It’s an Issue with the Network: The Platform and Anaheim 2022

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There are Network issues in the Southern Baptist Convention. We seem to be stuck in a perpetual loop that we just can’t get out of. 

Have we tried unplugging it and plugging it back in? Well, no. But I’m just ready to unplug it altogether, to be honest. 

Oh, did you think I was talking about the Conservative Baptist Network? I’m not. I’m talking about the Network that is doing the things it accuses the CBN of doing in terms of political maneuvering. The Conservative Baptist Network came into existence because of the Network that was already in place. 

I’m talking about what we will call “The Platform.” 

Check the Server

Do you remember the political rally at the SBC convention in 2018? No, I’m not talking about Mike Pence. I’m talking about the push from the SBC Pastor’s conference to elect J.D. Greear as the next president of the Southern Baptist Convention. A deal that had been worked out between him and Steve Gaines after the 2016 tie. 

Look at me with a straight face and tell me we are healthier in 2022 than we were in 2018. And some people have been so blinded by Platform politics that they actually believe the real problem is the CBN! When the CBN did not even launch until the year of our Lord, 2020. 

If you think the Network problem in the SBC is the Conservative Baptist Network you are sorely mistaken. The difference between the CBN and the Platform is that the CBN is open about its network (and has weekly public prayer meetings for the convention) while the Platform pretends it’s an MIB figment of your imagination.

But back to 2018. From that year to June of 2021 J.D. Greear served not one, not two, but 3 terms as SBC president, essentially appointing himself to carry another year due to Orlando being canceled in 2020. He could have, by the way, given his “position of power” to a minority person, but chose not to, instead castigating the convention as full of “closet racists.” And I quote:

“We should mourn when closet racists and neo-Confederates feel more at home in our churches than do many of our people of color,” he said. “The reality is that if we in the SBC had shown as much sorrow for the painful legacy that racism and discrimination has left in our country as we have passion to decry CRT, we probably wouldn’t be in this mess.” (source)

Again, J.D. said this in 2021 after he appointed himself to be president for a 3rd term all the while he could have led by example and given up his “position of power.” He chose not to and instead lambasted the rest of the SBC. Further, under Greear’s leadership, we saw the passage of Resolution 9. We were told the Bible whispers about sexual sin. We saw a move away from the complementarianism of the BFM 2000.

J.D. Greear Ed Litton

Then we saw in 2021 that Ed Litton was The Platform’s pick to succeed J.D. He was J.D. Greear 2.0, and we didn’t know how alike he actually was to J.D. Because turns out, Litton also said the Bible whispers about sexual sin. And though he claims to be complementarian, he also preached a sermon series with his wife. And then chose in 2022 to bow out of SBC presidential race largely due to the issues of sermon plagiarism (more on that in a minute).

Ed’s 2021 campaign was sponsored by both NAMB and SWBTS at a stop in Arkansas (see here, here, and here). The ERLC leaked benign audio recordings in an attempt to smear Mike Stone (story). The president of SEBTS, in an unprecedented move, publicly tweeted that Ed Litton should be elected. There you have four SBC entities working in some way to help Ed Litton get the presidency.

This is The Platform pushing its way around the convention. You definitely know this if you were present in Nashville in 2021. Everything was controlled from the stage. Like James Merritt, the Resolution’s Committee Chairman, wagging his finger The Platform doesn’t think the everyday SBC church really knows what’s best for the convention. Even though, you know, The Platform works for the churches of the convention!

Year after year The Platform’s candidate has been selected and it has been touted as “the will of the messengers!” when in reality it is the will of SBC Elites. And just in the last 1,460 days we have seen the ineptitude of these men. This is not me saying they are not Christians. This is me saying they have no business being placed in these roles. 

Again, for the critics, I am not saying these men are not believers. Some of them might not be. But I do not know. I hope they are Christians. I have prayed for them. But their own actions have demonstrated they are not the holy men we need to lead right now and some of them should not even be leading in their own local churches. 

The Platform that Cares Well?

Now the latest example has come to fruition. The Platform used its influence again in calling up Willy Rice, a NAMB trustee, to be nominated for SBC president in Anaheim. By the way, NAMB continuing to creep in this discussion is not a coincidence. There’s no way the wealthiest entity in the SBC is trying to pull strings behind the curtain right? Except, NAMB brings in church planters every year (on Cooperative Program money) to the annual meetings and who do you think most of these end up voting for? Our system needs a change of direction. 

