In my previous post I asked people to lobby me for their candidate for SBC president. As I have thought about this I realize that many of my readers need a bit of a lesson in Southern Baptist polity.
I think the first thing to establish is that the president of the Southern Baptist Convention is largely a figurehead position. What I mean by that is that the SBC itself is not so much a denomination as a collection of independent churches. No president of the convention or Associational Director Of Missions has any actual power over any church. Our statement of faith the BFM 2000 is just that; a statement of faith. We join ourselves together because we hold common beliefs not because of any hierarchy. Our associational DOM has no authority over the 96 churches of the NSRBA. The convention president is the same. He has no real power.
So what does the president do and why even bother going to the convention at all? The president is moderator of the convention, he appoints the committee on committees, and he serves largely as a spokesman for all Southern Baptists to the media.
Let’s look at each of these duties and deal with them separately with the 6 candidates in mind.
First, the SBC president serves as moderator over the convention. This is a 2-day per year job. (In execution, though surely there is a lot of prep work that must be done.) Based on my knowledge of the candidates any of them would be fine in this position. There is a parliamentarian on hand to keep whoever it is straight on the details. It may well be that some of the candidates are a bit more in love with the sound of their own voice than others ;) but the sheer amount of business that must be carried out in two days makes it necessary that the president keep things moving. The position of moderator concludes with the convention sermon, they all have different skills in this regard, but hopefully any of them would be well-prepared and ready to bring God’s word to the convention.
Second, the SBC president nominates the committee on committees. Once upon a time, this was probably the most significant part of the job. Now that the convention as a whole is solidly conservative, and full of inerrentists, most likely all of the candidates would appoint all conservatives to this position. (An aside: I am thankful to God for those who figured out the significance of this and led to the conservative resurgence.)
Third, the convention president largely serves as spokesman and ambassador to the media for the entire denomination. It would be impossible to be a spokesman for the entire group of millions of Southern Baptists. As I stated earlier, we are a very independent group, and only joined because we choose to cooperate. This part of the job is significant because the media does not understand the nature of our convention. So we need an apt spokesperson. I have heard Frank Page say repeatedly that he was approached by all the major presidential candidates and asked for an endorsement. There are many other people who to some degree speak on behalf of Southern Baptists. That is essentially Richard Land’s job description, and to a large degree Al Mohler does the same thing. But there will never be a true replacement for the SBC president. This is the part of the job where the candidates truly begin to separate themselves. This is also one of the reasons that the megachurch pastors have a leg up on the field in most cases.
At this point, for me, the election is down to Frank Cox, Johnny Hunt, and Avery Willis, in no particular order. You basically have one more day to lobby me for your candidate, or disagree with my analysis in the comments. Feel free to do so.
Also as a bonus, here are links to the candidates interviews with Baptist Press