It is wrong for our Southern Baptist servants to use their entity positions to influence the election of the man who will appoint their overseers—our entity trustees. There is no way to spin it. It is repugnant to honest elections and the integrity of our entire trustee system to allow the outsized voices of our entity presidents and celebrites to subvert the process.
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary President Danny Akin knows this has become an issue. He wrote, “I am well aware of an ongoing conversation about the role of SBC entity leaders in the discussion of the SBC presidency. As a voting messenger to our convention, I have personal opinions just as many others do. And I am supportive of an open discussion about the future of our convention. But this is not about that.” (Source: BRNow.org)
Akin does the right thing and confronts the most important question his support of J.D. Greear’s presidential candidacy would prompt—the propriety of someone paid through funds given to Southern Baptist Convention Cooperative Program attempting to influence the election of the man who will appoint his bosses (entity trustees) who conduct oversight and decide on salaries and other governance matters for our entity employees like him.
Unfortunately, he then uses his outsized platform created because he is the president of a CP-funded seminary to try to influence the election of the next president. He can have an opinion. He can vote for whomever he wants.
However, his advocacy for Greear raises the most important problem facing Southern Baptists today—should Southern Baptist elites control the convention, or should it represent all its member churches?
The elite angle is hard to miss. Akin can’t help himself with dropping names. He wrote, “This is the J.D. Greear who has the support of Jack Graham, James Merritt, Bryant Wright, Johnny Hunt, Ronnie Floyd and Steve Gaines.”
Mega-church pastors from big cities and Cultural Marxists at The Gospel Coalition—that is the extent of Greear’s appeal. Honestly, the celebrity power created through the Mega-Church-Publishing Complex and exacerbated by the power of CP-funded entity conferences could be enough to win Greear the SBC presidency. (Though Akin’s writing this essay published at BRNow, raises the specter that Greear’s campaign is flat and the election of Hemphill is becoming more possible by the day.)
That doesn’t mean the celebrity system is right.
As Southern Baptists, Akin and his cohort of SBC elites should have no greater voice than the bivocational pastor in the rural Black Belt of Alabama. Unfortunately, the real world of denominational politics is different from the ideal.
If Akin’s arguments in defense of Greear are any good, then anyone could make them. The reason Akin made them was because of his profile. It is an unfair advantage in the election, but the ethical considerations are dire. Everyone trusts Al Mohler and Danny Akin, but what of the next generation of leaders? Will we always have a good man or will we occasionally (as SBC history shows) have a bad apple on the record?
Akin’s entire article can be summarized as an argument from authority. You can trust Greear because the elites trust Greear, and Southern Baptists should trust these elites to make the choice of our next president. If Southern Baptists follow this model, we can be sure that Greear’s presidency will be a presidency of the elites, by the elites and for the elites.
That isn’t what the Southern Baptist Convention needs. That isn’t what the Southern Baptists deserve.