GCR: Hand to Hand Combat in the States?

During the course of an interview on The O’Reilly Factor, especially when a politician attempts to spin their arguments, Bill O’Reilly often tells his guests that he is “a simple man.”  While I don’t think anyone would accuse Mr. O’Reilly of being a simpleton, his “simple man” approach does have a way of cutting through the political spin and simplifying the issues for his viewers.  That’s probably one reason that he continues to have the highest rated cable news show for the better part of a decade. 

Although some would see my legal background as an impediment in the ministry, I have always seen my law school training and practice as an attorney as a benefit and blessing.  It allows me to bring a unique perspective to the table and to hopefully simplify and clarify those issues that others would like to obfuscate (muddy).

So, let’s cut through the mud and the spin that has become the GCR.  For many, the GCR has simply replaced CR as the rallying cry in what appears to be the never-ending battle for the heart and soul (not to mention control) of the Southern Baptist Convention.  Not content with a thoroughly conservative convention, including all six seminaries and both mission boards, the ruling elite within the Convention has now set its sights on taking control of the Baptist state conventions.  Some on the GCRTF would have already taken control, but for that pesky Baptist doctrine known as autonomy.  That some on the Task Force had to be educated about the autonomy of the state conventions is a telling sign of where the battle is headed in the days and years to come.

Another telling sign has been provided by Nathan Akin, the son of Dr. Danny Akin, in a post on the Baptist21 blog.  Entitled “GCR Phase2?,” Akin lays out a clear and compelling strategy for GCR supporters to follow in order to accomplish the full implementation of the GCR.  This strategy, quite simply, means changing the structures at all levels of SBC life:

“Therefore, it is likely that there will need to be several more phases for a GCR to take root in all levels of our convention structures. Phase2 of the GCR will likely be involvement in the state convention and other local Baptist structures.”

While I do not presume to say that Nathan Akin speaks for anyone else in this particular article, I think it would be naive to believe that he speaks for no one else in this article.  I would find it passing strange if his views were not shared by many, perhaps most, of those who support the GCR, including a good many of the ruling elites within the SBC.

I would say that I am surprised by the battle plan that Akin has articulated, but I am not.  In a recent post, “The GCR & a New War Between the States,” I predicted that the battle for the GCR implementation would have to be fought, in large measure, at the state convention level.  And, make no mistake, this is exactly what Nathan Akin and other GCR supporters are advocating for.

What is surprising about the Baptist21 article is the lack of self-awareness on the part of some GCR supporters.  What is fascinating about the strategy proposed by Akin is that he seems to be encouraging pastors who have heretofore never had much use for the state conventions or the annual meetings to now show up in mass to make their voices heard.

The most astounding — and revealing — part of the article is when Akin writes:

If we are to see more money leave the Deep South, we must be present at state conventions, be a consistent part of the process, vote on budgets, make motions, and more. Make your voice heard. So do something this October/November that may not be as glamorous as going to T4G, the Gospel Coalition conference, or Catalyst, take a day and go to your state convention meeting and vote on budgets and resolutions that reflect your churches priorities. If you are an advocate of the GCR go and vote on things that represent what was called for in the GCR Task Force Report that was adopted in June at the National Convention. Load up a van and take some friends with you. Make this a first step in seeking a GCR in our structures at all levels of SBC life.

So, let me get this straight.  For those pastors who have up to now shunned the non-glamorous annual meetings of the various Baptist state conventions and who have presumably chosen to spend their conference time and money on attending such glamorous non-SBC events like T4G, the Gospel Coalition or Catalyst, they should now deign to show up at the state convention annual meetings in October and November to let their voices be heard. Wow!  How have we been able to function without all those glamorous folks showing up at our annual meetings?  

The all-out politicizing of the Great Commission by the GCRTF and the establishment and ruling elites within the SBC will continue to have negative ramifications convention-wide.  The tone-deafness of many of the GCR supporters reveals a lack of understanding of where I believe most Southern Baptists are.

