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Questions for Willy Rice, Southern Baptist Presidential Nominee

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Willy Rice, the pastor of Calvary Church in Clearwater, FL, will be nominated for Southern Baptist Convention president at the 2022 annual meeting. Social media is already ablaze with questions surrounding Rice’s positions on issues facing Southern Baptists, and rightly so. After a failure on Southern Baptists’ part to fully vet the candidates prior to the election in 2021, the disaster that was Ed Litton need not be repeated.

Historically speaking, mainstream Southern Baptist presidential candidates are not harshly scrutinized prior to their election. However, one of the most respectable things a candidate can do is face his critics and answer their questions. In a recent tweet, you stated, “I know the road ahead will get bumpy and for some I will be the piñata of the moment and while I wish that wasn’t a part of this, we will trust the Lord with what we cannot control.” It is certainly not our intention to unfairly attack you, however, many of us need clarity on some of the positions you’ve taken in the past, which raise the following questions:

1.) You take a bold and strong stance against Scientology, which is a good and respectable thing. You recognize it is a cult that is not only incompatible with Christianity but dangerous to those who are involved in it. Yet, in 2015, as president of the pastor’s conference, you invited Ben Carson to preach to the pastors.

As you know, Ben Carson is a Seventh Day Adventist, which has also been described as a dangerous cult incompatible with Christianity. Upon backlash, you ultimately canceled Carson, but you never acknowledged that he was in a cult. Instead, you only stated that inviting him had become “divisive.”

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Do you now recognize that Carson’s religion is a cult? And do you regret the invitation based on that?

2.) In 2021, at the Southern Baptist annual meeting, you preached a message where you seemingly took a jab at John MacArthur’s quip urging Beth Moore to “go home.” Yet, you also state that you are unequivocally and unashamedly complementarian. What does that mean? If this means that you believe the Scriptures are abundantly clear on the issue, then one could only assume that you DO believe Beth Moore shouldn’t be preaching.

Here is the clip in question: https://www.youtube.com/clip/UgkxFSfrde9TI8ryhnmHeTVzr5wMU4O1nBb_

Do you believe Beth Moore should stop preaching or not? If so, then why the jab at John MacArthur? If not, then do you believe that one can continuously rebel against the Scriptures and be a true, born-again Christian?

3.) Several times, you deal with the issue of CRT both in sermons and in your podcast. As you know, this is a hot topic in our denomination. One thing you’ve repeated multiple times is that you believe that most people fighting against CRT don’t understand it and that most Southern Baptists don’t really care about it. Your sentiment seems to echo that of James Merritt, who believes it isn’t a big deal.

Below is how I’ve consistently defined Critical Race Theory in its simplest form, and I am confident that most arguing against it would define it similarly.

Critical Race Theory (CRT) emerged as an offshoot of Critical Theory, a neo-Marxist philosophy that has its roots in the Frankfurt School and its methods are drawn from Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud. CRT teaches that institutional racism exists within every structure of society and that these structures are intrinsically designed in such a manner as to protect and preserve “white supremacy” in our culture. Further, CRT does not rely on factual statistics or objective evidence to support the theory, rather it relies on anecdotal evidence and personal experience.

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I believe that you are correct in your analysis that most Southern Baptists don’t know—or don’t care—what CRT is. However, when dealing with issues around “racial reconciliation,” Southern Baptists have repeatedly employed the tenets of Critical Race Theory even if it is not named. For example, I’ve heard you state that even though you believe CRT is dangerous and incompatible with Christianity, you still believe in systemic racism.

Are you aware that the only way one can conclude systemic racism exists in our current society is to employ the tenets of Critical Race Theory? In other words, one must look through the lens of the theory of oppressor/oppressed classes to come to this conclusion. Does that concern you?

4.) In that same sermon from question 2 at the annual meeting, you spoke about CRT. You stated, “CRT is a thing. Marxism is a thing. Socialism is a thing. You know what else is a thing? Being a jerk.” Can you describe what you mean by “being a jerk”?

Further, In Galatians, Paul took a similar stance toward those who perverted the gospel. Do you believe that Paul was “being a jerk”? Do you believe our attitude toward those who pervert the gospel should reflect Paul’s—as relayed to us in the inspired and authoritative Word of God—which is only a small reflection of God’s anger and wrath?

And lastly,

5.) You have been documented as a client of Docent Research Group. As you may be aware, Docent was exposed last year as being complicit in the serial plagiarism of current Southern Baptist president, Ed Litton, along with others including JD Greear, Matt Chandler, and Mark Driscoll. What is your relationship with Docent Research, and do you condemn sermon plagiarism as we have seen in Ed Litton?

We know that many Southern Baptists would be highly appreciative if you would take the time to answer these sincere questions without ambiguity. We believe Southern Baptists should know where our leaders stand on issues and that our leaders should not shy away from full transparency.

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