Saturday, May 13, 2006

Should agency heads endorse SBC presidential candidates?

Dr. Paige Patterson has publicly endorsed Dr. Ronnie Floyd, who will be nominated for the presidency of the SBC when the convention meets next month in Greensboro. Patterson is the president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas. The propriety of this kind of political advocacy by a president of one of our institutions has been roundly criticized by many in the blogosphere.

Yesterday, Dr. Morris Chapman weighed in on the question. Chapman, who is the president and chief executive officer of the Southern Baptist Executive Committee, questions the prudence of such a move. I am not convinced by all of his arguments or conclusions, but I greatly appreciate his willingness to enter the conversation and the spirit with which he does so. The points he raises certainly merit consideration. Here is a nugget from his insights:

Today political strategies, agendas, and power politics threaten to distract us from empowered possibilities of a people who rely solely upon God's guidance. We are drawn to do things as the world does them. To lose power from above all too often drives us to generate artificial power of our own making. We can intellectualize the Word of God 'til the cows come home and Christ reigns supreme upon the earth, but the more we attempt to do in our own power, the less we shall know the power of God. Our strength pales in comparison to the Christ who arose from the grave and ascended to the right hand of the Father.

This resonates with my own thinking. One of the dangers of caring about who is elected president of the SBC (and I think it is right for every Southern Baptist to care) is to start (or continue) relying on political prowess rather than on the power of God. This does not mean that I think political involvement is inherently sinful or should be avoided. It simply means that there is an inherent danger in putting our hopes in a political process rather than God. It is a small step from that error to a greater one--to begin to justify unrighteous attitudes and actions in the name of political expediency and what is judged to be a worthy goal.

But it is never right to do wrong in order to do right--no matter what the cause.

The question that Chapman has raised is an important one. It should be considered and discussed--even debated. But that conversation should not be allowed to denigrate into raising questions about motives or personalities. There is enough in the issue itself to warrant serious dialogue.


Don A. Elbourne Jr. said...

Interesting. Paige Patterson labels Floyd's Disney inspired baptismal antics "blasphemous," yet he pushes him as an example leader for our convention.

We need Al Mohler to nominate and endorse Mark Dever for SBC president.

ScriptureSearcher2 said...

Three cheers for Morris Chapman!

He exemplifies the character and magnifies the LEADERSHIP traits so needed in all CHRISTIAN LEADERS.

Who could differ from Dr. Chapman in providing the STATEMANSHIP we Southern Baptists desire in ALL our
elected LEADERS?

God give us more with the vision and courage of this noble SERVANT

David said...

Morris' comments were refreshing regarding the political nature of things. I understand the "pickle" that the agency heads are under regarding the approval or disapproval of person for president. Imagine if Paige had NOT endorsed Floyd! You would have rumors of schism and the claim of agency's breaking from the convention. Personally, it doesn't really matter what Paige Patterson or anyone else says regarding an endorsement. My pastor will nominate Floyd this summer, but that would have no impact on my vote. That is between me and the Lord. Of course, I won't be voting this year. So, I will stay back and pray for you all.

Brad Graves said...

While I can appreciate Dr. Chapman and his career of service, I am pondering a question. Did someone endorse him to the Executive Committee? I think I know the answer. But I may be forgetting.

Nevertheless, It is Dr. Patterson's right to endorse anyone he wants. Just like any of us can. Dr. Patterson is still a voting messenger regardless of his source of income. But whether or not we follow his advice is up to us. Honestly, I was pulling for Dr. Floyd before this endorsement.

Read more at another blog...


GeneMBridges said...

