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Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Blogs Draw Attention to Anticipated SBC Showdown

SbcGREENSBORO, N.C. (ABP)  --  Blogs already have revolutionized secular politics, and whether a subset of it has revolutionized Baptist politics will be seen at the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting June 13-14 in Greensboro, N.C.

The meeting will feature the first seriously contested SBC presidential election in a decade and several other controversial business items. The combination likely will produce the most contentious convention meeting since 1991, when moderates left after a long and bitter struggle with fundamentalists over control of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination.

But this time, the struggle is between young conservatives and fundamentalists loyal to the convention establishment. Internal tensions have been thrust into the SBC spotlight mainly by bloggers—the ever-expanding network of ideological entrepreneurs who analyze and pontificate on their own websites.

In the year since the SBC last met, reform-minded bloggers in the denomination have begun to form their own community on the Internet—and they have had a lot to discuss. Since 2005’s annual meeting, Southern Baptists have witnessed:

-- The top executives at one of their mission boards resign amid scandal.

-- The president of another SBC mission board embroiled in conflict with trustees.

-- An unprecedented attempt by those trustees to remove one of their colleagues.

-- A decline in the number of baptisms among the denomination’s churches.

Presidential race

At the top of the conflict list is a race for the presidency that pits the representatives of two different philosophies of denominational involvement against each other. For the first time since 1994, a candidate other than one anointed by the denomination’s leadership elite has a serious chance at being elected SBC president.

The first announced nominee, Ronnie Floyd, apparently has the support of many of the denomination’s most powerful leaders—including one of the architects of the fundamentalists’ SBC takeover.

Floyd, pastor of First Baptist Church in Springdale, Ark., has received endorsements from three seminary presidents—a move SBC Executive Committee President Morris Chapman publicly deemed inappropriate. Some critics have said the unusual moves could signal desperation on the part of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Paige Patterson and other fundamentalist leaders, who are accustomed to their friends and allies being elected to denominational leadership positions without challenge.

Many of the bloggers have criticized Floyd’s weak support of the Cooperative Program, the SBC’s unified budget for supporting denominational ministries at the national and state levels. An SBC panel recently called for officers and other convention leaders to come from churches that contribute at least 10 percent of their undesignated receipts to the program. In 2005, Floyd’s church gave 0.27 percent of its $12 million in undesignated funds to the Cooperative Program.

Floyd’s candidacy was announced shortly after another prominent SBC pastor with less-than-stellar Cooperative Program credentials pulled out of the running. Johnny Hunt, pastor of First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga., had initially said he would run but later withdrew.

One of Floyd’s opponents, meanwhile, appears to have the support of many bloggers and other SBC reformers. Frank Page initially declined to allow himself to be nominated, saying he “didn’t have a peace about it.” But he reversed course shortly afterward, saying “an overall malaise among many people” in the convention prompted him to accept the nomination.

Page, pastor of First Baptist Church of Taylors, S.C., was courted as a candidate by prominent SBC blogger Wade Burleson and other reform-minded conservatives. Last year, Page’s church gave 12.1 percent of its $4.4 million in undesignated receipts to the Cooperative Program.

Jerry Sutton, pastor of Two Rivers Baptist Church in Nashville, Tenn., also reportedly is entertaining the possibility of running for president. Membership and giving statistics for his church were not immediately available, but if Sutton ran, he would likely split the vote of those loyal to the convention’s elite with Floyd.

You can read how blogs effected the other major SBC issues by continuing to read the article here.

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June 7, 2006 in Current Affairs | Permalink

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Good for them.

Posted by: Jay Gainer | Jun 10, 2006 2:55:57 PM

What goes around comes around. It shouldn't surprise anybody that the group that orchestrated a take over (and I'm not saying that it was a bad thing) would have to face an insurrengency of their own... they set a pattern.

Large churches giving minor support to the SBC Cooperative Program isn't anything new. My missionary in-laws had problems with Dr. Stanley and FBC Atlanta 20 years ago because of their small percentage of gifts to the Cooperative Program. It caused a conflict for me because I was attending FBC Atlanta at the time and Dr. Stanley was a profound influence on my spiritual walk.

I need to read the other blogs so I'll know all the issues. I hope this isn't another conflict over money...disagreement over money seems to always be what will drive us to action.

Posted by: Wes | Jun 12, 2006 9:34:37 AM

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