By David Dawson
FRANKLIN — Randy C. Davis, president and executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Mission, said he needed a “mulligan.”
During last week’s “Ask Randy” webinar, hosted by the TBMB, Davis was asked the question: “What is going on with the Southern Baptist Convention?” Davis answered the inquiry, but later said he felt his response was inadequate.
On Thursday, Davis issued a “follow-up” response, in which he addressed the question again.
“If you remember — and I remember it — last (week) when I attempted to answer that question, I really pivoted very quickly to everything going on in the Southern Baptist Convention that is good. And I did not spend enough time going into the things that are troubling us the most about our larger family, the Southern Baptist Convention. So, I want to come back and just address that and that alone today,” he said in the new video.
Davis said one of the reasons for the current conflicts in the SBC revolves around the personalities who were recently in SBC leadership positions, specifically Russell Moore, former president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission; Mike Stone, former chairman of the Executive Committee; and Ronnie Floyd, former president and CEO of the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention. All three men have recently left their respective positions.
“I appreciate the things that all three of those gentlemen bring to the table … but things got very, very personal,” Davis said.
Davis noted that the Executive Committee voted in February of 2019 to investigate how the ERLC and its decisions affected Cooperative Program giving across the states. “There are many executive directors — and I was one — that were concerned about the input we were getting from our churches about decisions of the ERLC affecting us. And so, the Executive Committee launched that investigation,” he said.
Davis said that the investigation, as reported in February, did not reveal much, but that it did raise some concerns that have since been expressed by pastors, churches and lay leaders across the board.
Davis said, “the personalities kind of gave way to politics.” He noted that there was a tape released of secret recordings containing conversations involving the ERLC and the EC leaders. Davis said the recording — released right before the presidential election of the 2021 SBC — (contained) snippets of conversations that seemed taken out of context.
“(It) was released by a gentleman that served as Executive Vice President for the ERLC,” Davis continued. “During his tenure there, he secretly recorded some conversations.”
Davis went on to address the letter that Moore wrote to SBC president J.D. Greear. The letter was presented as private correspondence but was leaked or released to the general public right before the 2021 Southern Baptist Convention. Davis said these actions “move beyond the personalities to the politics,” and he then referred to the fact that Stone has filed a lawsuit against Moore for defamation of character.
“So, what’s going on in the Southern Baptist Convention really has a carnal smell to it,” Davis said. “That is the reason I wanted to pivot last week and get to the good things going on as quickly as possible. But we cannot ignore these things.
“We must look at it like Nehemiah looked at the ruins around Jerusalem and he called it rubble,” Davis said. “There’s a lot of rubble right now that we have got to pick up the pieces and start rebuilding.”
Davis said that beyond the personalities and the politics, there is also a polity issue — regarding sexual abuse within the Convention — that has to be addressed.
“I mentioned last week that the EC trustees, (and) the people that work at the EC, are not being accused of any sexual abuse,” Davis said. “But the investigation had to do with: How are they approaching this subject? Are they dealing with it in a manner that all of us would affirm?
“So, the polity of it is: The messengers overwhelmingly voted at the Southern Baptist Convention to ask the Executive Committee to work through this task force to investigate what has happened,” Davis continued. “Actually it wasn’t the Executive Committee doing the investigation, it was the task force appointed by the new president with a third outside firm doing the leg work. So it boils down to our polity. The messengers voted on a direction to go. The Executive Committee really grappled with how (to) go about doing that.”
Davis said the SBC has now reached a crossroads that has been coming for several years. But he said he believes this challenging time can been seen as “an opportunity to rebuild.” Davis concluded his comments by saying he hopes his follow-up response was helpful for pastors and church leaders to gain a better understating of what is happening inside the SBC.
He also said he is excited about the upcoming Summit — the annual gathering of Tennessee Baptists — which starts on Sunday night at Brentwood Baptist Church.
“We’re going to have a wonderful time of worship (on Sunday night),” he said. “And then we will have our Tennessee Baptist Convention, the pastor’s conference, and many other things happening during the week. I look forward to seeing you there. It is a joy to serve you and your churches.” B&R