By Mike Stone
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – An old adage advises, “Don’t defend yourself. Your friends don’t need it and your enemies won’t believe it.” That is generally excellent counsel but it fails to envision a majority of people who comprise a third category. Namely, those who are neither friend nor enemy but who are merely uninformed.
Such is the case with the recent accusations made regarding my final meeting as chairman of the SBC Executive Committee (SBCEC). These are serious matters and I believe they warrant a detailed response. I plan to speak further to these items in the immediate days ahead but there are three central items I wish to address briefly today.
- The process of the election of SBCEC officers on June 16th
- The election of officers affiliated with the Conservative Baptist Network
- The reasons for my belief that the Conservative Baptist Network is needed within the life of the Southern Baptist Convention
First, the outgoing chairman of the SBCEC has the duty to nominate the chairpersons of what are essentially subcommittees. These various chairpersons become officers of the board, if elected following nominations from the floor. This is not some parting “power grab” by the outgoing chairman. It is required of the outgoing chairman by the bylaws. Other organizations select officers differently but this is how the SBCEC bylaws operate.
In the days just before our June 16 elections, there was a concerted effort to change the bylaws to give nomination rights to someone else. That last-minute effort failed by a unanimous vote of the then-officers of the EC and by a nearly 90% vote of the full committee.
Mr. Rolland Slade, at the time the Chairman-elect of the SBCEC, now acknowledges he breeched protocol and precedent by offering alternative nominations to those members I nominated, in part because of his misunderstanding of these bylaw matters. He had a right, as did any other member, to offer nominations. But the unusual proceedings gave some the false impression that I was opposing him and his nominees. The truth is exactly the opposite.
Mr. Slade’s error led to a flurry of inflammatory posts on Twitter, accusations of racism against me (Mr. Slade is the first African American to be elected to chair the SBCEC) and the publication of a libelous post on a Baptist blog. The blog post was authored by a sitting member of the SBCEC. It was proofread and authorized for publication by Mr. Slade, further adding to the confusion because it seemed to come from a reliable “inside” source.
These facts are admitted publicly by Chairman Slade and form the underlying basis of an apology to me published this past Friday evening by Baptist Press. I wish to commend Brother Rolland. Apologies are never easy and they are made more difficult in such public circumstances. But his apology last week was a testament to deep faith and godly character. Rolland Slade is my brother and my friend. Alongside Dr. Ronnie Floyd, he will lead the SBCEC well.
Second, I sincerely regret any confusion created surrounding the new officers who are also members of the Steering Council of the Conservative Baptist Network. I only recently joined that Steering Council but I truly understand the question raised by some, especially when the CBN is a newly-formed group still largely unknown to the wider SBC family. In an upcoming article, I will address that legitimate question and I’m grateful for the opportunity to do so.
But let me be clear. There was no conspiracy or hidden effort to elect members of the Conservative Baptist Network as SBCEC officers. Of the four officers I nominated, I was only aware that two of them had any connection to the network. One of the two is the highly-publicized co-founder of the CBN, a fact widely known since February.
Still, the timing of the announcement of the CBN Steering Council created needless controversy. That’s a fair critique, especially when coupled with the unfortunate confusion others created over the bylaw issue mentioned above.
Third and finally, the Conservative Baptist Network is pro-SBC and pro-Cooperative Program. It has not been formed to oppose the SBC but to help the SBC. There is no denial that many pastors across the nation regularly express concerns over various matters in our convention. The CBN does not exist to stand outside the SBC and lob rocks. Rather, it stands within the SBC to reach out to those who are quietly disinvesting and disengaging.
There is no conflict between being a member of the CBN and a leader in the SBC. Many of our SBC entity heads and national leaders regularly, and sometimes formally, affiliate with various networks and fellowships within Baptist and even non-Baptist life. That is to be expected and even welcomed in a great convention as wide and diverse as ours. We must continue to recognize the freedom of association that belongs to each and every Baptist, whether a seminary president, a missionary, a professor, a trustee, an evangelist, a pastor, or a layperson.
I look forward to the immediate days ahead and to elaborating on these matters.
Mike Stone is the immediate past chairman of the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention, the immediate past president of the Georgia Baptist Convention, and the pastor of the Emmanuel Baptist Church in Blackshear, Georgia.