The dust has not yet begun to settle in the aftermath of this year’s Southern Baptist Convention in Anaheim California and already, questions as to the future of the convention are emerging. Although the popular slogan ‘Better Together’ was touted numerous times last week from the convention stage, the reality is that there is currently a divide in the SBC. On one side are churches that believe that the convention is stronger than ever, and on the other side are those who have concerns over a liberal drift.
As Christians, we are to be people with a high regard for truth. As called out ones, we are to be in the world without conforming to the ways of the world. There is an objective standard, that being the word of God. The secular world swims in a sea of postmodern ideologies that demonize anyone who dares to proclaim absolute truth. However, it is evident that the SBC slowly losing it’s grasp on truth in exchange for an idealized version of unity. The war cry of this year’s convention in California seemed to be, ‘Unity at all Costs.’ But true unity always has a price.
The SBC’s unifying catchphrase “Better Together” certainly sounds appealing on the surface, but what is the SBC unified around? There was much talk in California about the many missionaries that have been sent by the SBC, and churches that have been planted by leaders in the convention. These are no doubt praise worthy accomplishments for sure. But I would ask, “Are good works the glue of unity that hold the SBC together, or is our unifying factor an unwavering stance upon the truth of God’s Word?” My point is, if we are not first and foremost guardians of the truth of God’s Word, then all the good works in the world are meaningless. The SBC may as well change it’s name to the Boys Scouts of America if we are not primarily concerned with obedience to Christ and bringing glory to God. This brings me to my concerns.
In the wake of the sexual abuse scandal in the SBC, the convention excitedly shared that great strides have been made to protect women and children in the creation of a sexual abuse task force. Guidepost Solutions was contracted by the SBC Task Force to conduct the Investigation into sex abuse and allegations of a large SBC /Executive Committee cover up.
Guidepost Solutions is the firm that was hired to conduct the investigation into the SBC Executive Committee’s dealings with sexual abuse cases from Jan. 1, 2000, through June 14, 2021. The SBC has paid upwards of 2 million dollars to Guidepost Solutions in this partnership. Although the investigation has been completed, the partnership continues with Guidepost through a hotline that has been created for survivors of sexual abuse and for reporting new cases. In fact, if you go to the SBC website you will find a link that when you click on it takes you to a ‘Guidepost Solutions’ email address.
Again, this all sounds wonderful on the surface. You may be asking, ‘What is the problem with the SBC’s partnership with Guidepost Solutions?” The problem is that over 2 million Southern Baptist dollars have been given to Guidepost Solutions, an organization that does not hold a biblical worldview. Especially when it comes to human sexuality.
A Twitter post from Guidepost Solutions reads dated June 6, 2022 reads, “Guidepost is committed to strengthening diversity, equity and inclusion and strives to be an organization where our team can bring their authentic selves to work.We celebrate our collective progress toward equality for all and are proud to be an ally to our LGBTQ+ community.“
The SBC has hired a secular organization, that does not hold to Christian standards of sexuality, to be the arbitrator of cases of sexual abuse that occur in Southern baptist churches. Furthermore, our SBC dollars (over 2 million, at least) are being given to an organization that affirms that which God calls sin. Why not hire a Christian organization to conduct this investigation?
Marshall Blalock, a pastor from South Carolina and the vice-chair of the abuse task force, defended the SBC’s partnership with Guidepost Solutions in one of his recent social media posts. He said that the SBC would have preferred to hire a Christian company but there were no Christian companies had the capacity to do the job. But wouldn’t it have been possibly better to create a committee comprised of pastors in conjunction with local law enforcement to investigate these cases of sexual abuse in the SBC?
Blalock tweeted, “Guidepost did a professional investigation, they operated with integrity, they respected our faith and values, they even ate a significant amount of the cost because they wanted to help us discover the truth and assist us to be more Christlike in how we respond to sexual abuse,”
So not only has the SBC has hired a secular, LGBTQ affirming organization to not only investigate cases of sexual abuse in the church, but also they are looking to Guidepost Solutions to help churches in our convention to be more Christlike?
