Dissenting Voices in NC and Beyond!

What do Norman Jameson, soon-to-be-former editor of the Biblical Recorder, and Juan Williams, recently fired analyst for NPR, have in common?  They both learned that dissenting from the party line will, sooner or later, mean that you are out of a job.

What does it mean to dissent?  To dissent is to disagree.  However, if we say that someone is “dissenting,” it sounds much more ominous than to merely say that someone is disagreeing with us.  Call it whatever you want, but dissenting voices — from Juan Williams to Norman Jameson — are being marginalized or silenced because those voices sometimes dare to speak out against the prevailing “wisdom” of the ruling establishment.

At the same time that Williams, a ten-year employee of National Public Radio, was fired because of his allegedly insensitive remarks about flying on a plane with Muslims, Norman Jameson, the three-year editor of North Carolina Baptists’ state newspaper, resigned under threat of defunding of the Biblical Recorder.  A group of conservative pastors, led by Sandy Beck, charged that Jameson had been insensitive to the prevailing conservative mindset within the churches of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.  Although no one asked him to resign, Jameson said his resignation was “not required, but necessary.”

As someone who is not a North Carolina Baptist, I will refrain from commenting on the merits of the charges leveled against Jameson.  I will also not second-guess Norman Jameson’s decision to stand down and offer his resignation.  Others have already offered their insightful analysis of this situation. 

However, I believe that the circumstances surrounding the resignation of Jameson can be instructive to other Southern Baptists when wrestling with the issues of power and control within the Southern Baptist Convention and the various Baptist State Conventions.  It reminds me of  Jerry Seinfeld’s nemesis, Newman, on the popular television sitcom, who once said:

 “When you control the mail, you control information.”

There are apparently some Southern Baptists today who think like Newman.  They believe that if they control the institutions of Baptist life, including the press, that they will control information.  And, if they control the information, then dissent will be eliminated.  There’s only one problem with that line of thinking.  Such a heavy-handed approach will not only have the opposite effect, but will also result in unintended consequences.

Why would that be the case?  Because the local church, like the local Baptist associations, each Baptist State Convention, and the Southern Baptist Convention itself, is autonomous.  That’s why North Carolina Baptists can do whatever they want with the Biblical Recorder, but that doesn’t affect my state’s Baptist New Mexican.  Florida can recommend a 50-50 split of Cooperative Program funds, but New Mexico (or Louisiana) does not have to follow suit.

What are the unintended consequences that result from this heavy-handed approach of the ruling establishment?  Instead of unity, we get dissension.  Instead of coming together, we are being torn asunder.  And all the while, those who voice any disagreement with the leadership are accused of sowing discord among the brethren.  None of the ruling elites ever sees, much less believes, that anything that they do contributes to the disunity and discord.

I do not know what will happen among North Carolina Baptists after Jameson leaves office.  But, my guess is that the way this whole issue with Jameson was handled, not only by Beck, but by the Biblical Recorder’s Board of Directors, will have consequences — both short-term and long-term — that no one would have ever imagined.  And all those consequences will probably not be positive.

I do not know what will happen in the Southern Baptist Convention when some (or all) of the GCRTF recommendations are implemented.  But, I believe that we are already seeing the unintended consequences that have resulted from the GCR process itself.  And, not all of these consequences are positive. 

As circumstances continue to change, I will continue to speak out on issues affecting the Southern Baptist Convention.  I will add my voice to the other voices who have the freedom and courage to disagree with decisions that we believe will be detrimental to the mission and ministry of the SBC.  I therefore reserve my right to dissent!

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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.
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11 Responses to Dissenting Voices in NC and Beyond!

  1. stephen fox says:

    My good friend Mark Baggett, former associate editor of the Alabama Baptist, a PHD in English from UNC Chapel Hill, in the church where my Mother was baptized circa 1936; on Feb 24, 2002 Dr. Baggett said in the presence of Lottie Moon’s biographer Catherine Allen Judge Pressler’s Definition of the Cooperative Program was: “I’ll operate and you Cope.”
    While I admire my online friend Howell Scott’s concerns about Jameson’s travail, it is not surprising at all in you look at the body count of the last 30 years: Shackelford and Martin, Jack Harwell in the Press ranks and countless others here and there and everywhere.
    DAvid Keys of the Ga. Heritage Society has a broad picture piece up this morning at http://www.ethicsdaily.com . He discusses Larry Hovis of North Carolina. Jameson’s experience of the last few weeks may nuance Keys Crystal ball.
    As long as a fellow like David Miller has the influence he has in the SBC blog world; I can’t see any of you reformers having any progress at all.
    Ronnie Floyd has his mind made up. Mohler lackeys around in his own little semantic playground. Get out now and send your local church cooperative funds to something else.

