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‘The Ship Is Sinking’: Alaska Pastor Pens Open Letter to SBC, Announces His Church’s Disaffiliation

nathaniel jolly

On Thursday (July 21), Alaska pastor Nathaniel Jolly tweeted an open letter titled “Leaving the SBC,” tagging the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, SBC president Bart Barber, and the North American Mission Board (the denomination’s domestic missions agency). 

In that letter, Jolly announced that Homer Reformed Baptist Church, of which he is pastor, would be dissociating from the SBC, citing that the SBC “has simply gone in a direction with which our church is unwilling to be associated, now or in the foreseeable future.” 

“Our leaving is not to suggest that there are no longer any biblical churches or faithful pastors left within the SBC. In fact, I still have several dear brothers, fighting the good fight and shepherding biblical churches,” Jolly wrote. “I would recommend them as a church home to anyone. But we feel the ship is sinking, unrepairable, and it’s time for us to get off.”

Jolly’s words mirror the phrase “take the ship,” which was something of a rallying cry for the conservative wing of the SBC at the 2021 annual meeting. Spearheaded by the Conservative Baptist Network, right leaning Southern Baptist have been seeking to correct “liberal drift” in the denomination for the past few years.

Jolly planted the now former SBC church he pastors in Homer, Alaska, in 2020 after relocating from North Carolina, according to the church’s website. 

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In 2021, Jolly publicly documented his dispute with the Send Network, which is part of the North American Mission Board and provides resources and training to church planters. Following a church planting assessmentSend Network declined to partner with Jolly’s church, citing issues of contextualization. Jolly would have been able to apply for reassessment after a period of one year, but he decided not to continue with the process.

In his open letter, Jolly expressed his belief that the SBC “seems to value the applause of men over that of God” and is “beholden to the world rather than the Word.”  

Jolly went on to explain that his issues with the SBC came to a head after the 2022 annual meeting of the Convention, which took place in June. 

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“What I witnessed was not merely appalling but, I’d argue, unchristian,” Jolly wrote. “Certain SBC presidential candidates were treated with unwarranted suspicion. Conservative survivors were shut off from the mic while a megachurch pastor who ordains women as pastors was given free reign (sic) on the floor.”

Leading up to the annual meeting, then SBC presidential candidate Tom Ascol was the subject of criticism in part for his reticence toward implementing recommended reforms with regard to the denomination’s response to sexual abuse allegations.