After being in Dallas for a few days for our son, Stephen’s, appointment at Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children (he has Legg-Perthes Disease, a childhood hip condition), I am looking forward to my first visit to Phoenix next week for this year’s annual get-together of the nation’s largest Protestant body. At the moment, I want to be in Phoenix because the “dry heat” in Arizona has to be preferable to the miserably humid temperatures that we have encountered in Texas this week. As a native Floridian, who has called New Mexico home for the past four years, I gladly admit that I do not miss the high temperatures AND high humidity that comes with living back east. It has been nice actually seeing the rain and all the green grass, but that’s not enough to tempt me from leaving the desert southwest.
The temperatures maybe high in Phoenix next week, but those high temperatures will be mainly confined to outside the Convention Center. Inside, among the messengers of the SBC, the temperatures will be rather mild. With a relatively low turn-out expected in Phoenix, those in attendance will hear first-time reports from the new Presidents of the International Mission Board, the North American Mission Board, and the Executive Committee. I’m not sure that has happened in a long time, if ever. With no night meetings scheduled, those who make the trip to Phoenix will have time to renew old acquaintances or to make new ones. I’m looking forward to meeting some of the folks that I have become friends with through online dialogue from our blogging activities.
One of the highlights of the Convention will be the election of officers. With current President Bryant Wright scheduled to be renominated by popular Alabama pastor David Platt, I see no reason why Wright will not be easily elected to a customary second term. Although I have strong reservations about what I believe is President Wright’s call for the radical redefinition of the SBC, Phoenix will not be the place where grassroots Southern Baptists take a hard stand against the GCR.
Now, just because rank-and-file Southern Baptists will not take a hard stand in Phoenix does not mean their voices will not be heard. As far as I know, there are no other announced candidates for the office of SBC President. While I do no expect anyone else to run against Wright, the offices of 1st and 2nd Vice President, both largely ceremonial, could provide some drama in an otherwise scripted affair. As long as we do not have another run by Wiley Drake for either of these offices, then I think that the SBC can breathe a hugh sigh of relief!
Apart from the election of officers, the various motions and resolutions always make for interesting debate. I would not be surprised that the perfunctory motion regarding the Acts 29 network will be made by one of the messengers, most likely from Missouri. You can usually expect motions ranging from public schools to specific books that Lifeway sells. Because of the polity of the SBC Convention, the overwhelming majority of all motions will be referred to the various entities to be dealt with by their Trustees. As these Conventions are highly controlled environments, there will be few “surprise” motions that actually are voted on by the messengers in Phoenix.
As to the resolutions, all of which had to be submitted in advance of the Annual Meeting, I do not believe there will be anything overly controversial presented by the Resolutions Committee. With the members of that committee having been appointed by Bryant Wright, do not expect any bombs to be detonated through the resolutions process.
One area that usually is rather mundane and free of controversy is the annual report given by the Presidents of the SBC’s entities. Already, in advance of the Convention, a major Georgia church has announced that they will no longer forward Cooperative Program money to two of those entities — Southern and Southeastern — because of these seminaries’ apparently support of aggressive Calvinism. This unprecedented move — at least for Abilene Baptist Church in Martinez — and their Senior Pastor, William “Bill” Harrell, a former chairman of the SBC’s Executive Committee, signals an important early skirmish in what may potentially turn into a broader battle for the heart and soul of the SBC.
While every new morsel of information from the new NAMB’s leadership elicits more questions than answers, I don’t believe that Phoenix will be all that tough a venue for Dr. Ezell, the man who sees the North American Mission Board
” . . . in the early stages of building a network, a support group, that will be the first choice of church planters everywhere, not just Southern Baptist. We will and can compete with other groups.”
Are we going to support and network with non-Southern Baptist church planters who now want to somehow be involved with the new NAMB? There is so much that is disconcerting about what is happening at the new NAMB, but when we seem to be building a network to woo non-Southern Baptists to join us in church planting, what safeguards will be in place to prevent CP funds from being invested in nominal SB church plants? One might say the BF&M2000, but as any lawyer will tell you, there are always loopholes in any document.
Phoenix will be hot, but not as hot as Dallas (read into that what you will). There will be skirmishes this year, but no major battles. Bryant Wright will be re-elected and many within the establishment class of the SBC will continue to misread that as a mandate to press forward with radical changes at breakneck speed. They will misunderestimate the grassroots backlash against the radical redefinition of the SBC. I cannot predict the future, but something tells that the 200th anniversary of the Battle of New Orleans and the SBC will interact. As it just so happens, the Annual Meeting of Southern Baptists will take place in June 2012 in New Orleans. Coincidence or Providence?