Heroes & Villains In The SBC

It is my hope and dream, knowing the autonomy within our convention, that the leaders within our state conventions will take a radical, prayerful look at this priority,” Wright said. “State leaders could be the real heroes here. They are controlling the funds. The Southern Baptist Convention has no authority in this area. It is my hope that there will be a radical reprioritization so that we can bring about these thousands of people groups who have practically no witness of the gospel.                                 Byrant Wright, President of the Southern Baptist Convention

Haven’t we had enough radical change in our country in the last two years?  Apparently not, according to new SBC President Byrant Wright.  Restating his vision to radically reprioritize (and redefine) the Southern Baptist Convention, he continued his call to dismantle change the autonomous Baptist State Conventions and the Cooperative Program.  The above quote by Wright (full article here), which I have no reason to believe is inaccurate, speaks volumes about where he and others would like to take our Convention (it’s not a denomination, no matter how many times certain leaders say it) in the coming years.

Even if certain politicians feign ignorance of the definition of certain words (i.e., “is”), most people understand that words have meaning.  When you put words together to form sentences and paragraphs (as I’m doing in this post), you generally have an idea that you are trying to convey.  We may not always speak or write as clearly as we would like (and none of us do), but we cannot be so ignorant to think that our words are devoid of meaning. 

Which brings me to Bryant Wright’s quote above.  Speaking to members of the SBC’s Executive Committee and other leaders assembled in Nashville this week, President Wright challenged Baptist State leaders to be the “real heroes” in the radical reprioritization of how we fund missions within the Convention.  How can these Baptist State Convention leaders be heroes in fulfilling the Great Commission and taking the Gospel to unreached people groups overseas?  After all, no one wants to be a villain (or a rebellious spy in the desert or a skunk or a liberal).  The answer to this question is not a mystery.  Wright’s words to members of the EC were not spoken in a vacuum.  To understand them in context, one need only read Bryant Wright’s own words in a guest editorial that he wrote for Georgia’s Christian Index, published on November 5, 2009.  Among his proposals were:

That each state strive to keep no more than 25-30 percent of the CP funds in state. Funds staying in state currently range from 43-86 percent (see documentation here). The local church should be the primary vehicle in carrying out state and local missions.

This is a major change that would need to be implemented over 3-5 years to allow the state conventions to adjust in their planning. But implementation toward this goal needs to begin immediately with the state CP budgets that will be planned in 2010.

As a pastor and an elected leader within the Baptist Convention of New Mexico, I believe that Wright’s vision, if implemented, will decimate not only our State Convention, but all 41 State Conventions and Fellowships that partner together to fulfill Christ’s mandate to take the Gospel to “Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  Perhaps that was part of the transparent conversation among members of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force, but we won’t know that until the records are unsealed in 15 years.  Of course by then, it will be moot.  For Wright and other establishment leaders, the Great Commission seems to be primarily about the ends of the earth (and certain seminaries, but I digress).  With 90% of New Mexico residents lost without Christ, all of whom would spend an eternity in hell, separated from a loving and holy God, I’m not willing to see a Convention of autonomous Southern Baptist churches destroyed in the process of a radical makeover of the SBC!

And so, I have now just outed myself as a villain.  You see, State leaders COULD BE THE REAL HEROES if we just let go of the funds.  What that means is that States forward 70-75% of all CP money to Nashville, to be divided among the various SBC entities and agencies.  That leaves 25-30% for State missions and evangelism for a population like New Mexico that is 90% lost.  And don’t be fooled.  That level of lostness, while it may not be as high in all states, is almost as high, whether you live in the deep South or the desert Southwest.

If State leaders do not let go of the funds, then they are, by implication, villains.  If State Baptist Convention leaders do not buy into Wright and the establishment’s vision, then understand that they will be labeled the opposite of heroes.  If State Executive Directors, like Louisiana’s David Hankins or Arkansas’ Emil Turner, dare publicly question the low level of support for NAMB from its new President, then they will not be seen as real heroes. If pastors of small and medium-sized grass-roots churches do not prod their State Conventions to radically alter their CP allocations, keeping less in state and sending far more to national headquarters, then they obviously don’t want to be real heroes. 

Real heroes, according to Bryant Wright, let go of the funds.  But, if letting go of the funds means crippling our State Baptist Conventions by sending more CP money to an increasingly out-of-touch, elitist establishment who seek to radically redefine the cooperative nature of the Southern Baptist Convention, then call me a villain!

