The growing fractures underlying evangelicalism run beneath Southern Baptists as well. And in today’s political and cultural environment, they appear to be widening. If a task force appointed by the SBC Executive Committee to study actions of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission is the flash point, then the Orlando Convention could witness the broader collision of ideologies.
The stage was set with the announcement of Al Mohler’s candidacy for SBC president. Election of the Southern Seminary President might signal the tipping point toward Reform theology in the denomination, if not for the unexpected candidacy of Randy Adams, Executive Director of the Northwest Baptist Convention, on a “traditionalist” platform. “I believe that we need a clear change in direction in order to fulfill our God-given mission and reverse our present course of decline in every key measurement of Great Commission advance,” Adams stated. “After waging a decades-long battle for the Bible, we are in danger of losing the war we were founded to fight.”
A new coalition of Baptists, announced in February, raised the possibility of a second conservative resurgence. Is the denomination “woke”—or too-woke? The adjective, adapted from current culture, implies more than awareness of social needs and issues. In this usage, it could be seen as bowing to cultural pressure relating to women, gender issues, immigration, and more. Interpreted as a liberal bent, this is one complaint the ERLC probe is likely to explore.
Overlaying all of that is the numinous of the election year. Greear has stated there will not be a repeat of the 2018 convention appearance by Vice President Mike Pence or the implied endorsement of Republican politics at the SBC’s annual meeting. Not everyone in SBC life agrees with Greear’s “hands-off politics” philosophy. It’s worth remembering that Pence got more than one standing ovation from the Baptist faithful in Phoenix.
Add to that Greear’s appointment of Ed Stetzer who frequently blogs his Christian response to social issues. He will chair the Resolutions Committee, the panel whose statements on politics and culture have produced the most argument on the convention floor in recent years.
And let’s not forget the objections to the Pastor’s Conference line-up, which, at this point, includes three non-Southern Baptists, one of them a woman “spoken word artist.”
Looking ahead to Orlando, one reporter was advised, “Pack your flak jacket.”