Post-SBC Reflections

The SBC is over.

It really is. The “convention” is a meeting that meets once a year and that meeting has closed. Now, we will all go back to our locally autonomous churches and work to fulfill the mission of God. Hopefully what was accomplished at this year’s annual meeting will help that work press forward. But ultimately, the Great Commission is given to believers and the church, not denominational structures, entities, and employees.

But, because I am hopeful about our tribe and what denominations can accomplish together, here are some observations:

1. There was not the massive turnout that many predicted.

I heard talk of 18,000 messengers. We were not even close. It was larger than some of the meetings from the last few years because of the issues at hand, but it was not the meeting many expected. The same thing happened at the 2006 convention in Greensboro and the 2007 San Antonio convention, and neither materialized into massive attendances.

On the other hand, I do think it encouraging that in the midst of our ongoing sluggish economy there was an uptick in attendance rather than a drop-off. But, the fact that the masses did not show is worth noting.

2. This was not as big of a battle as many had predicted.

The Great Commission Resurgence Task Force report passed by a 3-1 margin. I think the amendments helped (and made the report better), but they did not change the substance of the report. Southern Baptists voted overwhelmingly for the report even though many key SBC leaders were vocally opposing the report.

But, that is the past. The convention has spoken, now the implementation discussion will begin.

3. Bryant Wright’s election is an interesting surprise and worth considering.

I am friends with Bryant Wright, Ted Traylor, and Leo Endel. (Full disclosure: I do not know Jimmy Jackson well, but he seems like a great man. I have spoken for Leo Endel multiple times in Minnesota / Wisconsin and consider him a friend. Ted is a close friend of many years and I have preached at his church. I preached for Bryant just recently at Johnson Ferry. I did not endorse any candidate for SBC president.)

At LifeWay, we are not permitted to endorse candidates or motions (something I would suggest for all agency employees), but I can tell you my perceptions. I do not think that the votes were a statement about the men running. They are all good men who share the theological values of our convention of churches. But, as I see it, they represented “degrees” of change.

Jimmy Jackson and Leo Endel both represented a position that might be called, “Little Structural Change / Focused on Spiritual Change.” Each wanted a resurgence of the Great Commission, but not the restructuring they saw evident in the GCRFT report. Jimmy was most widely supported by those who valued working with and making the current system better.

Ted Traylor was the candidate most closely tied to the GCRTF. His position might have been, “GCR-Sized Structural Change / Focused on Spiritual Change.” He valued the Cooperative Program and was a clear candidate to help exhort the SBC into the implementation of the GCRTF recommendations.

“Beyond GCR Structural Change / Focused on Spiritual Change” would have been the best way to describe Bryant Wright’s position. Had he been leading the GCRTF, the changes would have been more radical. He has called for a dramatic increase in funds going directly to the global field, has led his church to restructure its Cooperative Program funds to contribute directly to IMB projects, and he clearly communicated that the GCRTF report was a start, not the conclusion.

And, the convention chose Bryant– he received the most votes in the first round and the majority in the second. I have no interpretation of this apparent dualistic vote of the convention choosing to strengthen the CP language of the GCR, yet electing Bryant Wright as president whose church has redirected its cooperative giving to the IMB. Johnson Ferry was the picture of Great Commission Giving which was of so much concern that the convention went on record to amend the GCRTF report around such giving. Perhaps someone has an idea about it but, as of now, I do not.

I do not believe that Bryant Wright was elected by name recognition alone.. He has been president of the SBC pastors conference (and did a fine job). But, it appears to me that Ted Traylor is better known. Ted is loved by Southern Baptists, particularly in Florida, and just about everywhere else. (I can truly say I do not know anyone who does not like Ted Traylor.)

The fact that Southern Baptists would elect Bryant and overwhelmingly endorse the GCRTF report appears to demonstrate a desire for more change. And, I anticipate that Bryant will communicate that in the days to some.

I believe that Bryant will do an excellent job as SBC president. Most importantly, we can be assured of a round of quality trustees at our agencies. Also, I would expect Bryant to use the pulpit of the SBC to encourage a greater commitment to global missions and domestic church planting-and those are two emphases on which we all can agree.

More tomorrow…mobi online

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  16Comments

  1. joe white   •  

    Ed,

    I believe these are all good and accurate observations. Here is one observation from me. I am not sure how much this played into the election results, but Bryant Wright definitely had the better nomination speech.

  2. Matt Steen   •  

    I agree wholeheartedly with Joe. I know each of these men by name only, which is to say not at all. After listening to the nomination speeches, there is no question in my mind that had I been there, I would be voting for Bryant Wright.

  3. Rod D. Martin   •  

    Ed,

    Fair statements all, though I think you miss a key point regarding attendance when you fail to note the increasingly youthful appearance of those who are showing up. That was a sea of young people out there in Orlando, following the, well, Great Lake of them in Louisville. It was not the desert of gray hair we saw in recent past years, and that is a healthy sign.

    I mean no disparagement toward anyone in saying this, but one point a lot of us saw regarding the strangeness of the election was that the runoff took place after half (or more than half) of the messengers left following the GCR vote. It seems impossible that this didn’t greatly affect the election’s outcome, though it’s anyone’s guess as to how (I think your post suggests how, but only God knows). What is certain is that those on the platform should have alerted people that the runoff vote was coming up: while running an otherwise outstanding Convention, they really dropped the ball on that one, and effectively disenfranchised most of the people who came to Orlando in the process. Do those people bare responsibility too? Of course. But leaders are supposed to lead, knowing well that their followers are frequently not as tuned in as they.