Dr. Tom Ascol, a conservative pastor who lost this years election of SBC president to Bart Barber, tweeted this post expressing his outrage over the SBC/ Guidepost Solutions partnership; “This is who we gave our tithe dollars to? I & 47,000 other SBC pastors, plus millions of faithful members feel betrayed. We paid millions to a LGBT-affirming & proud organization to guide us on moral & spiritual matters!? Is there no fear of God?”
Many SBC pastors returned to their congregations praising the SBC for their pro-active response in creating this sexual abuse task force. But are these same pastors telling their flock that a portion of their tithes are being filtered to an organization that affirms homosexuality? We have a book (the Bible). And this book gives us an objective standard of truth. James 4:4 tells us that friendship with the world brings enmity with God. It appears that for many in the SBC, unity for the sake of good works has taken the precedence over the Authority of Scripture.
Unfortunately, this was not the only sign of compromise that was on display at the SBC in Anaheim. Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church was given the floor to read what he titled as his love letter to the SBC. Keep in mind, Warren has been under fire for ordaining two female pastors this past year, and in the process of retiring and instilling in his place a husband and wife who will serve as co-pastors. This is a clear violation of not only scripture (1 Timothy 2:12-14), but the SBC’s very own Baptist Faith and Message 2000. Regardless, Warren was given ample time to read his letter before all the messengers without interruption.
However, Warren’s letter was far from a love letter to the SBC. It was an unabashed, chest pounding boasting session wherein he touted all of his accomplishments of training pastors and planting SBC churches throughout his ministry. Warren dismissed the allegations of ordaining female pastors as being as “secondary issue.” Rick Warren sought to bring to light the question regarding what is meant by the word ‘pastor.’ But isn’t this the very same question that our culture is asking pertaining to gender? Our convention has ceased to proclaim, ‘Thus saith the Lord’ in exchange for sheepishly asking, ‘Did God really mean what He said?” At the completion of his address, Warren received a standing ovation from a great majority of the SBC messengers and from those who were on stage.
“Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.” Romans 1:32.
Men like Rick Warren who boast of their departure from scripture were given an open microphone on the convention floor. However, numerous times there were instances of messengers standing to address the Executive Committee only to be cut off mid sentence. For example, at least three times, different messengers brought up a concern over plagiarism in the SBC, a sin in which the acting president at the time, Ed Litton, was allegedly found guilty of. Each time this concern was voiced, Litton and the EC cut the messengers microphone. Also, Dr. Tom Buck, a conservative pastor from Texas, voiced his concerns in regards to the SBC’s sexual abuse task force in the wake of his wife being slandered upon Buck’s reporting of a case of sexual misconduct in 2021. Instead of addressing this very valid concern, Buck had his microphone silenced as well.
One messenger who was silenced before his resolution could even reach the floor was a pastor named Allen Nelson. The resolution that he submitted to the EC was entitled, ‘The Sacredness of the SBC Pulpit.’ In short, his resolution proposed that the convention hold the pulpit in high regard and be very careful who we put behind it to herald the word of God. Nelson went on to voice concerns over pastors in the convention who are preaching worldly ideologies like CRT, and pastors that affirm the LGBTQ agenda. Nelson resolved that the SBC should guard the pulpit, making sure the doctrine that comes out of it is grounded in a Scripture and a Biblical worldview. This resolution was not even allowed to be read before the messengers nor was it allowed to be brought to a vote.
Pastors like myself have been accused of being arrogant and opponents of unity. But I believe it is even more arrogant to gravitate towards what seems right in our eyes rather than taking a firm stance upon scripture. The SBC performed it’s own magic trick using slight of hand. It was as if they were saying, “Look at all the good we have done” while simultaneously saying, “But don’t look at our departure from God’s word.”
The convention attempted to distract the messengers in California from focusing upon concerns by branding the phrase ‘Better Together.’ The convention says that we are better unified than divided. But I ask again, unified around what? How much compromise is justifiable? Unity that is not grounded in conviction is pragmatism. We are not ‘Better Together’ without submission to the authority of Christ and His Word. Unity without Christ is depraved and hopelessly lost. If the SBC continues to seek unity at the cost of Biblical conviction, then it will cease to exist as a beacon of light for the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the next few years.