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MY RESPONSE TO RESOLTION #5 OF THE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE: SBC PHOENIX 2011

June 15, 2011

MY RESPONSE TO RESOLTION #5 OF THE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE: SBC PHOENIX 2011

Earlier today, June 13th 2011, I spoke at the Southern Baptist regarding Recommendation #5 from the Executive Board titled “Directing the Executive Committee to Study Greater SBC Involvement for Ethnic Churches and Leaders.” I offered to make an amendment to provision B, D, and H. Each of the amendments were going to say the same thing. However, due to the fact that my first amendment for section B was voted down, I decided it best to allow the Convention to move on without interrupting the flow of business with the same correction for Sections D and H.

                The full statement of Section B on page 44 of the Book of Reports 2011 that I was seeking to amend reads as follows: “The Executive Committee to include a section in the SBC President’s Notebook give to each newly-elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention encouraging the president to give special attention to appointing individuals who represent the diversity within the Convention, and particularly ethnic diversity, among his appointee to the various committees under his purview (Committee on Committees, Credentials Committee, Resolutions Committee, and Tellers Committee);”

The phrase that I had wished to amend was “newly-elected SBC presidents would be encouraged to give special attention to appointing individuals representing the diversity within the convention.”  The revised phrase would have been “newly-elected SBC presidents would be encouraged to give special attention to appointing individuals WHO ARE THE MOST GOSPEL MINDED REGARDLESS OF THEIR ETHNIC BACKGROUND WITHIN THE CONVENTION.” The change I had wished to make is in all CAPS.  The point and intention of this revision was to keep our criteria for any and all appointments to be gospel centered rather than ethnic focused.

If the Convention is going to be required to report the number of ethnic groups, their rate of involvement in the various agencies, etc as per Recommendation #5 then this will certainly put undue pressure on leadership to appoint a particular number of ‘ethnic leaders’. There are a couple of issues I have with the ramifications of this idea. First, I did not know that the ‘we’ (that is, the ‘ones’ who are to include other ‘ethnic people’) of the SBC was considered the “Anglo” SBC. Nowhere in any document have I read nor have I heard that the SBC belongs to the Anglos, and nor does it! The SBC belongs to any and every person(!), regardless of race or ethnicity, who has been born again and agrees to our Baptist statement of faith.  To make a distinction between ‘we’ and ‘them’ is already problematic from an (supposed ‘white’) identity and gospel standpoint.

Second, as far as I am aware no one has ever discouraged any individual and/or group that was non-Anglo from FULL and FREE participation in the life, boards, and/or other agencies of the SBC. To speak as per Recommendation #5 suggests that nothing has been said or offered to non-Anglo ethnic groups is patently false. Page 25 of the Book of Reports itself states that the SBC has given various resolutions that have been adopted to see “greater ethnic participation”.  No less than 11 times (1961, 1964, 1970, 1973, 1974, 1983, 1986, 1989, 1993, 1995, and 2008) prior to this year, the Convention has stated the same goal and desire. The prior resolutions have spoken clearly of the desire of the SBC for any and all to be fully involved and rightfully so!! The problem with Recommendation #5 is that begins to make the leadership and/or President as solely responsible for NOT including ‘non-Anglos’ in the life of the Convention. If there are KNOWN and PROVABLE actions by any (current or prior) SBC leader, entity, and/or agency that has prohibited any ‘non-Anglo’ from participation, this should be brought to the Convention for immediate attention and discipline! Again, no one is to be allowed to act on racist bias within the life of the SBC, and especially its leadership. Resolution #5 seems to suggest that it is for race based reasons that the current and past leadership has not included other (other as opposed to the ‘white SBC’?!!?) ethnicities. Unless evidence is given, an implied accusation like this should not be allowed. To agree to the resolution is to agree to the implied guilt. Again, if there is evidence of guilt, then the evidence needs to be presented and the Convention should take stern and swift action against anyone who has evidenced racial bias. If no evidence is given, then Conventional leadership should not accept the implied guilt for this would be unscriptural. 

