From the start, SBC president, Bryant Wright assured all Southern Baptists that his self-appointed “task force” possessed no official authority. At least that’s what Baptist Press reported >>>
While some Executive Committee members expressed concern over the possibility of a name change and of the task force being asked to serve without convention approval, Wright calmly assured the committee (and subsequently the public) “any proposed name change must be approved by messengers” (//link).
Wright further emphasized the task force's role is to advise him on the questions he has given them to consider. He said:
“Obviously, this is not an official committee empowered by a vote of messengers to an SBC annual meeting… It is a task force I am asking to advise me as president on whether this is a matter we should bring forward for convention action”
And, no one should mistake Wright’s "task force" as a sideways maneuver to avoid the necessary red tape Baptist polity demands in getting something like this to the floor of the convention--or passed by the convention. Indeed, if one does question the political viability of Wright’s decision to unilaterally take it upon himself to study the issue apart from convention sanction, one is obviously opening himself or herself up to the horrendous charge of character assassination of our beloved president. Of course, these same self-appointed defenders of all things new and improved in SBC life--especially those things spoken from the decidedly GCRTF-driven personalities--completely overlook the question many of us raise about spitting on the grave of historic Baptist polity. And, they do so all the while arguing their own preference-oriented case for a name change. Do ends justify means? In this case, perhaps they do...perhaps they do.
Enough of that.
Here’s my take on the possible name change per se:
I don’t give two shakes of a gnat’s behind whether or not we are called “The Southern Baptist* Convention” provided:
- we can avoid the legal pitfalls (//link)
- the costs (both financial and non-financial) are not prohibitive (//link)
- we come up with a moniker which is no more offensive than the one we possess** (/link)
If those are met, why would we not think about it? We’ve done so before and no reason exists that we cannot do so again provided we enter the process without a preconceived agenda which forces us to ignore the substantial reasons why we failed to follow through with the process we started so many times before (e.g. 1903).
Of course, an additional provision—one about which my chief contention addresses—concerns the way Southern Baptists proceed forward in changing their name. Should the entire Southern Baptist Convention during its regular annual meeting be consulted as to the will of the body, or may the president, without care for what the body has decided in the recent past, unilaterally appoint a “task force” group to take up the quest? It is the last provision which so woefully lacks in the president’s action.
For my part, seeing Baptist polity seemingly trampled by men who apparently read powers of the president into the bylaws in order to proceed forward without the usual required convention sanction solicits from me a simple decision which negates my sitting idly by and remaining silent while Jerusalem burns. The truth is, the present action of the president and fellow leaders demonstrate vividly the difference between first-generation Conservative Resurgence leaders and second generation Conservative Resurgence leaders. While first-generation Conservative Resurgence leaders exploited the power of the presidency explicitly within the bylaws of the Southern Baptist Convention, and consequently took control of trustees and boards, eventually purging it of those favorable to moderate-liberal causes, neo-Conservative Resurgence leaders find presidential empowerment for action where such power is not explicitly prohibited by the bylaws.
That is to say, the former CR generation beat the system by using the system in place while the latter CR generation is attempting to beat the system by abusing the system in place. During the Conservative Resurgence, we found a way to purge the system of moderate-liberals by manipulating legitimate constitutional powers of the president. Today’s neo-CR leaders apparently have little patience for such a twenty-year process, however. Instead they manufacture illegitimate constitutional powers for the president, consequently working around Baptist polity and not within Baptist polity.
Sadly, according President Wright’s precedent, we’ve just started down a road of no return. Now every president can (and will, if he has a mind to) appoint a “task force” for any pet project conceivable. Why? Because the bylaws do not prohibit him from doing it, that’s why. As Executive Committee (EC) chair, Roger Spradlin reminded the Monday night group concerning “the wisdom of discussing a name change” not the issue before them:
"If this is a can of worms -- [if] that's how you would want to characterize it -- we, meaning the Executive Committee, are not opening that… The president has made an announcement.... We can't take action on whether a group of volunteers is appointed by the president. That's under his purview" (//link)
Yes, but is the EC required to recognize the president’s request? The answer must be no. Hence, in recognizing President Wright’s unilateral appointment, the EC ipso facto sanctioned the president’s unilateral appointment of a “task force” whether or not they actually stated such a sanction.
Nonetheless, Southern Baptists who care for our convention are supposed to sit back and be silent?
I’m afraid it’s just not that easy for some of us.
With that, I am…
*abandoning “Baptist” is another question entirely
**I’m afraid those who simplistically suggest “Southern” is both regionalized and attached to “slavery” are just not thinking it through sufficiently. If we’re going to be persuasive, we’ve got to get beyond the surface “conventional wisdom” (no pun intended) to argue the case