Many of you know that I am a Doctor of Ministry student in expository preaching at Southeastern Baptist Theological Semianry. The seminary president is Danny Akin. Now, get this his mentor was Dr. Paige Patterson and his best friend is Al Mohler. I wanted to post his thoughts on the Southern Baptist Convention this year. Brothers and Sisters, I hope you will join me in continual prayer for the SBC convention.
"At our Alumni meeting I shared my thoughts about the Convention meeting in Greensboro and my optimism concerning the future. Our students, alumni and friends made it clear that you would like for me to put this in a form you could have and share with others. I am glad to do this, and it will provide the debriefing I normally have with our students but could not because of the large size of this year’s class. I will also provide my reflections on several other issues which time did not permit at our Luncheon. I hope you will be as encouraged about our future as I am.
The Presidency of the SBC
This year we had three fine men run for president. That had not happened in a number of years. All three men are friends of mine. I love and respect each of them. I spoke in favor of Ronnie Floyd because at the time he was the only announced candidate, and because I believe his church was misrepresented in terms of its faithful support of the C.P. and Southern Baptist work. I still believe that was the case and I believe Ronnie would have made Southern Baptists an outstanding President. I also think Jerry Sutton would have served us well had he been elected. The Convention in a surprising first ballot elected Frank Page from Taylor, S.C. I have personally congratulated Frank and pledged my prayers and support. I think he will do a wonderful job as our president. You may not know that Frank and I served together on the resolutions committee several years ago. Frank also serves as an adjunctive professor at SEBTS, and his daughter, Laura Brammer, just graduated from Southeastern with her Master’s Degree. His son-in-law, Ben, was my teaching assistant and grader for the past 2 years and is in our Ph.D program. Frank is a godly man who is supportive of the Conservative Resurgence. He is an inerrantist who believes the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 and strongly supports the Cooperative Program. He wants to involve more good and godly persons in the work of our Convention, something I fully affirm. I am delighted to let you know Dr. Page has agreed to speak at our Spring 2007 Convocation. I believe we have a good man, a man of God, to lead us in the days ahead.
There were four nominees for first V.P. All four of these men are friends of mine as well and each one would serve our denomination well. Jimmy Jackson was elected on a close second ballot. He will be an asset to Dr. Page.
There were also four candidates for 2nd V.P. Wiley Drake, the SBC gadfly, was elected on the first ballot. He received what was clearly the most humorous and entertaining nomination speech, from Bill Dodson, ever given at any Convention. His speech clearly won the day. Given the strong emphasis at this Convention on the C.P., there seems to be something of a disconnect since Wiley’s church gave only $200 to the C.P. in 2004 and $1,000 in 2005 out of total receipts of $96,450. Still, his nomination gave all of us a good and much needed laugh. I love brother Wiley and appreciate so very much his work with the homeless. With him as one of our officers, I suspect the fun times will only continue at next years meeting.
The issue of Calvinism was a hot topic. I believe it is becoming clear that there is a place for a healthy and evangelistically vibrant Reformed Theology in our Convention. It is part of our history and heritage. On Monday my father in ministry, Paige Patterson, and my brother in Christ and best friend, Al Mohler, had the “great debate.” In my judgment, it was a win-win event. Paige and Al showed us how brothers can discuss, debate and disagree in a manner that honors Christ. They also showed us that disagreement on some points of theology in no way prevents them from agreeing on the major issue: the gospel of Jesus Christ. Al warned us about Calvinist with an attitude, Paige emphasized the necessity of a responsible, regenerate church, and both challenged us to be passionate in studying theology and taking the biblical gospel to the nations. I hope we can continue to have good, honest theological conversations. We need them. We will only be the better for it.
This mission board has experienced some difficult times in recent days. To not become a distraction to the agency my friend Bob Reccord resigned as president in the spring. I greatly respect his decision and I believe he did the right thing for the sake of the SBC. Now one of the heroes in ministry, Roy Fish, has been named interim-president. This is a gift from God, and I believe this is a very positive sign of good things to come at NAMB.
