Baptist and Reflector
FRANKLIN — A number of issues have risen to the surface across the Southern Baptist Convention and following the recent Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee Board of Directors meeting held in Nashville, Feb. 17-18, 2020.
The issues have ranged from the 2020 SBC Pastors’ Conference lineup, to the Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission, to the formation of the Conservative Baptist Network, and many more. Overlooked to some degree has been Executive Committee (EC) President and CEO Ronnie Floyd’s Vision 2025 delivered to the EC on the opening night of its meeting.
Opinions across the SBC are flying, and many of them are not positive or constructive. The Baptist and Reflector sat down with Randy C. Davis, executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Convention, to gain his insight related to the array of issues. The following is an excerpt from that Radio B&R podcast. You can find the full podcast (Episode 39) with Davis’ extended responses at RadioBR.org and you can subscribe to the Radio B&R podcast on iTunes and GooglePlay.
Baptist and Reflector (BR): Dr. Floyd rolled out his vision for between now and 2025. What about what Dr. Floyd said really made an impression on you?
Randy Davis (RD): Well, it was more than just hearing what he had to say. It was feeling what he was saying. I’ve seldom seen somebody pour their hearts out like Dr. Floyd did about … leading Southern Baptists to where I think we need to be heading. And it was clearly, passionately, courageously articulated. It had to do with seeing an increase in full-time, fully-funded international missionaries overseas. Seeing a growth of 500 by 2025. That is remarkable visionary leadership. [It was also seeing] a net growth of 6,000 Southern Baptist churches by 2025.
He also looked at making a great plea, an appointed plea, to call out the called … those that are called to preach and serve as missionaries and serve on church staff, giving their lives to a call of God on their lives. To call out the called.
Dr. Floyd was also very passionate about our focus on (reaching) those 12 to 18 years of age, and seeing an increase in Cooperative Program giving by $50 million by 2025. This would mean a greater sacrifice, a greater point of really supporting what we see as priorities. Here in Tennessee, we’ve been saying that since 2014; to see the percentage of every church increase in Cooperative Program giving to support the Southern Baptist (missions) ecosystem in a way that nothing else can.
BR: What do Tennessee Baptists need to know about the dynamic between the EC and the ERLC?
RD: The Executive Committee is the Southern Baptist Convention. It’s not the same as every other board for Southern Baptist entities. When they meet it is the Southern Baptist Convention meeting until we meet in June, so in between the larger conventions, they are doing the work for us. They have the right to ask the questions. How this plays out in the weeks ahead, we’ll just have to stay tuned. I understand the concerns. I understand the questions. People have some concerns and I hope they can reach a place of having some meaningful dialogue.
I appreciate the ERLC, the tone and tenor of late. They’re focusing on things like abortion in a stronger manner than ever before … They applauded the law that (Tennessee Governor Bill Lee) signed concerning protecting evangelical adoption agencies … so they don’t have to facilitate the adoption for same-sex couples. I appreciate Dr. Moore in the ERLC applauding this measure and helping with it.
BR: Can you briefly tell us a little bit about the issue with the SBC Pastors’ Conference and about your perspective?
RD: The big issue is that there are some people in the lineup that are contrary to where we are doctrinally. They have some practices that seem to be pretty far from what we hold as basic Baptist doctrine.
The president of the Pastors’ Conference is free to invite whoever he wants to invite. No Cooperative Program funding is used for the Pastors’ Conference. Then we have a right to choose to go and attend or not to attend the Pastors’ Conference … I would ask everybody to pray for leaders at the Executive Committee and leaders at the Pastors’ Conference, that some accommodations and compromises would be made that would preserve the unity and have a doctrinal integrity to it.
BR: Another item that has arisen the past few weeks is the formation of the Conservative Baptist Network. How does CBN play into where we are as the SBC, especially as we start the march to our annual meeting in Orlando?
RD: There are those that fear a liberal drift within the Southern Baptist Convention. I don’t think there’s a liberal drift within the SBC. I think there are some issues that would give the appearance of a liberal drift and some things we need to be very, very vigilant about.
I was with about 20 of our pastors on Monday of this week in the Western part of our state. Some guys that I love dearly, I trust their hearts. They’re wise, and some of these concerns were voiced by these guys that are leading our churches. As long as we’ve got the Baptist Faith and Message as an anchor, and we really do not give it lip service, I think that’s very, very important.
The second thing is when people begin feeling disenfranchised and they don’t feel listened to and they feel disrespected, then they’re looking for someplace to go. I think the Conservative Baptist Network, a part of it, is the idea that they want some place that they are not going to be disrespected. That they’re going to come together because they share some concerns.
That’s the great thing about Baptist life. We are an autonomous bunch of people from every church to every agency. We are autonomous from every state convention, from every association. We are autonomous. I do not get the feeling that those that are a part of the Conservative Baptist Network want to leave the Southern Baptist Convention. I just think they want to make sure they’ve got a seat at the table and be heard.
BR: It seems like there are many things to distract us, but what would you offer to encourage us to take another course of action?
RD: Nehemiah is one of my favorite books. In chapter six, Nehemiah is on the wall. He’s almost completed the work. The only thing he hasn’t done yet is set the gates, but he’s being tempted to come down off the wall. They want him to go to the Plains of Ono, which was a pretty sweet place to go. But his response was, “I’m doing a great work. Why should I come off this wall?”
I think when you go back to the five objectives of Tennessee Baptists, seeing more people saved and baptized and sent on the road to discipleship, planting more churches, seeing churches revitalized and giving generously to support great commission and great commandment work at home and around the world. Let’s not be distracted from all of the things going on around us to keep us from the main thing being the main thing. Let’s keep at it.
Visit RadioBandR.org (Episode 39) for the full podcast with Randy C. Davis. B&R