NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Oklahoma Baptists’ top leader has called for Southern Baptists to elect a president who has “demonstrated his wholehearted support” for the Cooperative Program, the channel by which Southern Baptists support state, national and international missions and ministry.
Anthony Jordan, executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, led a task force that has called on Southern Baptists to practice the biblical tithe. Among the task force’s various recommendations: the election of “state and national convention officers whose churches give at least 10 percent of their undesignated receipts through the Cooperative Program.”
The task force report was adopted by the executives of the state Baptist conventions and the SBC Executive Committee in February.
In a continuing development, two more seminary heads have added their support to the announced nomination of Arkansas pastor Ronnie Floyd for SBC president.
Joining Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, who released an endorsement of Floyd May 12, are R. Albert Mohler Jr. of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Daniel Akin of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Mohler’s endorsement was released by Floyd on May 17, while Akin’s was circulated on May 15 -– both after a statement by SBC Executive Committee President Morris H. Chapman counseling against such endorsements. SBC entity heads who endorse nominees for convention offices could cause divisions among the trustee boards they serve as well as the larger Baptist constituency, Chapman cautioned.
Adding another dimension to the SBC race is a May 17 announcement by Oklahoma pastor Wade Burleson assuring a two-man race for the SBC presidency during the convention’s June 13-14 annual meeting in Greensboro, N.C.
Burleson, a former president of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma who has been at odds with a number of fellow conservatives, stated on his Internet blog May 17, “Unless a candidate arises that is willing to address the issues that I, and others, have articulated these last few months, I would allow my name to be nominated.”
Burleson, in addition to his 2003-05 BGCO presidency, currently is a trustee of the International Mission Board. Floyd served as chairman of the SBC Executive Committee and president of the SBC Pastors’ Conference during the 1990s.
More details about these developments follow:
EXEC’S CALL FOR CP-SUPPORTIVE SBC PRESIDENT –- Anthony Jordan, executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, addressed the question of “What kind of president do we need?” in his May 8 column in the convention’s Baptist Messenger newsjournal.
Southern Baptists need a statesman and a consensus builder, Jordan wrote -– “someone who stands true and tall but shows grace to a divergent crowd. Our struggle is no longer against liberalism — it is for unity. We need a man who unites us rather than draws tighter lines.”
And Southern Baptists need “a man who has demonstrated belief in our cooperative approach to accomplishing the Lord’s work.”
“There was a day in the SBC when the doctrinal position of our president was more important than anything else,” Jordan commented. “We elected men who could stand in the face of liberalism and never flinch. During those days, we compromised our cooperative conviction in favor of conservative theology. Hence, we elected leaders whose percentage given through the Cooperative Program would be hard pressed to fill a thimble.
“Lest I be misunderstood, let me be clear. I voted for these men and give thanks for them,” Jordan continued. “Without them and their unswerving commitment to the inerrancy of Scripture, we would have slouched toward a destructive liberalism that would have destroyed our denomination.” Vigilance against liberalism will always be needed, Jordan wrote, but “it is not our most pressing matter today. Frankly, I am not worried that the SBC will elect a liberal as president. NOT GOING TO HAPPEN!
“Our greatest challenge is electing a man who has demonstrated a proven commitment to the Southern Baptist way of supporting missions,” Jordan wrote. “Many of the megachurch pastors have turned aside from cooperative missions in favor of direct or societal missions. They do missions, but they choose to do what their church can accomplish, rather than realizing the power of what we can achieve together. They have abandoned a tried and true axiom among us. We can do more together than we can do alone.”
The recommendation that churches give 10 percent of their undesignated receipts through the Cooperative Program is not “a magic number,” Jordan wrote, “but it is a historic number. For nearly 75 years, our churches averaged giving more than 10 percent of undesignated receipts to missions through the CP. Today, the average has slipped to under 7 percent.”
When Southern Baptists launched the Cooperative Program in 1925, Jordan noted that the convention “rejected societal missions. We do not need leaders who would return us to a less effective way of doing our work. We need men who believe in and model our approach to missions. Great preachers and great pastors will always rise to leadership among us. I am glad. But we need great ‘cooperators’ if we are to preserve the largest mission sending denomination in the evangelical world.”