When SBC President Bryant Wright tells state conventions that they can be “real heroes” if they gut their state conventions by just forking over more money to national SBC causes and, when young leaders like Nathan Akin hold up some state conventions (i.e., Florida and Kentucky) as “worthy of emulating” (as opposed to those non-worthy state conventions — Louisiana?), then the fragile unity — supposedly built around the Great Commission — that was evident in Louisville will continue to erode.  And, erode quickly!  By Phoenix, we may have a 50-50 split of a different kind.

There’s a lesson for the SBC establishment in this past Tuesday’s elections.  When you offer people hope and change, but then unveil a radical agenda that is at odds with the vast majority of Americans and, when you ignore the will of the people by arrogantly and heavy-handedly imposing a leftist agenda on a center-right country, you watch two years later as your party gets shellacked in an historic election.  But, just like the political elites in this country, I don’t expect the SBC elites to learn the lesson or to stop the spin until the damage has been done.  Two years seems about right.

13 comments for “GCR: Hand to Hand Combat in the States?

  1. November 5, 2010 at 7:47 AM

    You are all mixed up on this one, Howell and your presumption that the vast majority of SBCers desire the status quo is wrong. Why do you think that the CP as a percentage of offering plate dollars has been declining for decades? Partly because the states keep entirely too much. The ‘fragile unity’ of the SBC does not depend on the state conventions keeping so much of the CP dollar?

    Now they may do just that. We all make our decisions. But I don’t see a clamor from churches in my state that the GBC receives too little.

    The SBC nationally is in a modest decline. The state conventions are in precipitous decline. The Georgia Baptist Convention now employs only 103 people, down from 163 as recently as 2008 and the 2011 budget is about what it was in 2000. Guess what? Churches will not notice much difference.

    Would all this money have been better spent with Great Commission priorities in mind than it was during those halcyon GBC days? I think so.

    Find me pastors and churches who are enthusiastic about their state convention keeping two-thirds of every Cooperative Program dollar. Explain to me the greater value of keeping most of this money in my state, in activities that are good, rather than in places where there aren’t already 3600 GBC churches? We have heard for decades how state conventions are moving to a 50/50 split. It never seems to get there, a fact that motivates some of our younger brethren to do something about it.

    Sure, changing the flow of money creates friction but I am perfectly satisfied to see my state convention do with less so that NAMB and IMB can have more. That raises a second issue: does the allocation formula that keeps funneling significant dollars to seminaries and the Xcomm fit my priorities? Not exactly.

    I see nothing wrong with folks showing up at their state convention meetings and expressing their views and casting their votes. That’s how the CR happened.

    • November 5, 2010 at 8:41 AM

      William,

      No where in my post will you see where I said that the status quo was acceptable. If I thought that things were 100% fine in SBC land, then I, along with 95% of the messengers at the 2009 Annual Meeting in Louisville would not have voted for the creation of a Great Commission Resurgence Task Force. The “fragile unity” may not depend on exact CP allocations, but this unity continues to be eroded because of the process by which the GCR has been implemented. Do you think that the GCR process has been politicized and that the implentation of it, both at the national level and now at the state levels, has been heavy-handed? I think it has. I do not think that I am alone in my assessment.

      This so-called 50-50 split is also misleading. The orginal idea behind this was that state conventions keep what they needed to carry out missions and ministry in the state and then forward 50% of the remaining CP funds to the SBC. Could states get to this 50-50 split? Yes, but not in the radical way that is being proposed. I know how we spend funds in New Mexico and we are trying to be good stewards of what God has entrusted to us in a state that is 90% lost. If the powers that be think that state conventions are obsolete and need to be eliminated, then they need to say so. But, the radical idea of moving to a 30-70 split, such as Wright proposes, in effect would eliminate the state conventions.

