I am deeply grieved by what I am reading online about the crisis at my alma mater, Southwestern Seminary. It is devastating to me learning of the women who have been hurt through this ongoing crisis. I have been a Southern Baptist (SBC) my whole life, all 44 years. Born and raised in a Southern Baptist church (baptized at age 7). I attended a Southern Baptist university for 4 years (BS degree), attended a Southern Baptist seminary 4 years (earned Master of Divinity degree in 2001), full-time pastored Southern Baptist churches for 5 years, bivocational preacher for scores of Southern Baptist churches for the past 13 years and currently a nonprofit executive at a Christ-centered ministry. No one asked me but this is what I would do if asked to help the Southern Baptist Convention survive for another generation.
My Ideas for Southern Baptist Convention to survive
- Pray, fast, weep and humble ourselves before God and plead for His mercy.
- In light of the rape reporting crisis with Paige Patterson and Southeastern Seminary (link to Washington Post article) and the recent “Roe v. Patterson” federal lawsuit, proactively open the doors and have each of the 6 SBC seminaries publicly audited regarding their past handling of rape and sexual assault by an independent organization like MinistrySafe. Let the chips fall where they may and be very public in the results while still protecting the identity of victims. We must ask again and again where have our schools failed, how can the victims be supported and how do we move forward?
- Immediately and put it in your admissions packet, make training mandatory for students in our seminaries preparing for the pastorate to recognize and respond to abuse, using highly skilled practitioners. Make very public the steps being taken in this area.
- The fourth step from recovery programs is perform “a searching and fearless moral inventory.” SBC needs to do this, fully listen to our sisters in Christ (start with the courageous names on this list https://swbtsletter.com) and fully examine why the convention has not shown utmost respect to women.
- We must go above and beyond the #MeToo movement and lead the way in protecting women, bringing justice to the oppressed and healing to victims of sexual assault. God demands we bring hope and healing to the broken. Micah 6:8–“What does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Jesus was revolutionary in how He treated women and the respect and love He gave them. We should be like Him.
- Russell Moore says it well, “There would be no Southern Baptist Convention without Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong. We desperately need a resurgence of women’s voices and women’s leadership and women’s empowerment, again. It is way past time.”
- Be financially transparent as an organization. Have no secrets. Require SBC entities to submit an IRS 990 report listing their CEO or President’s salary to Guidestar. Follow Charity Navigator‘s guidelines in financial transparency and be an open book.
- I am very grateful at the 2019 SBC annual meeting thousands of Southern Baptist Convention delegates voted to change two of their core governing documents to make it explicitly clear that churches can be expelled from the convention over issues of sexual abuse.
- Southwestern Seminary needs to do a full public audit of finances, public audit of the management of the trustees and of their sexual assault safety procedures. Go above and beyond what is expected and be the leader in protecting women from sexual assault. The trustees dropped the ball in protecting our seminary. Dr Adam Greenway is doing a great job in righting the ship in the last 100+ days but much more is needed. The devastating lawsuit, “Roe v. Patterson” will make public much which was very private and dysfunctional for a long time. Clean house of professors and administration who were party to any of this dysfunction.
- Unless your entity is discussing sensitive HR issues, trustees should not go into secret executive session. Flood your SBC entity with a spotlight of openness and transparency. NO more secrets or backroom politics.
- Actively fill convention positions with people of color and different ethnic groups. Mandate it and require leadership to make our boards and leadership groups more diverse. We gain wisdom from their perspective and how God has worked in their people groups.
- Focus on selling SBC administration properties and pour the income back into growth of the ministry.. Rent office space from churches & rest work from home. The local church member paying for the Cooperative Program (CP) does not care one bit about the office space of convention administrative staff. Less focus on fancy buildings, beautiful campuses and more focus on effective, streamlined ministry.
- Have term limits on top paid, staff positions (IMB, Executive Committee, Lifeway, etc). No one is bigger than the entity and recognize we are all just temporary stewards of the positions God has entrusted to each of us. Always be focused on mentoring and passing the baton to the next person in line.
- Leaders must be accessible and open to criticism. Return your phone calls. Let it be known you check one social media platform over another. You are a brief steward of the position and you report to the churches and individuals of the SBC. These are your bosses. Listen and engage with us.
What are your thoughts???