Jordan did not mention any names in his column, yet the churches of Floyd and Burleson do not have Cooperative Program track records that meet the suggestion from the task force Jordan led calling on Southern Baptists to elect officers who place high priority on the Cooperative Program.
At First Baptist Church, Springdale, Ark., where Floyd is pastor, the SBC’s 2005 Annual Church Profile survey completed by the individual churches showed $32,000 contributed through the Cooperative Program (.27 percent) and $189,000 to the SBC allocation budget (1.58 percent) from $11,952,137 in undesignated receipts.
At Emmanuel Baptist Church, Enid, Okla., where Burleson is pastor, the ACP survey showed $105,000 contributed through the Cooperative Program in 2005 (5 percent) from $1,912,782 in undesignated receipts.
2 MORE SEMINARY LEADERS FOR FLOYD –- Floyd noted in the May 17 posting on his “Between Sundays” blog, “I received a tremendous letter of encouragement from Dr. Al Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. I have asked him if I can share his letter of excitement and support with you on my blog today. He agreed with enthusiasm.”
“Congratulations upon the news of your nomination to serve as president of the Southern Baptist Convention. I am greatly encouraged by this news, and I want you to know of my eager support for you as the elected leader of our convention. I am thankful for your leadership, your deep personal investment in the life and work of the Southern Baptist Convention, and your friendship to me and to Southern Seminary through so many years.
“I am very thankful that we had the opportunity of working together on the Program and Structure Study Committee when we spent so many months together considering the future shape of the Southern Baptist Convention. At that time, I was simply amazed that a pastor serving such a large church would give so much of his time to the intricacies of developing this strategic plan and vision for the future of our denomination. We spent so many hours together in that process and it was largely through that experience that I came to know of your deep love for Southern Baptists, your incredible organizational ability, and your leadership vision.
“You have been a great friend to me and to Southern Seminary as we have brought this seminary back to full accountability to the Southern Baptist Convention. Your stalwart friendship and enthusiastic support has meant so much to me and to the future of this institution.
“Thank you for your service as chairman of the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention and for your committed leadership throughout every level of our denomination. You have never said no to Southern Baptists when duty has called, and I deeply appreciate your willingness to serve as President of the Southern Baptist Convention.
“I pray that God will bless you, guide you, and encourage you at every stage along this path. Please call me if I can be of assistance in any way.”
Akin, in an e-mail to Southeastern’s faculty, students and staff on May 15, stated:
“A number of you have inquired as to my thoughts concerning [Georgia pastor] Johnny Hunt’s intention to nominate Ronnie Floyd as the next president of the Southern Baptist Convention, especially in the light of some persons criticizing his Cooperative Program giving. Let me take this opportunity to share my thoughts.
“First, I believe, as does Brother Johnny, that Ronnie Floyd would make a fine president if he is elected by our Convention. He is a godly man who has been my friend for over 15 years. He has built a wonderful church and the number of men called to full time Christian service under his ministry is amazing, and a tribute to his passion for mentoring young men for ministry.
“Second, I think Ronnie Floyd’s support for the Cooperative Program has not been as accurately communicated as it could have been, especially when one examines First Baptist Church Springdale’s track record over the past 20 years. The facts are these: during that time First Baptist Church Springdale has been a leader in both the state of Arkansas and across our Convention in Cooperative Program giving. During the time Dr. Floyd has been pastor of First Baptist Church Springdale the Church has given $5,988,114 to SBC causes. In 2005, the actual dollar amount given to SBC causes by First Baptist Church Springdale was $489,862. I am grateful for a church that is this faithful and generous to our Convention, and I also honor and respect their local autonomy in determining what they believe is the wisest method of distributing those gifts. Other churches may do it differently, and that of course is their right. I would hope all of our churches would be more aggressive in giving to the Cooperative Program, and it seems to me First Baptist Church Springdale has been doing that for a long time.”
As the SBC annual meeting approaches, Akin encouraged the seminary community to: “Pray that God would be glorified, our Convention encouraged and strengthened and that we will leave with a greater love for Christ and one another.”
The Executive Committee’s Morris H. Chapman, in a 10-paragraph item on his blog May 12, had questioned the wisdom of an SBC entity head nominating or endorsing an individual for SBC office or in being nominated for office.
