Why we need an SBC presidential debate

Meredith Flynn —  April 25, 2016

debate 2There aren’t many aspects of the current national election that should be emulated at the upcoming Southern Baptist Convention. But here’s one: Messengers in St. Louis would be well served by a candidates’ debate of sorts—a public discussion among those running for SBC president.

There are several reasons to add this kind of discussion to the Convention schedule, starting with the issues poised to be central to the 2016 meeting. The key topics Baptists are beginning to talk about now will be very significant in how the SBC moves forward on matters like supporting missionaries, doing evangelism well, and shaping the denomination’s identity in a post-Christian culture.

Last year’s Convention used panel discussions to offer various perspectives on pressing issues. The format could translate easily to a conversation about what each candidate sees as the key issues facing the SBC, and why they feel they’re qualified for the job.

Furthermore, each of the announced candidates has proven they’re willing to work with the larger Baptist family to accomplish shared goals. David Crosby worked with other pastors in New Orleans to help rebuild the city following Hurricane Katrina. Steve Gaines was part of the committee that revised The Baptist Faith and Message in 2000. J.D. Greear has shared platforms and panels with a variety of thinkers from across the Convention.

Surely they’d be willing to share their ideas about the SBC and its future if it meant more messengers (voters) would have a clearer picture of who they believe can lead it best.

Blogger and pastor Dave Miller recently noted what is perhaps the most practical reason for a debate: Everybody’s talking about this stuff already.

Miller advocated in a March post on SBC Voices that Baptists break with tradition and encourage campaigning for the office of SBC president, with one of his main reasons being that “politicking” has always been a part of the process, just a behind-the-scenes part. With the rise of social media, Miller wrote, “we have the opportunity to hear from our candidates.”

Yes, prior to the Convention, we can hear from the candidates through one-on-one interviews and podcasts. But let’s go one step further. Let’s have a civil, helpful discourse in St. Louis on the state of the SBC, its current challenges, and how each candidate would direct the denomination toward fulfilling God’s Great Commission to make disciples.

Meredith Flynn


Meredith is managing editor of the Illinois Baptist newspaper.