I'd like to stress that it seems that the problem here isn't the nomination of candidates prior to the SBC, rather it is:

a. The nomination of candidates by agency heads (and by extension the more well known pastors and denominational leaders of recent years).

b. The nomination of candidates that seem to be drawn from the same pool every year. I mean, look at the programming for the Pastor's Conference and the Wives' Meeting alone and you can see rather clearly that the same pool of people is programming both, the same pool from which a great deal of the National Leadership continues to be drawn. There are 16.4 million Southern Baptists, right? (well 7 to 8 if you go be the real attendance numbers on Sunday mornings). The point is: Why do the same people rotate on and off boards so much? Are there really
that few qualified leaders? Dr. Chapman is wise to raise that question.

c. The rotation of trustees relates to this as well. Again, there is a large amount of rotation of individuals on the boards. If an SBC President has serve on boards a, c, and f and is then elected, he then sits ex officio on all boards. Plus, because he controls the nominating committee, there could possibly be a situation where trustees feel loyal to that individual. In short, multiple relationships like that can become unethical.

d. The public nomination selection of single candidates with agency head endorsement some time out from the Convention itself is problematic. Every 2 years, it seems like there's a race to see how soon before the election Paige Patterson, Dr. Hunt, Bailey Smith, Jack Graham, or (Insert popular personality's name here) will come out with the name of their candidate. This leads to the continued impression that the election is somehow "fixed," less fixed that Cuba, but more fixed than Iraq.

e. The relatively late nomination of Ronnie Floyd as well as the revived interest in the workings of the denomination has, however, been a good thing this year, and I think that needs to be stressed. People are genuniely interested in the way the Convention works again, and that is always good. Now, what they need to have is one or two or more godly, well qualified candidates. For once, the Presidency isn't decided several months prior to the Convention. Even if Ronnie Floyd is the only candidate, the late nomination will have provoked discussions about the workings of the Convention among the messengers. That is always good. The SBC strikes me as having need of a denominational civics lesson every few years to remind folks to participate and how to do it.

f. Apropos e. a list of candidates who will actually respond to a slate of strong questions would be very helpful as well--not softball questions, but strong questions that will help the messengers get to know who these folks are. It seems to me that those in "the Inner Circle" assume very often, without benefit of argument, that everybody in the SBC knows their candidate. Ditto for any other candidates fielded.

g. Apropos e and f with multiple candidates should they arise, is a related problem within the Pastor's Conference, etc., in which the "Popular" Candidate gets to spend time addressing messenger-pastors prior to the election but a competing candidate most likely will not get this opportunity if he does not come from that pool of persons and their churches. For example, Brother Ronnie is leading a breakout session this year in sessions 2 and 3 of the Pastor's Conference. His wife is one of the ones planning the Pastor's Wives' meetings. At present he's the only nominated candidate, but what if he's not by June? That's rather like having 4 nominees for mayor running for office. They all go to the same conference where the voters will turn out in droves for several days. Only one gets to address the voters publicly, and his wife helps on the programming committee for a women's event. The other 3 candidates get no public time; their wives are not on the committee. That would be labeled unfair, and rightly so; yet this seems to be fine and dandy in the SBC.

Brad Graves said...

I am certain that the invitation for Dr. Floyd to lead a breakout session at convention was prior to Dr. Hunt asking Dr. Floyd to be nominated. If he cancelled his breakout session, then that would have been a point of dissention as well. I rarely cancell my speaking engagements, he doing the right thing.

Arkansas Razorbaptist said...


It is amazing that the SBC blogosphere is asking the same questions? The answer to your question on your blog is "absolutely not!"

I've never commented here and want to say that I appreciate the work you do.


Jeremy Weaver said...

I think Patterson and any other member of the SBC is in their right to nominate anyone they wish. I do, however, wish that it was not left up to Patterson and Co. to nominate someone every year.
I could nominate someone if I wanted, but who would take my pick seriously?
We need some one like Ascol, Dever, Mohler, or another pastor who is well respected in the Reformed camp to nominate someone.

BTW, I think Ken Jones would make a fine President.

Tom said...

Ken Jones???!!! Now there is a great suggestion! Ken is a practical Luddite so we would have to help him get introduced on the blogosphere, but I really think that is a great idea!

GeneMBridges said...

Yes, it was planned prior to his nomination, Brad...and the wise, ethical thing for the planning committee to do is ask Dr. Floyd to cancel his engagement or, alternatively, allow one of the many other pastors who is just as qualified on this topic to lead the session. The first rule of non-profit leadership is that dual entanglements are ALWAYS unethical, especially if you receive any benefit, real or perceived that others do not if you are competing for the same position. That's a standard practice; no special pleading is involved.

