Satur-deja Vu

Even the secular world is aware that Southern Baptists met in Nashville this week for their annual meeting. Before I talk about the convention, which might only interest SBC members, here are some pics I took of other things while staying in Nashville. I didn’t actually do anything else but saw some stuff walking between my hotel and Music City Center each day.

I stayed at The Moxy, directly across the street from the Johnny Cash Museum. You may see FGL House (Florida Georgia Line) in the pic; Kid Rock and Luke Bryan have eating/live music establishments behind me. Of all those things the Johnny Cash Museum and Sun Diner would be the only things I might have been interested in if I had taken a day to be a tourist.

My hotel room came with an Epiphone guitar. Nashville, right? I don’t know if every room was equipped the same or if this was actually more of a decoration piece. It was not attached to the wall, you could take it down and play it, and it was 99% in tune. Which makes me wonder; did the last person that stayed in the room tune it or is resetting this guitar to standard tune one of the housekeeping tasks, like emptying the trash and replacing the soaps?

Nissan Stadium, home of the Tennessee Titans. My first thought when taking this pic was that Tennessee doesn’t have any professional teams, I will have to look up who plays here. The former Houston Oilers moved to Tennessee about 25 years ago and the Oilers name didn’t make sense outside of Texas. I don’t watch NFL games. I’m not protesting anything, I just never watched any in the first place. It did occur to me later that TN had a pro football team (but I did not know what city they were in until I Googled it).

One thing I like about Nashville is the way the downtown metro area is broken up by green spaces. That’s not just a recent trend, Central Park first opened in Manhattan in 1858. I’ve been to the Historic Fourth Ward Park in midtown Atlanta a couple of times. Walking is the best way to get around downtown and it’s good to not always be surrounded by nothing but steel and concrete.

Okay, if you are interested in this year’s annual meeting of the SBC and my opinions/interpretations of said meeting continue reading. This is just the back half of the concert hall as the room filled beyond maximum capacity on Tuesday afternoon. Churches were still showing up for registration during the lunch hour recess in order to cast ballots in presidential election and then left afterwards. Just under 16,000 registered messengers were present, the largest SBC meeting since 1995. Mike Stone got the most votes in the first round, followed by Ed Litton, Al Mohler and Randy Adams coming in a distant fourth (with less than 1,000 votes). In the runoff Litton beat Stone by a margin of a few hundred ballots, each receiving over 6,000 votes from the 13,000+ cast in the runoff. The final percentage was Litton 52, Stone 48.

I made the trip for the expressed purpose of voting for Mike Stone. Al Mohler was the other candidate I know something about while everything I know about Ed Litton I have learned in the past week. This meeting was seen by outsiders, and many in the SBC ranks, as a showdown between liberals and conservatives. The New York Times reported that Southern Baptists narrowly avoided a “takeover by conservative insurgents.” I’m an insurgent now, who knew? I think of the SBC as highly conservative but many see the election of Litton as a shift to the left, with many (perhaps over exaggerated initial reactions) saying the gradual SBC decline has now plunged off a cliff. The comments I’ve been reading from Southern Baptists online describe Litton as liberal, woke, embracing CRT and that he lets his wife preach in their Alabama church. Many see a potential split in the future between Al Mohler and Ed Litton type liberals and right wing CBN (Conservative Baptist Network) members of the SBC. Others at the convention were very vocal about the lack of transparency and accountability regarding financing in NAMB and accusations of cover ups and conspiracy in the Executive Committee.

For what it’s worth I don’t see the need for a split but that won’t be enough to prevent one. There is so much individuality and autonomy of SBC churches that almost no two are like. (I almost compared them to snowflakes but that means something else these days.) Some have dropped the words Baptist and even church from their names while others still preach and teach from the King James Bible and hold to older confessions than the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message. I am disheartened by both liberals and conservatives that want to take their half of the members/congregations/money and split into groups so that everyone in each group believes exactly as they do. What I clearly see is that the divisive spirit of American politics has worked its way into the way we run the SBC. All four candidates can easily sit down at a table together and discuss the things we agree are important to us in a way that US Senators and party leaders in D.C. could not possibly do. But messengers and Facebook commenters want to be just like American voters. They see all stakes as extremely high and demand immediate action. In the words of Johnny Cash: I don’t like it but I guess things happen that way.

I grew up in independent Baptist churches. Each church did their own thing from setting policies and planning events to funding (or not funding) missionaries. Before the Cooperative Program that’s how SBC missionaries were funded. Every couple of years they would have to return home and go from church to church presenting reports on their work and begging for funding. The CP is a better way but after this convention I’ve heard numerous members say their CP support will end or they will withdraw association with the SBC completely. I joined an SBC church in 2001 not because I wanted in the SBC but because my friend invited me to his church and my wife and I decided to join that church. I spent two years learning about short term mission trips, local and state associations, Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong offerings; then made the move to full time ministry serving on the mission field. We spent nine years serving as Kentucky Baptist missionaries which would have never happened had I not joined an SBC church when I did. I see these things as nothing else but God’s plan. I have not always been Southern Baptist but those week long trips, years serving on the mission field and the past seven years I have spent in the pastorate have been in the SBC. It is a better way than what I came from, imho.

If the SBC splits, or totally collapses, thousands of churches will keep doing the best they can with what they’ve got. The kingdom of God will come regardless of what 14 million Southern Baptists do. But I hope there is a bright future for us yet. I will pray for the people and churches of the SBC – and those in need that they minister to and reach with the gospel daily – but above all that God’s will is done. Regardless of politics I hope you can join me in that prayer.

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