“The Georgia Baptist Convention has been greatly blessed by God. We have some of the most dedicated pastors and leaders in the history of our convention, excellent educational opportunities and resources, and the technological ability to deliver our message to the masses. In addition, we live in a state with over 7 million lost people desperately in need of the Gospel. Considering these factors, you would think we would be making great strides in reaching our state for Christ. Sadly, the opposite is true. Baptisms are down. Giving is down. Church attendance is down. Despite all of our efforts, we continue to lose ground in the battle for the souls of men, women, boys and girls across our state. If this downward trend is to be reversed, the problem causing it must first be determined. I have come to believe that the greatest problem facing our convention is of a spiritual nature. We are in desperate need of revival.” Dr. Don Hattaway, President of the Georgia Baptist Convention on 01/17/2014
As the President of the Georgia Baptist Convention admits, giving and church attendance is down in Georgia Baptist churches….butts are not in the seats. The Georgia Baptist Convention is failing. It is slowly dying. According to the President of the Georgia Baptist Convention, a revival is needed. Our problem says Dr. Hattaway is of a spiritual nature. However, recent events have shown that Georgia Baptist leadership is using political opportunism, not prayer and fasting, to put butts in the seats and coins in the coffers of Georgia Baptist churches. Consider the cases of former Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran and and former Brewton-Parker Vice-President CB Scott. Both were fired from their jobs. One has been pushed into the forefront and made into a Christian celebrity by the Georgia Baptist Convention. The other has been been virtually ignored by Georgia Baptist leadership and asked to sign a nondisclosure agreement by his employer. Let’s examine their cases.
“Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed has fired Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran because of his Christian beliefs. You could be next.” Dr. Don Hattaway,President of the Georgia Baptist Convention
“While you may have read articles that asserted the issue at hand was Chief Cochran’s religious beliefs, I can assure you that those comments could not be further from the truth.” Kasim Reed, Mayor of Atlanta
Ostensibly, Kevlin Cochran was fired, from his job as the City of Atlanta fire chief, for his religious beliefs. This is the explanation given by both Don Hattaway and Gerald Harris, editor of the official Georgia Baptist Convention newspaper, The Christian Index. In a recently published article, Harris stated:
“Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran was fired by Mayor Kasim Reed for expressing his faith and his understanding of biblical truth in a book called ‘Who Told You That You Were Naked.’ In the book he made mention of the scriptural truth that sexual sins, including adultery, bestiality, pederasty and homosexuality are ‘perversions.’”
Harris called for Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s resignation. Reed, however, denies that the firing was over religious beliefs. In an article published by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, journalist Katie Leslie reported:
“(Mayor) Reed said he fired Cochran because of poor judgment and insubordination during his initial 30-day suspension. Specifically, Reed terminated the chief because he failed to receive required approval to publish the book, and then spoke publicly about the ordeal against the mayor’s request.”
According to the official statement from the city of Atlanta, Cochran was fired for not respecting the chain of command. Whether or not this is true, only God knows. Certainly Atlanta is one of America’s most homosexually influenced cities. Cochran’s books is certainly not popular with some Atlanta residents. It is popular with Georgia Baptist leadership, however. Copies were put up for sale in Don Hattaway’s church. Hattaway took a church bus from Cartersville to Atlanta to object to Cochran’s firing at a protest event that the GBC helped to organize. It was called a “stand for faith” rally. According to an eyewitness report given to me by a friend, it was hard to find a seat at Tabernacle Baptist Church on January 25th when Cochran came to give his testimony (and sell his book. Butts were in the seats. On February 8th, Cochran is scheduled to preach at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Blackshear, Georgia. That church is pastored by Don Hattaway’s close friend, Mike Stone. On February 15th, Cochran is preaching at Roswell Street Baptist Church, which is led by influential pastor Dr. Ernest Easley. Cochran has spoken before other churches. He has been made into a high-profile victim by the Georgia Baptist Conventions most influential pastors and its newspaper editor.
