“Speaking truth to power.” Used by liberals ad nauseum during President George W. Bush’s eight years in office, this pithy saying, although not in the Bible, certainly was embodied in the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, Paul, Peter, John and others in the New Testament era and by Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and others in the Old Testament era. To speak truth to those in power is not an easy thing to do, whether those in positions of power are in government or in America’s largest Protestant body. Because so few people have the courage to challenge those in power, when it happens, it becomes all the more noticeable.
Such was the case in Greensboro, NC at the Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in June 2006. In one of the boldest examples of truth-telling to those in power that I have had the privilege to witness in person, (the late) Forrest Pollock, Senior Pastor of Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Brandon, Florida, placed Frank Page’s name in nomination for President of the SBC. Ending his rousing nomination speech, Pollock uttered these simple, yet profound words:
“My granddaddy didn’t have a seminary degree but even he understood you can’t even spell SBC president without a C and a P.”
Taking on the establishment and their candidates — Ronnie Floyd and Jerry Sutton — Frank Page garnered 50.48% of the vote, securing a first-ballot victory that sent shock waves throughout the Convention. So dumbfounded were some prominent members of the ruling class that they walked out of the Convention hall after the results were announced, wondering aloud exactly what had just happened. What had happened was that rank and file Southern Baptists, at least on this one day in Greensboro, said NO to the establishment! These humble servants, not liking it when anyone tells them no, vowed that “this” would never happen again. Never again would their candidate lose an election for President of the SBC. With the elections of Johnny Hunt and Bryant Wright (although Ted Traylor would have fit the bill), the establishment has been true to their word. But, just like with the election of Frank Page, grass-roots Southern Baptists will rally behind irenic and humble cooperating conservatives who stand in stark contrast to the all too common celebrity pastors that dot the Southern Baptist landscape.
Following his election, Frank Page was quoted as saying:
I think it is a turning point. And I do think a different tone will come forth from this convention. And that tone will indeed echo some deep appreciation of the past in the sacrifices men and women have made. But I think it also will show, in the future (that) the landscape has changed — that there is a deep need to involve a much larger constituency.
I think by “larger” that Dr. Page meant broader, in the sense that a greater variety of Southern Baptists would be included on the trustee boards and other leadership positions within the agencies and entities of the SBC. Apparently, the establishment didn’t understand it that way. To them, a “larger constituency” means a mega constituency that they naturally confused for their own “large” churches. If the 2010 nominations for the 63 new trustees of the SBC’s agencies and entities are any indication, then smaller churches, which make up the majority of churches within the Southern Baptist Convention, are still inequitably represented.
Unless more people like Frank Page are elected to serve as President of our Convention, then we can expect that the inequity will continue. How can we ensure ALL of our churches are fairly represented? When grass-roots Southern Baptists begin to understand that not just the Cooperative Program, but the very nature of cooperation is at stake. When rank and file pastors and members of small and medium-sized Southern Baptist churches stop following the establishment in their radical redefinition of our Convention. And, when SBC statesmen and pastors (or former pastors) of larger cooperating churches, like the late Forrest Pollock and others (calling Pastor Bobby), speak truth to power before it is too late! Grass-roots Southern Baptists are waiting. And I promise you, we will notice when you speak!