Third, requiring the SBC president and/or other agencies to include the number of ethnic groups included in their appointments, agencies, etc entices the leadership to forget Romans 10:12 that “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him.” The apostle Paul sternly rebuked the apostle Peter for acting differently based on someone’s race (Galatians 2:11-13). Again, in Paul’s mind the gospel was at stake. The gospel is to be the unifying theme for any and all ministry, leadership, etc, not the color of one’s skin.  A great Christian leader is always gospel centered.  

Fourth, when Resolution #5 asks leadership to deliberately distinguish between ethnic groups due to including diverse groups, it seems that we as a Convention are forgetting that our Lord is the one and only Savior of all mankind even though He Himself is a Jew. It also seems to forget that all humanity has solidarity in the fact that all ethnic groups are made in the image of God, that all ethnic groups descend from our father Adam, that we all have inherited the same sinful nature as he had, and that there is only one Redeemer (although He is a Jew!!!) for all mankind. Jesus never made His ethnic identity an issue of leadership in his church nor for qualifications of who serves as elders in His church nor for what ethnic group is given favors for serving in the kingdom. There is ‘one Lord, one faith, and one baptism.” (Ephesians 4:5) Why? Because the gospel is the criteria for the unity of the kingdom and the church. When we see the Redeemed gather before the glorious throne of our Redeemer, we see that people from every ‘tribe, tongue, and nation’ (Revelation 5:9,10) are there! They are not there because of the merits of their ethnic identity. (See John 1:12,13) They are there because they have been bought with the precious blood of the Lamb, the unifying grace of the gospel! If this is the criteria that God’s kingdom is based on, why can it not be the determining factor of who is to be our leaders, etc in the SBC regardless of their race?!

Fifth, if the President and other agency leaders are to give specific ‘ethnic diversity’ reports on who is in leadership, etc, then I can easily see this creating tension within the diversity of ethnic groups in the future. Perhaps an example would best illustrate my point. Remember, that for any SBC Agency ‘X’ that there are only so many positions available for appointments.  We have such a multitude of diverse ethnic groups that some of the ethnic groups due to agency size, the leadership will be limited in how many can be represented. For example, suppose that no Polynesians are reported to have been on any of the boards, agencies, etc. How then do we as a Convention not justify having a place for Polynesian leaders on any of the boards if we are to include all ethnic groups? In reality, it’s not a race issue, but a simple logistics issue. But since the ethnic diversity has been pushed towards the front as the criteria for evaluating our involvement of all people groups within the SBC, the debate will shift to ‘supposed’ race based issues rather than a numbers game. This will confuse the issue and cause more struggle within the SBC. Or consider another scenario. Suppose that the best thinkers, strategist, etc are African American. But because we are creating a scenario with Resolution #5 that implies that all ethnic groups are to be involved, leadership will more pressure to dismiss one of the African American appointees to include a Polynesian appointee who may not be as good as a theologian, thinker, and/or strategist as was the African American. Or vice versa.

If we would keep the gospel as the central criteria for any and all appointments, then the Convention’s diversity and unity would be harmonized. I would rather have all Koreans (or pick your ethnic group!) as our leadership in the SBC rather than a part white, black, Hispanic, etc (to satisfy the diversity numbers in the reports) in leadership if the mixed ethnic leaders are not as theologically astute and gospel centered as the Koreans. To put pressure on SBC leaders to include the ‘number of ethnic groups/people’ they have included in their appointments, will tempt the leadership to push the gospel back from being the final court of appeals in selecting appointees.  This will harm the SBC in the long run. If two people live in different cities and yet go towards the same goal, they will eventually meet. If we keep the gospel central in what we are looking for in leadership, then no matter what ethnic group, cultural influence, etc we all come from, we will meet at our common goal: at the feet of our Jewish Messiah.

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