The annual Southern Baptist Convention was the 3rd convention in which conservative Baptist were mobilized against the liberal drift in the denomination. In this convention, the conservatives would see both continued setbacks and substantial gains, previously unseen in the previous conventions. In 2021, the conservatives lost the presidential race winning only a minor office of first vice president and overriding the resolutions committee on a real pro-life resolution. In 2022, conservatives got blown out having no accomplishments at the convention. Conservatives speculated that New Orleans, being located in Louisiana, would be favorable to their cause whereas Anaheim was not.
Previously, Evangelical Dark Web has covered the Bart Barber reelection, the defeat of Rick Warren, and the passage of the Mike Law amendment and a motion that undermines it. However, because livestreaming the convention in its entirety amounted to long hours we have not done a complete written coverage of the convention yet. That analysis and coverage is what we are doing today.
Beginning with the call to order, Bart Barber was charming, funny, and had general command of the audience. During the first opportunity to file motions, conservatives dominated the mic; however, many of these motions were ruled out of order because of sloppy wording. For instance, one messenger followed a motion to release The video of Mike Stone’s interaction with the alleged sex abuse survivor Hannah-Kate Williams prior to the vote for the convention president. This amendment was ruled out of order for being unachievable. Fellow discernment blogger, Michelle Lesley filed a motion related to Tom Buck which was ruled out of order for suspicious reasons. Overall it seemed like a good morning at the time. The Southern Baptist Convention lead with its best. They showcased missions early. Although Kevin Ezell fumbled on the North American mission board report, the international mission board report would create an environment in which the platform was seen as competent in their duties and on mission for Christ.
But when Bart Barber gave his address at the convention which functioned as a sermon more so than the convention sermon itself, ironically, a tone was set. The Southern Baptist Convention was to be portrayed as an organization not on decline, and that anyone suggesting otherwise was a divisive malcontent. You were made to be the bad guy for opposing the current trajectory of the SBC. This became the theme of the convention from the platform.
After returning from lunch, the microphone suddenly stopped working after a morning where conservatives dominated them. Evidently, New Orleans is renowned for suspicious activity as the sudden microphone outage was reminiscent of Super Bowl 47 where a partial power outage was used to delay the game. This would be used to pass a resolution, resolution 4, which affirmed amnesty for illegal aliens. Surprisingly, there was no debate on this issue.
The election of the president was an unmitigated disaster for Mike stone and conservatives. This was easily foreseeable as Mike Stone ran a horrendous campaign on the wrong issues. However, it is quite the achievement that he received 5% less than he did on the first ballot in 2021. In other words, the messengers did not like Mike Stone. The executive committee report, given by Willie McLaurin, also turned out to be a guilt trip for the lack of commitment to the institution of the Southern Baptist Convention. And a speech that started out rendering some bad news, ultimately McLaurin appeared angry at the messengers for the issues facing the denomination. It’s worth noting that the Conservative Baptist Network has been singing his praises.
Then we had the votes to disfellowship churches are not. The votes would not be reported that day. But Fern creek began with its female pastor claiming to be more conservative than many messengers, in a thinly veiled jab at Mark Dever for locking down his church. Her mic was cut off as she went overtime. Al Mohler responded to her and put the smackdown. Fern Creek lost their appeal by a vote of 91.85% to 7.63%.
Next up was Freedom Church who allegedly mishandled alleged sex abuse. There was a conflicting account as the church showed contrition and demonstrated that they had taken corrective steps. Dean Inserra gave a dubious rebuttal which insinuated that the church is lying and claimed that the alleged sex abuser was pulling the strings in their church until the Southern Baptist controversy blew over. Despite this, the messengers voted 96.46% to disfellowship Freedom Church.
Then there was Saddleback. Rick Warren gave a poor performance wanting to debate the issue, when it would have probably been more strategic to champion his own resume. Rick Warren lost his argument with God, and the SBC voted 88.46% against him.
LifeWay gave its report and it could not have been further from the previous year’s trajectory. Last year, we noted the LifeWay report as one of the shining moments for the convention. This year, they focused on VBS. Ben Mandrell, of LifeWay then struggle sessioned messengers who objected to some of LifeWay’s material.
Brent Leatherwood then gave the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission report. The ERLC is documented supporting gun control legislation in Tennessee and opposing pro-life legislation in Louisiana. However, Leatherwood flippantly claimed that the ERLC was involved in conservative legislation at the state level. The gun control piece was not mentioned. Brent Leatherwood received only one question from a pro-life Christian. In his answer, Brent Leatherwood erroneously claimed that women who take abortion pills are not the ones murdering their own children.
Todd Unzicker gave the convention sermon, if you could call it a sermon. It was a pep talk for a pep rally. From the bully pulpit, Unzicker took shots at Mike Stone, Founders Ministry. Again the theme of the convention was that if you see problems in the SBC, you are the problem.
The Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force (ARITF) gave a presentation defending the use of “independent” third party investigation results to justify labeling someone a sex abuser. Mike Keahbone cried on the stage. Southern Baptist would debate more on printed bulletins than they would on credibly accused.
Then the Mike Law amendment was passed, which we’ve previously covered, but Southern Baptist were very hungry at that point.
The seminary presidents gave their reports. Danny Akin’s (SEBTS) numbers sucked so he told stories. Jeff Iorg (GTS) gave an excellent report. Jason Allen (MBTS) gave an adequate report and then cowered on the abortion question he received. James Dew Jr. (NOBTS) attempted a “Jesus Juke” in lieu of a report as his numbers also sucked. Al Mohler (SBTS) articulated the problem of the pastor replacement rate in the SBC. David Dockery the new president of the disgraced SWBTS gave a report on the regime changed that attempted to raise confidence in the institution.
Bart Barber lost professionalism as the day went on. During the debate on James Merritt’s motion to create a task force, Barber ended debate after Dusty Deever’s poison pill amendment failed, citing a clock expiration. Rather then extend time, he called the vote.
Additionally, during the subsequent debates on resolutions, Bart Barber called on three messenger consecutively to speak against a conservative amendment to Resolution 7, violating Robert’s Rules of Order.
Dean Inserra was voted to give the convention sermon next year in Indianapolis.
The Southern Baptist Convention has contrived a narrative on sex abuse so that when they take action on an issue they contrived, they look like the heroes when they solve it. And they signal their virtue to this inglorious end whilst ignoring the marked decline of the organization. Messengers reject accountability and routinely vote liberals for offices.
The conservatives are leaderless appealing to Al Mohler’s credibility because they struggle to establish their own. The conservative victories were helmed by woke leaders like Juan Sanchez, 9 Marks, and Al Mohler. The conservatives won on policy, but they did not win on personnel. And the saying goes, personnel is policy. Thus, 2023 was a disaster but not wholly unmitigated.
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