Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The GBC presidency - Will it make any difference?

I've been a pastor in Georgia for almost 15 years. It's home. I like the Georgia Baptist Convention. I like my fellow pastors. I like the GBC staff that I know and have worked with. The ones I don't know are probably great folks. I have no big complaint about things here.

We have two outstanding GBC pastors, Fred Evers and John Waters, campaigning furiously for the presidency this year, and that even though the moderates and liberals in this state have long since departed GBC life. So far as folks like me in the GBC hinterlands know, there isn't any scandal afoot nor any unsavory characters lurking around.

No Visigoths are at the gate in this state convention.

For reasons previously offered I plan to vote for John Waters for GBC president, not that my vote is anything other than one hacker and plodder's vote. But bloggers like to do stuff like this, just in case someone else might be paying attention. Happy to do my part. If John Waters loses and Fred Evers wins, I will still be a happy GBC guy.

But what I'm ruminating on about the whole business of GBC politics is this: Does it really matter? The answer that I hate to give is - probably not.

There are matters of concern. The GBC is at the budget level we were at a decade ago and employs scores fewer employees that we did a decade ago. The state convention as a moral influence and a significant force in the state is likely lower than it has been in generations (the latest example may be found here).

So, does it matter which successful pastor is our president? In a way, no.

The GBC does yet have a good pile of Cooperative Program money to spend. It's a falling sum but still quite significant. Replacing one group of decisionmakers with another will likely not change much. We may tweak a bit here, shift a little there, and replace this program with that one. Some employees may be ushered out and new ones hired. A new regime would probably only nip at the margins, since we have heavy fixed investments in buildings, programs, schools, and ministries. No one will change much.

We can rearrange the deck chairs on this ship but not do much else? Perhaps. The ship isn't sinking, of course, just shrinking.

God can certainly move things much faster, more dramatically, and permanently. I don't see that He is tied to any state convention election, budget, or personnel issue.

On the other hand, the GBC president is a person in a good position to take steps to see that GBC ownership is shared and greater participation is encouraged. Control of convention budgets, entities, and programs has been rather tightly held by a well-meaning few. It cannot but help to broaden the base of GBC supporters. Such will not be swift or dramatic, but it will be a positive move.

But does it make any difference who is elected? Probably not in the short run. But if commitments to expand convention leadership and ownership are studiously kept for the short and medium future the base of GBC supporters cannot but be expanded.

Both GBC presidential candidates have stated that they would involve new (the word 'and younger' is usually affixed here) people. Good for them both.

To my way of thinking John Waters alone has offered some very specific and concrete commitments about this. He has also explicitly stated he would like to be held accountable for this.

That's good enough for me, whether it makes a lot of difference or not.

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