Abby Duren, the 25-year-old daughter of a Southern Baptist preacher who attended Southern Baptist churches for most of her life, does not believe that online infighting is the main reason why Millennials and Gen Zers are not interested in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). Duren shared her views in response to a series of tweets from Jimmy Scroggins, pastor of Family Church in South Florida.
“New believers (or in my case, old believers) aren’t only disinterested in the SBC because y’all fight on Twitter,” said Duren. “My generation and the younger one especially are more than familiar with internet discord. It’s not the fact that there’s fighting, it’s what the fighting is about.”
Jimmy Scroggins: Infighting Is Hurting Our Witness
In a Twitter thread posted June 28, 2021, Pastor Jimmy Scroggins shared that the previous night he had spent time speaking with “relatively new believers who somehow went down the rabbit hole of SBC Twitter.” The pastor spent 20 minutes with them, defending his church’s ties to the SBC.
“They said, ‘Why in the world are we affiliated with a group that treats one another like that!?!’” said Scroggins. “They were appalled at the vitriol, meanness, snark and ‘gotcha’ attitude.” The group shared with Scroggins that they host a Zoom Bible study for seekers and at one meeting, a non-Christian told them, “Please tell me you guys are [not] involved with that Southern Baptist group. They are awful!”
“Our church is a legacy, downtown, First Baptist Church,” said Scroggins. “SBC for the past 120 years. Charter members of our local Baptist Association. And now I’m having to defend our relationship.” He continued, “Of course I’m happy to explain why we are SBC. Over 3000 fully funded missionaries. 100’s of church plants every year. Disaster relief. The 6 best seminaries in the world. All guided by our common confession of faith. It’s the best thing going.” Scroggins also had high praise for his state convention.
But, he warned, the infighting on social media not only hurts the witness of Southern Baptists to the outside world but also wounds and impedes the good work of those within the denomination. Instead of fighting online, people should work out their differences privately with one another.
“I believe our SBC is MOSTLY good people, trying to do good things, with a good heart,” said Scroggins. “We need more kind people on here speaking more generously and more kindly. Or else the mean people will speak for all the people. I’m afraid that’s what’s happening now.”
Abby Duren: Actually, There Are Other Reasons
Abby Duren is the daughter of Marty Duren, a bivocational pastor in Nashville, Tenn. Both Abby and her father were present at the 2021 SBC Annual Meeting several weeks ago, where Marty supported Ed Litton for president. Marty also tweeted quite a bit in support of SBC sexual abuse surivors, even calling on Mike Stone to withdraw from the presidential race after reports surfaced about his interaction with sexual abuse survivor Hannah-Kate Williams.
— Marty (@martyduren) June 16, 2021
There is no doubt that the vitriol we see online from people who call themselves Christians is appalling and something that all people, especially believers, ought to avoid. But Abby Duren does not believe that what Pastor Jimmy Scroggins described in and of itself is the primary problem young people have with the SBC.
“I attended the SBC a couple of weeks ago,” said Duren, “and I’m the daughter of @martyduren who was a Southern Baptist preacher since before I was born. I attended Southern Baptist churches the majority of my life and I would like to offer a different perspective.” Duren argues that young people are not interested in the SBC because they see its members fighting for justice in foreign countries while neglecting the battles on their own soil.
“We see the way that people in the SBC come together to help sexual abuse and trafficking survivors in other countries but stay silent to the pleas of survivors in their own American churches,” said Duren. “We see how the SBC puts money towards helping Black people in Africa but turns its back on the cries of Black people crying out for justice in our own city streets.”