Chapman did not mention Patterson by name, who had issued an endorsement of Floyd the same day. Patterson served as SBC president from 1998-2000 while he was president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C. Nor did Chapman mention Akin, who had announced in late March that he will nominate North Carolina pastor J.D. Greear for SBC second vice president.
An SBC entity head who engages in SBC elections by endorsing or nominating an individual “potentially alienates some who otherwise hold him [the entity head] in high esteem because they differ with the person he has embraced publicly for an elected office,” Chapman wrote. “Consequently, the entity head endangers his potential to provide effective counsel and spiritual leadership to the larger body of Southern Baptists although their beliefs may coincide with the entity head on most other issues.”
Chapman asked whether a breach might occur with one or more trustees “from the endorsement or nomination undertaken publicly by the chief executive. At the least, it is an unneeded risk. At the worst, fractured relationships with the very people to whom the SBC has entrusted our accountability could be the consequence.”
Chapman concluded, “When I accepted the invitation of the SBC Executive Committee to become its chief executive officer, I agreed never to endorse or campaign for a candidate running for state and national political office. Some of the same reasons for making this pledge would apply to the election of state and national offices within a religious body. Why then should I publicly endorse or nominate a candidate for an elected office in the Southern Baptist Convention? Southern Baptists have well demonstrated godly wisdom through the years and the ability to sense the gentle nudge of God’s Holy Spirit in their decisions. What more is needed?”
BURLESON’S ANNOUNCEMENT -– Wade Burleson noted several qualifiers in stating that “I would allow my name to be nominated” for SBC president.
“… [S]ince there are four weeks until the convention, there is no need for me to announce I’m running, because I’m not running,” Burleson wrote on his blog May 17. “I would, at that time, be ready to be nominated. … But that time is not yet here.” At or before the convention, he continued, “if another candidate has arisen that I believe will address the issues our convention faces, I would support him and choose not to allow my name to be nominated. …
“Again, the contingency for me is that no other person arises who, in my opinion, is ready and willing to address the issues that have been articulated by many in these last few months,” Burleson reiterated. “Obviously there are many who believe in Ronnie Floyd’s candidacy and will support him for President of the SBC. But there are others who would like to see some reform in the way we conduct business in the SBC, and though they may not vote for Ronnie, every one of us should always maintain a Christian spirit of grace and charity toward one another.”
His key aim, Burleson said, is “to continue doing what I believe I have been called to do to help stop the narrowing of the parameters of cooperation in the SBC.”
“I realize this may be a different approach than some take [regarding the SBC presidency], and not that they are wrong, and I’m right,” Burleson wrote. “It’s just that I may view things a little differently than most.”
Burleson was in the news most recently when International Mission Board trustees rescinded their action to remove him from the board over issues involving “broken trust” and “resistance to accountability.” Burleson had been challenged because he had criticized, via his blog, IMB trustee actions that established policies to exclude missionary candidates not baptized in a church that holds to eternal security or those who practice a private prayer language. Burleson also has been critical of caucus groups allegedly meeting to set an agenda for the trustee board.
In mid-January, Burleson told a pastors’ luncheon in Tulsa, “The issue I am attempting to address is an issue that is not personal, but … will chart our course for decades to come as the Southern Baptist Convention.”
He noted that the issue is not the IMB’s new missionary qualifications policies on private prayer language or their home churches’ baptism practices. “The issue is, when will we as a convention cease narrowing the parameters of cooperation for evangelism and missions?”
Burleson continued: “We as Southern Baptists are all conservative, we’re evangelical, we’re Bible-believing Christians, but many of us disagree on interpretation of minor, non-essential doctrines. When can we come to the place of realizing that we are all conservative, evangelical people who love the Lord Jesus Christ and are concerned about winning the world for Christ, and when will we stop saying, ’You must interpret Scripture the way I do in order for you to cooperate with me on the mission field’?
“The Baptist Faith and Message is a great fleshing out of those essential doctrines that we hold to, and I support it,” Burleson said. “I am afraid that we are now moving beyond the Baptist Faith and Message, and these new policies on tongues and baptism are just an illustration. I am fighting for us as a convention to cooperate even though we disagree on the minor, non-essential doctrines of Scripture.”