Thursday, December 20, 2012

Cutting the Baptist campaigning down in Georgia

My state convention, The Georgia Baptist Convention, is solidly conservative. There has not been a contested election between moderates and conservatives in years and years. But in 2011 there was a white hot political campaign for president, only between two very fine conservative pastors.

I wrote about that here.

When asking around about why the lengthy campaigns, the only answer I got was that there were competing insider groups among GBC conservatives, folks who wanted to be in charge or in a position to influence things in Georgia Baptist life.

The two candidates back in 2011 both had websites and extensive campaign events around the state. I attended one where the candidate said that he had over forty such events, meet and greets, planned beginning in the summer and going all the way to the convention in November.

Fact is, Baptists love to say that they really hate politics but the reality is that they love politics. The proof of that may easily be found in watching them.

Be all that as it may, now the GBC Executive Committee has voted to restrict political campaigning for GBC offices until two months prior to the annual meeting, usually in mid-November. No more of this summer campaign business.

Baptist Press reported the Christian Index story:  Ga. Baptists to limit campaigns to 8 weeks

The Executive Committee's unanimous vote Dec. 10 effectively reduces the campaign window, which had grown to 10 months, to eight weeks. The policy was approved by a unanimous vote of the 125-member group.
The new policy calls for a moratorium on the endorsement of any candidate until after the Sept. 10 GBC Executive Committee meeting. The policy also restricts The Christian Index, the convention's newsjournal, from publishing any article about candidates until that time and limits the amount of follow-up story coverage.
One little problem here...the GBC Executive Committee has absolute no power to prevent anyone from announcing his or her candidacy, to quash any campaign website, or even to prevent the Christian Index from printing such announcements or reporting on campaigns.

They do have a measure of bully pulpit power and they do have some degree of influence over the Christian Index mainly in regard to their budget, but no real power. Does any single Baptist anywhere let any state committee tell them what to do or say and when they can or cannot do it or say it? Nope.

It is a bit ironic, one must conclude, in that many of the heavy campaigners are now voting to restrict campaigns.  Further irony is in the fact that the Christian Index has in the past been the tool of political factions in our state.

I suspect that the Index trustees will go along with the Executive Committee's suggestion. Fact is, the Index and all state papers have been severely diminished in their circulation and thereby in their ability to influence things in the state conventions. Websites and blogs are widely read and may reach more Georgia Baptists who are interested in convention matters than any printed page. Then there are the hallway whisper campaigns, expected to continue unabated.

It is an interesting development. I'm guessing that Baptists are resourceful enough to squeeze a great deal of good, old fashioned Baptist campaigning even into an eight week period. It is one of those things that we just like to do.

We will find out later next year when the office of president in the GBC is up for grabs.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

An authoritarian move in the GBC? I bet no one saw that coming.