I mean we split, split, split, split, split, and you look at the period of time since we adopted the Cooperative Program, since we adopted the Baptist Faith and Message in 1925, a really big year for Southern Baptists. If you look at the time since then, we’ve had major controversies and we’re going to continue to have major controversies, but our process has resolved them.
We’ve been able to come to an answer, and we’ve been able to move forward with that answer. The folks who’ve lost even have been able to say, by and large, I wish that would’ve gone differently, but we’re going to move forward together. We’ve got to recover that sense of wanting to work together and also being able to look at something and say, “I can evaluate whether this item is so serious that it has to go my way for me to cooperate in the convention.” There’s something healthy and mature about being able to lose and say, “But let’s move forward together.”
Is there a liberal drift in the SBC?
There is always the danger of liberal drift in any institution. The Southern Baptist convention is not immune to that. Certainly, we’ve seen it.
I think there’s not evidence of a systemic liberal drift of the severity and nature that some people say, but we’ve had individual churches and people within Southern Baptist Convention who moved to LGBTQ-affirming positions. We’ve had churches within the convention who have wound up leaving because they’ve moved to those liberal positions on those questions.
That’s liberal drift, but it’s liberal drift that leaves because it can’t succeed here. You’d be foolish to suggest that, in a culture that’s moving left with the ferocity that our culture is moving left in so many ways, that we’re completely untouched by that.
But just because you see things happening in the culture that concern you, or just because you see things happening in some individual churches that concern you, that’s no reason to say the sky is falling.
I think one thing that we need to keep in mind, as we think about this idea of whether there’s liberal drift or what we need to, what’s required as a standard to prove that that’s a systemic problem that really justifies going to war over it. We need to think about kind of the “mission accomplished” moment of the Conservative Resurgence. I’m really thankful for the Conservative Resurgence of the Southern Baptist Convention. We came to a point when we kind of stepped out of a war footing for that and moved into a rebuilding period from the resurgence. And yet, when that happened, we still had state conventions that didn’t affirm the Baptist Faith and Message 2000. We still have state conventions today that don’t affirm the Baptist Faith and Message 2000. We still had churches in the Southern Baptist Convention that gave money to the CBF. We still had individual churches that were moving rapidly to the left on social issues and whatever else.
But we came to the end of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Conservative Resurgence, and said, “Even though that’s true, all of our entity heads are biblical inerrantists, and all of our entity heads affirm conservative, Southern Baptist theology. All of our boards, all of our committees, all of them are completely in the control of people who affirm the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, support the Cooperative Program. They’re on board with this conservative vision for the Southern Baptist Convention.” And we were mature enough to come to that point and say, ‘That’s enough.”
What we’ve been able to do is secure biblically inerrantist, conservative leadership for all the institutions of our convention. And that’s good enough. I think really one of the major questions that we have to learn how to answer is when to say, “That’s good enough.”
Is there an SBC elite and then all the rest of Southern Baptists, you know, grassroots pastors and churches?
I think there are two important answers to that. The first one is the table happens every June. We have an annual meeting. Everybody who qualifies gets to come to the table and bring messengers to the annual meeting and vote. A lot of the folks who are making accusations have a track record of losing those votes. I don’t mean to be harsh in saying that, but it’s just true. I don’t think it’s populist.
I think the definition of elitism is to lose the votes when the messengers vote and then say, “But we ought to get our way anyway.” I think you have to do the hard work of persuading people that your views are correct, that your accusations have some grounding to them.
That work can’t just be done on Twitter. You’ve got to go out and show people the goods and persuade people that what you’re saying is true.
Now, having said that, I’ll tell you, I’ve seen times in the life of our Convention, where I thought that the platform had a direction, they wanted things to go, and the messengers weren’t sure about it, and they did some things to try to railroad something through. We’re just not being honest if we pretend that’s never a temptation, if we pretend it’s never happened. It does.
I hope and believe that I’m the guy who could preside fairly over the business meeting. I think it’s important to hear some genuine sentiment in people’s minds when they respond to this idea of SBC elite—some genuine sentiment that thinks my ideas don’t get a fair hearing. I think it’s important to conduct the annual meeting in a way, and also to conduct what we do in governance of our entities in a way, that helps reassure people that people are heard. And that helps to reassure people that’s true.