By Art Toalston
NASHVILLE — “You’ve been called a liberal, a Marxist and a denier of the sufficiency of Scripture.”
Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, faced the question posed by one of his sons, Nate, moderator of the B21 luncheon during the opening day of the Southern Baptist Convention’s June 15-16 annual meeting in Nashville.
Liberalism, race relations, critical race theory and women’s roles in the church and home took up most of the 40-minute exchange featuring Danny Akin, who leads Southeastern in North Carolina, along with five others: R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kentucky; Ed Litton, senior pastor of Redemption Church in the Mobile, Ala. area; Marshal Ausberry, senior pastor of Antioch Baptist Church in Fairfax Station, Va.; Juan Sanchez, senior pastor of High Pointe Baptist Church in Austin, Texas; and Donna Gaines, a Bible teacher and wife of Steve Gaines, pastor of the Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova.
“Some people misunderstand,” Danny Akin replied to his son Nate, associate director of the Pillar Network of churches sharing a missional commitment, “because they don’t work beyond the rumors and superficial issues to actually find out what somebody really believes.” And in other instances, he said, “It’s unfortunate when people who should know better misrepresent you.”
“We’ve got to be able to talk to one another,” said Ausberry, the convention’s outgoing first vice president and immediate past president of the National African American Fellowship, SBC.
Referencing the SBC’s six seminary presidents, Ausberry said, “I’ve sat with them, read the [schools’] materials, talked with them, dialogued with them – none of our presidents are liberal.”
Communication, Ausberry said, must be “with the ethic of loving one another, that we are brothers and sisters in Christ” who embrace the sufficiency of Scripture as set forth in the Baptist Faith and Message 2000.
“Convictionally, I feel very comfortable in the convention,” he said.
More than 1,600 people attended B21’s 12th SBC luncheon, held in Nashville’s Music City Center. Nate Akin is one of the co-founders of the organization with its focus on being Baptist in the 21st century. Litton was elected SBC president during the convention’s Tuesday afternoon session. Mohler was among three other nominees for the office.
Ausberry affirmed Resolution 2, adopted by the convention that afternoon following 2019’s controversial Resolution 9 that held to a high view of Scripture but also stated that critical race theory can provide “a set of analytical tools” for delving into elements of racism in society.
Resolution 2 “encapsulates [the issue], gives room to breathe and to study things that can help sensitize one another to what we face in the world in trying to reach the world,” Ausberry said.
“Resolution 2 is helpful because it is biblical language,” said Sanchez, a former president of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. The resolution sets forth a number of Scripture passages toward declarations of Scripture’s primacy in addressing race relations and rejection of “any theory or worldview that sees the primary problem of humanity as anything other than sin against God.”
Sanchez noted that “the best way for us to deal with issues and philosophies is to use Scripture, to use biblical language that’s long-lasting, past whatever specific problem we have.”
A resolution that sparks division, Mohler said, “fails at the task of a resolution … that Southern Baptists resolutely stand behind this.
“There are racial resolutions [by the SBC decades ago] deeply embedded in Jim Crow and segregation that had to be overcome,” he said, citing the SBC’s corrective 1995 resolution of repentance for the convention’s complicity in slavery and racial prejudice.
“The convention can always adopt a new resolution which may be completely reversing resolutions before,” Mohler said, also citing the reversal of resolutions in the 1970s that had placed the SBC in support of abortion on demand.
On the topic of women’s roles, Gaines said God established complementarian male headship in the home and the church. “The Bible limits … the pastor and elder to males,” she said, “but as women we’re free to do anything else.
“I have been a Southern Baptist my whole life [and] I believe the majority of Southern Baptist pastors and leaders love Jesus, are pure-hearted people who want to reach the nations,” Gaines said. “I have never once as a woman – I’m 63 – not one time in a Southern Baptist situation felt disrespected, dishonored or physically unsafe. I’m not discrediting any woman who has. And if there is one woman who has been disrespected or abused, that is one too many.
“For you women out there,” Gaines told the audience, “just love Jesus. Give your whole heart. Go after Him. If you will humble yourself under His hand, He is more than able to lift you up and put you in places of influence. You don’t have to have a position or a title. … We are complementarian … fully complementarian … and under the BF&M [Baptist Faith and Message] we can be hard complementarians or soft complementarians or anywhere in between, and that’s left up to the autonomy of the local church.”
Litton said women in Southern Baptist life are not “clamoring or claiming or desiring” to be the pastor or an elder in the church and are “very willing to submit to that authority or leadership.”
“But I think that authority also extends to allowing my wife [Kathy] to stand on the stage and help me address our congregation, to bring a perspective and to listen to other voices,” Litton said. “She rarely does that, but we have done it, and it’s important … as a pastor of the church under God’s authority, I think I have a responsibility and I’ll answer to Him for what I do in the pulpit.”
Sanchez concluded the panel discussion by observing, “It’s been tragic that we have not met face to face” during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Social media has been our outlet. … But pastor, I just want to say to you, what you’re doing to lead your church in the Gospel to reach your community is more important than any resolution that is passed, it is more important that whatever decisions are made here,” Sanchez said. “Be faithful, preach the Word in season and out of season, encourage your congregation to love your people, and disciple and equip your people to be able to talk and to learn to disagree in ways that are loving. Be gentle, patient with your opponents, that God will lead them to repentance and to a knowledge of the truth.” B&R