Either the entire leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention is brutally dishonest or an epidemic of cognitive dissonance has been unleashed among these people. Perhaps they are suffering from mass psychosis of some sort. But the prevailing theme coming from the collective leadership of the denomination is that there is no liberal drift and anyone who thinks there is should be ignored.
That was the direct message from James Merritt, anyways, at the 2022 Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting. Merritt, a former Southern Baptist Convention president who praised his openly-gay son for preaching a sermon that distorted the gospel and nature of Christ beyond any reasonable conclusion, wants us to believe that there is no liberal drift in the Southern Baptist Convention—a point that has been well refuted by actual conservatives both inside and outside of the denomination.
At the 2022 annual meeting, it became abundantly clear that the Southern Baptist Convention’s leadership and messengers had abandoned the traditional notion of conservatism—particularly, theological conservatism—when the moderate wing offered an alternative to the conservative Reformed presidential candidate, Tom Ascol. With high speculation that Tom Ascol and Voddie Baucham would be running as a pair of conservatives for the top two leadership spots of the annual meeting, the moderates quickly plunged their moderate candidate, Willy Rice into the race to oppose them.
It quickly became clear that Rice was no conservative, despite the repeated hymns of praise he received as an experienced conservative leader. Rice, a typical megachurch good-ole-boy with a slight charismatic bent, a hostile demeanor toward true Reformed theology, and a clear affection for the doctrines of another religion, wokeness, had the influence to lead the denomination into a new era of absolutely no change for the better. In fact, Rice was merely a symptom of the problem rampant in the Southern Baptist Convention. He stood for what the collective liberal drift of the denomination wanted—a continuation of the same.
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But Rice didn’t last long in the race. The prevailing zeitgeist of the Southern Baptist Convention right now is an all-out war against Complementarian theology. Complementarianism is the biblical doctrine that teaches that men and women are equal but have different roles to play in the church and family. Namely, within the Church, Complementarianism teaches that according to Scripture, women cannot serve in any pastoral function including preaching or teaching men. And one of the ways that it is subversively being used to attack Complementarian theology is to charge it as one of the causes of “sex abuse.”
In a post at Christianity Today titled This Is the Southern Baptist Apocalypse, former Southern Baptist leader, Russell Moore writes:
Who cannot now see the rot in a culture that mobilizes to exile churches that call a woman on staff a “pastor” or that invite a woman to speak from the pulpit on Mother’s Day, but dismisses rape and molestation as “distractions” and efforts to address them as violations of cherished church autonomy? In sectors of today’s SBC, women wearing leggings is a social media crisis; dealing with rape in the church is a distraction.
The blatant attempt at Moore to try to tie conservatives who hold to Complementarian theology to those who would sweep actual cases of abuse under the rug is clear. And it’s a clear attack on biblical theology worth noting. Russell Moore wrote this just a few weeks prior to the 2022 annual convention and did so for the sole purpose of trying to make it look like Tom Ascol, a Complementarian, believed this way about sex abuse. This was Russell Moore making a false accusation against Tom Ascol without actually naming his name—a political tactic employed against his conservative perceived enemy. Russell Moore knew exactly what he was doing, is very good at doing it, and it worked.
Just a few years prior, Beth Moore made similar accusations against Complementarian theology at the Caring Well conference, an anti-Complementarianism conference put on by Russell Moore while he was still head of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) of the Southern Baptist Convention. Here, Moore does the same thing by attempting to tie those who hold to Complementarian theology to those who would abuse women. “Does complementarian theology cause abuse? The answer is no. Sin and gross selfishness in the human heart cause abuse. Demonic influences cause abuse,” Beth Moore said.
“However,” Beth Moore continued, as the audience erupted in applause “Has a culture prevalent in various circles of the SBC formed and burgeoned out of it contributed to it? Absolutely! And heavily! … The world is watching to see if we would bring up what they believe is the biggest elephant in the world. Complementarian theology became such a high core value that it inadvertently, by proof of what we have seen, look at the fruit of what happened, became elevated above the safety and well-being of many women.“
Her tactics, like Russell Moore’s (no relation), attempt to make both the subconscious and overt connections between Complementarianism and abuse.
Back to Willy Rice. It turns out that Rice, who claims to have held staunchly to these same beliefs about sex abuse, and who also argued that anyone who commits sex abuse should “never be given a second chance at gospel ministry” in a now-deleted article (which is archived at Wayback Machine), knowingly had a person on deacon at his church who was guilty of the same things Rice was being nominated to fight. Ultimately, Rice threw his deacon under the bus, removed him from the diaconate, and claimed ignorance. But the elite class of the denomination, fearing looking like hypocrites, urged Rice to back away paving the way for another candidate of similar mind, but with less baggage.
Next in line was Bart Barber. Barber, a Texas pastor with a clean behavioral and moral history but who is also completely given over to the prevailing leftward ideologies plaguing the denomination, was then selected to oppose the conservative candidate, Tom Ascol. Barber has taken nuanced positions on such issues as abortion and Egalitarianism stating that he is personally against both but leaves room for more moderate or leftist opinions on these issues. Recently, Barber attacked the conservative position on abortion by using a leftist talking point against abortion abolitionism which is basically to claim that conservatives want to “prosecute women” for having an ectopic pregnancy. Barber, along with most of the leadership in the Southern Baptist Convention, believes that there should be no laws allowing for the prosecution of women who have an abortion.
Again, this idea, which has become the official position of the Southern Baptist Convention through the ERLC, stems from the leftist, anti-Complementarian idea that men should have no say-so in the decisions that women make with “their bodies.” It is merely an attack on Complementarian theology.
Sadly, there is much of a leftward drift in Evangelicalism and particularly in the Southern Baptist Convention. Our goal isn’t to bash Southern Baptists, but to bring awareness to the situation to see that those who are driving the shift don’t have the Church’s best interest at heart and are merely doing what they do to appease the world. The oft-repeated mantra of “the world is watching” has been abusively employed by the leadership. And while it is important that the Church stand as a witness to Christ while the world watches, caving to worldly standards is an abuse of that witness. We should be praying fervently for a revival within the Evangelical Church and particularly, a revival of the doctrines of the Reformation, the Five Solas, and the submission to the authority of the Scriptures rather than an appeasement to the world. And we should be praying for those who are bold enough to stand up and speak out in the face of staunch opposition to biblical Christianity as much of the professing Church joins the world in hating them for it.
“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.” —John 15:18