A month and a half have passed since the 2022 Annual Southern Baptist Convention, and it is about time we assess the conservative leadership fighting to restore the Southern Baptist Convention to orthodoxy and orthopraxy. In the second straight convention, the Conservative Baptist Network fielded candidates and lost the presidential race in the convention. Moreover, the trajectory from 2021 to 2022 shows that the Conservative Baptist Network is losing ground. The Conservative Baptist Network believes that in New Orleans, turnout will improve their chances. But this is a moot argument because of how limp the Conservative Baptist Network has been so far.
In the last month and a half, the Conservative Baptist Network has publicly celebrated the overturn of Roe v Wade, but they have done nothing else. There is no recap or lessons learned. There is no self-awareness. Instead, there is a posture of optimism, in that the Conservative Baptist Network is “just getting started.” Tom Ascol is talking about how Bart Barber is a great guy and a substantial upgrade from Ed Litton. Last year, Ed Litton and Al Mohler were great guys, according to Mike Stone and Tom Ascol.
Indeed, the Conservative Resurgence took several years to succeed, but this main argument of the Conservative Baptist Network falls flat when the situation is arguably worse, information more readily available, and the messaging is nonconfrontational.
In order, the situation is far worse. Since the liberals in the convention today cannot simply openly embrace modernism of the past, they instead openly embrace feminism in the present. The absolute agnosticism demonstrated on the definition and function of a pastor, the covert embrace of Critical Race Theory, and the absolution of sin for women who get abortions and or have adulterous relationships are all tangible evidences of a leftward drift. Additionally the promotion of Rick Warren at the annual convention is celebrating evil, and the corruption at the North American Mission Board is unprecedented. The Southern Baptist Convention has a sadomasochistic obsession with calling themselves a hive of sex abuse and yet Christians want to remain.
It is undeniable with the internet, youtubers, reporters, etc. that information is more readily available than ever. During the Conservative Resurgence, forms of communication were phone, letter, and radio. These methods are far more costly than a Tweet. The original Conservative Resurgence didn’t have the benefit of online discernment ministries. The Conservative Baptist Network instead uses online discernment ministries only to throw them out when they exceed their usefulness. I give credit to Rod Martin for being a general exception, but overall, the Conservative Baptist Network was unsupportive of the Enemies Within The Church documentary. Michael Spradlin is part of the Conservative Baptist Network Steering Council (more on them later). As president of Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary he gave a lot of credence to the Conservative Baptist Network as a non Cooperative Program seminary. In 2022, Michael Spradlin would revoke his previous support of the Enemies Within The Church documentary. Judd Saul, the producer of the documentary, credits the CBN with this compromise. In any case, it appears that charismatics embraced this documentary more than Baptists.
The messaging of the Conservative Baptist Network leaves much to be desired. In 2021, the “take the ship” messaging was conflated with pirate imagery, which is both unsanitary and unchristian. In 2022, the messaging started out as “change the direction” and at the convention was “We have a book.” The first sounded both vague and liberal. The second was more grounded but directionless. Donald Trump’s messaging of “Make America Great Again” resonated because the average American understood America was in declined and was excited to hear a politician say that. The average Southern Baptist isn’t on Twitter and cannot be bothered to be informed, so these mottos do nothing to instill a sense of decline or liberal drift. They think Al Mohler is a good guy. They think Bart Barber is a conservative. And guess what? So does most of the Conservative Baptist Network. The Conservative Baptist Network cannot convince normie Southern Baptists that the convention is in liberal drift because the Conservative Baptist Network is convictionless in their own messaging. Even George Costanza knew this when he famously quipped, “It’s not a lie if you believe it.”
The leadership of the Conservative Baptist Network, Rod Martin and Brad Jurkovich, want to continue the fight. They want to shift the conversation from “when do we quit (the SBC)?” to “where do we fight?” believing in better chances in New Orleans. Yet the unexpectedly high turnout in Anaheim does not bode well for what additional turnout will entail for the convention. More turnout could mean worse margins.
But failure is not the reason for my vote of no confidence in the Conservative Baptist Network. My reasons are twofold.
First, the Conservative Baptist Network has failed to communicate a viable strategy yet controls most of the movement to save the Southern Baptist Convention. In cooperation with Founders Ministry, The CBN holds a monopoly on SBC conservative opposition. The Christians in the SBC have no viable alternative to the elites without going through these ineffectual organizations. Meanwhile, the Conservative Baptist Network has squandered time. In this massive squander, the CBN has built a Steering Council of currently fifty-one members. They have built infrastructure of conferences and prayer lines, but they have neither crafted good messaging nor increased turnout. Moreover, in order to have more votes in the Southern Baptist Convention, the Conservative Baptist Network would have to fund the wolves. Each year they lose would entrench Kevin Ezell deeper. In order to actually rectify the situation of the SBC, they would need several years of consistent victory at the annual meeting. They have not proven they can actually win, let alone that they know how. Therefore, they encourage a sunk cost fallacy on conservative Southern Baptists.
Second, abandoning the Southern Baptist Convention is not abandoning the fight. When Tom Ascol campaigned on trying to “out-nice” Bart Barber and Mike Stone is saying no one’s a liberal, the Conservative Baptist Network has no grounds to say that churches leaving the SBC are quitting the fight because they aren’t actually fighting. If the Conservative Baptist Network is not actually fighting, what then is their objective? Controlled opposition. Evangelical Dark Web does not stand for controlled opposition more interested in booking conferences with Big Pharma shill, Robert Jeffress than calling out false teachers in the Southern Baptist Convention. They are more interested in cloaking Dwight McKissic as a brother than combating his heresy.
As they build their own Big Eva infrastructure, they will increasingly become hostile to outside movements. To the online discernment ministries, this was about doctrine. This was about the church. But for the Conservative Baptist Network, this will increasingly be about power and control. They don’t want to topple Kevin Ezell. They covet Kevin Ezell. While I believe Rod Martin fights in good faith, I believe the Conservative Baptist Network collectively does not.
Therefore, Evangelical Dark Web is signaling a vote of no confidence in the Conservative Baptist Network and encourages other faithful Baptists to do the same.