      Lastly, I did not say that there was anything wrong with people showing up at their state meetings to express their views and voting. But, if this process is going to be highly politicized by GCR proponents, then I think that people should know exactly what the battle plan is. Lastly, I was not old enough nor involved enough during the CR heyday, but there is a huge difference between the GCR and the CR. The CR was a grass-roots, bottom-up movement of pastors and lay people in the churches. The GCR has been a top-down, heavy-handed approach dictated on high from elites within the convention. That’s why there is resistance and pushback and why there will continue to be. Thanks your comments. Look forward to continued dialogue even if we may not see eye to eye on this issue. God bless,

      Howell

  2. November 5, 2010 at 9:13 AM

    I’m not holding up FBC Pelham as any great accomplishment or model, but let me tell you what a local church can do, if it purposes to do so.

    A few weeks ago, we had a “Missions Celebration”, to let those involved in missions tell their story as to what they’d done and experienced this year. It was in the fellowship hall, and was well attended.

    We had testimonies from folks who’d been on mission trips over the past year. We heard about New Orleans, Kentucky, Guatemala, Ecuador, Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, and Peru. And these trips stemmed from our own church, our own people acting on God’s leading (which our church does support), and also our church’s conscious decision to support people who go on e3 Partners mission trips. None of it, to my knowledge, was motivated by the IMB.

    At the dinner, they passed out a program, detailing the outreach opportunities for the coming year. Consider the following:

    01 or 02/2011: Medical & Evangelism trip to Haiti, coordinated by, I believe, the State Convention.

    5/27-6/4/2011: e3Partners “Families on Mission”: church planting, evangelism and medical trip to Quito, Ecuador.

    6/25-7/1/2011: Churchwide mission trip, domestic, for backyard Bible Clubs, Sports Camp, construction, and block parties.

    7/2011: Kenya & Tanzania trip for evangelism, orphanage & street kids ministry, and church planting.

    Various 2011 dates: Lakeshore, MS for construction projects.

    Ongoing: Community outreach here in the Pelham area.

    Now, add to that the fact that we send 10% of undesignated offerings to the CP (plus 2% to the local association and 2% to a designated missions fund in FBC), and I get the idea that we can do what we need to do in the Great Commission fulfillment area, mainly because our church leadership wants to.

    And our first line of support .. of help .. is the State Convention. Not SBC, IMB, NAMB, nor any other SBC institution.

    Our State Annual Meeting is coming up week after next. I’m going. All the meetings. And my opinion is that the State needs to continue to do what it does to help the local churches fulfill the GC, even if it means keeping more of the money here in Alabama!

    If other state execs have their heads on straight, they will likely come to the same conclusion. Unless, that is, they want to voluntarily relinquish their very reason for being.

    OK. Soap box stowed.

    God bless.

    • November 5, 2010 at 9:32 AM

      Bob,

      Amen and amen! I think your church’s model is one that should be emulated by others. Your giving to CP and to your local association also says that your church values the cooperative effort that SBC churches have in missions and ministries. I can tell you that my state of New Mexico does a good job of partnering with the churches to help fulfill the Great Commission. Of course, we see the GC as local, state, national, and international (the Acts 1:8 model) and involving not just evangelism, but also something called discipleship (“teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you”).

      While a church’s mission trips can help folks not only experience hands-on missions, but also catch a vision for missions, I still think that Bobby Welch was right when he said that the CP offered the best bang for your Baptist buck (http://www.fromlaw2grace.com/2010/09/30/was-bobby-welch-wrong). If the Great Commission focuses almost exlusively on the “ends of the earth” and short-changes the local mission field or discipleship, then our churches are headed for more of the same. Please feel free to pull out your soap box anytime you think it is needed. Thanks for sharing your perspective. God bless,

      Howell

  3. November 5, 2010 at 9:45 AM

    Howell & William

    Thanks for the post (Howell). William seems convinced CP monies have gone down because state conventions kept more: “Why do you think that the CP as a percentage of offering plate dollars has been declining for decades? Partly because the states keep entirely too much.” The money-word is “partly.” Are you implying “partly” to connote “in large part”? (William) Or is the “partly” more rhetorical in nature and not demonstrable fact? The reason I ask is, if it is “in large part” then we ought to see conventions over the past few decades making outrageous spikes in percentage margins. Do we have that? I’m not sure, but I think they’ve remained fairly stable (give or take a few % pts). It did not seem to be an agruable point when GCR was being formulated anyways.

