In November of 2007 the Georgia Baptist Convention passed an "anti-blogging resolution." At the time, a few bloggers and commenters wrote that the resolution was aimed "squarely at Wade Burleson," for my attempts to hold trustees accountable for passing doctrinal policies that exceeded the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message. However, I wasn't so sure that the resolution was aimed at me. Frankly, the reason that Georgia used precious Convention time to adopt an anti-blogging resolution has always puzzled me - until yesterday.
Doug Pittman, a former member of Prays Mill Baptist Church, a Southern Baptist Church just west of Atlanta, Georgia, called me at the office yesterday to thank me for my blog, which he said had been a source of encouragement to him. It seems that Doug, a man in his late forties, had been a member of Prays Mill Baptist Church his entire life. Yet in early 2007 PMBC church leaders, led by Pastor Mike Everson, forcibly removed Doug from membership. Doug and his family had been attending another SBC church prior to the disciplinary action, and Doug himself had personally informed Pastor Everson weeks earlier that he and his family would be joining a sister church. Nobody from Prays Mill Baptist Church had informed Doug that he was "under discipline," and Doug discovered that he had been forcibly "removed" from membership when PMBC members called to tell him after the business meeting where the action had occurred.
Doug had been a star athlete at the local high school, a baseball player for Auburn University, highly respected in the community and his church, and had never been one to ruffle feathers or rock the boat. But Doug's conscience had led him to leave his home church and attend another church because he had discovered that church leaders, led by Pastor Mike Everson, were deceiving church members about multiple indescretions involving staff members, church computers and pornography. Doug spoke out against Pastor Everson's decision to cover up the moral indescretions by multiple staff members. Doug had first hand knowledge of the pornography problems because he was the computer specialist at PMBC, and it was he who had performed the forensic tests. He believed the church should know the truth, that there should be full transparency and no cover-up. He spoke his convictions to leadership, including Pastor Mike Everson. When leadership informed Doug that they intended to continue with the subterfuge, Doug made the decision to leave.
Doug believes that the surprise move against him was intended to punish him for daring to speak out against church leaders. It was only after he was informed, after the fact, that he had been removed from the membership at PMBC that Doug began, on May 4, 2007, his blog. Doug told the reasons, in full detail, that led to his decision to leave the church and his shock that he was being "disciplined" for simply following his conscience and speaking out against what he believed to be intentional deception by church leaders. As stated above, Doug had intended to simply leave the church, but the blog was necessary to reveal what he believed to be an ecclesiastical abuse of authority, several acts of deception by church leadership, and a blatant attempt to ruin Doug's reputation for speaking out in opposition to church leadership actions.
Doug signed his name to everything he wrote on the blog. He used the blog to expose the truth and fight the falsehood intentionally being spread. He also told me over the phone yesterday that when he began to write he received multiple threats. But he continued. He felt his home church needed, and Christ even demanded, full transparency, honesty and integrity. But according to Doug Pittman, friends of Pastor Mike Everson, including some large mega-church pastors in Georgia and Florida, circled the wagons to protect their friend who was now "under attack."
Pastor Mike Everson happened to have been serving as Chairman of the Executive Board of the Georgia Baptist Convention. After experiencing several months of PMBC church members reading Doug Pittman's signed posts, informing the church about the truth of what had really happened at Prays Mill Baptist Church, Pastor Mike Everson and his pastor friends, in November 2007, presented for adoption to the Georgia Baptist Convention the The Resolution Against Blogging.
The Resolution included the following two paragraphs:
When the resolution "passed," I'm sure that many Southern Baptists thought those evil "bloggers" had it coming. Most Southern Baptists, including me, had absolutely no knowledge of Doug Pittman and the saga at Pray Mills Baptist Church. It is quite possible that SBC agency trustees, contrary to the statement in the resolution, actually need someone to be critical of their decisions. It is also quite reasonable to believe that the "disharmony" mentioned in the resolution is not caused by a blogger following his conscience, but by church leaders following a path of deception.
BE IT ALSO RESOLVED that we reaffirm the historic method of administering our agencies and institutions through elected boards of trustees, and we call upon bloggers to cease the critical second-guessing of these elected leaders; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that all Georgia Baptists respectfully request and expect that individuals who disrupt the fellowship through blogging repent and immediately cease this activity and no longer cause disharmony for the advancement of their own personal opinions and agendas . . .
Pastor Everson resigned his church leadership position in December 2007. Doug Pittman also shut down his blog. The hurt, however, continues. Doug told me yesterday that he has no desire for he or his family to ever again be associated with anything Southern Baptist. I encouraged Doug to realize that there are a great many Southern Baptists just like him. People who know that truth and transparency is always best, and we will not be snowed by any religious "state of play." In short, when any outside agency is used by a local Southern Baptist church to strike back at someone who is attempting to present the truth, then we Southern Baptists have an obligation to not just assume that the church leadership is always acting with integrity.
In His Grace,