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About Howell Scott

I have been a Southern Baptist pastor for the last fourteen years. Before entering the ministry, I was a practicing attorney in my homestate of Florida. I have been married to my wife, Brenda, for 18 years and we have three sons, Stephen, Jacob, and Andrew.
This entry was posted in Cooperative Program, Great Commission Resurgence, Southern Baptist Convention and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to Heroes & Villains In The SBC

  1. Pingback: The Dismantling of the Southern Baptist Convention: Part 1 | SBC Majority Initiative Blog

  2. Mark says:

    Howell,

    Do you agree or disagree with this statement by Wright, “The local church should be the primary vehicle in carrying out state and local missions.?”

    • Howell Scott says:

      Mark,

      It depends on what Wright means by that statement. Do individual Christians and individual churches have a mandate to carry out the Great Commission? Yes. Are they the primary means, in the sense that Christ gave the Commission to His disciples through the local church? Yes. But, what we have known as Southern Baptists since 1845 and more particularly since 1925 with the beginning of the Cooperative Program is that we can do far more together than we can do separately. When churches partner together, we can send missionaries globally as well as nationally and locally. Does giving to CP negate our mandate to reach our community for Christ? No. However, when churches of all sizes given money to CP through their State Conventions and to the SBC, we are supporting OUR missionaries. The model that is being advanced by Wright and others is a more independent, minimally cooperative model. I have no problem with churches supporting their own missionaries, but when you show minimal support for SBC missionaries through our cooperative efforts, then I think we are headed in a direction of radically redefining what it means to be a Southern Baptist. Hope that helps, but I’ll be happy to continue the dialogue if you have additional questions or need clarification. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. God bless,

      Howell

  3. Frank Gantz says:

    I don’t think most Southern Baptists or SBC churches favor half or more of their CP dollars never leaving their state.

  4. Stephen Fox says:

    Why is Ezell’s low CP giving just becoming an issue now when with the exception of Jim Henry when the CR was in full force the CP giving of the takeover presidents hoverred around 2 percent. Big Missionary force in full throttle then at NAMB and IMB and the churches funding it were in large part displaced by leadership from outliers.
    See the video of IMB trustee inquisition of WMU circa 93.
    I think there is something in the CR DNA that folks can’t quite bring themselves to be honest about.

    But from a certain framework I do have respect for the articulation SBC Plodder blog and here Howell Scott are bringing to the discussion. Interesting navigation.

    • Howell Scott says:

      Stephen,

      Don’t forget Bobby Welch, former pastor of FBC Daytona Beach, who led his church to give 15% of their undesignated offering to CP. Certainly he, Henry, and Page are the exceptions to the rule regarding megachurch pastors serving as President of the SBC and their support of CP. I think Ezell’s low CP giving is an issue because rank and file Southern Baptists clearly see a move to radically redefine the SBC in the image of certain megachurch pastors and other leaders within the SBC establishment.

      While I was not old enough to be involved in the early years of the CR, I can only speculate that more conservative pastors and laity (as opposed to more “moderate” ones) were willing to follow the known “leaders” who were generally from larger churches and who were known as great pulpiteers. How one uses words and rhetoric does really have an impact. However, I think that the GCR Task Force in Orlando and the NAMB Trustees have so overreached in a radical direction that many grass-roots Southern Baptists, who otherwise are in agreement theologically with the power structure, are now resisting what they see as the destruction of the State Conventions and Local Associations. For me and other conservatives, to be a cooperating Southern Baptist is from the ground up, not the top down. That’s why I think that the ruling class within the Convention has misread its mandate. From the reaction to my post today, I would say I have struck a cord, albeit perhaps a small one. Sorry for the delay in responding today. Hope you have a wonderful Friday and look forward to continued dialogue. God bless,

      Howell

  5. Stephen Fox says:

    The Pastor of the church in which Welch was Baptized was on the Cover of Baptists Today about three years ago with his visit to the BWA in England.
    Welch is interesting fellow, stomping grounds about 40 years and 15 miles later and North of where my Momma was baptized.
    Welch’s pilgrimage with Jerry Boykin as discussed by the Son of AdrianRogers classmate at NOBTS, Robert Marsh’s Son Charles; Charles of Wayward Christian Soldiers and next fall to be Biographer of Dietrich Bonhoeffer–where was I?
    Charles Marsh treatment of Welch and Boykin is fascinating indeed and I hope we can pursue it later referenced to Damon Linker’s review of the Marsh book in TNR.com easily googled.

    But I digressed. Your Bryant Wright discussion is taking traction at http://www.sbcvoices.com this morning as something of a Jesus Distraction.
    I think Inerrancy was the Great Jesus Distraction of the last 50 years in Baptist life and am pursuing that angle at several venues.
    Will be interested to see how the Inerrancy DNA in the current SBC inflects your take on this matter going forward.
    Enjoying the public dialogue.