    Even so, I honestly think the more significant decrease in funds to Nashville stems from the local church level, not the state convention level. In other words, less monies are making it to the state convention because less monies are being given at the local level. If I am essentially correct, then state convention resources would either dry-up or close down if it did not increase in some way the “state take.”

    As for the call for participation young Baptists like Akin are making I agree strongly with Howell. To ask “What’s wrong with that?” is similar to asking a pastor who’s worked hard with the congregation to get them to the point of moving, and on business meeting night, dozens of inactive members crept out of the cracks to “make their voice of concern known” and vote “no” on the move, all due to a “concerned” deacon getting the word out. Given our congregational polity, I’m not so fond of participation like that myself.

    With that, I am…
    Peter

  4. November 5, 2010 at 1:07 PM

    Incidentally, Howell, the trips to Ecuador, Guatemala and Peru were outright evangelism, but 2/3 of the participants were involved in discipling people previously reached, and house churches previously started, on other mission trips our people have been on, there.

    The trips to Kenya and Tanzania were specifically for ministering to homeless boys on the streets of Mwanza (in Tanzania) and at a Girl’s Home in Kenya. We’ve raised money to buy a piece of land and are now getting bids on having a well drilled on it. Also, one of our young ladies (daughter of our worship leader), is going there next year for several months to start the building of a boys’ home on the land that’s been purchased.

    The African involvement is a direct result of the burden of Barry & Paula Kornegay and their daughter Liv (Paula’s our worship leader), which they had before they came to FBC a few years back.

  5. November 5, 2010 at 2:14 PM

    Couple comments

    I wonder if Bob Cleveland can explain Gary Fenton and Dawson Memorial to me.

    2) Howell, google up the past several oped pieces by Bama Baptist Editor Bob Terry

    3)Does new Bama Governor Bob Bentley, parishioner of Rick Lance when Lance was pastor of FBC Tuskylucy, believe the First Eleven Chapters of Genesis are Scientifically and Historically accurate?
    And does he think the Bible Denies ordination of women to Preach the Gospel as a Senior Pastor?
    And will Rick Lance agree or disagree with him when he replies.

    Howell forgive me for conflating your column here with your election review, but as recent SBC history goes it pretty much is one and the same.
    Who will be the first in the SBC community to read Jill Lepore’s The Whites of Their Eyes.
    Can we expect Jerry Boykin and Bobby Welch to read it?
    Al Mohler or Ronnie Floyd?
    Bryant Wright or William Thornton?
    Dave Miller or CB Scott or John Killian?
    Gary Fenton or Jay Wolf?

  6. November 5, 2010 at 5:03 PM

    Stephen:

    No.

  7. November 5, 2010 at 6:06 PM

    What do you consider heavy-handed, Howell? Nathan Akin blogging for people to show up at the state conventions and vote their consciences?

    Your language is almost the same as the mod/libs back in the contentious years of the CR. They complained about how messengers arrived at the convention hall (on vans). They whined about them not enduring all of the tedious sessions. They tut-tutted that these people left after important votes.

    It’s tough to make an argument that churches shouldn’t send messengers to the annual meetings but perhaps you object to only certain messengers whose views may be different than yours. This is the system we have. Show up and vote.

    That said. I have doubts that the agressive GCR folks Nathan Akin was speaking about will come in sufficient numbers to change anything.

