Tuesday, March 6, 2007

The Recurring Historical Threat to the SBC

David O. Moore's 1949 SBTS Th.D. thesis, "The Landmark Baptists and Their Attack upon the Southern Baptist Convention Historically Analyzed," deduced a similarity between the 1859 peril to which James Robinson Graves subjected the fledgling Southern Baptist Convention, the 1897 imbroglio of Samuel Augustus Hayden, and the 1901 schism inflicted upon the Arkansas Baptist State Convention (and eventually the Southern Baptist Convention) by Benjamin M. Bogard. What, according to Moore, did all of these turbulent occasions in SBC have in common? Criticisms of excessive "cost and control" among elected and employed leadership in Southern Baptist Convention agencies. Moore was not so honest and introspective as to admit that the 1845 missions schism that birthed the Southern Baptist Convention featured a good helping of the same criticisms. The SBC with some difficulty parried the thrusts that the nineteenth-century anti-missions movement made among the same rhetorical lines. Would-be Southern Baptist demagogues have ever resorted to this same tactic: Allege that the leaders of the SBC spend too much money and wield tyrannical power. Indeed, I can only think of two serious controversies in all of Southern Baptist history that do not amount to muckrakers reviving these same tired arguments. The Carnes scandal involved the criminal malfeasance of two key executives at SBC mission boards, and the Conservative Resurgence involved profound theological differences. Otherwise, virtually every crisis moment in our convention can be laid at the feet of populist demagogues. Fortunately, although these controversies have exacted a toll each time, the people of the Southern Baptist Convention have time and again had the good sense to see through the dirty politics and rally behind the convention and its proven leaders. Let us pray that the past will be a good predictor of our future.

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