By Will Hall, Message Editor
Despite making an appointment for a phone interview and after a substantive conversation, J.D. Greear declined to participate in a live question and answer session with the Louisiana Baptist Message about his run for the presidency of the Southern Baptist Convention.
During the exchange, Greear made several special requests, some that were acceptable and one that was not.
He asked for questions to be submitted in writing.
The Message declined to grant this privilege because the two other candidates for SBC president — Steve Gaines, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee, and David Crosby, pastor of First Baptist Church in New Orleans, Louisiana — agreed to the live format, which requires the interviewee to be thinking on his feet and avoids getting typed responses ‘written by committee.’
For the record, to start their respective interviews, Gaines and Crosby each were asked to reflect on the axiom “keep the main thing the main thing” and then explain what the “main thing” would be in his presidency. Follow-up questions essentially were the same for both but were asked naturally during the respective conversations.
Greear would have been treated the same.
Greear also asked to see the article ahead of publication, a request the Message agreed was reasonable.
In fact, the Message granted Gaines and Crosby the opportunity to check write-ups of their interviews for accuracy in fact and context, but not to alter the essence of what either said.
Both were helpful in making minor corrections.
Greear would have had the same opportunity.
But, Greear expressed displeasure about an article the Message published about a controversy that emerged in social media among SBC leaders, including serving and retired International Mission Board trustees, regarding a campaign video for Greear which featured a two-second clip by IMB President David Platt.
Two other SBC entity heads also made cameo appearances, Russ Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Some Greear supporters, largely neo-Calvinist millennials, have called newspaper and online articles about the incident “a fake controversy” and dismissed the rap song spoof as nothing more than the initiative of a hip staff member who wanted to do something for her pastor. She has even said it was all her idea.
However, a Platt email stated Greear was the person who asked him to participate, and, Platt said Greear did not divulge to him that the two-second clip Platt made was for a Greear campaign ad.
Greear argued to the Message the email was a “private letter” and should not have been used without Platt’s permission.
However, the Louisiana Baptist Message received the exchange between Platt and a trustee with the understanding it was free to share with anyone, in accordance with Platt’s request in the email: “Please be assured (and please assure anyone who asks you about it) that I am not personally (and we are not organizationally) endorsing anyone for SBC president.”
Greear also accused the Message of twisting Platt’s email, although during his conversation with the Message, Greear indicated he had not actually seen the email.
In fact, Greear asked to see the Platt email, despite his insistence it was a “private letter,” and the Message forwarded a copy for Greear to read for himself what Platt wrote – and the Message asked Greear to point out any deviations between the published article and the email.
In the end, Greear did not offer the requested feedback and via a subsequent email declined to be interviewed.
As a final note, the trustee who received Platt’s email told the Message the article accurately portrayed how he read Platt’s comments.
The 2016 SBC Annual Meeting will be held in St. Louis, Missouri, June 14-15, and the election of a new president will take place the afternoon of the first day.