I have met James A Smith, Sr., the editor of the Florida Witness, on at least two occasions -- one in Pensacola, Florida and the other in Albuquerque, New Mexico -- and I enjoyed our conversations.
It is appropriate for editors of state papers to give their opinions on convention matters as Mr. Smith did in his editorial this week regarding the Southern Baptist Convention in Greensboro, but I believe Mr. Smith crossed the line in two areas.
James A. Smith and Wiley Drake
I believe Mr. Smith owes Wiley Drake a public apology. Wiley was elected by a majority of the Southern Baptist messengers who gathered in Greensboro to conduct Southern Baptist business. Yet Mr. Smith says this about Wiley . . .
"It was sad that the Convention elected a man more known for his microphone-hogging, self-indulgent and almost always out-of-order motions than for his serious support for the work of the Convention through the Cooperative Program."
I wonder if Mr. Smith would have said that about Ronnie Floyd had he been elected? Laying my wonderment aside, and giving Mr. Smith every right to question the Cooperative Program giving of Wiley's church, what bothers me is Mr. Smith's very personal attack on Wiley calling him "microphone-hugging" and "self-indulgent" and other words that any serious journalist would know from which to abstain.
Does Mr. Smith know Wiley? I don't agree with Wiley on his Disney boycot and other motions before the Convention, and in fact, Mr. Smith agrees philosophically with Wiley much more than I --- but I've come to know Wiley. Why can I disagree with a man's policies but accept a man personally, but Mr. Smith attacks a man personally but agrees with his policies?
I know Wiley's love for his wheelchair bound wife. I know Wiley's love for the homeless in Los Angeles. I know Wiley well enough to know that he ministers in the power of Christ to the very people Los Angeles leaders want gone. I know Wiley lives his life based upon convictions and principles, and though I don't agree with Wiley on everything he has presented to the Convention, Wiley is the kind of guy I can cooperate with in the Southern Baptist Convention. Wiley is as Wiley says.
Mr. Smith, fifty percent of the convention agreed. Messengers voted Wiley to be Second-Vice President. I would caution you against denigrating a duly elected officer of the Southern Baptist Convention. It is very unprofessional.
James A Smith and Ben Cole
Second, Mr. Smith outright, intentionally misrepresented Benjamin Cole in his editorial. Mr. Smith said,
"Cole, a frequent and loud critic of International Mission Board trustees’ new policies on baptism and “private prayer language” for missionary candidates, unashamedly packages his opposition to the alcohol resolution with his agenda about narrowing theological boundaries in SBC life tied to the ongoing controversy at the IMB. So, this is the kind of Christian liberty that is desired of missionaries and other leaders in Southern Baptists life — the right to drink booze, speak in tongues and hold as valid baptisms at churches believing in baptismal regeneration?"
Mr. Smith, Benjamin Cole's father died when Ben was 13 from drunkenness. The notion that Benjamin Cole desires missionaries to "drink booze" as if those missionaries are to get drunk is highly inappropriate considering the circumstances of Ben's own father's death, a testimony he very passionately and emotionally gave from the floor of the convention, arguing that drunkenness is a scourge on our society, but in our belief of the sufficiency of Scriptures we ought to condemn only what Scripture condemns.
Further, as you well know, the new policy at the IMB on tongues prohibits a "private" prayer language. The old policy already stated that missionaries on the field were not to speak in tongues publicly or face discipoline.
Finally, to allege that Mr. Cole is advocating baptismal regeneration is a downright lie. You know better. Baptismal regeneration has NEVER been the issue.
Mr. Smith I am deeply disappointed in your editorial. On the one hand you shame bloggers, but from your very pen you have practiced more deception and defamation than any blogger I have read in the past six months.
My prayer is that you will think twice before you resort to such tactics in the future.
In His Grace,