    PS One other aside. Jordan’s Queen Nania in my estimation did a fabulous job this morning in NBC Today on the Park 51 Mosque, trying to bring the discussion back to some sanity, away from the Demagogues.

    • Howell Scott says:

      Stephen,

      Good morning (or I guess afternoon in the east). Even though Bobby Welch was from a large church, I think that he was one of the few large church pastors in recent years who truly believed in CP and led his church in giving to the cooperative missions efforts of the FBC and the SBC. In Florida and elsewhere, we seem to have a group of folks with a far different philosophy of SBC life, especially when it comes to what it means to be a cooperating Southern Baptist. In doing some research for my latest blog post, I came across an article which talked about a key leader in the Florida Baptist Convention nominating another Florida pastor to be the President of the SBC Pastor’s Conference for 2011. While this particular candidate was not elected, the CP giving of his church in S. Florida was something like .18% (yes, that is a decimal point). Your church may do great things for the Kingdom, but I that is simply not a cooperating Southern Baptist church in any meaningful sense of the word.

      For the most part, the inerrancy battle has been fought, although you still here language about the “battle for the Bible” never being over. It would not surprise me if the establishment leaders try to use (or misuse) the Bible to rally the people to their particular vision. However, if comments that I have been getting today are any indication, I think rank and file Southern Baptists, who are almost all inerrantists, are beginning to understand the new philosophy that is being pushed on SBs and are beginning to ask hard questions. That’s a good place to start. We shall see where it goes from here. Hope you have a wonderful and blessed day in the Lord,

      Howell

    • stephen fox says:

      Howell:

      Wanted to give you and your audience here a Head’s up to an aspect of the ongoing discussion you and I are having.
      Love foryou to pursue this at bl.com; the election of Eagle Forum’s Eunie Smith as chair of Richard Land’s ERLC

      Eagle Forum Woman Elected Chair of Land’s ERLC
      by Stephen Fox » Thu Sep 30, 2010 6:59 am

      http://erlc.com/article/hope-for-americ … tees-told/

      Eunie Smith, wife of the late Birch Society member Albert Lee Smith, is believed to be only the 2nd woman to trustee chair an SBC entity

      DAvid Miller has emailed I have a window to participate at SBC Voices. We’ll see where it goes.

  6. Ron in Ok says:

    Howell, thanks for the clarity you’re bringing to this issue. Even the rank and file here in Oklahoma are beginning to wonder aloud if our leaders are trying to destroy the SBC.

    • Howell Scott says:

      Ron,

      Thanks for reading and commenting. I have been a Southern Baptist all my life. I grew up in a fairly typical SC church in Florida in the late 1970s-early 1980s. Sunday Schoo, RAs, Youth Group, etc. in what I would view as a conservative church. That’s part of my DNA to this day. As as practicing attorney for three years before being called into the ministry, I think that my legal background has been helpful, not only in my ministry, but also in being able to see issues in a way that perhaps others don’t. That may help me to bring clarity to some of the issues going on in SBC life.

      I don’t know that certain leaders are intentionally trying to destroy the SBC, but there is no question that the vision of Wright and other establishment leaders will decimate the State Conventions and local Associations, thus effectively remaking (or destroying) the SBC as we have known it. The folks on the GCR Task Force and others in the ruling class within the Convention are pretty smart people. I tend to think that they know exactly what they are doing and the consequences of their proposed actions. I’m glad that some of the rank and file in Oklahoma and other places are beginning to see the bigger picture. I’ll keep trying to comment on the issues and bring as much clarity as I can to what is going on. God bless you in your ministry in OK. Thanks again for stopping by.

      Howell

  7. Steve Young says:

    I appreciate the post as I am trying to listen fairly to all voices. I have been a church planter in Wyoming, now pastor in Montana, and served a church in Arkansas that was used to start a Hmong mission. I also have a heart for missions overseas, having been to Thailand once, and now working on a partnership in East Asia.

    I say the above to show that I have been on several sides of the equation. Sending and receiving. I led our church in Montana to raise CP giving and give the largest gift to LM in its history. I want every penny of my CP to get to where the work is, and some of that is at home. The new work I pastored in Wyoming was funded through the cooperative agreement with NAMB. The Hmong mission our church helped start in Arkansas was funded by the State. My son is growing in Christ while at the University of Arkansas because of a BCM director funded by the State Convention. They came and ministered to Montana last Spring break. This Summer he went to Thailand for 2 weeks on a BCM sponsored trip. I for one am glad that the ABSC has the funds to perform these ministries. While at an IMB sponsored Summit for East Asia in May, on leader told me that the groups from the U of A who came to East Asia each year were some of the best they had. If the State Convention was bypassed, who would fund these ministries?
    I believe that the easiest way to get more money overseas is for churches to give 1 percent more to the CP. Ronnie Floyd announced that his church was ending a national TV broadcast to give more to CP. I do not have the answers, but mariginalizing the States is not a good option.