Of course, now Willy has bowed out over his hypocrisy in handling a deacon guilty of sexual abuse as defined by the Caring Well curriculum that Willy and The Platform pushed relentlessly for a year. That is, the Platform, including Willy, attempted to get out of its own standards here and it all backfired. Must be a connectivity issue.

And, another interesting note is that the secular media jumped hard on this story while Baptist Press took nearly 5 days to say anything. Which, is really odd, right? 

Which, as an aside, all Southern Baptists ought to be asking “By what standard” should we operate and the answer better be a resounding “the Word of God!” But this is not the game the Platform is playing. In lip service, perhaps. But not in practice. 

And remember how I said Willy was a NAMB trustee? It’s quite doubtful any of that changes. Because what most run-of-the-mill Southern Baptists do not know is that a lot of the same guys just keep serving on the same trustee boards. This is because the SBC has, by and large, come to be a top-down organization.

Even though we say we are Baptists. Even though we say we believe the local church is the highest ecclesiastical authority. Even though we profess to believe in the authority and autonomy of the local church. Even though all that is true and more, here we are. The Platform continues to pull the strings and tell us what to do. Hey, you busy pastors and such, just trust the system! We’ve got this under control. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!

Willy Rice even took a shot at the other two candidates for SBC president saying in the letter he wrote announcing his withdrawal from the race, “I do hope another candidate will emerge whose ministry has been characterized by leading in the local church with a passion for the Great Commission.” 

I did not know Willy at all before all of this but I can say now that I’m sorely disappointed a man like this was even nominated to be the next president of the Southern Baptist Convention. I’m not angry as much as I am heartbroken. 

And Now…

Who is The Platform going to nominate now? Bart Barber. Less than 24 hours after Willy Rice dropped out. 

Now, I have taken flack from some folks because I have defended Bart’s conversion to Christ. But I’ll defend it again. I believe Bart to be a genuine follower of our Lord Jesus. And I suspect that in many ways he is a good pastor. And I also know there is much that I agree with when it comes to what Bart believes about the Bible. 

But I also have serious issues. Bart has become over the last couple of years a defender of the Platform. After all, he himself was on the Platform in Nashville as part of the 2021 Resolutions Committee. The same committee that did not bring forth a resolution denouncing CRT that was signed by over 1300 Southern Baptists. The same committee that publicly opposed “the passage of the strongest anti-abortion resolution in SBC history” (source)

And as late as May of 2021 Bart continued to say that Russ Moore “served [Southern Baptists] well.” I do not understand how any Southern Baptist can look at Dr. Moore’s actions over the last couple of years and say with a straight face that he served us well. But this is the reality of the Platform. 

 Bart is also the pastor of this year’s Pastor’s Conference President, Matt Henslee. Matt is now the one who will nominate Bart for SBC President. And the 2022 Pastor’s Conference, to my knowledge, will be the first one in our history that has a pastor preaching who says that Same-Sex attraction is not a sin. I really don’t understand why no one is willing to address this? Perhaps it’s being done behind closed doors? 

Further, in the Fall of 2021, Bart came to the defense of Ed Litton’s plagiarism with this tactic: “[The Gospel Writer] Mark…plagiarized as God inspired him to do.”

Bart’s defense of Litton’s plagiarism was to insinuate that God did the same thing with the Biblical writers. In an era where we are battling for the sufficiency of Scripture in our convention, this is simultaneously stomach-churning and heartbreaking to see. There is such commitment to Ed that we are willing to distort our understanding of God’s Word in order to defend his sin. (If you’d like to know what Martyn Lloyd Jones thinks about sermon plagiarism, read this)

This is so bewildering to me. Ed’s situation was a cut-and-dry case. He misused the pulpit repeatedly. He attempted to sidestep the issues. He should have had people in the Platform who loved him and God’s Word enough to call him to step down. But he did not.

And yet, I also know (and God knows) that Bart (and others in the Platform) said out of the eye of the public that Ed should not seek reelection. Ed Litton, who, by the way, also could have resigned and given his “position of power” to a minority person (Lee Brand), and Bart and the Platform could have supported this, is not running again because the Platform understands his plagiarism is too grievous of an error. 

Mind you, they did not publicly call upon Ed to resign. And I can only assume they did not privately call for him to resign either, only to not run again. Al Mohler did publicly repudiate Ed’s actions but Dr. Mohler’s influence has greatly waned as we saw in Nashville (2021). 

