SBC Establishment Misreads Its Mandate!

After the election of Barack Obama as President of the United States, the Democrat Party and their leaders in Congress, including Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, just knew that the voters had given them a mandate for change.  After eight years of George W. Bush, the electorate was indeed ready to go in a new direction.  Little did they know that Obama and Company, in less than two years, would not only turn the country in a different direction, but would attempt one of the most radical transformations of American life that we have witnessed in the modern era.

In less than two months, the American people will go to the ballot box to either affirm or repudiate the radical agenda that has been implemented by power-hungry politicians who have over played their hand and over stayed their welcome.  If what happened in the Delaware Republican primary last week is any indication, then the establishment elites — both Democrats and Republicans — will be in for the shock of their lives when the American people rise up and let their voices be heard loud and clear.

In the same way, many within the Southern Baptist Convention establishment may also be shocked to find that more and more Southern Baptists are letting their voices be heard loud and clear.  From Morris Chapman (see here and here), soon to be retired President of the SBC Executive Committee, to State Baptist Executive Directors David Hankins of Louisiana and Emil Turner of Arkansas to rank and file Southern Baptists (see here, here, and here), the divide between grass-roots Southern Baptists and those in the ruling establishment continues to grow.  With the nomination and election of Kevin Ezell to lead the North American Mission Board, a mission agency that he led his church to minimally support in the last ten years, coupled with the Search Committee’s deaf ear toward the concerns of State Baptist Executives over Ezell’s nomination, the divide has increased.  Depending on who is nominated as President of the International Mission Board, there could be further division.  If one of the members of the Great Commission Task Force or someone closely aligned with someone from that group is nominated, the SBC establishment should be prepared to field tough questions from the churches that they ostensibly represent.

However, if the “leaders” continue to play from the same playbook, no one should be surprised when those within the ruling class do not answer any questions.  And why should they?  When you can unilaterally seal your own Task Force’s records for 15 years and brazenly tell rank and file Southern Baptists that this is necessary; when you can hold closed-door meetings and vote for new Presidents of the Executive Committee and NAMB in secret; when you can say that you support the Cooperative Program, but all the while take actions that, if followed to their logical conclusion, would eviscerate CP and the State Conventions while radically redefining what it means to be a cooperating Southern Baptist; when you can, with a straight face, tell small and medium-sized churches, that sending money to CP isn’t enough if you don’t plant your own churches or satellites, then you can do anything you want without having to fear the unwashed masses.  If it were not so frustrating and sad, the similarities between the political maneuvering of the ruling elites in Washington, D.C. and the ruling elites in the SBC would be amusing.  Unfortunately, neither is.

Two years after President Obama’s historic election, the supposed mandate that he rode into office on has evaporated.  That’s what happens when you mistakenly believe that you were given a mandate by the American people for radical change.  The SBC establishment, with about 10% of Convention churches represented at the Annual Meeting in Orlando, thought that they were given a mandate for radical change when 75% of the messengers voted to approve the GCR Task Force Report.  I’m no math whiz, but that was less than the 95% (including me) who voted for the formation of a GREAT COMMISSION Task Force in Louisville last year.  If the SBC establishment keeps misreading their mandate, they may discover in Phoenix next year that they really are in the minority when the majority of grass-roots Southern Baptists rise up and let their voices be heard loud and clear!

10 comments for “SBC Establishment Misreads Its Mandate!

  1. September 21, 2010 at 8:42 AM

    First, my friend, your analysis of President Obama eclipses the situation the country was in when he took office. General Colin Powell and William Jefferson Clinton had great response to your misguided notions Sunday on NBC Meet the Press, transcript easily googled.
    Second I hope you will engage the discussion at on Jesus and Paul and Civil Discourse. If nothing else link your otherwise (other than faulty comparison to Obama) good blog here on current state of the SBC.
    My take is this calamity at the NAMB was in the DNA of what I think is rightly called the fundamentalist takeover of the SBC. I had a good chat, one on one, with Morris Chapman in Clemson, SC during an FMB mission appointment weekend, the last of Keith Parks; woulda been about 92 or so.
    Here is the problem Chapman, Jim Henry, Frank Page and others in that frame can’t seem to understand.
    Quoting here from a Bill Leonard review of Carl Kell’s book on the Rhetoric of the CR:

    Carl Kell, Director of Development and Alumni Affairs at Western Kentucky University Student Body Profile
    WKU had a total enrollment in the Fall Semester of 2002 (the latest published figures) of 17,818 students. Out of this total, 73% were full-time and 85% were undergraduates. Ethnic and racial minority enrollment was just under 13% at 2,097. , and L. Raymond Camp, professor of communication at North Carolina State UniversityHistory

    Main article: History of North Carolina State University

    The North Carolina General Assembly founded NC State on March 7, 1887 as a land-grant college under the name North Carolina College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts.
    ….. Click the link for more information., believe that the rhetoric of Southern Baptist fundamentalists offers clues to the direction of the convention and its conservative-led response to issues of sexuality, politics, and theology. The authors suggest that after twenty years of controversy the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC (1) (SBC Communications Inc., San Antonio, TX, A large, national telecommunications company that grew from a multitude of local and regional companies, including Southwestern Bell, Pacific Bell and Nevada Bell, into a single, unified brand by 2002. ) “is a failed communication system,” in which “open and free communication” is undermined (p. 7). They provide an overview of the denomination’s history, describe the efforts of fundamentalists to elect convention presidents, and then give specific illustrations of the way in which conservative rhetoric shapes the “new” SBC.

