Apparently Not


The cover story in the current (Sept.) issue of Baptists Today explores the question of whether loyal-critic bloggers will bring reform to the Southern Baptist Convention. These unofficial leaders were widely credited for helping elect a non-establishment candidate for SBC president in 2006.
They have pointed out the raw power and personal excesses of some denominational leaders. They have called the convention to envision a future that requires new approaches to ministry while remaining theologically conservative.
However, between the time the news journal went to press and when it arrives in mailboxes this week, the influential web site SBCOutpost.com went into a tailspin.
Georgia pastor and blogger Marty Duren (above) started the popular site as a primary place for discussing denominational issues such as the continual narrowing of doctrinal parameters within Southern Baptist life.
When Duren decided to focus on missional church issues on a different site, a group of bloggers, led by Micah Fries, took over SBCOutpost. The group promised to build on Duren’s efforts and make it an even more significant place for addressing convention issues.
In their enthusiasm, the SBCOutpost gang sought the approval of some denominational leaders with whom they generally agree on the basic issue of stopping the ensmallment campaign of some SBC leaders whose favorite pastime is questioning the commitment of fellow Christians and adding new rules to keep from having to cooperate with anyone they can’t control.
Several of these less-condemning convention leaders — including SBC President Frank Page — offered their endorsements. Almost immediately, however, they began withdrawing those endorsements when hard-hitting blogger Ben Cole moved his expose’ of powerbroker Paige Patterson to the SBCOutpost site.
While some convention leaders — especially SBC Executive Committee President Morris Chapman and International Mission Board President Jerry Rankin — are privately at odds with Patterson, they could not be seen as being publicly supportive of a web site that is so openly critical of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary president who wields convention-wide influence.
(Patterson made national news recently by starting an undergraduate degree program in homemaking at the Fort Worth school this fall amid criticism from Cole and others.)
Now the SBCOutpost site has lost momentum and focus. It tried to be something it cannot — an open discussion forum that respects diverse opinions, even honestly critical ones that challenge denominational leaders who are rarely questioned, AND an effort receiving the formal blessings of denominational executives they respect.
Reform — as Duren, Cole, Wade Burleson, and other change-oriented bloggers have discovered — requires tough skin, patience and persistence. It doesn’t come with institutional affirmation, especially from those charged with keeping the bureaucracy going.
Walker Knight is the founding editor of Baptists Today, that started in 1983 as SBC Today (not be confused with a new web site by that name that defends Patterson and other controlling personalities in the SBC). He once observed that the least risk-taking persons he ever knew were denominational executives.
He is right and it is understandable. They are measured by success — numbers, dollars. They are concerned with profits, not being prophets.
So if the best efforts at denominational reform are reflected in the recent activities at SBCOutpost, it will be easy to answer the question of whether bloggers will reshape the SBC. Apparently not.
(Print or online subscriptions are available at www.BaptistsToday.org or by calling toll-free 1-877-752-5658.)

8 Comments

  1. Reform seems too strong a word for what these bloggers have been after. They want to halt the continued shift of the convention toward the right. They do not seeking a new center, nor to return the SBC to its previous position. They are pretty happy with where the SBC is and what it currently stands for. They don’t want it to become more rigid or continue down in its current direction.
    Reform signals the idea of much more change than these bloggers seem interested in accomplishing. I don’t see that happening, nor do I expect much success out of their efforts to halt the political machine in operation.
    SBC agencies pushed many out over the last three decades. http://www.theotrek.org“ REL=”nofollow”>They do not want our return.

  2. Burleson may not be a reformer, but he doesn’t appear to seek the endorsement of denominational leadership, either. His post today comparing the SBC’s stand on slavery in the 1800s to its stand against women in the ministry today is an interesting read!

  3. John

    I have sat back and witnessed several mischaracterize our new venture with SBCToday.com. But now I feel compelled to correct your misunderstood perception of our site. I am sorry that I have not had the chance to talk with you personally or exchange emails with you. I am sure that if I did you would be a pleasant fellow. I would hope you would find me pleasant also.

    You stated about SBCToday.com:

    “not be confused with a new web site by that name that defends Patterson and other controlling personalities in the SBC”

    I am quite surprised by your statement in light of the fact that we have not posted more than two articles and those are primarily introductory essays addressing what the site was going to be about. Our intent is to “Restore Unity Through Biblical Discipleship and Baptist Identity.”

    I would graciously ask you and your readers to visit us and see what we have posted thus far. While I am not ruling out a commentary that focuses on a perceived injustice done against some people in the SBC, the intent and purpose of our site is not to defend anyone, but participate in the renaissance of Baptist distinctives that is growing in our convention.

    Thank you for allowing me to comment on your blog.

    God bless.

  4. Robin-My perspective on the new SBCToday.com is based, of course, on postings by you and other SBCToday contributors to your personal blogs and responses to Southern Baptist bloggers seeking to halt the ever-narrowing of SBC participation.
    But I will gladly see how the new site develops in days ahead. Thanks for you input and kindness.
    John Pierce

  5. Robin- Oh, I couldn’t help but be humored a bit at your comment about “the renaissance of Baptist distinctives that is growing in our convention.”
    I can only assume you are referring to the current effort to advance Landmark Baptist teachings within the SBC.
    After nearly 30 years of watching the SBC dismantle such treasures as church-state separation, priesthood of believers and local church autonomy, it’s hard to image a renaissance of real Baptist distinctives.

  6. John

    Sorry I have been late to respond.

    I actually thought with my explanation of what our site was about that you and I could find some common ground and carry on a Christ-like conversation. But it seems you want to mischaracterize many things that I believe in. So I will bid you farewell and pray the Lord’s blessings upon your ministry.

  7. Robin,
    It this a I’m taking my ball and going home mentality that I sense?

    I, personally, would be much more inclined to evaluate the assertion that SBCtoday is leading a renaissance if you could give some detail regarding which statements mischaracterize your site and then show how they do so.

    From your comments, I see that you can only defend yourself by implying that the posts by Mr. Pierce are not Christ-like. And so the obvious conclusion would be that your posts are…right?

    This is my pet-peeve with the current discussions about the SBC. Any disagreement will not be discussed or tolerated. Instead we will scramble to the highest hill and claim moral superiority by saying we are “Christ-like.” I think that in reality we’re probably much closer to blasphemy than we are to the divine.

  8. I had the definitive comment a few minutes ago but it got lost in Attalla, Alabama, cyberspace.
    Bottom line–insert smilie emoticon–is the nexus of the baptist progressive blog world where the elites meet Nascar and the hinterland is my blog.
    To influence public policy and campaign 07 faithinpubliclife.org is place to go
    I got a plug in for the Sept issue of BT at my blog of Sept 5, some of you with the stomach for it may want to view.
    If you stop by, make a comment as I can take some traffic.
    And if bama interests you add my fundy friend johnkillian.blogspotdot com to your reading diet.
    SFox

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