Next Tuesday and Wednesday, messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting in Indianapolis, IN will have an amazing number of announced candidates to consider for election as Convention President. Six (count 'em - 6!) candidates have allowed their names to be placed in nomination for the top spot. Up until two years ago, I would have guessed that Johnny Hunt, Pastor of First Baptist Church of Woodstock, GA would have been unbeatable. Now - who knows?
Convention politics began to take a noticeable change two years ago at Greensboro, when Frank Page, Pastor of First Baptist Church of Taylors, SC won a stunning upset over Ronnie Floyd of Springdale, AK. As the convention plowed into the third decade of the Conservative Resurgence, the Annual Meeting had pretty much become a "coronation" of some "anointed" candidate. All of the presidents since Adrian Rogers begin to turn things around have been excellent, and I certainly have not had any problems with any of them. However, in the last 10 years or so, convention attendance began to drastically decrease. There seemed to be an unspoken philosophy that the "Battle for the Bible" had been won, and there was really little need of the messengers to be heavily involved.
Many of us assumed in Greensboro that Floyd would be successful in his presidential bid. He had "paid his dues" as a loyal trooper. He pastored a two campus mega church in Arkansas and has a national television ministry. Even certain SBC entity heads went public in their endorsement of his candidacy - much to the chagrin of Executive Committee President, Morris Chapman. Chapman released a pre convention statement basically stating that he thought it inappropriate for any SBC entity heads to "campaign" for any particular candidate. I tend to agree with him on that one. Now, any agency head who happens to be a local church messenger, certainly has the right to vote for and support whomever he pleases. However, as a convention employee, each entity head (in my humble opinion) should probably let discretion be the better part of valor, and refrain from "politicking" for a particular candidate.
Also, greater focus has been placed upon the candidates and the percentages given to the SBC Cooperative Program by the churches they serve. While Floyd's church (FBC Springdale) gave multiplied thousands of dollars to SBC causes, their actual Cooperative Program giving was less than 4 percent. Page's church, on the other hand gave over 13 percent of their undesignated receipts to the CP. This, I think, is what helped to sway the opinions and votes of many of the messengers, who look at the Cooperative Program as our "life blood" in funding missions.
Several issues have begun to come to the forefront over the past two or three years that have begun to fracture the previously monolithic mood of the messengers. The rising influence of Reform Theology (Calvinism) is becoming more of an issue of debate, as are certain policy changes adopted by the International Mission Board. The blogging of a number of concerned messengers (most notably Wade Burleson of Oklahoma) have multiplied around the country, drawing attention to differing opinions on some of these issues. Criticisms of certain SBC entity heads has been fierce in some cases. The somewhat confusing "Garner Motion" (which would appear to limit SBC entity Trusee Boards in their policymaking) in last year's meeting only added to the chorus of differing opinions, and as a result, this year's convention proves to be very interesting.
This truth is most notable in the unusually large number of candidates for President this year. Baptist Press has formulated a group of questions for each of the announced candidates. Following, are links to several Baptist Press stories, asking questions of the six announced presidential candidates. If you are interested in reading these questions and the candidate's responses, just click on the links below.
Frank Cox's Answers to BP's questions:
Wiley Drake's Answers:
Johnny Hunt's Answers:
Les Puryear's Answers:
Bill Wagner's Answers: