The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) had their regular meeting in Dallas, Texas. And in an incredibly embarrassing move the SBC had Mike Pence speak. The controversial Vice President turned the opportunity into a political speech about Donald Trump. If I were a SBC pastor I would be deeply embarrassed to be affiliated with the SBC. Today’s post looks at how Garrett Kell from Del Ray Baptist here in the D.C. area tried to get Pence canceled. Plus John Fea offered some great analysis on the situation. Finally from my perspective I am arriving at the conclusion that for many evangelicals faith is not about following God, instead its a political party where “faith” is just a means to an end.
“There are many men of principle in both parties in America, but there is no party of principle.”
Alexis de Tocqueville
“Those who are too smart to engage in politics are punished by being governed by those who are dumber.”
“I offer my opponents a bargain: if they will stop telling lies about us, I will stop telling the truth about them.”
But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior.
Philippians 3:20 NLT
Southern Baptists have you accepted Donald Trump as your personal Lord and Savior?
Mike Pence speaks to the Southern Baptists
There is a lot of ground to cover in today’s post. Before I get into the issue of Mike Pence speaking at the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) meeting let me explain why I do not write more about the SBC
Why Don’t I Write More About the Southern Baptists?
The other day I received a question as to why I don’t write more about the SBC. Let me explain why. First of all this blog is committed to writing about the Evangelical Free Church of America (EFCA). To my knowledge there really isn’t a blog out there that writes about the EFCA. So I look at that denomination and explore the issues and study it. The fact of the matter is that if I spent a lot of time writing about the SBC, then I would not be able to write all that I could about the EFCA. For example there are theological conferences to research and write about. You can read about the most recent EFCA theological conference, in “EFCA’s Upcoming Theological Conference: The Gospel, Compassion and Justice. A Review of the Speakers and Some Personal Thoughts.” Plus there are theological issues to write about such as how Neo-Calvinists are violating the “Significance of Silence” to hijack churches. You can read about that in, “Inside the EFCA are Neo-Calvinists Violating the “Significance of Silence” to Hijack Churches?” And then there are other developments such as how the EFCA is responding to flooding in the Baltimore, Maryland area. You can read about that in, “Stillmeadow Community Church in Baltimore, Maryland is a Staging Area for Flood Relief.” If I spent a lot of time writing about the SBC, or the scandal at Willowcreek with Bill Hybels, then I wouldn’t be able to write about the EFCA, atheism or other topics. That doesn’t mean I am going to completely ignore the SBC. After all I have been writing about SBC churches in the Washington, D.C. area. From David Platt at McLean Bible, to Nick Roark at Franconia Baptist, and finally Mark Dever’s Capitol Hill Baptist Church. So while I won’t ignore the SBC, the fact is that there are other topics in the EFCA to explore and cover. Its important for me to stay focused in the end.
Garrett Kell Express Concerns About Mike Pence Speaking and Tries to Get Him Canceled
The SBC had their annual meeting in the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center of Dallas. I believe about 10,000 delegates showed up at the event. The Wondering Eagle is not going to do a full review of the conference, instead I am going to focus on one issue that developed. On June 11, 2018 the Baptist Press reported that Mike Pence was scheduled to speak. A number of people became deeply upset. In response to this development Garrett Kell of Del Ray Baptist introduced a motion to cancel Pence and replace him with a time of prayer. This happened the same day Pence was announced. On June 12, 2018 Garrett released a statement about Pence speaking and Matt Smethurst who is the managing editor of The Gospel Coalition also congratulated him on speaking out. The last time the Southern Baptists met in Phoenix, Arizona; Garrett challenged the SBC president at the 2017 meeting in Phoenix, Arizona to condemn the alt right. It is important especially given how the SBC was founded over the belief that slavery was biblical. I wrote about that in, “What The Wondering Eagle Appreciates and Respects About Neo-Calvinism.”
I transcribed Garrett’s statement below which you can read for yourself.
My name is Garrett Kell, and I am a messenger from Del Ray Baptist Church in Alexandria, Virginia. I would like to make a motion to amend the agenda to replace Mike Pence’s address on Wednesday with a time of prayer.
To be be clear, this has nothing to do with Mr. Pence personally. From my understanding he is a born-again Christian man and attends one of the churches in our convention. I think we should pray for him in his all-important service of our country.
But as a pastor that strives to grow in unity, gospel faithfulness, and mission efforts in our local churches, I have three brief concerns regarding this decision and the way it affects our local churches and gospel partners.
1) Unity of our church.
For many years we have been talking about loving and listening to our minority brothers and sisters. This invitation [to Pence] does nothing to suggest that we actually listening. Not only are many of us in this room hurt and bothered by this invitation, but also many of our minority brothers and sisters will especially be hurt by this invitation and I fear it will communicate to many of them that our political associations are more important than our associations with them.
2) Clarity of the Gospel.
What binds this Convention together is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Because of that, this Convention ought to be marked by the things we share in common, not things that faithful Christians can disagree with. By associating publicly with any administration, we send a mixed message to our members suggesting that to be faithful to the Gospel we ought to align with a political administration. We must do all that we can to preserve the purity of the Gospel, and this invitation [to Mike Pence] works against it. I even had a perspective member this week ask me if they needed to vote Republican in order to join our church….
3) Safety of our Overseas Workers.
Whether rightly or wrongly, this current administration provokes strong reactions and in some cases great hostility in many regions of the world. I’m not here to debate those policies at all. But publicly aligning our workers with this or any administration puts our workers in unnecessary risk because of the decisions of an administration. What is said in Washington echoes around the world and having Mr. Pence come [to the SBC meeting] further hinders our work I think.
In conclusion, I would like us to consider Romans 14:19: “So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.” Which is the reason I would like us to reconsider this invitation because brothers and sisters right now there is a world filled with people who are going to hell and what we need to be about is the Gospel, and anything that can distort that I think is a step backward and not a step forward. Thank you.
John Fea wrote about Garrett Kell in, “Virginia Southern Baptist Pastor: Replace Pence Speech With a Time of Prayer.” The revolt and attempt to get Pence canceled received some notable press. Here are a few examples.
- The Hill, “Southern Baptist Convention votes to keep Pence as speaker.”
- Fort Worth Star-Telegram, “Do politics belong in Southern Baptist Convention? Some say vice president’s visit too divisive.”
- Tennessean, “Vice President Mike Pence will address the Southern Baptist Convention. But some aren’t happy about it.”
- Washington Post, “Evangelicalism has had a race, gender and age problem for years. Pence’s appearance before Southern Baptists highlighted it.”
- Washington Post, “#MeToo cases in the spotlight as Southern Baptists convene.“
The Wondering Eagle supports Garrett Kell in his motion to get Pence scratched from the SBC agenda. While I am not a fan of Neo-Calvinism I respect and appreciate how they address racism and politics. Traditional evangelicalism is bankrupt in this area. You can read about that in the above post. This has been the second time in two conventions that the pastor from Del Ray Baptist has spoken up and addressed the issues facing the SBC. He is to be commended and its the right thing to do. I will write about it more below, but in the traditional evangelical wing of the SBC, I am beginning to look at it, not as a faith system in Jesus, but instead as a political party. But like Matt Smethurst I just wanted to congratulate the 9 Marks pastor and say that he did do the right thing in his motion in Dallas. Another person who deserves recognition is Jonathan Leeman for his article that he wrote in The Gospel Coalition about Pence speaking in the SBC meeting. You can access that in, “Truth, Power, and Pence at the SBC.”
What Mike Pence Said at the Southern Baptist Meeting
Mike Pence showed up and turned the event into a political speech espousing Donald Trump. He explained how he is a “Christian, a conservative and a Republican” in that order. Early on in the presentation someone, perhaps a Baptist pastor, screamed out “Four more years!” As I watched the presentation early on I had a difficult time trying to understand if this is a speech about faith, or a political campaign speech. However, after a couple of minutes it became purely political. Mike Pence covered a lot of political topics and trumped hard for Donald Trump and started it all by bringing greetings from the 45th president. The Vice-President declared its been “500 days of promises made and promises kept.” It was clear as I watched this that Pence was focused on rallying the SBC for the 2020 election. Other topics that were covered were the plans to repeal the Johnson Amendment which would allow the SBC to become even more political. He went on and talked about how Trump secured our borders, passed a large tax cut, and briefly discussed Trump’s meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jung Un. He closed out his talk by talking about how they were making America great again. The talk was deeply controversial and a number of people were upset. If you want to read more about Pence’s talk you can do so in the following resources.
- Washington Post, “Why Southern Baptists giving Mike Pence a platform is so controversial.”
- CNN, “Pence accused of ‘hijacking’ evangelical meeting.”
- CNN Op-editorial “Mike Pence’s shameless suck up to the boss.”
- ABC News, “Pence gives campaign-style speech to Southern Baptists.”
- Huffington Post, “Mike Pence Boasts About Trump’s Accomplishments At Southern Baptist Meeting.”
- Slate, “Mike Pence Gave a Trump Stump Speech to a Crowd of Southern Baptists, and It Didn’t Go Over Very Well.”
John Fea Analyzes the Situation with the Southern Baptists, Plus Other Tweets
John Fea who writes The Way of Improvement Leads Home, did some analysis of Mike Pence speaking at the SBC meeting in Dallas. His commentary was about how the SBC shot itself in the foot in letting Pence speak. While you can see John’s tweets below , there is a lot that John said in several blog posts that you can read below.
- “Mike Pence Delivers a Trump Stump Speech at the Southern Baptist Convention.“
- “Politicians at the Southern Baptist Convention.“
- “Can the Southern Baptist Convention Think of Any More Ways to Shoot Itself in the Foot?“
- “Weighing-In on the Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention.”
- “Mike Pence Will Visit the Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention.”
