I’m relatively new to the Southern Baptist Convention, and I belong to a SBC church that largely ignores what the upper echelons do. Our pastor identifies more with Grace Community Church and The Master’s Seminary than with any SBC entity (at least as far as I can tell). Following Michelle Lesley, Founders’ Ministries and various people on Twitter has generated my interest in the Southern Baptist Convention over the past three or four years. I therefore begin this blog post with the necessary acknowledgment that I don’t know as much as I should about the organization.
I only watched the Tuesday and Wednesday live streams of the meeting, but judging from my Twitter feed, most of the action happened during those two sessions. Consequently, my remarks will be focused on what I personally witnessed. If anyone reading this article watched more — or was actually there — and can correct my perception, please use the Comment Section to offer more clarity.
Despite my disclaimer, I have definite opinions that I believe I can express with some degree of Biblical accuracy. Please consider these opinions, not as me whining because things didn’t go as I wanted (although I am angry, disappointed and extremely disgusted by what happened), but as a sober warning. Even though not all of you belong to SBC churches, the events of last week should remind all of us that we can fall all too easily into compromise with the world.
Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall. ~~1 Corinthians 10:12 (NASB95)
Shall I start with the elephant in the room? So much has already been said about Rick Warren’s “surprise” appearance just before the Credentials Committee was to move that Saddleback Church be disfellowshipped for ordaining women in violation of the Baptist Faith and Message. I don”t think I have a lot to add to the discussion about his act of theater, other than to voice my dismay that the Committee immediately withdrew their recommendation (and I mean with lightning speed) once he finished telling the floor how much he’s done for the Convention.
In my opinion, Warren cited all his alleged accomplishments (most of which are highly questionable) almost as a threat to those who would disfellowship Saddleback. He well knows that the SBC is addicted to big numbers, and so he framed his defense (after making it abundantly clear, mind you, that he wasn’t going to defend himself) in order to suggest that the SBC needs Saddleback. He skillfully redirected attention away from his rebellious action of ordaining women, convincing the powers that be of their dependence on his network of churches.
Other bloggers and podcasters have pointed out that Rick Warren was not a registered messenger at this year’s Annual Meeting, and therefore shouldn’t have been given the floor. Meanwhile, Jennifer Buck, an actual registered messenger, was not permitted to move that Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary be investigated for leaking the rough draft of her article without her knowledge or permission.
Those of you who are unfamiliar with the controversy over Jennifer’s rough draft can easily look it up online, since I can’t write an adequate synopsis of it in this blog post. My point in mentioning it here is to highlight that Ed Litton and others on the platform tightly controlled the narrative of the Meeting, not allowing anyone to challenge them. Jennifer had much more right to speak than Rick Warren had, yet Ed Litton silenced her as rapidly as he possibly could.
Even as someone relatively unfamiliar with the SBC, I could see the corruption in its higher levels at that moment. Up until that point, although I didn’t particularly like a lot of the things I observed, I don’t think I fully understood how much they manipulated the messengers to protect their interests. But the total disregard they showed Jennifer convinced me that all their talk about wanting to glorify God was merely a smokescreen for maintaining power.
Other incidents disturbed me during those two sessions I watched, and I’m sorry that time prevents me from writing about them today. Those incidents also opened my eyes to the manipulative practices within the higher ranks of the SBC. I’d honestly believed that the will of the messengers would shape the direction of the Convention, but I watched in horrified fascination as Ed Litton and the others on the platform molded the votes to suit their agendas.
The day after it ended, Psalm 12 came up in my personal devotions. It seems appropriate.
Help, Lord, for the godly man ceases to be,
For the faithful disappear from among the sons of men.
2 They speak falsehood to one another;
With flattering lips and with a double heart they speak.
3 May the Lord cut off all flattering lips,
The tongue that speaks great things;
4 Who have said, “With our tongue we will prevail;
Our lips are our own; who is lord over us?”
5 “Because of the devastation of the afflicted, because of the groaning of the needy,
Now I will arise,” says the Lord; “I will set him in the safety for which he longs.”
6 The words of the Lord are pure words;
As silver tried in a furnace on the earth, refined seven times.
7 You, O Lord, will keep them;
You will preserve him from this generation forever.
8 The wicked strut about on every side
When vileness is exalted among the sons of men. (NASB95)