I will never forget it, circa early to mid 90's. Every year I would attend the Baptist General Convention of Texas and subject myself and our church messengers to the onslaught of moderate opposition to anything that remotely looked like the SBC. I recall the unkind words and the absolute anger that resonated from the moderate movers and shakers in Texas. One thing I was very aware of, these folks were mad! They were mad because their vision and idea of what the SBC should be had been 'taken' from them. The Power hungry, political, maniacal, uncaring, theological blood thirsty FUNDIES had 'stolen' the convention. IT WAS A TAKEOVER!!!! And to them the machine had its eyes on TEXAS! Their battle cry? "Not on our Watch!" "We will save BAYLOR from the Fundies!" How did they save Baylor? They stole it, but that's another story. So the moderates began their campaign to 'save' Texas from the 'evil empire'. What about this fundamentalist machine, which had its eyes on Texas? Some machine! The closest thing that it ever came to what could be called a takeover was garnishing about 42% of the presidential vote one year. We could not even get a clear word on abortion through the resolutions process. What machine? The machine was so great and strong that it finally shut down and started it's own convention, which is 1/2 the size of the very moderate BGCT.
There was no MACHINE
There was no attempt at takeover
There was no back room leadership
What there was however was Baptist who had a differing view on how a denomination or better yet a convention ought to represent the churches in its membership. In the case of Texas, the moderates won...fair enough...Baptist vote, somebody prevails, somebody does not. That's the way it is. In our National convention that's the way it is also. There is a political process in all of this because that is the polity to which we hold. We are a body politic. Our politics are based upon our theology, or ideology and our methodology. This is not anything new folks. Baptist have always been a people of schism. Fortunately in Texas we recognize this in the Southern Baptist of Texas Convention and we do require theological accountability in order to be a cooperating church. This works well for us on the theological level. It insures that our battles will be family affairs and will not fall under the auspice of doctrinal infidelity.
There are those who see some kind of a draconian, dark, behind the scenes machine that exists in the current SBC. It sounds a lot like the conspiracy theories about the area 51 cover up, The 'illuminati', 'Big Brother' watching. No one can be in charge except the 'dark masters' say so. It really would be quite humorous except in the entire fray people get maligned and hurt. (And I do realize it cuts both ways) The truth of the matter is the current SBC leadership is more like the town of Stanton, Texas than it is the former Moscow, Russia. On the outside of the Stanton city limits some time back there was a sign that read "WELCOME TO STANTON, HOME OF THE FINEST FOLKS IN THE WORLD... AND JUST A FEW SORE HEADS!" In Southern Baptist leadership I will assure you we have some of the finest folks around...and probably a few soreheads also! Are there people in the SBC enamored with their position? Probably. Could there be folks who say and do unkind things? I would imagine. Are there those who use their positions for personal privilege? It is certainly possible. But the truth is that most if not the very greatest part of the trustees, agency heads, leaders, movers and shakers in the SBC are folks who are just like us. They are Pastors, Missionaries, professors, teachers, deacons, mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers who love the Lord and love the SBC. There greatest concern is not the convention itself but their local church and what is going on there. They have been appointed by people who know them and respect them (And may even be related to them...GASP!!!!!!) who believe they will do a good job representing the best interest of the convention. We as Baptist trust them to do so. Almost always they do a grand job
If they betray our trust we have a system to deal with it through the convention.
If we disagree with them from time to time (and we will ) we have the right to say so. And if there needs to be change, we see to it that it happens (Can you say 1979?)
But to demonize, malign, and call into question ones integrity based upon who is appointed and who is not based upon a body politic, all the while you have the privilege to take part in the same process...well that is wrong, and most Baptist know it! It also betrays the very strong convictions that the majority of Baptist hold to as demonstrated by recent votes. To say that the "machine' dictates and runs things is to say that Baptist people cannot think for their selves and regulate their own convention. Again, can you say 1979?
We have a great convention...We will have a grand time in Greensboro as we meet to fellowship, sing, preach, witness and serve together. Yes, we will have a business meeting or two also...There are three fine men who will contend for the office of President. Baptist will vote, Baptist will win and Baptist will lose. Then we will all go back home to the local church where life happens. My prayer is that what we say and how we say it in Greensboro will not make our jobs even more difficult once we get home.
I just wish we would practice the same thing on some of our blogs!