    • Howell Scott says:

      Stephen,

      I am in Roswell, NM attending the Baptist Convention of New Mexico’s annual meeting. Just finished with the Pastors’/Laymen’s Conference and trying to decide between pizza and BBQ. Good spirit here in the Land of Enchantment without all the drama surrounding some other state conventions. I don’t know that I would call myself a reformer, but I think that there are more grassroots Southern Baptists that see what is happening behind the scenes than you might think. Time will tell, but we just keep speaking up and speaking out. More later tonight. God bless,

      Howell

  2. peter lumpkins says:

    Good words, Howell.

    With that, I am…
    Peter

    • Howell Scott says:

      Peter,

      Thanks for the kind words. I’m at the BCNM’s annual meeting in Roswell, so I haven’t had much time today to follow up on things. Thanks for the link in your most recent post. I was going to try to incorporate Burk’s thesis in my post, but I will have to save it for later. I don’t want to always look for linkages, but I find it very interesting that someone in his position, as you well pointed out in your article, would be so dismissive of objectivity. And, using someone from MSNBC to bolster your argument is not persuasive in the least. In fact, anyone that uses someone from MSNBC in their argument I tend to write off immediately (sarcasm alert). Thanks and have a blessed day,

      Howell

  3. stephen fox says:

    Baptists Today Editor John Pierce has blogged this morning on the same story. His take is here

    http://www.johndpierce.com/2010/10/sad-but-not-shocking.html

  4. Kamatu says:

    I just discovered your blog and have enjoyed reading through your posts for several hours. I’ll note that I’m not shocked at all by the turn the SBC is taking. I mentioned over on betweenthetimes.com that one of the biggest issues stopping a GCR was the lack of sound Christian education on theology. When some other commenters chimed in, some the original GCRTF boyz (Akin, Mohler, etc.) jumped in and spoke on how they were all for education and the GCR would address it. So, what do we get? A commitment to “stewardship” training?

    A.K.A. – teach you how to save more money to give to the SBC.

    This is nothing new, the leadership that led the CR dabbled with too many with interesting theological positions to shove their agenda through as quickly as they did. The result? After 1993, it becomes a case of reaping what was sown and the initials SBC started gaining the “alternate” definition of: Slowly Becoming Catholic.

    Going too far? Maybe, but then I was called stupid for mentioning that in connection with the BFM2K. I guess I’m still just stupid. I’ll probably have to be moving my membership in the next year for various reasons, but since I’m not planning on playing roulette with new pastors again, I’ll probably move to one of the independent Baptist churches. Some of those are like the ones I remember from my early days of being a Baptist.

    • Howell Scott says:

      Kamatu,

      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. I’m glad that you discovered my blog and that you have enjoyed reading my posts. I do think that the there is a disconnect with the GCR and the grassroots in the Convention, whether that is from a theological education perspective or a stewardship perspective. I think I understand what you mean in reference to the SBC “slowly becoming Catholic,” but could you clarify that. If you mean that we are becoming more of a “top-down” heirarchy like the Catholic church, particularly after the passage of the BF&M2000, then I would tend to agree. The GCRTF and its recommendations are a prime example of this kind of thinking. Glad you stopped by. Look forward to the continued dialogue. God bless,

      Howell

  5. Stephen Fox says:

    See Wilkinson’s Opinion piece up this afternoon at http://www.abpnews.com

    Comments there could become interesting. I reference this blog in my opinion there.

    • Howell Scott says:

      Stephen,

      Thanks for the link to the Wilkinson article. What is interesting is that in an age of blogs and other media outlets, the Baptist State Newspapers are not the only source of information for Baptists. Those who think they can control information (and the institutions of power) by controlling the newspapers is not living in the 21st century world. That’s why I read not only BP, but also ABP and BaptistLife Forums and SBC Voices, etc. Interesting days ahead. Thanks and God bless,

      Howell

  6. Stephen Fox says:

    The comments on David Wilkinson’s Opinion piece at http://www.abpnews.com about the ouster of Norman Jameson are well worth your time. I commend them to all who see this.
    Dr. Bruce Gourley who received his PHD under the tutelage of the Conscience of the State of Alabama, Auburn Proff and ordained Baptist minister Wayne Flynt, enters the discussion there.
    Flynt is a Pulitzer nominee. Gourley is now head of the BHHS and formerly an associated of Buddy Shurden and President Underwood at Mercer.

  7. Pingback: Diverse Voices in the Marketplace of Ideas | From Law to Grace

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