My previous post entitled Are We A Denomination Or Are We A Convention contained some excellent comments, three worth pointing out here.
Tim Guthrie stated:
If the SBC were a denomination, then the denomination would run the entities. If the SBC were a Convention, the entities would be governed by the Trustee system as elected by the Convention when it is in session. We as Southern Baptist are a Convention not a Denomination.
Volfann agreed with Tim and wrote:
I agree with Tim Guthrie. What we all need to understand, and I include myself, is that the seminaries and the IMB and NAMB and all the other entities cannot be what we all want them to be. There's just no way that can happen. The leaders and the trustees have to manage them the way they feel led by the Lord, and they are probably gonna do things that a few, or some, or even many, don't think that they ought to do. Some will feel that they can do it better. And, if there are enough of us who believe that the trustees are not doing their job, that things are not being done right, then we can take care of that at the Southern Baptist Convention every year, just like the conservative resurgence did.
Professor X responded to both Tim and Volfann with the following insight:
However, our convention can only function at maximum effieciency if a truly representative Board of Trustees is in place at each entity of our convention. For example, if trustees are all purposefully nominated because they hold a particular scriptural interpretation on certain 'hot topics' then the trustee board does not fully reflect the broad views of the convention. If any board of the convention is manipulated by an outside group, or singular person, in order to reflect one aspect of the broader opinion in the convention as a whole then it does not properly reflect the members of the SBC.
The Nominating Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention met this past week in Nashville, Tennessee. For those uninitiated with the nominating process it might be helpful to read this explanation of how it works. In summary, the Nominating Committee is selected by the Committee on Committees, and approved by messengers of the SBC in June. The following March the Nominating Committee meets in Nashville, Tennessee to recommend men and women from across the SBC to serve as trustees of our SBC agency boards. The Nominating Committee that met last week was selected by the Committee on Committees appointed by Bobby Welch in his last year of service as President of the SBC. Frank Page's first appointed Committee on Committees will present next year's Nominating Committee at the SBC in San Antonio this June.
Again, the full report of this year's Nominating Committee will be made public by Baptist Press on April 19th. I am confident that all the people who served on this year's Nominating Committee are sincere and wonderful people, and I have been assured that the leadership of the committee, including the Chairman, went the extra mile to insure that the appointments were impartial. I would like to point out five examples from this year's Nominating Committee meeting that illustrate why things are changing in the SBC.
(1). The President of one of our agencies sent a letter to the two members of the Nominating Committee from Indiana recommended a list of people to serve on his board. To the credit of the Indiana contingent, they expressed disappoint that this had occurred, and it makes one wonder if the days of Presidents of any SBC agency seeking to influence the Nominating Committee are over.
(2). One of the Nominating Committee members, when making his nomination for a trustee on the board of Southeastern Seminary made this statement: "And President Danny Akin likes him." I'm sure this particular Nominating Committee member has a sincere heart and does not realize the inappropriateness of contacting Dr. Akin to see if the President likes a particular person, but Southern Baptists must realize that Presidents should NOT be catered to when it comes to putting particular people on their board. Also, vice versa, Southern Baptist boards should not be stacked in an effort to remove a President. When sitting trustees 'vet' potential trustees to insure the board is filled with 'like-minded' people, then we have a problem. The Holy Spirit should guide the Nominating Committee and the Presidents of our entities, and sitting trustees, should have no influence on the Nominating Committee. There should be very strict guidelines that are adhered to closely to insure the nominating process is not manipulated. What makes me hopeful, and that for which I commend the members of this year's Nominating Committee, is that innocent statements like this are seen as problematic by some members and steps are being taken to inform others that the process should be INDEPENDENT of any SBC agency administration.
(3). The pastor and layperson who served on the Nominating Committee from Florida initially nominated to serve on the International Mission Board the Florida Committee on Committees member who had nominated them to serve on the Nominating Committee. This is a violation of bylaws, and though it was not initially caught, we should give thanks to the the excellent staff of the Executive Committee for discovering the bylaw violation and the Nominating Committee for correcting it. I'm sure the initial oversight was innocent, as well as what happened next, which may have just slipped by the notice of the entire committee.