He’s putting butts in the seats. He’s a new Christian celebrity in Georgia. He has professional promotional photos. He’s big news.
As has been reported by out-of-state pastor Dwight McKissic, Georgia Baptist institution employee CB Scott was fired from his job at Brewton-Parker College after blowing the whistle on the school’s president, Ergun Caner. Caner has been accused of making racially insensitive and vulgar remarks in front of students and employees of the school. School trustee Gary Campbell, who became the school’s acting President after Caner resigned in disgrace fired CB Scott, for “an infraction of a very important business policy of how grievance information is distributed within the chain of command.” after Scott raised concerns with the charges against Caner. According to the official statement from Brewton-Parker College, Scott was fired for not respecting the chain of command.
With great specificity, McKissic cited eyewitness testimonies to Caner’s vulgarity. Some of his vulgar speech was, according to witnesses made in conversation to his brother Emir, who is President of Truett-McConnel college, another Georgia Baptist institution. Scott, who has a seriously ill wife, was told that he would receive a salary and benefits package if he signed a nondisclosure agreement. He refused citing personal integrity. Ergun Caner, I am told, was given a lucrative severance package. After resigning amid accusations of racism and sexual misconduct, Caner was gone with big money. CB Scott was left with nothing.
Don Hattaway, Mike Stone, Gerald Harris, and Ernest Easely, to the best of my knowledge, have made no public comments about Scott’s controverisal firing. He has not been invited to give his testimony of being disgracefully fired by a Georgia Baptist college. That would not put butts in the seats. Brewton-Parker students have organized a “Stand With Scott” love offering event on Facebook to help him. Georgia Baptists leaders, it seems, have organized nothing.
CB Scott’s firing and it’s cover up are apparently not news.
Leadership Failure: Standing for Faith but not Scott
With Kevlin Cochran, the Georgia Baptist Convention is creating another story-telling speaker to fill the pulpit, put butts in the seats, and fill up the offering plate. I ask Kelvin Cochran to consider if any white Georgia Baptist leaders (Stone, Easely, et al) were buying his book and inviting him to preach before he became national news and was reported on by Todd Starnes as Fox News. He had a Christian testimony and a high-profile job before his firing, how many times was he invited to fill the pulpits of flagship Georgia before he became a sensation that could put butts in the seats? Is it spiritually helpful for Cochran to miss gathering 3 out of 4 Sundays at his own church to go speak elsewhere?
Men like Ernest Easely have buildings to pay for…big ones. They have salaries to be funded…big ones. They need outwardly directed controversy to gin up revenue and outrage. There is no money for mega-church pastors like Easely in condemning the sin in their own Georgia Baptist camp. (Easely recently sold his Corvette)
Emir Caner was on the phone (or Skype), according to witnesses, with Ergun Caner when Ergun called CB Scott “half black” and incompetent. Is this the kind of language that Emir is comfortable with? Why was there a need for an investigation of the comments Ergun made if Emir Caner heard what Ergun said? I’ve personally heard Emir Caner make a joke about terrorism from the pulpit of Easley’s church. Easley has preached chapel for Emir Caner at Truett-McConnell College. These two six-figure preachers know each other well. Georgia Baptist leaders are well aware of what each other do and, the sin at Brewton-Parker, and the sin and in Atlanta.
They condemn the sin that costs them less to condemn. If we’re to have revival in Georgia, sin must not be covered up. Friends must not be looked out for over biblical principles. Every-day baptists need to stop letting big-time pastors decide for them about what to be outraged. Georgia Baptist should be outraged at big-time pastors and the speaking-circuit business they’ve created in Georgia to market one another. Why won’t any Georgia Baptist pastors speak out? The first pastor to speak out is the first pastor off of the speaking circuit.
Where is the needed revival in Georgia? As long as sin is covered up, revival will be covered up. Preachers ask for more and more dollars to pay for more and more speakers. Unfortunately, revival is not for sale.
[Contributed by Seth Dunn]
*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.