“If I see the kind of power plays and moves to oppress dissent that I saw back then, maybe I will go back to war.” (“Why I’m Retiring from (Battle) Blogging,”) by Dave Miller, Editor of SBC Voices)
No truer words could be spoken. But, I suppose at the end of the day, when “your side” wins and your theological heroes have consolidated their power, then you can have the luxury of laying down your sword and walking away from “Battle Blogging.” Of course, by writing this post (and similar ones which are sure to come), I will be accused of engaging in this so-called “Battle Blogging.” I say “so-called” because the marker which has been laid down within the Southern Baptist Convention by establishment leaders and their supporters is one which brokers no dissent on major issues of the day, particularly the Great Commission Resurgence, the radical restructuring of the new NAMB, and most recently, the proposal by an unoffical committee to
force recommend a de facto name change on the SBC through a backdoor maneuver of adopting a nickname or alternative descriptor. It smacks of a certain authoritarian attitude that seems to hold sway within the Evangelical world, an attitude which has made major inroads into the SBC, particularly among the “young, restless, and reformed” (although authoritarianism is not the sole province of the reformed or neo-reformed).
Any dissent or questioning of the direction of the SBC or its leaders, no matter how tepid the dissent or how reasonable the questions, is now to be viewed as engaging in “Battle Blogging” or fighting against those mythical Baptist (and perhaps non-Baptist) “Bogeymen.” If either of those charges do not work to stifle debate, then the old stand-by — charging someone with engaging in the sin of “gossip”– is usually a winning strategy. Since the unofficial Name Change Task Force announced its recommendations to the SBC’s Executive Committee last month, there appears to be a more concerted effort to either marginalize or silence those who oppose the radical redefinition of the Southern Baptist Convention. Despite the grand pronouncements of a “Great Commission Resurgence,” we have witnessed a “great division” instead. The chasm between those who approve of the new direction of the SBC — including a new name, Great Commission Baptists — whose initials will be GCB, not to be confused with the ABC’s campy parody of Christians, GCB, which stands for something all together different — and those who believe that our current name is just fine and that the process used to bring about “name change” has been fundamentally flawed (here and here), continues to grow deeper and wider (some “traditionalists” still remember that song; others, not so much).
No one will openly admit that he or she wants to limit debate. That would not only appear un-democratic, but also tend to border on an assault on the Baptist principle of congregational polity. And, yes, I know that blogs are not churches nor do they automatically confer rights of commenting on any and everyone. But, how we choose to engage in debate and how we handle dissent — even on blogs — can say a lot about our philosophies of ministry and governance. Of course, with some (many?) of our churches going the way of elder rule, no doubt influenced by some of the megachurches which espouse “elder rule” (as in rule with an iron fist), this is a trend which does not bode well for the cooperative nature of the SBC. Perhaps some would rather have a leaner and more efficient “network” of churches, even if that means that the SBC shrink considerably in size.
We are a Convention of churches which is dividing into groups which not only speak different languages, but which view the present and future from radically different perspectives:
I think the SBC leadership is more open, less “top-down” and more responsive than it was in years gone by. Some of the stuff that was going on six or seven years ago just wouldn’t be done today. We can argue about the records being sealed, but that is just a small thing. Contrary to what a lot of people say, I think the leadership of the SBC has moved away from the regal leaders model to servant leaders. The kinds of things that were going on behind the scenes between entities back in 2005 just aren’t going on now (to my knowledge.) (“Why I’m Retiring from (Battle) Blogging”)
To say that “the records being sealed . . . is just a small thing,” is to view debate and dissent from a position of established authority, as in THE ESTABLISHMENT. But, those “small things” inevitably will become larger things. But, when you are in the establishment, you never see anything as a big thing. It’s just all part of a “kinder, gentler” culture. (Where have we heard that before?) When unoffical committees can be appointed by the President of the SBC in order to “sidestep” the By-Laws and directly contravene the last known will of the Convention, that is a big thing. When SBC leaders can mock the intelligence of EC trustees who don’t toe the company line, that’s a big thing. When members of the GCRTF (including a Seminary President) snarkily tweet why autonomous State Conventions should be able to appoint their own independent committees to study their relationship with the new NAMB, that’s a big thing. When the rules of debate are changed to “moderate” whose voices can be heard, that’s a big thing. When bloggers, like SelahV (Hariette Peterson), have comments deleted from a prominent Southern Baptist group blog, that’s a big thing.
“Power plays” and “moves to oppress dissent” are just as common today as they were back in the day. Some don’t see it because their vantage point has changed. Those on the outside are now on the inside. That does tend to change a person’s perspective. But, make no mistake. There are more people who see exactly what’s going on within our Convention. Those in positions of power and influence don’t get to tell the rest of us which hills we get to die on! At least that’s still our choice to make. And, that’s no small thing!