By Art Toalston
NASHVILLE (BP) — Concern over Baptist work in Utah and Idaho, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission were voiced during an Executive Committee open forum Sept. 18.
The forum was initiated by the EC’s interim president, D. August Boto, in consultation with EC officers as part of the closing day’s agenda during the Sept. 17-18 meeting in Nashville.
Boto, who also serves as the EC executive vice president and general counsel, called the forum an “experiment” apart from regular business “to voice the views from your home territories,” whether questions, complaints, suggestions or praises regarding Southern Baptist ministry at the national level.
Among other topics during the forum, Boto and the Executive Committee staff were commended for their work during the transition period after the resignation of Frank Page as EC president in March.
Struggles in Utah and Idaho
Jim Gregory, senior pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Mountain Home, Idaho, asked where Baptists in the two states “fit in with the greater vision of the SBC.”
Gregory said the SBC’s adoption of the Great Commission Resurgence (GCR) in 2010 had weakened Baptists in Utah and Idaho by eliminating funding for the work of directors of missions who assist local churches. (GCR entailed a shift toward funding for church planting in under-served cities.)
Baptist associations are “falling apart,” Gregory said, prompting the question of why Baptists in Utah and Idaho should give to Southern Baptists’ Cooperative Program channel of mission support.
Boto, in addressing Gregory’s concern, stated, “You do fit in” because Southern Baptists need “every component” to be effective, from churches and associations to state conventions and the SBC.
He acknowledged that the GCR has been “very difficult for many” and that SBC leaders are aware of “the need of areas such as yours.” The national and state conventions, he stated, are “attuning or are already attuned to have a robust ministry at the local level.”
Joe Knott, a layman from Raleigh, N.C., asked about the action of the trustee executive committee at Southwestern Seminary to terminate the president emeritus, Paige Patterson, after the full trustee board had accorded him that status a week earlier.
The seminary should be governed “according to the trustee system” and not by a subset of “super trustees,” Knott stated. He also questioned whether concerns that arose after the full board meeting had been properly vetted by the trustee executive committee.
Boto responded that the convention, at its June annual meeting in Dallas, had voted to request that Southwestern trustees provide a report about “what happened and why it happened,” as he put it, to the SBC annual meeting in June 2019 in Birmingham, Ala.
Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission
Paul Hicks, pastor of Good Shepherd Community Church in Hayden, Ala., said he has heard from individuals in the state and beyond expressing dissatisfaction “almost unanimously” with the ERLC and its president, Russell Moore.
EC chairman Mike Stone, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Blackshear, intervened to note that the open forum was a time for expressing concern about issues and not personalities.
Boto then responded to Hicks’ concern, noting that it should be expressed to the ERLC and that its contact information is readily accessible. Saying he has “every confidence” that the ERLC will respond, he cited Jesus’ instruction in Matthew 18 for resolving allegations of wrongdoing among Christians.
Guy Frederick, bivocational pastor of Mapledale Baptist Church in Sheboygan, Wis., asked that a Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting be scheduled “in the northern tier” of the U.S., perhaps in the Twin Cities. Bill Townes, EC vice president for convention finance, stated that the suggestion would be investigated.
Mike Lawson, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Sherman, Texas, asked if there is a way to help younger Southern Baptists see the value of the SBC’s entities and processes. Boto said he would work with SBC President J.D. Greear’s office to receive ideas for consideration.
Josh Bonner, senior pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Rapid City, S.D., thanked Boto and the EC staff for carrying forth in their duties when they were “put in a difficult place” after Page’s resignation in March. He commended Boto as a layman and leader who is “deeply devoted to the things of God.”
For blog reports on this week’s SBC Executive Committee meeting, click here.
Art Toalston is senior editor of Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.