SBC Phoenix: Grassroots Voices Speak Out!

This will be my last post before I head to Phoenix on Sunday for the start of the SBC Aspire Pastor’s Conference and the Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention.  I’ll be posting regular updates from Phoenix beginning Monday morning.  I’m not sure that I’ll be “live blogging” per se, but check back often throughout next week for my take on the goings-on at this year’s event.  With the number of messengers making the trip to Phoenix maybe one of the lowest on record, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be a dull Convention.

Unless you happen to read The Pathway, Missouri Baptists’ State newspaper, you would have no idea that a motion will be made at the Convention which calls for revisiting the recommendations of the GCR.  The motion, which already has the support of at least 100 grassroots conservative Southern Baptists (many of whom are current and former leaders within the Convention) states:

“that the Convention create a special committee to be called the Unity Committee, to review, evaluate and make recommendations about perceptions and realities about the impact and implementation of the GCR Task Force Report during the past year by SBC entities, state conventions and related organizations and networks, that the committee bring a report and recommendations to the 2012 SBC annual meeting; and that the Committee be comprised of 21 members to be appointed by the President, fully representational of Southern Baptists and that the minutes, records and proceedings from the Committee’s meetings and work be open to the Southern Baptist public and available to all Southern Baptists no later than 12 months after it has given its report to the SBC.” (full Pathway article here)

The special committee, to be called the “Unity Committee,” would be tasked with reviewing the “impact and implementation” of the GCR recommendations since Orlando.  The name of this committee encapsulates the division that the GCR has caused in the last year.  The original GCR Task Force — designed to bring recommendations that would help Southern Baptists more effectively carry out the Great Commission — has become a divisive wedge that continues to cause both short-term and long-term harm to our Convention.

Grassroots Southern Baptists, who were the backbone of the Conservative Resurgence, are beginning to make their voices heard about the radical redefinition and reorganization that has taken place within the last year (here, here, and here).  That the records of the Unity Committee would be available for all Southern Baptists to read is a refreshing step toward true transparency within the Convention, something that was woefully lacking in the GCRTF process (here and here).

Of course, there is no guarantee that the motion will survive the Committee on Order of Business, which has the authority either to schedule the motion for debate and a vote on the floor of the Convention or to effectively kill it in committee by recommending that the Presiding Officer (Bryant Wright) rule the motion out-of-order.  There are still ways to get the motion to the floor (i.e., messengers vote to overrule the ruling of the Chair), but that is certainly not the easiest path.

On Tuesday, I wrote:

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.

This is yet the second time that I have had to revise my forecast.  Little did I know it at the time, but both of my revisions are related.  Grassroots conservative Southern Baptists will begin to make their voices heard in Phoenix.  Since Orlando, the disconnect between rank-and-file Southern Baptists and the establishment elites within the Convention has continued to grow.  Perhaps nothing better illustrates what divides cooperating conservative SBs from top-down SBs than the nomination of Dr. Fred Luter for 1st Vice President of the Convention. 

BP recently reported on Dr. Luter’s church, Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans:

In 2010, Franklin Avenue Baptist Church reported primary worship attendance of 4,000; undesignated receipts of $4,407,217; Cooperative Program contributions of $261,798; a Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions gift of $35; an Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions gift of $1,323; and $479,540 in total missions expenditures.

In a Convention of churches who have been known for cooperating together for missions and ministries, a pastor whose church reportedly gave only $35 to Lottie Moon and $1,323 to Annie Armstrong is considered by the President of Southeastern Seminary to be worthy to lead all Southern Baptists in the coming days:

“I can’t imagine anyone more qualified and more worthy to be nominated to this position than Fred.”

Maybe Dr. Akin is right.  But, if he is, then the slow death of the cooperative program and of the Southern Baptist Convention will not be as slow as some had imagined!  Now, it’s on to Phoenix!

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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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12 Responses to SBC Phoenix: Grassroots Voices Speak Out!

  1. I like Fred Luter. I’ve heard him preach and been deeply blessed. But my family of four almost spent $35 for dinner at Pizza Hut. If a megachurch only gives that amount to Lottie Moon, I do not think we are wise to reward their pastor with a leadership position. It sends the message that any old level of missions support is just fine, when really it’s not.

