (Conservative Baptist Network) and their candidate, Tom Ascol. Ascol and the CBN were the most vocal before and during the convention, with Mike Stone giving what amounted to a political stump-speech nominating Ascol.
According to the Convention by-laws, a candidate must receive at least 50% of the vote in order to win. Given that there were 4 candidates for President, this seemed unlikely on the first ballot. Unsurprisingly, no one achieved the required 50%, so Barber and Ascol went into a runoff.
Thankfully, Bart Barber emerged victorious in the runoff.
-While Bart Barber is no newcomer to the SBC, having served on several Convention level committees and trustee boards, he has faithfully pastored a normative Baptist Church since 1999 in Farmersville, Texas.
Barber has stated his desire to work across the SBC for unity and shared purpose, emphasizing the need for biblical faithfulness and genuine cooperation. He is also ready to deal openly and honestly with the issues surrounding the SBC’s newly discovered history of sexual abuse and coverup.
-Barber and I share some differing theological convictions, but they are not so different that we cannot call ourselves Christian brothers. Nor would those differences prevent me from fully supporting him in his new role.
I look for positive things from Barber’s leadership, and he has my prayers and support.
2 - The Guidepost Abuse Report.
-The SATF (Sexual Abuse Task Force) Report was, perhaps, the most anticipated moment of the 2022 Convention. Most committees are granted 10-15 minutes for their report and questions, while the SATF was granted well over an hour on Tuesday afternoon—primetime. I do not recall exactly how long the session went, but we definitely exceeded that hour time-slot. Rightly so.
Pastor Bruce Frank of Biltmore Baptist in Asheville, NC, chaired the committee and delivered the report.
-The committee reported back to the Convention with 2 recommendations:
Recommendation 1: That the Messengers of the 2022 SBC Convention approve the creation of an Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force (ARITF). This new group would have several responsibilities…
1) Study the best-practices for how to implement recommendations coming from the Guidepost report;
2) Assist the various SBC entities with assessing how these recommendations will affect each group;
3) Be a fixed SBC resource in abuse prevention, crisis response, and survivor care;
4) Work with the Credentials Committee to evaluate Churches acting inconsistently with the Convention’s stance on abuse;
5) Work to obtain independent firms for investigation when needed.
Recommendation 2: That the Messengers to the 2022 Convention approve the creation of a “Ministry Check” website that catalogues those who have been credibly accused of sexual abuse.
-Both of these recommendations were heartily approved. It was an overwhelmingly positive moment for the Southern Baptist Convention. And while these actions only scratch the surface of the work yet to be done, the approval of the committee's recommendations indicate that the Convention itself is ready to deal with the issues, taking the positive and needed steps forward.
About Guideposts Pro-LGBTQ tweet…
Some may have noticed that Guideposts, the company contracted by the SATF to investigate the SBC Executive committee, recently tweeted in support of the LGBTQ community and Pride month. This tweet, unsurprisingly, caused some controversy.
A number of Messengers were adamant that we must not proceed with the recommendations from the SATF report, nor with the committee's recommendations because of the tweet.
But such action would have been a mistake. It is a well-established biblical precedent that God often uses pagan and ungodly groups to bring punishment and discipline upon His Own people.
Thankfully, the Convention took the right steps and pressed forward.
3 - Rick Warren.
-On Tuesday afternoon, celebrity pastor Rick Warren made a surprise appearance “in defense” of himself and of Saddleback Church. Last year, Warren (and Saddleback) came under fire because, in announcing his pending retirement, Warren also announced two Co-Senior Pastors would assume his place; one of them was a woman. This led to a motion at the 2021 convention that Saddleback be disfellowshipped from the Convention.
Warren was given an unusually long-time at the microphone, no doubt due to his celebrity status. He stated that he was there to read a “love letter” that he had penned to Southern Baptists. The letter was anything but “loving.” Perhaps the best summation of the 7 minute speech is this, “That wasn't a love letter from Rick Warren to Southern Baptists. That was a love letter from Rick Warren to Rick Warren.” It truly was disappointing and unbiblical.
-You can watch the speech here.
4 - Female Pastors?
-This conversation has been ongoing for some time now, but was really catalyzed by the controversy with Saddleback Church and Rick Warren. In early 2021, the Church ordained 3 women as “Pastors” in the Church; a move that many Southern Baptists took as an express violation of SBC belief and practice. Saddleback remains the largest Church in the SBC, reporting close to 24,000 members. So, its actions carry a lot of weight.
As noted, a Messenger to the 2021 convention motioned that Saddleback be disfellowshipped for these actions (which is the strongest action the SBC can take against a Church).
-These matters are referred to and handled by the SBC Credentials Committee, which gave its response to the 2022 Convention. The response is as follows,
“It is the unanimous opinion of the Credentials Committee that the majority of Southern Baptists hold to the belief that the function of lead pastor, elder, bishop, or overseer is limited to men as qualified by Scripture and that this was the intended definition of “office of pastor” as stated in Article VI of the BF&M 2000. The CC has found little information evidencing the Convention’s beliefs regarding the use of the “title of pastor” for staff positions with different responsibility and authority than that of the lead pastor.”
You can watch the CC report here.
-With this statement, the CC has effectively changed the meaning of the Bible and the BF&M 2000 by adding the word “lead” before the title “Pastor.” Nowhere does this distinction show up in Scripture nor the BF&M 2000. While some churches operate according to a hierarchical structure, utilizing the title “lead pastor” or “senior pastor” to rank one position over another, this is not a biblical distinction and has no warrant from Scripture. By including this language, the CC has effectively opened the SBC up to controversy.