I rarely cancel speaking engagements too, but then, I'm not running as candidate for the highest profile position in the SBC either. As I stated, this is more important if there are, indeed, other names announced.

His topic has to do with multi-campus churches. Now, to be fair, that's not a thing most folks can do anyway, so it strkes me as having a limited audience. The issue here is that it still gives him a platform from which to speak prior to his election that the other candidates do not have, and it just so happens to be in a forum about outreach which draws from his own church's work, so its a chance for promotion of his church and thus his candidacy. The bigger problem is the fact that he is still from this same group of individuals and churches...the same group that controls the planning and execution of these events.

Caddiechaplain said...

It has been Patterson's persona to involve himself right smack in the middle of the convention. He has been on a crusade for a long time. I am grateful for his tenacity to see that conservatives stay at the helm of the SBC. But don't you think it's time that we depend on Almighty God for this one? Just once? We say we do for everything else, except SBC Presidents!

jfile said...


I have a question about the history of such endorsements. How long is the history of SBC presidents being endorsed before the convention? Is it a recent thing, or does it have presidence in earlier times?

Just a thought.


jbuchanan said...

What would be refreshing would be to see an agency head or major leader of the convention call for a week of prayer and fasting leading up to Greensboro. Specifically seeking wisdom from God about who should be our next President.

cbrewer said...


Is there room here for application of Paul's admonition against factions in his first letter to the Corinthian church?


J.D. Rector said...

Hmmm... "Factions?" Now, that smacks of my being labeled a "CBFer" for my disagreements with the new IMB policies. Carlton, why don't you just say that you disagree with some of our opinions and observations here.

Dr. Floyd had some good comments on the BP news regarding denominational loyalty. Do we want loyalty at any price? We should be loyal to our church and denomination but when one is wrong on an issue, doctrine, or practice, we must speak out and be courageous to take a stand.

I can remember during the beginning years of the conservative resurgence in our SBC denomination how a good number of agency heads would openly criticize the conservative candidates. A lot of us conservatives at the convention session didn't like that.

These are definitely interesting days. I agree with Dr. Floyd about the great need for Spiritual Renewal.

J.D. Rector

Jeremy Roberts said...

Brad, Dr. Joel Gregory nominated Morris Chapman. I am not sure about someone "endorsing" him besides Gregory.

Brad Graves said...

Thanks - how about that?

Stuart said...

What difference does it make who nominated Chapman for his post? Was Gregory an entity head receiving a salary from the CP at the time? If he were, it's relevant. If not...

deusvult2 said...

I don't understand why we could get to the day of election and only have one candidate nominated, would that really be possible? That wouldn't sound like much of an election to me. And I agree so wholeheartedly with gene bridges and caddie chaplain, why is there always got to be a few people from a certain circle who have to be the public figureheads to endorse or disapprove of things being done in the convention? Like Jeremy Weaver said, if anybody else of a lesser prominence than a person such as Patterson publicly endorses anyone will it really matter? Will anybody care? Will anybody notice? If you want to call me liberal, disloyal, or a "factioneer" for asking such questions then fine, but if a body moves more towards elitism and oligarchy then it really begins to invalidate its label as a democratic convention.

- Stephen

Jeremy Weaver said...

Did you call Ken Jones yet and ask if he would consent to the nomination?

Brad Graves said...


He endorsed a friend, but also the person whom he believes is the right candidate for President.

I believe that Dr. Mohler knows the woes of discontented bloggers concerning Dr. Patterson's support RWF. His letter of support could not have been more timely.

These are Academic Leaders of our SBC from different theological camps coming together for a candidate they agree on who can pull our convention together.

Thanks, Dr. Mohler.


Kevin Stilley said...

I am confused by how Chapmans comments have been so well received. His argumentation is deeply flawed. I hope you will check out my thoughts regarding Chapman's comments that are found on my blog.

Atheological said...

Amen! I am still trying out this new bicycle.