    • November 5, 2010 at 7:00 PM

      William,

      I guess I view this whole GCR differently than you do. The lens that I view it through will obviously cause me to come to different conclusions than someone who may be a supporter of the GCR. If I were the only one with negative views of the GCR, then I think that I would definitely be “mixed up” as you suggested earlier. But, what I think that this whole process, from beginning to end at the national level, and now continuing at the state convention level, is a top-down elitist move to redefine what it means to be a cooperating Southern Baptist. What Nathan Akin proposed is not in and of itself heavy-handed, but I think that the process and what has resulted from the process, much like Obamacare, has been fraught with an air of arrogance.

      I do not think that you meant to equate oppostion to the GCR with the oppostion to the CR that came from moderates/liberals. Folks are free to be bused in and given incentives to come to the state conventions to vote a pro-GCR agenda. However, if this process is going to be politicized (which I think it has been from the very beginning), then folks like me who are not supportive of the GCR agenda will continue to speak out and be involved in the process as well. By all means, show up and vote. But, do not expect this to be a very pretty process. It did not have to be this way, but we are definitely at a crossroads.

      Do you think that the GCR process has been handled correctly? Do you think that the sealing of the records for 15 years was a wise move for the Task Force to have made, especially in light of their calls for transparency and openness? Do you think that the language of some pro-GCR leaders (including at the Pastor’s Conference) has contributed to the negative reaction to the GCR? That’s what I see as a heavy-handed approach. You may see things differently there in Georgia, but there are lots of grass-roots Southern Baptists who are seeing what I am. Thanks for the dialogue. God bless,

      Howell

  8. November 6, 2010 at 5:22 PM

    You can find a good bit of my criticism of the GCRTF stuff on my blog and at BaptistLife.

    And I did mean to equate GCR with CR because your objections to the former uses the same language. Maybe you didn’t exactly intend to do that.

    Still, we had a blue-ribbon, mostly megachurch (elitist, if you will) committee make some recommendations. We will see what happens to it.

    And, come on, there is no major SBC movement that is not politicized, since people are inevitably and heavily involved.

    We will see. Major changes are in the process at NAMB. They may prove to be good, bad, or neutral but no one would say that NAMB has been in great shape the past decade or so. States are making their autonomous decisions. They need not pay any attention to the GCRTF if they choose not to. State conventions have great skills at blunting top-down stuff. The mere statement that “we’re moving towards a 50/50 split” could provide a generation or more of transition.

    • November 6, 2010 at 8:20 PM

      William,

      In terms of my criticism of the GCR, I am not consciously borrowing from the moderates during the CR. My criticism is what it is, regardless if others have used it before. Do you think that the fact that this was a mostly megachurch (elitist) Task Force 1)Made many small and medium sized church leaders and state convention leaders immediately skeptical of the Task Force’s work and, 2) influenced the final recommendations from the GCRTF?

      I am well aware that the convention, especially on the national level, but also in many state conventions, is highly politicized. Politics, at its best, is about influencing and persuading people to your point of view. At its worst, as we have seen in our nation’s health care debate, it’s about twisting arms and making deals behind closed doors. From my vantage point (admittedly biased because of my oppostion to th GCR), I think that what we have seen employed in the GCR process is politics at its worst, not its best. Could we have arrived at a broad consensus that that the overwhelming majority of all Southern Baptists (not just the messengers at the annual meeting) would have accepted? I think so, but it would have taken time and it would also not necessarily have been a radical change that some in the establishment have openly advocated. Such is politics.

      As it is, I think we are seeing a pushback from many within the SBC because of the flawed process and the recommendations coming out of that flawed process. President Obama, following his election, told his opponents that he won and that they would have to deal with it, which meant he would do whatever he wanted to do because he had the majority in the Senate and the House. And, he and Pelosi and Reid did what they wanted, even when there were clear signs that the American people were not on board. Now, two years later, he has received a massive rebuke for overreaching and misreading his mandate. If folks are going to be highly political in SBC life, they would do well to study politics outside of SBC life, because there are many similarities, both good and bad. Thanks for the continued debate and dialogue. God bless,

      Howell

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