By Eric Reed
We could have talked about how SBC entities and churches handle allegations of sexual abuse. We could have talked about the value of women in the culture and their role in our churches and denomination.
We could have talked about the direction of international missions, the SBC Executive Committee’s guidance of missions giving, and the future of Southwestern Seminary after the departure of Paige Patterson.
And certainly we could have talked about the report from Steve Gaines’s evangelism task force, their recommendations, and the crying need to share Christ worldwide and to turn the decline in baptisms and membership in the SBC.
But instead, we gave two hours of valuable floor time at the 2018 Southern Baptist Convention to non-Southern Baptist interests, parachurch leaders, and panel discussions.
These were wasted moments.
Don’t get me wrong: We’re glad the ERLC hosted a panel outside the convention itself on the #metoo movement, and the seminary presidents said their schools are concerned about sexual harassment and proper reporting. But in the convention itself, there was no dedicated time for consideration of this critical matter.
A focus on stewardship is important and we appreciate the work of financial advisor Dave Ramsey. The Illinois Baptist runs his column in every issue. But did Ramsey and this topic really deserve so much attention when other issues have arisen in recent months?
The same is true for Ravi Zacharias. Apologetics are important in our era, and every believer should be prepared to share his beliefs with clarity and conviction. But is the platform of our denomination the right venue to tackle so great a subject? And at the loss of time from our meager two days together to address the matters decried online for weeks and in the hallways for days at the convention center?
And the issue of welcoming Vice President Mike Pence to speak can be argued from several angles. Given the comments by incoming SBC President J.D. Greear and others of his generation (and younger), it seems less likely that the platform of the SBC will be the place for a speech that too quickly turned from evangelical political interests to mid-term campaigning. That’s valuable time we won’t get back.
We missed the opportunity to really, deeply, and meaningfully address the renewal of evangelism, the seachange coming at SBC entities currently without presidents, and women—more than half our constituency—their role and our respect for them. The whole event ran late, and the time for helpful discussion was eaten up by outside interests. Almost all of the resolutions were passed without comment because there simply wasn’t time.
Surely the planners of the 2018 convention had no idea their well-intentioned focus on stewardship and issues not exclusive to Southern Baptists would be swamped by headline-making events within the denomination. But when that happened, some shift in the focus of the meeting would have been appropriate.
With all that’s happening within the SBC these days, our short time assembled together needs a laser focus. The rest can wait.
Eric Reed is editor of the Illinois Baptist newspaper.