When the Southern Baptist Convention voted to boycott Disney World, I took my entire family, the very next day, to Orlando, Florida to enjoy Disney World. I told my church it was the best vacation we ever had. It was then, in the mid-1990's, that Wiley Drake first came into my consciousness. He was the man who recommended that boycott at the SBC, and the messengers passed it. I let my strong disagreement with Wiley be known at the time.
In fact, Wiley's views on everything denominationally, politically, and about life in general are as different from my views as the colors across the aisle on the 50 yard line at the annual Texas OU Cotton Bowl tussle. Wiley's classic dispensationalism, ardent fundamentalism, and strident political activism are the antithesis of my views. My concern over the last several years has been that we, the SBC, are becoming ideologically like the Wiley Drakes of this world .
Last year in Greensboro, North Carolina, an elderly pastor named Bill Dotson took it upon himself to nominate Wiley to the position of Second Vice President of the SBC. He asked Ben Cole to write the nominating speech. I believe the speech to elect Wiley Drake will go down in history as one of the most, if not the, funniest SBC nominating speeches of all time.
Wiley Drake was elected.
My choice for Second Vice President was my friend Bob Bender from Colorado. In fact, I had helped Bob get his nominator and talked with him several times about his being nominated. I did not know Wiley personally before he was elected, having only one conversation with him (and that was about our disagreements), but after Wiley was elected, I met him, his wife, and his mother-in-law during an informal reception at our hotel.
This is what I discovered. Wiley is a man who possesses a very soft heart. He ministers to the down and out in a street ministry that he personally leads. Most of us who are Southern Baptist pastors wouldn't even think of helping in, much less organizing, such a ministry to the poor and outcast. He cares for the Mexican immigrants in California as if they were his own family, buying food and clothes for them as he tries to help them get established. He cared for his aged mother-in-law, who was in a wheel chair, with both class and grace. Wiley is a man of paradox. He thinks like a fundamentalist but he seems to care for the underdog like a liberal.
Wiley's views on abortion are well known. He strongly opposes abortion and calls it 'the murder of our children.' What is not so well known is Wiley's alleged support of a man in prison for killing an abortion doctor. Some liberals question why people are silent about Wiley's 'support' of domestic terrorism. Other fundamentalists take me to task for sending a message to the powers that be in 'getting Wiley elected.'
A few thoughts on Wiley Drake for people to ruminate on:
(1). If our convention continues down the road of fundamentalism, Wiley Drake will be the norm, not the aberration.
(2). People are beginning to wake up to where we are headed, and if it takes the election of Wiley Drake for Southern Baptists to see that the logical end of extreme evangelical fundamentalism is having leadership that advocates the boycott of Disney World and allegedly supports the murder of abortion doctors, then maybe Wiley's election is for our ultimate good - it will wake us up to the fact that our mission is to take the gospel of Jesus Christ to the ends of the world. We are a gospel convention not a political convention.
(3). However, I would be very cautious about accepting something you read on the Internet about Wiley Drake. I have not spoken to Wiley on the issue of his 'support' of a murderer. I, like everybody else, just found out about it. I've not heard Wiley speak to it. Too many people are quick to jump to unfounded conclusions before talking to the people involved. I am not defending Wiley, I am just urging caution to all who would castigate him before you talk to him.
(4). I love the SBC and support the SBC with dollars and ministry. I am skeptical of anything that is said to embarrass the SBC by those who were once participating in the SBC but pulled out. The SBC needs neither liberalism or fundamentalism. Both Pharisaical and Sadduceal extremes may have their place in the religious world, but not in the SBC. We need moderation in all things except our love for Christ.
(5). Wiley Drake should not and will not be reelected to an SBC office in San Antonio. Thankfully, people want moderation in our leaders, not extremes.
In His Grace,