Out of the hundreds of thousands of Southern Baptists in Florida who have never served on a board, the two Florida Nominating Committee members, a pastor and a female doctor, nominated Debbie Brunson to replace their initial recommendation which did not meet the guidelines . Debbie is a vivacious, charming lady who loves the Lord and is a wonderful pastor's wife at First Baptist Church, Jacksonville, Florida. Yet Debbie has already served over a three year term on the IMB. The bylaws also state that a person must reside within a state for an entire year before they can serve on an SBC board. Debbie and her husband Mac have been at FBC Jacksonville, Florida for a year - barely. Again, Debbie is a great lady, but one wonders why she had to be tracked down in Jerusalem to see if she would be willing to serve, when a cheaper phone call would have put the members in contact with other Southern Baptists in Florida. But, if this is the only questionable appointment to come out out of the meeting, then we are in very good shape as a convention.
I am not advocating Debbie be removed from the list of nominees by any means, but I am hopeful that everyone in the SBC, including all future Nominating Committee might be particularly sensitive to what may look like favoritism on appointments. Debbie served one year in 2002 on the North American Mission Board as a trustee from North Carolina. When she and her husband moved to Texas in 2003 she was immediately placed on the IMB as a trustee, and then they moved to Florida last year and she is being recommended to be put immediately back on the IMB. Her appointment can be defended, but I am grateful that everyone now knows these appointments are being watched closely.
(4). The committee also nominated Dr. Herschael York to serve on the International Mission Board. Dr York is a likeable man. He is a seminary professor and also happens to be sympathetic with Landmark tenets. Again, I am not suggesting that Dr. York be replaced as a nominee at all. I am simply illustrating that the sensitivity to being sure we appoint a broad representation of views for trustees of our agencies is growing, and the very likeable Herschael illustrates this point. I realize that it is a process and we have not fully arrived, but in an ideal world, the trustees would reflect the broad and various views of the Southern Baptist Convention. As has been stated by one of our finer Southern Baptist historians, there is a growing Landmark presence in SBC academia, but it is definitely not the majority view. As Nathan Finn writes:
A second group of inerrantists whose star continues to rise is the Landmark movement, which is both a movement unto itself and a shadow-movement that can be present as a subset of many of the above movements (particularly the revivalist and Calvinist movements). Landmarkism was long out of touch with SBC leadership, but has enjoyed a major revival in the last 30 years or so. Once confined to the mostly rural churches of Kentucky and Arkansas, Landmarkism is once again roaming the halls in some corners of SBC academia.
It would also be a mistake to uncritically embrace Landmarkism. Let me say loud and clear that I am much more concerned about those among us with no discernable Baptist ecclesiology than I am with Landmarkers. At least Landmarkers are attempting to articulate a systematic, biblical ecclesiology, even when (in my opinion) they fall short. Landmarkism itself is not the bad guy. But some versions of Landmarkism are not benign. There is a type of strident Landmarkism that historically has led to the rejection of cooperative missions among Southern Baptists and attempted to equate “Landmark” with “Baptist.” Modern versions of this malignant Landmarkism should be resisted because they will destroy us.
Neither Nathan Finn nor I would say Dr. York is part of strident Landmarkism, but his potential presence on the board strengthens any Landmark tendencies that may be present. Over a year ago a key trustee of the IMB told me, "I am Landmark and proud of it." The SBC is not a Landmark Convention, but as I and others, including David Rogers, have been saying for now well over a year, if we are not careful we will continue a sharp shift toward Landmarkism as a convention.
(5). The Chairman of the Nominating Committee has encouraged all his members to be in San Antonio. I think he understands, as do I, that 'the freedom of being able to interpret the Scriptures differently on tertiary doctrines but work together in cooperation for missions' is the inviolable foundation of the Cooperative Program. Anything less will destroy the fabric of our convention.
Again, I am grateful for the people who have served on this year's Nominating Committee. There seem to be some really wonderful appointments, and even the two specific appointments that I have mentioned in this post will ultimately be good ones for the SBC. I do believe this year's committee and Dr. Frank Page's appointment of the Committee on Commitees have brought a sense of freshness to nominating process and will ultimately insure that we keep our trustee boards as independent, broad and diverse as possible.
Rachelle and I will be leaving for Memphis, Tennessee after church today to attend the International Mission Board. As I have stated on multiple occasions, the SBC works best when our work is done in openness and transparancy. I will give you my opinion and perception of this week's IMB meeting in posts Monday through Thursday.
Blessings to you all.