    Steve in Montana

    • Howell Scott says:

      Steve,

      Thanks for reading and for sharing your thoughts on the issues that we are dealing with in the SBC. You have seen first-hand how the various partnerships, including the State Conventions, help to do missions and ministry here in the states and throughout the world. The average CP giving of churches throughout the SBC continues to decline. I have always thought that we could accomplish far more together than we can separately. That’s why I have led every church that I have pastored to give at least 10% of our undesignated budget to CP as well as give strongly to Annie Amrstrong and Lottie Moon. As you say, if every church increased their % giving to CP by 1%, we would have more than enough money to do ministry and missions.

      I do believe that certain leaders in the SBC establishment not only want to marginalize State Conventions, but would actually do away with State Conventions if they could. Their own actions show, if not a distain for, at least an indifference toward State Conventions. I know that in the Baptist Convention of New Mexico, we not only help with church plants, but have a strong presence on the college campuses. Would ministry to college students not be a priority in the new NAMB because it does not involve church planting? I’m not sure. While every State Convention and local Association can make changes to become more effective in their ministries, I don’t think that we need the radical change that is being suggested by Wright and other establishment leaders. I think time will tell which vision prevails. Hope things are well for you in Montana. Just called a new student pastor who grew up in Kalispell. Have a great day and God bless,

      Howell

  8. Stephen Fox says:

    Howell: First congratulations to you and your good work in the sept 25 exchange with David Miller in the comment line at SBC Voices. Ezell is an Establishment GCR Pick for sure.
    Are SBC CP churches Inerrant BFM 2000; No not across the board.
    For instance take a look at Bobby Welch’s stompin ground church in Ft Payne or nearby Guntersville, or the Poster Child in my opinion, Dawson Memorial in Bham all leading CP percentage givers inthe state of Bama. Personally I think it an outrage and I am disappointed in the congregations. None of those churches wnat to discuss the implications of BFM 2000 or the GCR.
    They drink the Kool Aid that in state convention 5 million still goes to Samford, their church has access to state convention facilities that they historically funded, and they have been willing tolet the money go where it goes after it leaves their house.
    Lot of money out there filtering into Nashville from churches with staffs who if they do not abhor BFM 2000, are very incomfortable with it; and don’t care for Ronnie Floyd and the Caner brothers being the face of the Convention.

    Maybe this will connect with the point I am trying to make. Truett Cathy of Chic Fil A’s daugther and husband have recently had high administrative status with the IMB. Yet Truett when a Trustee of Mercer rejected the fundamentalist onslaught and stood by Truett Cathy. I in no way speak for the Cathy’s or Chic Fil A. Almost half century ago I sat near current CEO, son Dan, in religion class taught by Jack Flanders colleague of People of the Covenant.
    If Chic Fil A, GeorgeTruett’s namesake moves off the Glenn Beck/Ronnie Floyd/GCR Inerrant Reservation Mandate; then there goes the Neighborhood, or it may go when the churches named above and all like minded finally come to their senses even after 40 years and say we have had enough.
    Side note. Search out the musings of Sandy at baplife.com. He is quite articulate. You may find a soul mate, a fellow traveler there. At same time hope you continue to keep up with what SBC Plodder is thinking in this ballpark.

    • Howell Scott says:

      Stephen,

      As to the linkage between CP, BFM2000 and the GCR, I think that most rank and file Southern Baptists are familiar with the BFM2000. Additionally, I would not be surprised if most SB pastors (and churches) interacted with the BFM2000 similar to the way our church does. We acknowledge the BFM2000 as a set of beliefs that most Southern Baptists are in agreement with, but we still look to the Bible — Old and New Testaments — as the final authority for our faith and practice. Apart from when I have taught on Baptist beliefs, it has been rare that I even use the BFM as a reference or primary source. If you were to pin me down, there are certain parts of the BFM2000, that I would not agree with. Those who argue that communion should be either closed or close and should only be partaken by those who have been baptized (i.e., believers baptism by immersion) would find that I don’t hold to that interpretation in practice. While I think that believers should be baptized (by immersion as the best symbol of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection), I invite anyone who has a personal, born-again relationship with Jesus Christ to observe the Supper.
      I think most churches, like the ones you mentioned, continue to give to CP because of their strong missions emphasis, but at the same time are not as caught up in the “politics” of what happens in Nashville. I think that with the passage of the GCR and the push in individual states (like Florida) to send more CP funds to Nashville, that more churches and pastors might pay closer attention to where the money is going. Hope you’ve had a good Lord’s Day thus far. God bless,