This response to this issue has effectively said, “Baptists believe that only men can be senior pastors, but other pastoral positions aren’t clear.” That is a betrayal of the Scriptures and of the BF&M 2000.
It is my opinion that this response represents a failure on the part of the CC to stand on Scripture, and to stand where the SBC has always firmly stood.
-Baptist Polity is clear: Only men can serve in the office of Elder/Overseer/Pastor (three titles referring to the same office) no matter how a particular Church chooses to define it. When a Church decides to appoint women to that role, they have violated Scripture and departed from cooperation with the SBC. The CC had everything it needed to make its choice. Saddleback should be disfellowshipped.
For more on this issue, read here.
5 - Critical Race Theory.
-Over the past several years, CRT and Intersectionality have been large, pressing issues within the Convention. Specifically, many have targeted our SBC Seminaries and Seminary Presidents, alleging a covert plan to teach students CRT and other insidious worldviews. Thankfully, all 6 Seminary Presidents have made it clear that they stand against CRT in all of its forms.
Thankfully, CRT really wasn’t a huge issue this year. The CBN is still attempting to leverage accusations in that direction, but they do not seem to be sticking. Personally, I did hear conversation among messengers from the floor that would indicate that the issue is still alive to some extent among the rank and file.
I think CRT and Intersectionality reared its head for a brief moment, but that time seems to have come and gone.
6 - The ERLC and Syncretism.
-Every year, it seems like, some group of messengers goes after the ERLC. This year was no different. In a Miscellaneous Business segment, a Messenger made a motion to abolish the SBC Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission (ERLC).
The ERLC serves as the SBC’s policy arm, and lobbying agency in Washington D.C. They are the voice for SBC interest and positions on Capitol Hill, while also providing a guiding light for SBC Churches on many of the moral issues of our day.
-While no longer the ERLC President, Russell Moore caused quite a bit of controversy beginning in 2015 by taking a firm stance against then Presidential-candidate Donald Trump. The Trump Presidency seems to have revealed a big problem within the convention…the problem of syncretism.
Syncretism means “the combination of different forms of belief or practice.” Within the SBC, leaders and Pastors are noticing that church members have combined their religious beliefs and their political beliefs. Specific to the SBC, many have attempted to synchronize Biblical Christianity and American Republicanism. And, in my opinion, this really seems to be at the heart of the hatred of the ERLC.
The Trump presidency unearthed this unhealthy syncretism in many people's lives and has caused lingering issues within many churches.
-Thankfully, the Convention overwhelmingly opposed the motion to abolish the ERLC and its valuable work will continue.
The Future of the Southern Baptist Convention…
-I left the Convention with positive feelings, and some cautious hope. Overall, I would rate the 2022 Convention as: Positive. Many good things were accomplished, but there is still much work to be done. Here are some bullet point takeaways…
We elected a normative Church pastor as President who states his intention to lead toward unity and mission.
We received the SATF report in humility and took positive steps to begin addressing the evils of abuse.
The Convention took a stand against abusers.
The Convention is not in a liberal drift, as some would say. In fact, again and again, the Convention affirmed its orthodox stance of the most crucial of biblical issues (minus female pastors).
The Convention stood against LGBTQ issues and worldviews, while also demonstrating the ability to receive correction even from those who hold opposing beliefs.
The Convention took positive steps in speaking to abortion.
All 6 SBC seminaries are healthy, growing, orthodox, and are seeing record attendance for both men and women!
There are many, many faithful, healthy, genuine Christians that make up the rank and file SBC.
The issue of the pastorate now has to be cleaned up and revisited. Let’s be clear, the Bible speaks to this clearly and leaves nothing unclear. The Credentials Committee messed this up.
Sub-groups, like the CBN, continue to be a divisive issue.
The SATF Report will be a long-term work. We will need commitment and resolve to stay the course. Things could get worse before they get better.
Celebrity pastors/churches pose a potential threat.
There still seems to be a culture of elitism around leadership. There is definitely a “who you know” culture in place.
There is some doctrinal work that must be cleaned up for the Convention to remain biblical and sturdy in a culture that is crumbling. This will take courage.
As one influential and seasoned Pastor said, “I am concerned for the Convention, but not hopeless. There is much good going on.”
I would agree with that statement for what it's worth. The convention does a lot of wonderful work due to its wide cooperation. But, with that wide cooperation comes a diversity of participation. It comes with the territory of something like the Southern Baptist Convention.
There are some things I really love about the SBC and some things I really do not like. That’s everybody.
The question is, is it worth it? For now, my answer is: Yes.
A word on The Conservative Baptist Network…
-This group emerged a few years ago, essentially calling for reform and refocus within the SBC. They initially seemed like a positive force for change, but they have since lost that reputation.
CBN Leader, Brad Jurkovich, is currently being sued by the Church he pastors for alleged mis-handling of church funds related to the CBN.
Their 2021 presidential candidate, Mike Stone, was accused of cover-up and scandal, and while no official allegations have emerged, nothing has been done to honestly deal with the issue.
Their 2022 candidate, Tom Ascol, seemed to be more on a witch-hunt than he did seeking the Presidency for unity and leadership.
The CBN has also gained themselves a negative reputation by disparaging our seminaries and harassing abuse-victims online.
-This group seems to be growing more and more fringe, and I would look for their power and influence to fade in the coming years. Which, given their track record, would be a positive development.