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Jackson endorsed by ‘SBC Majority’ group

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–A self-styled grassroots organization has endorsed Jimmy Jackson for president of the Southern Baptist Convention.

The SBC Majority Initiative selected Jackson over two other nominees at the time of its May 12 endorsement: Ted Traylor and Bryant Wright. A third nominee, Leo Endel, announced his candidacy on May 14, but the SBC Majority Initiative’s leader, Les Puryear, a North Carolina pastor, said the organization nevertheless is supporting Jackson.

Jackson is pastor of Whitesburg Baptist Church in Huntsville, Ala., and president of the Alabama Baptist State Convention. He was the SBC’s first vice president in 2006-07.

Traylor is pastor of Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola, Fla., and a former president of the Florida Baptist State Convention. Traylor is a trustee of the North American Mission Board and chairman of NAMB’s presidential search team. He also is a member of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force and a former SBC first vice president.

Wright is pastor of the Atlanta-area Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta and was president of the SBC Pastors’ Conference in 2006.

Endel is executive director of the Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention and a former president of the Baptist Convention of Iowa.

The SBCMI’s public endorsement is not without recent precedence. In 2006, Baptist Press reported the endorsement of a previously announced presidential candidate when Daniel Akin of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, R. Albert Mohler Jr. of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, endorsed Arkansas pastor Ronnie Floyd for SBC president.

The full text of Puryear’s announcement of the endorsement of Jackson by the SBC Majority Initiative follows:

“Jimmy Jackson has more than 25 years in SBC politics and is an expert parliamentarian. Jackson was instrumental in helping the Conservative Resurgence become a reality. His church runs about 2,000 in worship service and gives 5% of undesignated funds to CP [4.64 percent according to Southern Baptists’ 2009 Annual Church Profile]. For a church this size, that is very good CP giving. Pastor Jackson has a real heart for small churches. He has listened to the SBC Majority Initiative point of view and has expressed his support for the movement. Pastor Jackson does revivals for free for smaller membership churches who cannot afford to pay for someone to preach a revival. Pastor Jackson has also expressed a burden for bivocational pastors and the challenges they face as well. After speaking with Jackson on the phone, I believe he will help us get more SBC Majority people on SBC boards and committees. Pastor Jackson also shares our concern for the potential damage that Great Commission Resurgence Task Force recommendations may do to the Cooperative Program. In addition, he is a humble, gracious man of God who has demonstrated his unswerving support for the SBC and the local church. We look forward to working with Pastor Jackson during the next two years after he is elected SBC President in Orlando in June of this year.”

Puryear is pastor of Lewisville (N.C.) Baptist Church.

Jackson, in an e-mail to Baptist Press, said he had not met Puryear but talked with him by telephone en route to a speaking engagement. Jackson said, “… I understand where his concerns lie. My response to him was that in my appointments as president of the Alabama Baptist State Convention, I never looked at or considered the size of the church. I looked at the size of the person being nominated. By that I mean, what is the reputation of this person, do they serve faithfully in their church, do they tithe, do they support missions, are they seeking the best for Christ, etc. I did not endorse any [SBC] bylaw changes, but I do know everyone needs a voice. My desire is to make that possible.”

Regarding Whitesburg Baptist Church’s CP giving, Jackson wrote, “No, I do not consider 5% or 4.64% to CP as very good. We also gave an additional $235,000 to Lottie Moon [offering for international missions] and $135,000 to Annie Armstrong [offering for North American missions]. Not counting our direct missions in projects with the IMB, NAMB and the state convention, we are giving 10-11% of our total gifts to convention causes. Neither NAMB nor the IMB can function without both CP and the special offerings. We have tried to help by giving in this way. However, we have also begun to increase our CP giving percentage in spite of the economy while continuing our Lottie and Annie emphases.”

Regarding the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force, Jackson said, “Although the concern about the future of CP giving as over against ‘Great Commission Causes’ was not a major point of discussion with Les, I do have some questions on this matter. As I have said, I can understand the need for Lottie and Annie, but I believe the ‘Great Commission Causes’ is a much larger umbrella. If it means that I can direct my money to my favorite seminary to the exclusion of others, to the agency that I choose as over against the support of all agencies — then we could have a further erosion of CP giving to the detriment of our future effectiveness as a people of faith. I do not know how both concepts can be mutually inclusive.