    • Howell Scott says:

      Rick,

      You bring it home with your Pizza Hut example ( I like Thin ‘n Crispy best 🙂 ) The problem is not his level of missions support per se. It is that he has not demonstrated support for SBC missions, at least to a level that I believe qualifies someone for office in the Convention. This maybe a non-issue because Dr. Luter may not have any competition, but I’m not sure how enthusiastically I could support any candidate whose church had only give $35 to Lottie Moon last year. That this isn’t an issue with some in leadership, particularly those who are vocally supporting his candidancy, shows just how deep the problem is. Hope you are doing well. God bless,

      Howell

  2. Andrew says:

    Dr. Luter’s church gives about 6% adjusted to the CP…guess we have returned to single-digit Presidents again. Seems with each year that name recognition (a function of bold preaching and megachurch leadership) rules the day over sacrificial service (read: >10% CP, but I’m sure there are other factors) for Presidential candidates.

    I also like Fred Luter, but if someone else has more giving, I’d vote for them instead….

    • Howell Scott says:

      Andrew,

      Of course, Dr. Luter has not been elected as 1st VP much less nominated for President. I think that Dr. Luter’s CP giving at 6% would be acceptable to most Southern Baptists, but giving only $35 to Lottie Moon in 2010 is problematic. I believe that there will be other candidates in New Orleans next year that will have better giving, at least as SBC missions is concerned. Thanks for stopping by. Have a great weekend and God bless,

      Howell

  3. D.R. Randle says:

    In light of these past presidents and their CP contributions, I would say Luter at 6% is a pretty good pick:

    Adrian Rogers (1979,86-87) Bellevue Baptist—Memphis, TN – 4%
    Bailey Smith (1980-81) First Southern Baptist—Del City, OK – 1.19 %
    Charles Stanley (1984-85) First Baptist—Atlanta, GA – 2.5%
    Jerry Vines (1988-89) First Baptist—Jacksonville, Fla. – 2.3%
    Ed Young (1993-1994) Second Baptist—Houston, TX – 0.5%
    James Merritt (2001-02) First Baptist—Snellville, GA – 2-3%
    Jack Graham (2003-04) Prestonwood Baptist—Plano, TX – 0.5%

    Luter may be light on Lottie Moon (of course, it would be interested to see these earlier leaders’ overall giving numbers to the SBC), but as we saw with Johnny Hunt a couple of years back – sometimes their missions expenditures go to IMB-related ministries which don’t get reported. And, also as with Johnny Hunt, it may be that after Luter becomes president of the SBC, his Church will begin to give more. Of course, he still has until Lottie Moon 2011 to begin giving significantly to Lottie and the IMB.

    Finally, in regard to the idea that we reward people with leadership positions based on what they give – I find that not only distasteful, but unBiblical and possibly unChristlike. Leadership positions shouldn’t be things churches or individuals can purchase through their giving. They should come based on one’s clear God-given ability as evidenced by a life of humility and service to Christ.

    • Howell Scott says:

      D.R.,

      It should be a given for ANY and ALL leaders in the SBC that their positions should come because of their “clear God-given ability as evidenced by a life of humility and service to Christ.” I think we could all agree that anyone who did not demonstrate this quality would be unfit for service (elected or paid) within the Convention. That being said, I think that someone’s past service, including cooperative missions giving, should play a role in his election to office within the SBC. Some may put more weight on this and others less, but I do not see this as “buying” their way into office. If a pastor led his church to give 20% to CP, but was otherwise not qualified, his CP giving alone will not suffice. However, while Dr. Luter’s CP giving is good, compared to the past Presidents you listed, IMO it is average at best. What concerns me is his church’s $35 contribution to Lottie Moon in 2010. Perhaps there is a good explanation for that, but BP certainly did not mention that last year was somehow different than previous years for Franklin Avenue Baptist Church. In any event, the messengers will decide — this year and next — what criteria they will employ when voting for officers. It probably will not hurt Dr. Luter’s chances of election this year, but should he choose to run for President next year, I would expect that his SBC missions’ giving will be an issue. Don’t know if you are planning to make the trip to Phoenix. If you are, maybe our paths will cross and we can meet in person. Hope you have a great weekend. God bless,

      Howell

      • Job says:

        Hello Pastor Scott:

        “However, while Dr. Luter’s CP giving is good, compared to the past Presidents you listed, IMO it is average at best.”

        Sorry, but that is an untenable position.

