Thursday, May 29, 2008

SBC Primer #3 - The Presidential Candidates

This year's Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Indianapolis should be one of the most intriguing in years for one major reason: the shear number of candidates running for the office of president. It's been almost thirty years since the SBC had so many candidates, dating back to the very beginning of the SBC's so-called Conservative Resurgence in 1979, when conservatives began to regain control of the denomination.

For the most part over the last thirty years, the conservative power structure has nominated one person, and that person has pretty much been coronated the President. There have been a few competitive races, but most of the time, the person the conservatives wanted became president. It gave us presidents of such renown as Charles Stanley, Adrian Rodgers, and Jerry Vines. In many ways the Conservative Resurgence produced a slew of well-know, conservative, godly, Biblically based men as President.

But two years ago, something different happened. There were three candidates for the position, all conservative, Godly men, and two of them came from the old guard. The third, Frank Page, won the election on the first ballot. Dr. Page has served honorably and ably as president for the past two years now. (I have a slight connection to him. I was a member of Warren Baptist Church in Augusta, Georgia, the church he pastored before he took over First Baptist Church in Taylors, South Carolina. We weren't there at the same time, but we are both former members of Warren. So there.) I like Frank Page a lot. I think he's been a breath of fresh air, not quite as strident sounding as some of the former presidents, though his beliefs are equally as conservative.

The SBC president typically serves two one-year terms before moving on, so this will be Dr. Page's last term in office. That sets up what is likely to be one of the wildest presidential elections in some time. So, I will try now to break down said election, in as simple a way as I know how.

Here are the candidates and a little bit about them, in alphabetical order.

Frank Cox - pastor of North Metro First Baptist Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia. In a normal year, it's likely that Dr. Cox would have been nominated, and that would be it. He has strong conservative credentials, pastors a large church in the heart of SBC territory, and has the backing of some well known people. He will be nominated by a man who is no stranger to my church, the well-known evangelist Junior Hill. For that reason alone, it's likely that he will have some strong support among people in Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia. He has his own campaign web site, FrankCox.org.

Wiley Drake - the pastor of First Southern Baptist Church of Beuna Park, California, and easily the most colorful of the candidates. I understand from reading about him that this guy has a heart of gold, and has quietly done a ton of work to help the poor and underprivileged in his community. But he's going to be best know for being the guy who for sponsored the ill-fated SBC boycott of Disney World, and a couple of years ago presented an unsuccessful resolution calling for parents to pull their kids out of public schools. He currently serves as second vice-president of the SBC, a largely ceremonial position.

Johnny Hunt - pastor of First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Georgia. Again, in any other year, Hunt would have been a guy running with very little opposition. He's a well-known pastor of a mega-church in the middle of SBC territory. He actually toyed with the idea of running two years ago, but backed out at the last minute. Hunt has been active in trying to develop young leaders, through his Barnabas-Timothy conferences, and has planted 78 other churches, including a couple of them in Las Vegas.

Les Puryear - pastor of Lewisville Baptist Church in Lewisville, North Carolina. In any other year, a pastor like Puryear wouldn't even consider running, much less be considered a real contender. Puryear has been pastor at Lewisville, a church of about 200, for about three years. Usually, a small church pastor wouldn't even consider running, but he's gained notoriety for his Small Church Leadership Conference earlier this year, and for hosting one of the more popular SBC blogs, "Joining God in His Work".

Bill Wagner - former SBC international missionary and current president of Olivet University International in San Francisco. Wagner is also the unpaid pastor of tiny Snyder Lane Baptist in Rohnert Park, California. Wagner was, I believe, the first candidate to announce, and the first ever to have his own campaign web site, WilliamWagner.org. Wagner has also proposed a 10-point "Contract with Southern Baptists," with what his plans will be if he is elected.

Avery Willis - Executive Director of the Inernational Orality Network, and also a former SBC international missionary. Willis is probably best know for a creating the Master Life discipleship materials while he was a missionary in Indonesia. Lifeway has translated that program into more than 50 languages, including English, and it has been used by many people over the years to learn and grow in Christ. Not being a long-time Southern Baptist, I had never heard of it, but apparently it was very popular and effective.

As far as which way this one is going to go, I have to say I have no idea. Hunt and Cox will have a lot of support among the traditional, old guard SBC'ers. I'm sure both would be fine presidents. If I was at the convention, I would probably lean toward Puryear, because I've read his blog and can appreciate the work he's doing. But I'm not sure who I'd vote for. The guy I liked the most, Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, dropped out of the race after being diagnosed with cancer earlier this year.

I have linked to each of the candidates Baptist Press articles announcing their candidacy, if you want to read more. This year is certainly going to be interesting.

Coming up next: the different factions that make up SBC politics right now.

4 comments:

Micah Fries said...

Wade-

You've done a good job of succinctly describing this year's election. I would make one point of clarification, however. Avery Willis is not the pastor of 2nd Springfield. John Marshall, who will nominate Avery, is. Avery is the Executive Director of the International Orality Network. The rest of the information, however, is accurate.

Blessings
Micah
Psalm 67

Wade Phillips said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Wade Phillips said...

Thanks for catching that, Micah. It's been fixed. By the way, I've read and enjoyed your blog for a long time. I was showing my wife the clip you'd posted from the "Lakeland Outpouring" last night.

Yeah, that was something.

Micah Fries said...

Wade-

Glad to hear that you enjoy the blog. It's always nice to find someone who reads it. I hope you and your wife have a fantastic evening.

Blessings
Micah
Psalm 67