**Editors Note: Below is a letter to JD Hall, founding editor of the Pulpit and Pen blog. It has been reposted here with permission from the sender, with minor formatting edits and links added. The SBC has become a melting pot of politics, religion and charity, and if you aren’t on board with this agenda, you are deemed unfit for the convention. The leadership has been clear that unity around this social gospel, at all costs, is priority, and will attack anyone or any theology that dissents. This letter represents the typical correspondence that Pulpit & Pen regularly receives from disgruntled Southern Baptists and evangelicals as a whole. The problems listed here are only a few that scratch the surface but represent the systemic problems that plague the convention. This reader shares his response to JD’s post, Man Up and Do Something, by telling us what he did. The reader has requested to remain anonymous.
We’ve never met or corresponded before, but your recent column, Man Up and Do Something, caught my eye.
First let me start by introducing myself. I’m married, live in the South, and I am a professing believer in our Lord Jesus. For the first 36 years of my life, I was a “true blue” Southern Baptist. I was saved at VBS in a Southern Baptist church as a child and was baptized in an SBC church. I attended two (2) SBC colleges (Truett-McConnell College in Georgia and Liberty University in Virginia). I have two (2) degrees, including an advanced degree.
When I “Stood up and did something.” When I started college in the early 1990s, the “Conservative Resurgence” was effectively over at the national level. However, state conventions and institutions were still on the “battle lines.” Truett-McConnell was such a place. Having always been involved in a “conservative” SBC church, I had no knowledge or interaction with those of the “other side.” But I was convinced that my school was in dire need of God’s intervention and a theological shift to the right. My religion professor at Truett was a Southern grad and hated Dr. Mohler (the new president at the time). My professor taught that Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed for being “inhospitable” to visitors and that the creation story was “probably true, but could also be probably allegorical.”
I took it upon myself to fight this, and when the administration invited a local, liberal, female, episcopalian pastor to speak at our convocation (Barbara Brown Taylor-look her up..she’s well published)- I took my fight to the trustees. (Patterson and Pressler would have been proud)
With dozens of students saying they supported me, I signed my name to letters sent to trustees of the school. Of course, my “John Hancock” stood alone. Taylor showed up to speak, and I was made to look like a fool by the liberal students and faculty. All because my school was trying to make convocation about politics, and all I wanted to hear was good, biblical, conservative preachers/leaders. Male or female.
Years went by and the school has changed. As you know, Dr. Caner (the lesser) runs the college now. I don’t contribute a dime as an alumni. But I still have good memories of Truett and my times there.
Years passed, I married, started a family, and stayed in church (for the most part). But my calling changed. No longer called to the ministry, I started work in the business world. My wife had been a life-long member of First Baptist Church Woodstock (FBCW), GA, since the early 1980s. So we began attending and worshiping there. I knew about convention politics and polity by now and championed the “heroes” of the SBC. Johnny Hunt, Bob Reccord (who was my pastor for a time), Paige Patterson, Adrian Rogers, and my hero–a man I love and admired for over 20 years–Danny Akin. I spent my hours in the car listening to their sermons. Sometimes I could quote them back to them from several years prior. (That made Akin laugh!)
But as I watched the convention grow, I saw things around me I didn’t like.
- Inflated church membership rolls, with our church claiming 14-thousand members, but only half showing up consistently on Sundays.
- Baptisms of children as young as 4.
- Worship services that included music I was hearing on “Christian Radio,” with lights and sounds so loud I felt like I was at a rock concert.
- And finally, services that included sermons that addressed sin, redemption, and salvation, but then basically turned into a Republican pep rally.
Political leaders would show up at my church just to get recognized before the sermon as if their very presence made them a Christian and their recognition by my pastor made it so!
Then something happened one day about 7-8 years ago. Johnny Hunt talked about people who were trashing him on the internet for something he said and stood for. So, being the natural investigator that I am, I checked it out. It turns out that Johnny had said some things about Calvinists and they jumped on him. So I asked, who are these “Calvinists?” Well, it turns out they were guys I admired; MacArthur, Sproul, Mohler, Dever, Packer, Owen, Spurgeon, even Calvin himself. The more I read, the more I came to understand–I actually am Calvinist/Reformed myself.
“So what?” I thought, “my heroes are all Christians. Johnny Hunt is a Christian, there’s room for us all!”
Boy, was I mistaken.
So I watched, Sunday after Sunday, as the pastor I followed tore down the beliefs of men I admired and loved. He said Calvinists wanted babies to go Hell. He said Calvinists wouldn’t cross the street to share Jesus. People around me cheered. I sat on my hands and cried. I loved and shared Jesus. I believed in the inerrancy of Scripture. “Why are you after me?” I asked.
Then Jerry Vines retired and moved into our church as “pastor in residence.” He started up the fight too. I cried because the convention I loved, the men I loved, the place I had served, now had no more outsiders to fight, so now they turned on each other–and they were turning on me.
But we stayed. Stayed because I believed God’s Spirit works at the church. I still believe that even though we are no longer members there. I stayed because I thought, “maybe this is my issue–my problem.” Who am I to disagree with a man that leads thousands to Christ, while I’m blessed if I do it once a week, if that?
But then I saw and read about the people Hunt was endorsing, or promoting. Disgraced church leaders and figures such as Ergun Caner. And everyone around me had no clue what was happening and most likely did not care. So one Sunday, instead of turning to go the route to FBCW, I went straight. I sat down at a Presbyterian Church (PCA). I had prayed, studied, read, prayed, cried, prayed, read, and prayed. Needless to say, we left FBCW. I haven’t even been back. Yes, we lost a few friends, but gained a family. I went from a church of 8k people on Sunday to one with maybe 150. I realized, it’s never about numbers, political party, or how many you baptize.
But I keep reading about my old family–the SBC. I see things that Russell Moore (who I actually used to like a lot), Ronnie Floyd, Steve Gaines, Johnny Hunt, Jerry Vines, and even Danny Akin have done. And I weep. I Weep for the same reasons you weep.
I read your blog. I get angry because nothing has changed. The SBC leadership always needs an enemy, and when they find one, they attack it until they find the next one. I don’t think the words “peace” and “SBC” are ever synonymous. The “Peace Committee” taught us that long ago.
I say all this to tell you, JD, that we, my family and I, did something. We left the SBC. Maybe you’ll say I gave up. Maybe I did. But maybe, MAYBE they just didn’t want me anymore. I don’t talk bad about the SBC or even FBCW. I still read baptist blogs, and listen to what happens to you all.
My denomination has its problems too. We are all fallen creatures in need of grace.
You’re a good man. I enjoy your wit and posts. We have a lot in common, and I’m jealous you live in Montana. (I’m an avid fly fisher and fowl hunter.) Thank you for taking the time to hear my story. I’m not special. I’m not unique. But I had my heart broken by the very thing I fought for, and that’s just not an easy thing to get over.
All the best.