    Kell and Camp insightfully observe that Southern Baptists are a people bound together by rhetoric–particularly the male-dominated rhetoric of the pulpit–and insist that “three bodies of rhetoric” shape the fundamentalist-dominated convention (p. 28). These include the rhetoric of fundamentalism itself, the rhetoric of biblical inerrancy, and a resulting rhetoric of exclusion. In other words Adv. 1. in other words – otherwise stated; “in other words, we are broke”
    put differently , as the rhetorical ideologies of fundamentalism and inerrancy in·er·ran·cy
    Freedom from error or untruths; infallibility: belief in the inerrancy of the Scriptures.

    Noun 1. came to dominate the convention, the denomination was then led to actions and agendas that produced exclusionary positions relative to women, homosexuals, Masons, and liberals. (More recent actions of the SBC regarding conversion tactics directed toward Jews might also be added to the list.) Exclusionist ex·clu·sion·ist
    One that advocates the exclusion of another or others, as from having or exercising a right or privilege.


    ex·clu rhetoric declares that certain “sanctioned, scriptural texts” define group membership and may be used to “rid” the group of certain undesirable elements (p. 33). The book explores sermons, resolutions, and other statements from fundamentalist leaders as they move from inerrancy to public commentaries on the role of women, the evils of homosexuality, the destructiveness of liberalism, and the dangers of groups such as the Masons.

    This is a fascinating study less because it offers any new insights into an old controversy than because it takes seriously the depths of SBC rhetoric. Speeches are not simply symbols of orthodoxy; they perpetuate an approach to orthodoxy that has implications for theological and political agendas. It will be particularly helpful to students of rhetoric and speech. It offers students of the SBC another way of understanding how changes in denominational identity influence denominational positions on ethics, politics, and family. Since the publication of this book, the rhetoric of exclusion has continued with Southern Baptists making declarations regarding Jews, Hindus, and evangelism. If Kell and Camp are correct and the Southern Baptists are on a rhetorical crusade, there is no end in sight.


    Wake Forest University Divinity School

  2. September 21, 2010 at 11:31 AM


    Thanks for the good report at SBCImpact. I think you will enjoy exchanges with David Rogers there as well as a few others.
    Wanted to notify you I have left some kind words for you at my fundamentalist blogger Bama friend John Killian. Take our word for it, google up the Larry Nelson family of NW Arkansas and consider a CD purchase.
    Reverend Brother Doctor Killian:

    • September 21, 2010 at 1:27 PM


      Interesting discussion ongoing at SBCImpact. While we will have to agree to disagree about my analysis of President Obama, I do think that your analysis regarding rhetoric, as used in the SBC, has merit. As pastors, preachers, and politicians (sometimes all three rolled into one), rhetoric and persuasion is often vital to get folks to go where you wish to lead. That can be done in a good way or a bad way, but rhetoric is important. I heard first-hand in Orlando at the SBC Convention as numerous “preachers” used rhetoric in their sermons, not necessarily to deliver an expositional message, but rather to garner support for the GCR Task Force’s Report. From the President of the Pastor’s Conference, Kevin Ezell, playing the famous W.A. Criswell “skunk” sermon to Johnny Hunt likening opponents of the GCRTF to the rebellious spies who died in the desert to James Merrit throwing around the “L” word (liberal), there was no question what this particular rhetoric was designed to accomplish. However, in the light of day and in light of Kevin Ezell’s elevation to NAMB President, a missions agency that he led his church to minimally support, the rhetoric of the SBC establishment may not be as powerful or persuasive as it once was. We shall see. Thanks for the comments. Have a great day,


  3. September 22, 2010 at 6:49 AM

    Check the SBC Trends site at David Miller’s reach as wide as he has had one of my truth telling responses to his shenanigans taken down there.
    I hope you will have the conviction to do some truth telling at SBC Voices on the matter.
    Frye Galliard has a grand story from the Civil Rights era about Abraham and the sacrifice of Isaac. Miller’s faith doesn’t go that far,apparently. He doesn’t trust the Ram’s Horns to be long enough when it comes to Ivy League Education and page 51 of Diarmand MacCulloch on the History of the Book of Genesis.

    On another matter, PBS POV the Oath. I saw it last night. Read up on it and make every way you can to view online or repeat on PBS. It is stunning in several places.

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