We didn't vote on the debate. We didn't vote on Morris Chapman's sermon. We voted solely upon the text of the EC statement, and that text is so vague that a dozen different interpretations of it are already floating around the SBC. Please note, before anyone alleges that I am spinning out of sour grapes, the indisputable fact that I endorsed the motion before it ever came to the floor for discussion, and at a time when the messengers had just minutes before (in the announced 1VP results) demonstrated plainly that this body of messengers was not sympathetic to Wade Burleson's movement. What possible reason can you give for me to have endorsed that motion at that particular moment other than the one I have expressed publicly—that I had honestly concluded that I agreed with the statement? Any statement on this topic with which I and Les Puryear both agree is, by definition, a vague statement. (Bro. Les is a great guy, but everyone must concede that he and I represent the two opposite poles on this particular question) David Rogers has an excellent and introspective post about the antipathy between political expediency and plain speech. David, to his credit, is much better at the latter than the former. David the denominational politician obviously wasn't my candidate. David the thinker and plain speaker is much more to my liking. I don't think that David ever gave up plain speaking, but in political life one is always surrounded by people who do much of your speaking for you, as obviously took place with David. Anyway, the post is here, and I highly recommend it. I think that the EC statement on the BF&M is a victim of precisely the phenomenon about which David writes. The statement was crafted for political effect, and somewhere in the process it ceased to say what its supporters wanted it to say. It belongs in the category of political expediency rather than open communication. This reason, I believe, explains why the statement is so vague. I propose that we do something entirely out of the ordinary—let us seek open communication about this contentious issue, and in so doing, let us seek peace rather than political advantage. Let us put up in 2008 a plainly written statement. Perhaps we just ought to take Dr. Chapman's statement in his sermon (lifted from Wade Burleson's site):
(1) Any practice instituted by an entity in the Southern Baptist Convention that has the force of doctrine should be in accord with the Baptist Faith and Message and not exceed its boundaries unless and until it has been approved by the Southern Baptist Convention and secondly, (2) If an entity of the Southern Baptist Convention adopts a confession of faith separate and distinct from the Baptist Faith and Message and it includes a doctrine unsupported by our confessional statement, the entity should request approval from the Convention prior to including the doctrine in its confession.Now that sermon, my friends, says things plainly (but, unfortunately, we did not vote upon the plainspoken sermon, but upon the vague politically expedient text). Do you notice all the things Dr. Chapman's quote possesses that are not in the EC statement? It is specific and pointed. It spells out the procedures involved. Yes, there is a phrase or two that cries out for meaningful definition ("that has the force of doctrine"???), but Dr. Chapman's statement is leap-years beyond the text upon which we voted. The clear specificity of Dr. Chapman's sermon is precisely the attribute that causes Wade Burleson to want to quote it now, in the aftermath. It is also precisely the attribute of Dr. Chapman's words that made them precisely what our dissident brethren did not want to be contained in the motion. Dr. Chapman's sermon is the kind of plainspoken communication that clearly leaves everyone certain whether he stands in agreement or in disagreement. But, I remind you, we didn't vote upon Dr. Chapman's statements. But we should have. So, let us take a blunt, plainly worded statement like this and schedule time on the platform next year for an even-handed debate of the measure. Rather than give unrebutted time for the CEO to deliver a stump speech, let us have Dr. Chapman and an equally articulate spokesperson from another point of view speak to the concept. I think Dr. Al Mohler might be a great choice, although he may not appreciate an unsolicited nomination to an unanticipated task. Let's follow clear and careful rules of debate and do everything possible to produce more light than heat. Then, let us have a brief time of floor debate followed by a vote. And if the text of the statement actually says something clearly, then we'll all know where we stand, and we'll all need to move forward from there. Those who plot movements according to political expediency will object, but I am confident that there are more of us who are drawn to open communication. That fact is the hope of the SBC.