      Howell

      • Stephen Fox says:

        Howell:
        I have noticed at bl.com Bruce Gourley in the Baptist History Section has referenced a statement on core belief and practice all Baptists share.
        Your core value for your church they look to the Old and New Testament for instruction in matters of Faith; well I have yet to see a CBF church that differs from that.
        The CR was never about Scripture or Inerrancy. It was about different ways of navigating the upheaval of the 60’s on matters for the most part sexuality and Race.
        I hope you will take a close look at the two links about Steven Miller I posted in the latest Mohler thread at SBC Trends of Bl.com. Miller gets to the heart of the matter. Maybe later I will come back and post his grandsentence on SBC failure to have a prophetic voice. In reference to the upcoming series on PBS Frontline God in America, will be even better soil to pursue this discussion.
        My frustration is limitted minds like our friend Dave Miller at SBC Voices carry on as if none of this matters, as if Inerrancy was valid issue to go to the mat over, and it is okay for Mohler and Ronnie Floyd to bring out BFM 2000 as an Inquisition Purging tool when it comes to leadership in the Convention.
        When you get to the basic issue Pressler advocated when he went to see Jack Flanders at Baylor, it is all nonsense and lowest common denominator shysterism and the SBC is finally beginning to reap what it sowed.
        Here is the plumbline on Pressler’s 1st 11 chapters of Genesis mantra, and how purposely evil his power grad in the SBC was.
        Quoting Diarmand MacCulloch page 51 of his magnum opus first 3,000 years of Christianity:

        It is also striking that certain incidents in the stories of the Patriarchs mirror incidents that took place in a more definitely “historical” context six centuries after 1800 BC. Obvious lurid examples are the duplicated threats of gang rape in a city (with dire consequences for the perpetrators), to be found in both Genesis 19 and Judges 19. Similarly the children of Israel with a carelessness that Lady Bracknell would have deplored, twice put to the sword the unfortunate city of Shechem, once in Genesis 34 and again in Judges 9. Another problem: the patriarchal narratives contain one or two references to Philistines, who come from a later period of history,and there are many more to a people who are close relatives to the Patriarchs, called Aramaeans–Abraham is very precisely given a kinship to the Aramaeans in one family tree. The settlement of Aramaeans in areas reasonably close to the land of Caanan/Israel/Palestine was a gradual process, but other historical evidence shows that it cannot have begun any earlier than 1200 BCE, and that was a very different era from the supposed time of the Patriarchs; their arrival was in a time which followed a further great upheaval in the story of the Children of Israel. Altogether, the chronology of the Book of Genesis simply does not add up as a historical narrative when it is placed in a reliably historical wider context.

  9. Stephen Fox says:

    Couple edits. Cathy stood by Mercer Prez Kirby Godsey. I have great affection and respect for many members of the churches I named above, but yet disappointed for sake of church harmony, these various churches have not found a way as a congregation to have the torturous discussion that has lain dormant for 40 years and channelled money elsewhere.

  10. Stephen Fox says:

    Link forBobby Welch and his Vision of America as well as for us all. My take on Francis Schaeffer has already been inflected a little from watchting the trailer this morning.
    http://www.pbs.org/godinamerica/?utm_campaign=homepage&utm_medium=proglist&utm_source=proglist

  11. Lydia says:

    Howell,

    I want to thank you for your cogent comments elsewhere and your blog. You bring a refreshing perspective of reality and ask the hard questions that have been sorely missing. I attribute this to the fact you have training outside the insular world of the seminary and pastorate bubble.

    • Howell Scott says:

      Lydia,

      Thanks for the kind words. I appreciate you reading and taking the time to comment. There’s no question that my background gives me a unique perspective on things, both in the church that I serve and in viewing things on the national SBC level. I think most people may not even know what is going on to be able to ask the hard questions, even if they wanted to. And I think that most people in positions of power, whether in the SBC or in government, do not like being asked the hard questions. But, as long as I’m able, I’ll try to bring clarity to issues that I think are important. People may not always agree with my analysis, but no one — pastor or layperson — should be afraid of asking the tough questions of those in power. Hope you have a blessed day,

      Howell

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