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Willy Rice

The Willy Rice Redemption Arc

Back in 2022, Willy Rice was nominated to replace Ed Litton as Southern Baptist President, but before the convention, scandal torpedoed him. At the time, Willy Rice was in league with the liberal bloc who advanced Critical Race Theory and the abuse narrative on churches. He famously gave the convention sermon where he said “Being a jerk is a real thing” to downplay Critical Race Theory. Now he’s one of the good guys who knows what time it is.

Willy Rice went on the Center For Baptist Leadership podcast and also wrote an article there called An SBC Odyssey.

I was almost President of the SBC. I’m truly grateful that didn’t happen. I suppose many others share that sentiment for vastly different reasons, but it does not matter to me. I am profoundly grateful and consider it an act of God’s merciful providence that he kept me from succeeding in that venture when such success looked somewhat likely.

I say this without resentment or rancor. What any others may have meant for evil, God intended for good. God used that season and that painful experience to alter my perspective on many matters now facing the SBC. My theology and convictions have not changed, but my perspective surely has. I thought I understood where the boundaries were in SBC life. I thought I understood the difference between real and pressing issues and the others that appeared to be “made up” and merely distractions. I thought I would be prepared to step into the highest levels of leadership for the SBC after a lifetime of denominational experience at a multiplicity of levels.

Rice reflects on how God took something away from him, ultimately for his benefit.

So, when I first heard the criticisms of those claiming a new leftward drift, I dismissed them. I saw the critics as malcontents and misinformed, much like backslidden recalcitrant church members that every pastor has faced a time or two. I guess you can never please everyone. And, of course, there were plenty of examples to confirm my bias. There were uncharitable statements, untrue accusations that could be easily disproven, and personal vendettas that seemed easy to dismiss. Upon further reflection, I now realize that some of those statements that I dismissed as “uncharitable” were true, even if I didn’t have the ears to hear them quite yet.

A major shift for Rice is that he has finally seen the liberal drift in the Southern Baptist Convention. Willy Rice acknowledged the problem and his role in not being a part of the solution. From there, Willy Rice takes on the abuse narrative where the Southern Baptist Convention branded itself as a hive of sex abuse and sex abuse coverup despite the lack of evidence for this conclusion.

However, we must end the perpetual self-flagellation that hopes for an absolution from secular priests that will never come. For them, ruin, not redemption, was always the end game. The Southern Baptist Convention got the Brett Kavanaugh treatment—and probably for the same reasons. 

The first rule of holes is not to get in one. The second rule is when you’re in one, quit digging. We’ve gotten ourselves into a massive hole. We need to quit digging. Some of us will have to get off a high horse we’ve been riding. Some apologies need to be made. We must reverse this current course.

We now know the Executive Committee hid nothing. The whole Guidepost investigation was a snipe hunt. The waving of attorney-client privilege was financial malpractice. Labeling nearly anything and everything as sexual abuse, rather than sticking to biblical definitions and categories, was a massive misdirection ploy.

Willy Rice called out the labeling of sex abuse things that are not categorically sex abuse which the Guidepost Report heavily relied on.

It’s time to shut down the ARITF and reject the unwise proposal for an Abuse Reform Commission. It’s time to once and for all stop the idea that we can create some quasi-legal system on our own that denies due process, ignores legal rights, and torpedoes our own polity. It’s time to elect leaders who understand what has happened and will not be pressured or manipulated to continue this current course. 

Willy Rice concludes that the Southern Baptist Convention must abandon the abuse narrative, ending its grip on the institution. He ends the article with the hope that his change of heart will inspire others.

It’s rare to see one of the baddies become a good guy for the right reasons. This is not a Mark Dever situation. This is truly the work of God in Willy Rice’s life. You love to see that.

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