        Adrian Rogers (1979,86-87) Bellevue Baptist—Memphis, TN – 4%
        Bailey Smith (1980-81) First Southern Baptist—Del City, OK – 1.19 %
        Charles Stanley (1984-85) First Baptist—Atlanta, GA – 2.5%
        Jerry Vines (1988-89) First Baptist—Jacksonville, Fla. – 2.3%
        Ed Young (1993-1994) Second Baptist—Houston, TX – 0.5%
        James Merritt (2001-02) First Baptist—Snellville, GA – 2-3%
        Jack Graham (2003-04) Prestonwood Baptist—Plano, TX – 0.5%

        6% is 50% greater than 4% of Adrian Rogers. It is over 200% greater than the 2-3% of Charles Stanley, Jerry Vines and James Merritt. And it is over 400% greater than the 1.19% of Bailey Smith, and 1200% greater than the 0.5% of Ed Young and Jack Graham. Now you can – and should – provide the theory that D.R. Randle indulged in cherry-picking while composing his list, as it consists of only 7 presidents going back to 1979, and only 2 presidents since 1994. But claiming that Dr. Luter’s CP giving is “average at best compared to the past President … listed” is simply in opposition to mathematics.

        Another thing: when it was Kevin Ezell taking over the NAMB, the issue for many was publicly the low CP giving (and privately his affiliation with Al Mohler and SBTS). Around that time and since then (as a larger theme there have been tons of blog posts and comments about how vital and important the CP is to the SBC, and how we need a leadership that understands that and leads by example on it, and how the “new leadership” is threatening the SBC’s unity and future by failing to fully support and promote the CP. So, Luter has “good” CP giving, is strongly affiliated with NOBTS, and now the issue is his Lottie Moon giving? I understand the feelings toward the SBC leadership over the GCR and other issues, but there comes a point where it appears to be looking for a reason – any reason – to oppose someone.

        If Dr. Luter is indeed of the same mind and agenda as the “SBC elites that the grassroots conservative SBC is rising up against”, then let that be the stated reason for opposing him. Even a position “it is nothing personal concerning him or his merits … I just do not trust anyone that this SBC leadership group recommends” is far superior than shifting standards and moving targets.

        That said, I am very concerned that Luter is being promoted in no small part because of racial reasons. In addition to the many Bible-based reasons against it, there is the simple fact that tactics like this never work. From the secular arena … look at all the black appointments that George W. Bush made. How many votes did that translate to? How many people still called Bush a racist after Hurricane Katrina? Now I am not a George W. Bush supporter, just using the example.

      • Howell Scott says:

        Job,

        Sorry for the delay in replying, but today is the first day that I have been able to be at my computer. Not because I didn’t have access, but because I got hit with one of the worst stomach bugs that I have ever had in my life as I was coming into Phoenix Sunday night. I made only about 1 1/2 hours of the Pastor’s Conference on Monday morning and that was all she wrote. I’ll concede to you on the math and averages part of the equation. Math was never my strong suit — that’s why I was a Political Science major in college 🙂 While 6% CP giving is better than most past Presidents, I probably was using “average” in the sense of okay, not stellar, in my opinion. I wasn’t really trying to compare statistical analysis from each of the President’s givng records. I should have been more precise in my language. I do have major concerns with anyone tied to the establishment at this point. More than CP or Lottie Giving (which are important) would be Dr. Luter’s position on the GCR and its implementation. I suspect that he has the same opinions as those who are currently in power. But, apart from that, I think that your last paragraph hits the nail on the head. If we go down that road, however well intended, I do not think we will arrive at where we think we should. Thanks for the dialogue. Hope you have a great weekend and God bless,

        Howell

  4. GREG ROBERTS says:

    i wonder if there is a way to see how much those quoted AS CONCERNED
    in Baptist press article gave

    • Howell Scott says:

      Greg,

      If you are talking about giving records for churches, that information is available for every SBC that files an Annual Church Profile (ACP). That is where BP is getting their information. If you are asking about giving by individuals, I’m not sure how that is relevant. Of course, if those concerned folks were from churche who gave a miniscule amount to CP or Lottie or Annie, that could certainly raise an issue of hypocrisy on their part. Hope that helps. Thanks and God bless,

      Howell

  5. Doesn’t look like his church promoted the offering at all, although there could be reasons the 2010 figure is low. Did you check 2009? As Randle said above, some giving doesn’t make it into the SBC stat sheet. That said, Luter, as noted, leads a church that is far above recent presidents in CP giving and it would be hard to blame his election for hastening the demise of CP giving. His giving is exemplary for SBC presidents.

    The SBC has shown, repeatedly, that a charismatic nominee with below average giving is acceptable.

  6. Pingback: Blogging From Phoenix: ONLY If the Lord Wills! | From Law to Grace

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