I am an outsider in the Georgia Baptist Convention and haven't spent a lot of time hobnobbing with the Georgia Baptist bourgeoisie preferring my natural element, the Baptist hoi polloi.
When I moved back to my native state in 1997, the state convention was already solidly conservative and has been since. .
This year it has been interesting to watch a hotly contested GBC presidential election unfold, something I have noted in previous blogs here and here. The GBC meets in less than two weeks and we vote on one of the two presidential candidates.
I understand that any organization with a $44 million budget has people who want to be either in the room when decisions are made or in the position to make important decisions. Sure enough, a fairly smallish group has wielded sufficient influence to have their presidents elected, appointments made, and hiring decisions determined. I must confess a probably unhealthy level of ambivalence about these things.
This conservative candidate. That conservative candidate. Tweedledee. Tweedledum.
This year we have had two very energetic candidates who have campaigned furiously. One stated that he has fifty meet-and-greet meetings planned. Fifty.
Both are very good pastors. Both are talking about expanding the tent to include new people in important GBC committees and positions.
Sounds good to me. How should one decide? Flip a coin? Perhaps the biblical casting of lots?
As I have listened and read, I find one candidate to have made a striking public commitment, one that I don't recall ever seeing in all my years of Baptist politics, er, ministry.
John Waters has said this:
I will not personally support any At Large appointment of a person who has recently served. Nor will I support the appointment of that person’s staff member or a member of his/her immediate family to key places of leadership, practices which have become commonplace in recent years.
We're getting serious here.
This was not shared in a private meeting. It's on his campaign site. If he is elected it will be a rather simple matter to judge his actions against these words.
The GBC has seen a steady erosion of Cooperative Program support and some soft rumblings of dissent. Folks are doing a bit of handwringing in this state. While there is no panacea available, it can only help if we move beyond the control of the well-meaning few to include and involve the many. I cannot see anything negative about doing this.
I declare that both candidates are outstanding men, stellar pastors, and wonderful servants of Christ; that the small group that has exercised such influence in GBC politics are all great, well-meaning people; that their staff members and family members who have been appointed because of their close relationships are also wonderful folks.
But I believe I'll vote for John Waters, the guy who has not only said he would call for new levels of inclusion but who has made specific commitments to get there. I love the concept. Say it. Do it. Let's get on with it.
...but we can all still be friends.