Mike Stone is the pastor of the Emmanuel Baptist Church in Blackshear, the immediate past chairman of the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention, and the immediate past president of the Georgia Baptist Convention.
Last week, I issued a press release concerning matters related to the SBCEC. I indicated there would be a short series of similar releases addressing several items. This, however, will be my final press release on my chairmanship as far as I intend. That will make this statement a bit longer than I would prefer but I think this is a wiser approach.
I recognize that for some, no amount of information will ever be sufficient and more information will keep things agitated. Therefore, others will be free to have the last word, even if it is an unfair, untrue, or unfavorable word.
Here are some final facts about the more controversial issues of the last few months.
The election of officers
The June 16 election of officers occurred within both the spirit and the letter of our bylaws. The last-minute attempted bylaw change was a really bad idea presented in a really poor way. Its rejection required only common sense, not a conspiracy or manipulation of parliamentary procedure.
Our new chairman, Mr. Slade, has acknowledged publicly that the confusion was on his part. That’s the bottom line. Regarding the accusations of impropriety, everyone has a right to his own perspective. Nobody has a right to his own facts.
As a result of accusations that I violated protocol and/or precedent, neither of which is true, I have been called a racist. I’ll soon be 50 and that’s a first for me. I could cite a litany of things I have done in my ministry demonstrating my love for all ethnicities. In the cancel culture of today’s SBC social media, none of that matters. But for the fair-minded supermajority of Southern Baptists, I will list one.
Because of the SBCEC bylaws, Mr. Slade’s historic election required a called meeting, something only the chairman could call. I could have done what other leaders are doing and remained in my position until June 2021. But rather than just lecture about diversity, I willingly stepped aside to prefer my brother.
It appears many in our Convention want minorities to have a place, so long as it’s not their place. You would be hard pressed to find anyone in the history of the SBC who ever willingly vacated their own high position to allow a minority to have that place of influence. At least not until June 16th. And in the Twilight Zone of the 2020 SBC, that is apparently racist.
The ERLC Task Force
There has been a false and blistering attack over the ERLC Task Force that was formed in February. This past weekend, I was accused of singlehandedly undermining Dr. Floyd’s Vision 2025 because of a supposed personal attack against Dr. Moore. Here are the facts.
The ERLC Task Force was initiated on the top floor of the Baptist Building. I agreed with it 100% but the motion that eventually created the Task Force was written in Nashville, Tennessee, not Blackshear, Georgia. It was prepared and offered by the senior-most staff, unanimously approved by the officers, unanimously approved by a subcommittee of about 25 people, unanimously added to the plenary agenda, then unanimously moved into executive session (not my request) where it was overwhelmingly approved. That’s a lot of unanimous for a singlehanded action.
Immediately prior to our February meeting, convention leaders from across the SBC requested Dr. Floyd to have the EC act in this very important matter. I wish these men would be more public about their concerns but I also understand their unique positions. Still, comments from such trusted leaders cannot be ignored.
The Task Force does not violate the 2018 SBC motion on defunding because the Task Force is not about defunding. It is about accountability for CP funds and oversight of the missions and ministry assignments of an entity. These matters are squarely within the purview of the EC.
As for the ERLC Task Force “undermining Dr. Floyd’s Vision 2025,” that’s a strange accusation when both originated in the same Nashville offices. I agree with the need for both. I initiated neither. Yet I have been left alone to withstand the full force of an SBC Twitter mob. One well-known pastor tweeted the SBC’s problem was “little people…put in big positions.” How utterly shameful that certain preachers think there are “little people” in the SBC.
Like Amos, I am neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet. But let me prophesy. There will be no retraction. There will be no apology. Facts don’t matter on SBC social media if they don’t fit the predetermined, grandstanding narrative of the SBC elite.
The 2020 SBC Pastors’ Conference
Every year, the EC must consider whether to approve use of the convention hall by the SBCPC. That is actually part of a duty given to the EC by an act of the Convention in 1918. That’s right, Woodrow Wilson was the US President and the nation was anticipating the end of WWI when the SBC gave its newly-created Executive Committee oversight of the convention hall.
For over a century, nothing has changed on the EC’s part. What changed this year was that for the first time, an SBCPC president proposed a program that an overwhelming majority of the EC membership, myself included, believed was outside the parameters of the Baptist Faith and Message.
The EC officers had no official recommendation for the larger body. A larger subcommittee, by about an 85% vote, recommended to allow use of the convention hall only if there were changes in the proposed program. The full committee affirmed that recommendation by a large margin as well. Some in the negative voted against the recommendation because they felt it did not go far enough in its rebuke of the proposed program. That’s an awful lot of “little people in big positions.”
Every president of the SBCPC is free to plan any program he wishes. Whether that program is held in the convention hall is a different question and according to Convention policy, it is a question to be answered by the EC. In February of 2020, the full EC answered overwhelmingly in the negative.
With the cancellation of the SBC and the Pastors’ Conference, one might ask, “Why mention this issue now?” Because this story not only represents the mob culture of SBC social media that has ripped Matthew 18 and Proverbs 18:17 from the canon of Scripture, it points to something else.
Other than the annual meeting itself, the Executive Committee is the largest deliberative body representing all Southern Baptists. Most of the “big name” SBC pastors were on one side of this issue. The EC was firmly on the other. And it is, I believe, a microcosm of the growing divide between the SBC elite and many rank-and-file Southern Baptists in pews and pulpits across the country.
The future of the SBC
This summer, our church should top the $2.5 million mark in CP giving during my pastorate. All from a rural town of about 4,000 people. I have served in my association. I’ve served in nearly every capacity in one of our largest state conventions, including EC chairman and president. I’ve served at the national level including 2 years as chairman of the SBCEC. I’m not a novice or an uninformed, non-invested outsider on these matters.
Despite the headlines, CP giving has not been on a slow steady increase. Over the last decade, long before COVID-19, CP giving has declined from its peak by $62 million dollars annually. State conventions have been forwarding a larger percentage of this smaller amount, masking the nationwide crisis. This rarely reported trend is simply unsustainable.
In the very near future, I will address my belief in the need for the Conservative Baptist Network to work within our SBC. I love our convention but have deep concerns. There are real reasons why churches are quietly disengaging and disinvesting in the Cooperative Program and that is a conversation Southern Baptists must soon have. Until that conversation begins, I’ll let others finish this one however they choose.
In the meantime, thank you for the privilege of allowing me to serve our Lord by serving our Convention as chairman of your Executive Committee.