There has been a lot of conversation emerging from our International Mission Board in the last year. One trustee in particular has raised concerns and constantly been in the news. A motion from this trustee, Wade Burleson, that the Executive Committee investigate the IMB was referred back to the IMB trustees for their action. This was a wise and proper decision in my judgment. I know a number of the wonderful and godly men and women on this board. I believe they are more than capable of setting their house in order. I trust them to help us understand better recent policy decisions as the board. I trust them to look into matters that have caused some persons serious concern. I further trust them in their ability to work alongside our president Dr. Jerry Rankin to see that we continue taking the gospel to the nations, and that we will continue planting thousands of New Testament churches for the glory of the name of Jesus Christ. I look forward to a good report from the IMB trustees and president at the 2007 Convention.
The Cooperative Program
The C.P. was also a major topic of discussion. Our Executive Committee recommended and our Convention agreed that we need to ask our churches to do more, but that it would be unwise to set a 10% litmus test for leadership and service in the SBC. Again, I believe this was a good and right decision. However, we still have some issues hanging that need prayerful and careful attention. First, we must not loose sight of the centrality and autonomy of the local church to do what it thinks best under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Second, our State Conventions must work at sending more to our National Convention. As a national agency head this can sound self-serving, but I have been saying this all 28 years of my ministry. The fact is this is what our people want. I am encouraged that our State Executives have pledged to do this. Third, we have got to find a better way of acknowledging all that a church does in supporting the SBC. To limit “what counts” as CP support only that which flows through a state convention is somewhat misleading. It should not be an either/or scenario but a both/and composite. We have, already in place, categories for undesignated/designated giving. I am simply saying we need to find a way to acknowledge and celebrate all that every church does in support of the SBC. I believe the leaders of our Executive Committee will help us find a way to do this.
Motion examining agency leaders
This Convention saw a record 29 motions proposed. There were a lot of busy bees in Greensboro! One called for an “administrative expense analysis” of all SBC agencies and institutions. There have been motions like this before. Some are well intended. Others have come from persons with an agenda that I am not sure was all that noble. However, let me say a couple of things. First, it is an honor and privilege to lead an SBC agency. Each of us works for the SBC and we are accountable to the churches of the SBC. This is a good thing and I am grateful for this relationship. I would not want it any other way. Mutual accountability is biblical and wise. Second, Southeastern already has a full disclosure policy. Any Southern Baptist is welcome to visit our campus, sit down with our business office staff, and see how we “steward” God’s money. I know they will be embarrassed by the low salaries paid to our faculty and staff, but do not feel sorry for any of us. We are here because of God’s calling. He brought us here and He takes care of us. I will say to those that stand with us, we seek to be “mean and lean” in how we run this seminary. It is God’s money that we handle. We try to never forget this. Please pray that we never do.
Resolutions are an important aspect of the annual meeting. It allows that particular convention to address issues it believes are important at the time. One issue that did not make it out of committee was related to integrity in church membership. I trust the Resolutions Committee as to their rationale for taking no action on this resolution at this time, but it is my hope this resolution or one similar to it will be addressed and approved in the near future. In fact, I believe we would be well served to have resolutions concerning regenerate church membership, church discipline, believer’s baptism, integrity in evangelism, expository preaching and theological education in the local church, addressed by future conventions. I have shared my concerns concerning these areas in a paper I presented at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary entitled, “Do Southern Baptists Have A Future? Yes, If…” You can locate it at www.danielakin.com.
It was the case that this convention did speak to the issue of alcohol. Some persons expressed surprise that a number of individuals spoke against it. I was not surprised, though I was disappointed. I have observed for some time a growing emphasis on our “liberty in Christ” that I fear neglect of our “responsibility in Christ.” Therefore, let me say several things that I hope are biblical and balanced in assessing the issue. I pray you will hear my heart.
First, Southern Baptists since the late 1800’s have addressed the danger of alcohol with right at 60 resolutions. Beginning as a grassroots movement we have spoken with one voice pointing out the risks of alcohol consumption and the wisdom of abstinence in this area. We did so again in Greensboro with an 85-90% vote according to the chair.
