Friday, June 13, 2014

Under the radar at the SBC meeting in Baltimore

Here are a few significant things that happened at Baltimore that didn't get much Baptist Press:

Kevin Ezell, NAMB, and state convention CEOs

No SBC entity has undergone more head-snapping, abrupt change, too often through mismanagement as well as poor leadership as has our North American Mission Board. We had two leadership meltdowns in the past few years and then some serious recalibration before the present leader, Kevin Ezell, led NAMB to get on the right track.

Ezell led the sprawling, amoebic organization to a more concentrated focus on planting churches as opposed to shuttling money back to state conventions for a panoply of good but lower priority uses, many of which are in areas where Southern Baptists are the dominant religious presence. Although this involved only a fraction of NAMB's budget it was a fraction that went back to states in kickbacks. No one rejoices when their budget is cut. Ezell and NAMB outlined a reasonable manner by which NAMB's funding would be distributed throughout North America. Eventually, folks got on board, partly because it's tough to justify spending NAMB money in Alabama when there are areas of America that don't already have SBC churches on every street corner and at every crossroads.

During NAMB's presentation in Baltimore, state convention leaders stood with Ezell in support of moving funding from their legacy states to less churched American regions through the new funding model. Ezell expressed gratitude for the leadership of the state executives and for their sacrifice. I suspect that few knew how hard it was to get to that place. Give Kevin Ezell a trophy for turning our dysfunctional mission board around.

Child Abuse Advocates...outside the convention hall

SBCers can expect organizations that advocate for reform in regard to clergy child abuse to be present at every SBC annual meeting from here on for the foreseeable future. The groups and advocates favor action that the SBC has refused to take, namely the establishment and funding of an independent investigatory group at the Executive Committee level which would receive, investigate, and maintain reports of clergy sex abuse in SBC churches. There are serious problems with this proposal but there are also serious incidents of child abuse by SBC clergy.

Had I been present I would have talked to some of these whom I suspect that I have corresponded over the past several years when writing on child sex abuse in SBC churches.

The group asked for a time to speak during the SBC meeting but was unsuccessful. I doubt they will ever get on the official SBC program but how about the Pastor's Conference? If the PC leadership wanted to help pastors avoid child sex abuse in their churches one way to get attention would be to give one of the victims of abuse a few minutes for a testimony. Let the victim describe how he or she was abused by an SBC church staff member, what happened afterward, and how he or she felt about the church's response. That would be an uncomfortable few moments for those in attendance but I'd bet it would rivet some to the problem and some pastors would go back to their church and see to it that child protection policies were put in place. That would have been a more profitable result from a pastor's conference that the latest forgettable rip-and-roar, stemwinder sermon from whatever fair-haired preacher boy had the platform.

Low attendance and low vote totals

Ronnie Floyd almost got surprised, partly because the composition and attendance levels of SBC meetings is declining. We may be at the place where a megachurch pastor cannot expect automatic election any longer. It's time to move on from the SBC Conservative Resurgence pattern of a parade of megapastors.

Maybe next year I'll make Columbus, Ohio.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Let's not forget Patterson: “... the compromised theology of the Reformers, Southwestern ... refuses to truncate the ... gospel ... While allowing no discrimination against our Reformed cousins ....”

Patterson: “… the compromised theology of the Reformers, Southwestern … refuses to truncate the … gospel … While allowing no discrimination against our Reformed cousins ….”
There will be no play on Broadway called the Magnanimity of Southern Baptists. The language of brothers and sisters in Christ is not preferred if the propositional elements of faith are not advanced in a lock-stepped manner. Says one: “your God is limited.” Says the other: “your God is too particular.” It will never end among minds of this type and the irony will never be grasped. SBC you have seen your future. No doubt you will see external criticism as evidence of the rightness and righteousness of your positions.