Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) leadership is as confusing to me as a sleeveless turtleneck. The contradictions are staggering.

Stan Hastey just retired after 20 years with the admittedly small, left-leaning Alliance of Baptists. He explained that the Alliance’s openness to women in ministry and (more so) to gays and lesbians ensured a niche market at best.

In a Religion News Service article on Hastey’s retirement, SBC Ethics leader Richard Land said the Alliance — the first to come out of the SBC after the fundamentalist takeover began in 1979 — had no potential for growth.

Why? Drumbeat please.

“The reason they stayed small is they got very few fish to fish for,” said Land. “In the very large Southern Baptist pond, there weren’t very many liberal fish.”

Really? That’s not what we were told during the takeover years. “Liberals” were everywhere. In the seminaries, on the mission field, infiltrating every agency and institution.

Just question the hard-nose tactics of fundamentalists and you could be tagged a “liberal” before you finished your sentence.

Interesting, one of the excuses SBC leaders used for pulling out of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA)a few years ago was that they couldn’t partner with “liberal” Baptist groups like the American Baptist Churches, USA, who they called “pro-homosexual.”

Yet a recent poll by Public Religion Research showed that 80 percent of American Baptist ministers oppose gay marriage and only 28 percent would approve of civil unions for gay couples. But, of course, in the SBC mindset, even associating with someone who holds a different opinion means you embrace that opinion as well.

With the handful of liberals, many moderates and many conservatives (tagged as “liberals”) gone from the SBC, what is swimming around in that pond now?

Well the upcoming gathering in Louisville might reveal what’s left — as the ever decreasing group divides into two new schools.

One group supports SBC Executive Committee leader Morris Chapman’s call to keep things as they are. The other is represented by Georgia pastor and SBC President Johnny Hunt who wants the denominational group to reconsider its organizational efficiency in hopes of directing more church funds to mission and ministries.

Let’s see, MoChap wants to “conserve” the current SBC system. So I guess that makes Hunt and his supporters, oh, yeah, the “liberals.”

Like algae, you just can’t keep the pond clear of them.

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