Wade Burleson has advanced three reasons (see here) why he will not be voting for Dr. Al Mohler to preside over the SBC. Those reasons are:
REASON NUMBER ONE Southern Baptists are now desiring gospel cooperation, not the separatism of Fundamentalism.
REASON NUMBER TWO: It is at best unwise, and at worst a conflict of interest, to have an entity President simultaneously serving as President of the Southern Baptist Convention.
REASON NUMBER THREE: The Southern Baptist Convention needs the leadership of a man who sets the example for generous giving through the Cooperative Program.
Now that the tent peg is firmly in the forehead of objection number three, I direct my attention to the remaining two objections.
Conflict of Interest
The phrase "conflict of interest" has slightly different application in different fields. As it pertains to leadership within the Southern Baptist Convention, a suitable definition appears on the website of the New Jersey State Legislature: "CONFLICT OF INTEREST A situation occuring when an official's private interests may benefit from his or her public actions."
Burleson has given two examples that he believes illustrate a conflict of interest in the election of entity heads to the presidency of the SBC.
First, he has highlighted Dr. Paige Patterson's (I wonder how he chose HIM to pick on?) appointment of the BF&M 2000 committee, resulting in an unprecedented affirmation of biblical gender roles in the revised statement. Patterson's selection of this committee is somehow supposed to show conflict of interest in electing entity heads as SBC presidents.
Now I ask you, how did the inclusion of this language in the BF&M advance the private business interests of Dr. Patterson or the pecuniary interests of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary? The answer? Not at all. The BF&M committee appointments did not advance Dr. Patterson's private and personal interests. They did not advance the seminary's interests in any way to the detriment of the SBC as a whole.
Rather, Burleson's beef is with the fact that the BF&M committee advanced the ideological viewpoint espoused by Dr. Patterson, the Conservative Resurgence, and the majority of SBC messengers who elected him (and, not coincidentally, an ideology not shared by Burleson). Yet this point has nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that the president in question (Dr. Patterson) just happened to be presiding over SEBTS at the time. I submit that, if Dr. Patterson had appointed said committee before coming to the helm at SEBTS, or if he had done so after retirement from all convention activities, the results would not have been one iota different. It simply has nothing to do with Dr. Patterson having been an entity president. Burleson's beef is simply that he lost—that the decision made was one with which he disagreed.
Burleson's second illustration comes closer to the mark. He asserts that the election of Mohler would put him into a position to enact a special offering for seminaries. Personally, I think that a special offering for our seminaries is a wonderful idea. In fact, our church is going to collect one this year (more about that planned for a later post). But Burleson's point is to suggest that Dr. Mohler's interests (as president of a seminary that would receive such an offering) would lie in conflict with the convention's interests that Dr. Mohler be objective in populating such a committee.
Burleson suggests that the push for a seminary offering began "two years ago." Actually, seminary presidents have desired to have a special offering for the seminaries for at least sixty years. The effort two years ago was merely the latest attempt. This is relevant, because the issue was alive during the SBC presidential tenures of seminary presidents Scarborough, Hamilton, Patterson, and maybe even Sampey. None of those seminary presidents took advantage of the SBC presidency to advance the idea of a seminary offering. Indeed, of the seven seminary presidents who have served as SBC presidents, no one has undertaken to demonstrate a single real instance in which their concurrent service actually impeded their performance in either task.
Furthermore, the seminary presidents get to deliver a report at each year's annual meeting, yet they have not employed that forum to call for a special seminary offering. They have the same ability as any of us to rise to a microphone and propose the offering to the Southern Baptist people. Yet they have not done so…have never done so. Personally, I wish that they would have. Why is the Executive Committee afraid to allow the Southern Baptist people to discuss the concept and bring it to a vote? But I digress. The point here is that, with ample opportunity to do so, the seminary presidents have not even used the means available to them every year to press for a special offering.
Many have pointed out that previous seminary presidents have served as SBC presidents; what has not received ample consideration is the fact that previous seminary presidents have served well in leading the SBC. The leadership of E. Y. Mullins, in the era containing his presidencies, to bring us the Cooperative Program and The Baptist Faith & Message comes to mind. What would we be if we could go back in time and eradicate the leadership of Boyce and Mullins, Sampey and Scarborough? Much less than what we are.
Also, we must note that we are electing a president, and not a pope. Whoever wins the gavel this summer, he will not be able to accomplish anything until he has gained the consent of the ballot-lifting masses at the annual meeting for each measure. I predict that President Mohler will accomplish a great deal, not through sinister finagling, but by virtue of the statesmanlike leadership that he has already brought to our convention and will exude from the platform.
Our seminary presidents have, while serving as SBC presidents, consistently acted in the best interests of the SBC. Dr. Mohler will do likewise, and the people's affirmative verdict on that count will be reflected in their overwhelming support for his leadership.
I turn finally to Burleson's initial point. Essentially, when you decipher the code-language, Burleson has placed into the lead-off position his objection to the fact that Dr. Al Mohler is not a part of Burleson's movement (What's a Fundamentalist? Anyone more conservative than I am). Granted, Dr. Mohler is not a part of the Burleson coalition. But, neither is Dr. Mohler anybody's lackey. He's an intelligent, articulate spokesman for conservative Baptist Christianity. All of the reasons why a Mohler presidency excites me are doubtless reasons that discourage Burleson.
I can understand that. I can sympathize with it. Who couldn't? I just don't know that it makes for a very compelling reason why anyone ELSE ought to be opposed to electing Dr. Mohler as President of the Southern Baptist Convention in Indianapolis.