Assessing the SBC’s gathering in Nashville

Throughout the decades several analogies have been used to describe how the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) operates. One of the most often used is that of an aircraft carrier. At more than 200 million pounds, it is among the world’s largest ships (the SBC is the nation’s largest non-Catholic denomination). It takes an aircraft carrier five miles to complete a 180-degree turn. The SBC moves in much the same way, intentionally deliberative. That was once again the case in Nashville, June 15-16.

While The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Nashville Tennessean, The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, National Review, WORLD and a plethora of digital news operations like The Federalist, Substack and Real Clear Politics offered their assessments, the SBC plodded through its business – and not much changed. The SBC is conservative and one of the hallmarks of conservatism is that people are best content when they can feel that they live in a stable world of enduring values. Southern Baptist values come from the Bible.

The SBC affirms the inerrant, infallible, sufficient Word of God. The SBC remains staunchly pro-life. The SBC continues to be pro-traditional family, believing that marriage is between one man and one woman for life. The SBC is still complementarian in its views on the office of senior pastor: it is to be a man. Women are gifted, as well, and may teach and hold other positions in the church.

Messengers elected a traditional Southern Baptist pastor, Ed Litton of Mobile, Ala. While the liberal news media rejoiced over Litton, their celebrations will be short-lived given Litton affirms every issue I just mentioned. Do not be surprised to see him reach out to those who opposed his candidacy. He is known to be a reconciler, not a bully.

While there were several resolutions opposing Marxist-based Critical Race Theory (CRT), none were adopted. That surprised a good many, including me. However, messengers approved a broad resolution that rejects any “vain philosophy” that includes CRT or any other contrary to historic Christianity.

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The CRT issue is a good example of how Southern Baptists approach challenging worldview issues and confirms the aircraft carrier analogy. Many messengers, like me, felt the SBC had an opportunity to lead in warning the nation about the dangers of CRT. The presidents of the SBC’s six seminaries issued an earlier statement declaring CRT to be incompatible with Christianity, so it would have made sense for messengers to follow-up likewise. Despite the presidents’ rebuke of CRT, messengers elected to go with a broader statement, sparking questions about their intent and the extent to which they understood what is at stake.

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There is no question that messengers want racial reconciliation, so it could be they opted for softer language so as not to offend some black pastors who may not have yet grasped CRT’s incompatibility with Christianity. CRT has been largely an academic subject until its recent invasion of American culture – complements of Harvard Law School. It may be that messengers have not yet understood what CRT is doing to our schools, military, government and churches. It is the greatest domestic threat facing our nation.

Messengers expressed concern for those who are sexually abused. I do not know of any Southern Baptist who would allow anyone to be sexually abused. People would be hard-pressed to find a safer place than in a Southern Baptist church Sunday school class. For any one to suggest that there is widespread sexual abuse in SBC churches is just plain wrong.

There have been instances of sexual abuse in some churches, but they are a small percentage of the 40,000 or so that exist. Yet Southern Baptists wanted to make clear that they will not tolerate sexual abuse; thus, the directive of messengers for an independent Executive Committee examination.

But how could the Executive Committee be a party to sexual abuse? Each Southern Baptist church is autonomous. The Southern Baptist Convention is not hierarchical like the Catholic Church, which was rocked with a scandal featuring pedophilia and homosexuality. Yet messengers pressed for the independent probe, and they will get it.

So, what now for the SBC? Everyone has returned to their community churches and are carrying on. The SBC will continue to fund its nearly 4,000 missionaries around the world. It will continue promoting adoption and will lead the nation in foster care. It will continue to care for the aged, always advocating for the sanctity of life from conception to the grave. It will continue to carry the good news of Jesus Christ to the far ends of the earth.

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