I confess that I have a Twitter account — you can follow me @fromlaw2grace (shameless promotional plug). The only tweets that you will find are the ones about my latest From Law to Grace blog posts. Apart from that, I can honestly say that I have never once posted a tweet that I have composed.
Quite frankly, I don’t get Twitter. Yes, it is another means of communication in our ever-increasing social media, youth-oriented culture (at-large and in the SBC/GCB). There are pastors and Convention leaders who skillfully use Twitter to get out a particular message. But, for every good use of Twitter, there is the temptation to succumb to a narcissistic personality that cries to be unleashed.
It seems that most of the SBC’s movers and shakers — from entity heads to megachurch pastors — have a Twitter account. Most of the tweets that emanate from these leaders are rather innocuous, but every now and then you get one that reveals perhaps more than was intended or even realized. I use the word “perhaps” because some tweets, while clear on their face, might nevertheless have been misunderstood or not at all what the writer intended.
For instance, Dr. Mohler, President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminay, may not have intended to come across condescendingly when he apparently questioned the mental acuity of a sitting member of the SBC’s Executive Committee or when he apparently agreed with the notion that Southern Baptists are easily confused. If Southern Baptists are easily confused, it might be because some leaders go out of their way to add to the confusion.
Likewise, Ted Traylor, Senior Pastor of megachurch Olive Baptist in Pensacola, FL and a member of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force, might not have intended to reveal a complete lack of understanding of the historic Baptist principle of autonomy when he tweeted this:
“BP headline-State Execs form NAMB study committee. Since when do Bap St Execs study SBC entities? I thought trustees did that.”
Dr. Traylor, and, apparently Dr. Daniel Akin (since he retweeted Traylor’s above tweet), must also be confused about the Baptist principle of autonomy. Again, this may not be all that surprising, given the fact that some members of the GCRTF (of which both Drs. Traylor and Akin were a part) apparently had to be schooled in this long-standing and well cherished Baptist principle. According to a 2010 report in the North Carolina Biblical Recorder by then editor Norman Jameson (former, as in not good to have a dissenting voice if you want to keep your job):
“It (the GCRTF’s announcement that they would unilaterally seal all task force records) came as word was leaking out just how nebulous the task force’s ‘unanimous’ agreement on their recommendations was. It came as we further learned of the need for task force members to be educated about the autonomous nature of Baptist state conventions before they realized their recommendations could be only that – recommendations and not mandates.” (emphasis added)
So, we had at least some members of the GCRTF who did not know that Baptist state conventions are autonomous? Now two of those members — Drs. Traylor and Akin — tweet or retweet a question about a newly formed study committee of the Fellowship of State Executive Directors . According to Emil Turner, the president of the fellowship for 2011-12 (and the Executive Director for the Arkansas Baptist State Convention), the special committee
“was established to evaluate how state conventions and NAMB can maximize cooperation during the transition process of implementing the new NAMB initiatives.”
For those who have been living under a rock or are members of a church in a Baptist State Convention in lockstep with the GCR agenda (Florida, Kentucky, and NC come to mind), it might come as a shock that the new NAMB has taken about 18 months to implement changes in strategic “partnerships” — many of them quite radical — that should have taken anywhere from four to seven years according to the language of the GCRTF report. Of course, at the new NAMB, seven years sure goes by fast!
With many state conventions — including the one our church partners with, the Baptist Convention of New Mexico — trying to keep up with the rapid and unpredictable changes coming from the new NAMB that will ultimately affect real people, real missions, and real ministries in the various states, these Executive Directors want to evaluate how they can “maximize cooperation” with an increasingly top-down missions agency that apparently does not realize that partnership is a two-way street. When one partner tries to dictate all the terms of the partnership agreement, that’s not true partnership, at least in any meaningful sense of the word.
Now, to answer the question that Dr. Traylor tweeted and Dr. Akin retweeted, “Since when do Bap St Execs study SBC entities? I thought trustees did that.” As Willy Wonka (the Gene Wilder version, not the horrific Johnny Depp remake) said to Grandpa Joe, who thought that Charlie would get a lifetime supply of chocolate — WRONG, SIR! WRONG! Baptist State Conventions, at least as of now, are AUTONOMOUS! Look up the word. No other ecclesiastical body, including the Southern Baptist Convention/Great Commission Baptists, can dictate to (try as they might) or impose mandates (GCR anyone) on autonomous Baptist bodies.
Since we can create unofficial committees within the SBC, then certainly Baptist State Conventions — at least those who do not see themselves as wholly owned subsidiaries of the SBC — are free to create a study committee to figure out how to deal with the radical changes being dictated by the new NAMB. Since when do Baptist State Convention Executive Directors study their relationship with an SBC entity? When that entity — and by extension its Trustees — acts in such a way so as to violate the Baptist principle of autonomy. The tweets of some SBC elites reveals just why this official study committee was formed. Expect more of this in the future.