The reality is, that there is no real accountability for The Platform. Well, other than that “the world is watching.” But do we think a “watching world” is the right measure of accountability for God’s churches? If someone had not reached out to Willy Rice about his own hypocrisy with Caring Well, it seems to me he would still be running for president of the Southern Baptist Convention. I don’t understand why we would think adding another Platform president in the SBC is going to fix our issues.  

Will we submit to Christ as King or not? Will we really bow to the authority of the Word of God, call sin, sin, call sinners to repentance, hold forth the gospel as the only hope for all men, and actually trust the Bible?

Anaheim

Listen, you can label me as mean-spirited or that I am not having the right tone here or whatever. My allegiance is the Christ and His Word. My priority is the people here where I serve in rural Arkansas who want to trust the SBC but this has been made quite difficult over the last several years (and we haven’t even talked about Lifeway). But enough is enough and more churches in the SBC need to know. Look at the SBC for the last four years and you know I’m right. It might be hard to admit. The rot might be difficult to accept. But this is where we are. And the truth is, a lot of what has been used against conservatives is the conspiracy theories about Paige Patterson when in reality what conservatives have been accused of doing the last four years, the Platform is actually doing. 

Brothers and sisters, it is time for this to stop. This is a political machine that is broken. And Bart is far more in touch today with the Platform than he is with the average Southern Baptist in the pew. We must change the direction. And the only way to do that is to show up in Anaheim and vote. Show up and vote at the Pastor’s Conference for Voddie Baucham. Show up at the Annual Meeting and vote for Tom Ascol.

Ascol and Baucham have proven time and again that they love the Bible, the local church, the SBC, and most of all long to honor Christ. They have been proven right in their discernment about CRT. And COVID-19 for that matter. And they love Baptist ecclesiology. And they trust the Bible’s sufficiency not only in word but deed. God has raised them up for such a time as this and we need to pray for them and partner with them in seeking to change the direction of our convention. 

Let me clearly state that I am not saying Bart Barber is Liberal. I am saying that the Platform’s push of him means we can expect more of the same in our convention and this has to stop. We are not going to survive as a convention, at least not survive as a conservative convention, if we continue to let the Platform dictate to us how the convention ought to be run. No, brothers and sisters. It is not okay. Show up in California and help us change the direction.

One More Thing

This is an edit not originally posted with this article. But as I thought about the situation in the SBC I thought about the fact that Tom Ascol has never addressed the Southern Baptist Convention from the Platform. I absolutely do not mean to imply that every person that has ever stood on stage in one of our annual meetings is part of “the Platform.” However, I think we have a great visual here to consider as we approach Anaheim.

Is it the desire of Southern Baptists to simply continue listening to the voices from the stage? Are we looking for just one more guy that has been talking to us from on high and telling us how things ought to be (even though as referenced above how we “ought” to do things and how “they” do things don’t always line up do they?). Are we looking for more Platform messaging that tells us how we can’t call out the ERLC when they “appreciate” the appointment of one who endorses baby murdering?

Or do we want someone from outside this Network of The Platform who has been a model pastor in our convention for decades? A man who has repeatedly spoken from the floor (alongside us!) and to the Platform! This is why Tom Ascol is who Southern Baptists ought to be supporting for the next president of the SBC. It’s also why so many in the current system will oppose him. Please pray for him as we approach Anaheim.

 

2 thoughts on “It’s an Issue with the Network: The Platform and Anaheim 2022

  1. Very well written. You give an accurate representation of what’s going on in the Southern Baptist Convention. And, whether you know it or not, you have given a very good treatise on why bible-believing Christians and churches should leave the SBC, as I/we have.

  2. Good Wednesday:
    I am not a pastor of an SBC church. The church I currently pastor WAS part of the American Baptist USA. We pulled out years ago over many issues the ABC was having. I see the same thing happening in the SBC. It’s a slow and slippery slope that way too many pastors are currently on. I tried to stand up and fight within my region but shut down by the “higher-ups” or ignored by the local pastors. I would have stayed and fought but no one would stand with me for fear of being rejected by their OWN churches. In my opinion the ABC is no longer a Biblical and God honoring denomination. I will be praying for the SBC that they do NOT go down the same path as the ABC. Please stand up and speak out for Biblical purity and be strong and of good courage. Keep fighting. Pastor Doug Wedan

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