If you haven’t heard of the Lifeway scandal, regarding #the15 by now, I recommend reading this article. The debacle revolves around the Southern Baptist entity, Lifeway Bookstores, who serves as the publishing branch of the convention. Lifeway, as a representative of the SBC has been called out for peddling heretical materials by unsound teachers, as well as Heaven tourism books, for profit, and not responding to criticism for their actions. One particular heretical book Lifeway peddled for years for monetary gain is “The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven.” The book, though officially co-authored by Alex Malarkey and his Father, was actually a work completely by Alex’s father, that Alex himself never supported. Alex recanted his story publicly, his mother publicly wrote about it, and world class apologist, and former Lifeway trustee, Justin Peters, even informed Lifeway about Alex’s recantation years before the book was finally pulled from the shelves after a massive outcry by #the15, and Alex’s recantation made viral through the Pulpit and Pen website.
Recently, it has been announced that Alex Malarkey will be making the trip to the Southern Baptist Convention this year. J.D. Hall will be meeting up with Alex, and if given the opportunity, Alex will be addressing the Convention and Lifeway (i.e. Ed Stetzer and Thom Rainer), regarding them ignoring his pleas to pull the book from the shelves, and stop peddling it for profit.
The Texan, the Texas Baptist Convention’s newspaper, says that Ronnie Floyd told them he would allow time for discussion.
As long as concerns are expressed with gracious civility, SBC President Ronnie Floyd is likely to allow time for discussion, based on comments he made to the TEXAN.
But the subject being discussed in the Texan article was the issue of the recent changes by the IMB. Is Floyd going to apply this same policy to allow for discussion of a subject in which there is no defense for? Is he going to allow the question to be asked in which the only valid response would be an admission of total failure, and a genuine repentance, or resignation? This remains to be seen.
The response to this discussion by leadership in the SBC has been that of complete avoidance, and passing the buck. Neither Ed Stetzer, or Thom Rainer has given the slightest indication that they intend to accept responsibility for their failure. Though the story of Alex’s recantation made national news, Lifeway has yet to acknowledge Alex, let alone apologize. In fact, the only response received by them was an article in the Baptist Press, in which they stated they pulled the book for other reasons:
LifeWay Christian Resources has stopped selling all “experiential testimonies about heaven” following consideration of a 2014 Southern Baptist Convention resolution on “the sufficiency of Scripture regarding the afterlife.”
So if Lifeway, and the Southern Baptist leadership come face to face with Alex, and put on the spot to be forced to answer this question, will Floyd allow it to happen? Ronnie Floyd is known to ignore his critics as well. Though he says he will allow time for discussion as long as concerns are expressed graciously and civilly, he has blocked several of his critics, including myself, on Twitter for asking him tough questions. Ronnie Floyd, as President of the SBC, has the authority to allow or disallow, or to cut off questioning at his discretion. I think it will be very interesting to see whether or not he allows this questioning to happen in the first place, and if he does, will he cut it off as “inappropriate,” “ungracious,” or “uncivil?”
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