For Many Evangelicals Faith is a Political Party and not About God, Plus Some Additional Analysis
As I was researching for this post I saw the Tweet that Dave Hoffman wrote and sent to John Fea. Dave’s Tweet echos how I feel about this situation. Before I get into all that let me start with something that I wonder if the SBC realizes. The largest Protestant denomination has struggled with its history and that of race. It has passed resolutions in trying to deal with its past. Last year there was a resolution about the alt-right that was passed at the SBC. But the question needs to be raised. Is the SBC serious about issues like race? I’ll explain why in a second. Currently the SBC bumbles forward like a drunk in the street tripping over itself especially when you consider what Mike Pence said early in his talk. He praised the formation of the SBC in Augusta, Georgia in 1845 and all the good that came out of it. Consider the SBC was born over the belief that slavery is biblical and yet it appears as if Mike Pence is drawing attention to its troubled roots. How does that help unity I often wonder? But also consider that the speech came at about the time Donald Trump threw his weight behind the Virginia Republican Senate candidate for 2018. Here in Virginia we have a disturbing situation, the Republican front runner is Corey Stewert. He’s affiliated with the alt-right and defended the Charlottesvile Neo-Nazi rally and posed for pictures with with the organizer. Many people are horrified and distancing themself from Stewart. You can read about this here and here. So while Pence was speaking and promoting Donald Trump this morning, Trump was embracing an alt-right candidate in return. Is that what the SBC stands for? After all in the previous SBC meeting I thought they condemned the alt-right. Now they heard from a representative of the Trump White House who promotes the questionable and troubled president. Is that what the SBC is about?
This development also raises another issue, in that you just had the Paige Patterson situation and a move to take a stand against abuse in the SBC. Is the SBC opposed to abuse when they they welcome one of the main enablers of abuse in society today? This is a legitimate question that deserves an honest answer. Then on the flip side there is this component. There are many traditional evangelicals in the SBC who embrace Donald Trump and excuse his abuse. Honestly there are some individuals who make a serious issue over child sexual abuse in the SBC or more who still support Trump and excuse his abuse. Does that makes any sense? If you are claiming to be against abuse in one context but excuse and defend abuse in other forms then I will claim that you are indeed bitter. You can’t be selective about abuse just because you want a Supreme Court seat. Its long past time that this issue be addressed. I am opposed to abuse in all forms no matter where it happens at. If you claim to be opposed to abuse in the SBC but then you support Donald Trump and excuse his abuse, you’re not opposed to abuse in the end. You are spinning your wheels and wasting your time.
Next here is another point that needs to be raised. Do many Southern Baptists realize that they are being used by the Trump administration? Its kind of like how in high school or college sometimes a person will use someone for sex. You don’t care, and in the end you get what you want. In the process you use the person and you drop them because you obtained what you desired. The allure for political power is corrupting and destroying evangelical Christianity in the United States. Sometimes I honestly wonder, what do evangelical Christians believe or stand for? I won’t spend time on what Garrett Kell brought up in his statement. What Garrett said was in my mind when I contemplated the situation. The thing that disturbed me the most is that this action by the SBC put missionary workers in harms way abroad. By turning the SBC so political, will people out in the field want to hear the Gospel? Or will SBC missionaries become greater targets for terrorism because of how people in other parts of the world view Donald Trump?
But as I look at the last point let me spend some time with what Dave Hoffman said. My mind is shifting about traditional evangelicals since 2016. From the 81% who voted for Trump to the strong supporters who blindly defend him today I want to ask those evangelicals what exactly is faith to you? Is faith about believing in God or is it a means to an end? What do I mean? Well is faith not about God is it a means to nominate a Supreme Court justice or control the Congress? Is faith a political party? Is faith a Christian national political movement? I ask this in all honesty because it appears for many that it is..faith IS a political party. Jesus suffered, died and cried out in pain before taking his last death so that evangelicals can politically work to deny gay marriage to two gay atheists, or prevent the teaching of evolution in a public school classroom. Is that what the Christian faith about? I ask this in all honesty because in my mind its becoming more prominent an issue. For some politics is about faith, and faith is about politics. Where does one end and another begin? For the SBC it take a lot of talent to screw up repeatedly and regularly. Not many people are as gifted. How an organization can not only shoot itself in both feet, but also their shin, knees, and hands is beyond me. If I were in the SBC after this spectacle I would be embarrassed. I would hang my head in shame if I went along with this effort. Pence never should have spoken. He doesn’t belong in the pulpit, he belong in the pews. That SBC pastor (I am guessing) who screamed four more years articulated what many parts of the SBC is about. The SBC is about division and politics. The SBC for many is a political party. That is sad, but that is what the SBC has chosen. That is how it will be, and that is why I think many SBC personalities should walk for the doors. In the beginning of this post I put the speech Mike Pence gave in Cleveland at the Republican National Convention in 2016. The speech Mike Pence gave this morning in Dallas, well I have a hard time seeing how its any different. So in a sarcastic way that is why I labeled it as the SBC convention speech. This is a post I wish I didn’t have to write. But the SBC meeting was an outrage when you see the political rally it became. That is it for the day guys, please know that you are loved.