“The greatest issue, however, is that the GCRTF recommendation leaves the CP as one of various means of giving while only the CP gives support to all entities fairly,” Jackson continued. “The CP will apparently be one of the means of giving under the heading ‘Great Commission Causes’ rather than being the main means by which the convention funds all of its work. This can easily rob us of our financial stability upon which all of our entities depend.”

In an interview with Baptist Press, Puryear said the endorsement of Jackson was decided by responses to an e-mail sent to the 150-plus individuals listed as “supporters” on the SBC Majority Initiative website. Puryear said the organization does not have a board of directors and he acknowledged his role as its “organizer.”

Puryear, in his news release, stated that the SBC Majority Initiative will name the candidates it is supporting for SBC first and second vice president on the Monday prior to the SBC’s June 15-16 annual meeting in Orlando, Fla.

A key push of the SBC Majority Initiative is greater representation of smaller-membership churches among the trustees of SBC entities and committees, which Puryear will propose in Orlando in a motion to change the SBC’s bylaws.

In an April 10 news release, Puryear stated, “In a convention where 83.4% of its churches are only represented by 22% on its boards, it is clear that the majority of the churches in the SBC are not equitably represented.” Puryear called for an end to “the era of our convention of small churches being dominated by the minority of big churches.”

In an April 20 blog post, Puryear acknowledged responses from critics who said church size doesn’t matter in the election of SBC leaders, that the people nominated are more important than the size of the church they pastor and that leaders from small churches will not lead any differently than leaders from large churches.

“I have nothing against megachurches,” Puryear said in the post. “We’ve lived through many years of megachurch leadership in our national offices and trustee positions. Their leadership has resulted in our younger leaders leaving the SBC in droves, the need for a Great Commission Resurgence, and, potentially, the demise of the Cooperative Program.”

Among the ways Puryear said smaller-church leaders would lead differently from larger-church leaders:

— “SBC majority candidates completely support the Cooperative Program by their giving as well as their words. The [Great Commission Resurgence Task Force] which is comprised mainly of minority churches, revealed in their preliminary report, a new plan for giving which has the potential to diminish the effectiveness of the Cooperative Program by establishing a new giving paradigm called, ‘Great Commission Giving.’ The predominance of larger churches on the task force revealed their desire to legitimize the larger churches’ practice of giving a token amount to the Cooperative Program and bypassing the CP by giving directly to the SBC agencies. By bypassing the Cooperative Program and giving directly to SBC agencies, these megachurches may be placing themselves in the position of being tempted to try to exercise a certain amount of control over these agencies on the basis of large gifts given directly.”

— “Small churches are very different than large churches. This is why church size matters. Small churches are not just smaller versions of large churches. Small churches have a unique set of qualities which requires a different leadership approach than do large churches. To be a successful small church leader, one has to be a generalist, relational, and a congregationalist. Small church pastors do most of the heavy lifting of ministering to the people personally. They know how to work with people instead of dictating to people. A SBC majority pastor personally knows all of the people in his church and what is happening in their lives. He knows how to get things done economically and quickly in a way that includes the people in the decision-making process. The leader of a SBC majority church do not operate as CEO’s with a full staff of 25 pastors and administrative assistants at his beck and call. SBC majority pastors must be creative in evangelism, discipleship, worship planning, visitation, event planning, leadership training, etc., because there is no one else to do it.”

— “SBC majority pastor leadership styles will result in open meetings and transparency in SBC agency salaries and benefit packages. SBC majority pastors are open and transparent about salaries and benefits of all paid church workers. Everyone in the church receives a detailed budget with the salary and benefit details of each individual paid worker as part of the budget approval package. This openness to the entire congregation in leadership style will translate to openness in national SBC leadership style as well. SBC majority candidates favor agency and task force meetings which are open to the public and transparency in all SBC agency salaries and benefit information.”

Puryear has established an Internet presence for the SBC Majority Initiative at www.sbcmajority.com.
Compiled by Baptist Press editor Art Toalston and assistant editor Mark Kelly.

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