    Regardless, the future is bright. God is moving. And this is just the beginning.

    Rod Martin

  4. Dave Miller   •  

    I thought it was a great debate – substantive and reasonable.

  5. Martie   •  

    I would also give some credit to Baptist21 who conducted interviews with each of the candidates. Those interviews are what I mainly based my decision on.

  6. Jonathan McLain   •  

    Always enjoy your insights Ed.

    The vote for Bryant seems to me to be a vote for anti-establishment. I believe that Ted Traylor was a political choice or business as usual. Jackson anti GCRTF Bryant was a vote for change.

    I like the vote and I look forward to his presidency. I don’t understand the love affair with IMB. I think they have their problems that need to be addressed. If there are missionaries who are waiting to be deployed shame on them. They have the money they just need to prioritize.

  7. Todd Littleton   •  

    Ed,

    Good analysis. I was asked yesterday how to interpret Bryant Wright’s vote. Had I been at the SBC in Orlando rather than fishing in Missouri, I would have voted for Wright. I read the piece on Johnson Ferry in one of our denom mags what seems like 20 years ago.

    I am left wondering if there wasn’t some additional ways of describing the election. Ted’s close connection with the GCRTF played against not a few who did not like the fact Page was elected as Prez of the ExComm and was on the GCRTF. Just before the SBC a group called on the remaining GCRTF members to withdraw from being considered for any “post or position” in the SBC for 1 yr, and if I recall correctly there was a motion/resolution on the matter. When Jackson did not make the run-off, this group – who knows how large or small – was faced with a decision. Vote for Ted who served on the GCRTF which would have violated their public convictions or vote for Wright who sported the Great Commission Giving pattern. One had to win out. There may have been some credibility to the well chosen words in the nomination for Wright – “more done than said.” That may well have triggered a move to consider voting for someone who, as you note, represents a more radical change where Traylor may have, in the run-off, been the “traditionalist” candidate.

    Who knows. As you put it, it is time for implementation. All of these men seem to be great men though I know none of them. The proof will be in whether we do more or say more. Hoping for the former.

  8. David Tarkington   •  

    I agree with Joe. David Uth’s nomination speech, in my opinion, garnered at least 1000 votes for Wright. Most people went in knowing who they were going to vote for, but those who were undecided, I believe, were probably swayed by Uth’s speech.

  9. Jason Fletcher   •  

    It was great because it was the least political sounding of the four. Dr. Uth got up there and just shared what seemed to be an open and honest nomination. In my opinion, when it came to the runoff, many were voting against Ted Traylor because he was on the GCR Task Force. They simply did not understand that they were in essence voting for the more radical candidate.

  10. Dr. Terry W. Dorsett   •  

    I have never met any of the men who were nominated but assume they are all godly men who would have been effective leaders. As I listened to the speeches, I chose to vote for Wright because he did not seem to be the “inside” man. Clearly there are a lot of changes coming to the SBC, and that is good. But we don’t need a “yes” man at the helm. We need a man who is both spiritual and a “doer.” Though I am sure that all the men were qualified, based on the speach that was given to nominate Wright, I concluded that he was the best “doer” of the group.

  11. Jim Drake   •  

    Especially with the misleading line that his church gives, “$2000 a day to the Cooperative Program.” That sounds a whole lot better than 3.5%.

  12. Rick   •  

    Ed,

    Regarding your item number two above, perhaps there was not as big of a battle because the GCRTF Report was essentially a “motion to refer” the seven recommendations to other entities.

    You used the word “implementation” in that paragraph, just as Danny Akin used it twice in his SBC reflections article. It is much more accurate to call this the “consideration” phase rather than the “implementation” phase, since there is a world of difference between “implementing an approved strategy” and “considering a proposed recommendation.”

    Dr. Mohler made crystal clear the nature of these recommendations. We have it on video. At the time, he was arguing against the motion to refer based on the logic that the recommendations were exactly that and were specifically worded so the entities might “consider” them.

    Not to beat a dead horse, but it would be nice to hear GCR proponents calling this the “consideration” phase rather than the “implementation” phase. Not only would it be nice, but it would reflect the will of the convention, which did not vote to ask the entities to “do” something, but rather to ask them to “consider” doing something. It is only after they “consider” doing it, if indeed they “determine” to do it, that we can properly talk about any kind of “implementation.”

  13. Norm Brock   •  

    I agree with Joe. Not sure what factor it played in the outcome… but the nomination speech was definitely better.

  14. Chip Parker   •  

    Not sure if it really matters but after the GCR vote there was a mass exodus of messengers. Presumably the were the ones not please with the vote, and probably the vast number of them voted for Endel and Jackson. If they would have voted in the runoff I imagine it might have gone a little more in Traylors favor. Also Traylor was on the task force and is serving as president of the NAMB search comittee, some might have thought president would be too many hats for one person.

  15. Reiny Koschel   •  

    Bryant won the presidency of SBC through a strange alliance. Those who wanted substantial change and knew Bryant obviously voted for him. Others who knew him less or not at all but wanted to vote against Ted Traylor because of his GCR ties. This strange alliance of those who wanted more radical change and those who wanted to take some stand against the GCR, allowed Bryant to win the presidency. Go figure

  16. jason c dukes   •  

    Great observations, Ed. I am personally excited about the future for the SBC and especially interested in the next leader of NAMB. I hope it will be someone secure enough to stay steadfast in focus and direction and personnel. Should be exciting.

    Thanks for how available you continue to make yourself as an interpreter and encourager for Southern Baptists.

    -jason

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