Second, arguments that a total abstinence position is an extra-biblical tradition rooted in legalism are simply false. Now, let me be fair. Does the Bible by direct command condemn the use of alcohol in every instance? The honest answer is no it does not. Jesus clearly turned water into wine (John 2). However, this is where contextual and principle considerations must be engaged. The ancient Hebrew context and the 21st century American context do not have a one to one correspondence in this area. The distilled liquor manufactured today most closely corresponds to the “strong drink” which is consistently condemned in Scripture. My friends Bob Stein (in an article in C.T.) and John MacArthur (in a 3 part sermon series) provide irrefutable evidence of this. Further, Paul’s guidelines for the gray areas of life are helpful at this point. Does this action help me? (1 Cor. 6:12) Can this action enslave me? (1 Cor. 6:12) Could this action be a stumbling block to a fellow believer (1 Cor. 8:13) or an unbeliever (1 Cor. 9:19-22; 10:32-33)? These principles could be summarized in the maxim: “love for others regulates my liberty.” It is certain the alcohol industry has visited immense sorrow and heartache on millions. I will choose not to put one dollar in their pocket. It also is certain that if one never takes the first drink they will never become an alcoholic. The wisdom of this is self-evident.
Third, some draw an analogy with gluttony and point out 1) we don’t have the stomach (pun intended!) to address this, and 2) like gluttony, the issue is moderation. However, logic and experience refute this argument. I would agree we should address the sin of gluttony and perhaps even do so by resolution. But, no one even potentially becomes intoxicated by eating too much, and we do not lose thousands of lives each year because of DUG (Driving Under Gluttony).
No, the use of alcohol in most contexts ignores the biblical principles of wisdom and witness. Can I say it is a sin in every instance to take a drink? No. Can I say it is unwise? Yes. John MacArthur puts it well. Can I take a drink? Yes. Should I take a drink? No. I am grateful that our new President, Dr. Frank Page, served on this year’s Resolution Committee and helped draft resolution #5. I am glad to stand side by side with him and brothers like R.G. Lee, W.A. Criswell, Adrian Rogers, Jerry Vines, Paige Patterson, Chuck Kelly, Phil Roberts, Jeff Iorg, Richard Land, Bobby Welch, Morris Chapman, James Merritt, Johnny Hunt, John Piper, and John MacArthur and a host of others in opposing the evils of alcohol and promoting the wisdom of total abstinence. I promise our alumni, students and supporters that as long as I am president of this seminary, we will be vigilant and passionate in taking a stand against alcohol. We will do so not because of legalism, but because of love.
Not Forgetting Our Heroes
Finally, I shared at our meeting that I will not allow a new generation of Southern Baptist to forget our heroes. We today stand on the shoulders of giants like Boyce and Broadus, Carroll and Truett. More recently it is Criswell and Rogers, Vines and Draper, Smith and Elliff, Pressler and Patterson. For some reason there are today those who want to attack and malign some of these men, question their motives and actions. Are these men perfect? No. Are they good godly men who love Jesus, the Bible, the lost and our Convention? Yes!
I often remind our students, and myself, that it is never right to do even the right thing in the wrong way. Some of those throwing grenades at these heroes of faith would be well served to think on this. The intemperate nature of their rhetoric is too often shameful and dishonoring to the Christ they serve. Any truth in their diatribes is lost in the bitterness and sarcasm that flows from their keyboard.
Our Convention is experiencing a time of adjustment and evaluation. There is a generational shift that is taking place. This is not a bad thing, I believe it is a good thing. It is the way God works. As Moses moved off the scene, God raised up Joshua. The same godly wisdom and integrity he had seen in Moses was transferred by God into his life as well. It is my prayer that this is what will take place in the SBC in the years ahead of us. I believe it will. If it does, our future is bright and God will be honored by a people who more that anything else, want to see His glory made known among the nations. Thank you for the honor of serving you at Southeastern. I am blessed beyond measure."