From Bad to Jonathan Howe: Baptist Press Covers for New Baptist CEO.

Last week, the Southern Baptist Convention suffered the embarrassment of learning that the interim CEO of its Executive Committee, Willie McLaurin, was a fraud. This week, Southern Baptists learned that McLaurin’s replacment belongs to a church affiliated with the theologically liberal Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF). The church is Woodmont Baptist in Nashville. The replacment is Jonathan Howe, the former Vice President of Communications for the SBC Executive Committee and Baptist Press and current interim CEO of the SBC Executive Committee.

Woodmont is dually aligned with the SBC and the CBF. The CBF was founded in 1991 after the Conservative Resurgence of the SBC finally took hold of the politics of the denomination. Churches which did not affirm biblical inerrancy founded the CBF. Over time, CBF churches began to affirm homosexuality and have continued to embrace females in the pastorate. In short, the creation of the CBF was liberalism’s response the renewed biblical fidelity of the SBC’s Conservative Resurgence.

In keeping with such liberalism, Woodmont has sought females for a pastoral role. Not only that, Jonathan Howe’s own wife has filled it Beth Howe is employed at Woodmont as its Minister of Students and Discipleship. A careful reader will notice that Beth Howe’s title is “minister” and not “pastor”. Responding to controversy over the Howes’ church membership and Beth’s ministeral role at Woodmont, an August 25th Baptist Press article provided the following quote from Woodmont’s Senior Pastor, Nathan Parker”

Originally, we wanted Beth’s position to be for a male pastor. But when she emerged as the best candidate, we changed the job description to remove some of the 1 Timothy elder-qualification [language] because she’s not an elder and doesn’t want to be an elder. None of the women on our staff want to be elders or pastors.”

What’s clear from this quote is that Howe’s wife did indeed seek a pastoral position originally intended for a man. What’s not clear Parker’s obfuscation. A Twitter thread from SBC Underground has uncovered the original posting advertising the job now filled by Beth Howe.

The advertisement for the role indicates that it was intended for both men and women, not just men as Parker indicated. It further indicates that candidates were expected to meet the requirements set out in Timothy and Titus, the pastoral epistles. Woodmont, a CBF church, clearly thinks both men and women can meet those requirements (this not a surprise to anyone vaguely familiar with the CBF). Thus, Parker’s story does not hold up to scrutiny.

Neither does the August 25th Baptist Press article written by national correspondent Scott Barkley. Barkley’s article explicitly mentions the Southern Baptist educational credentials of Woodmont’s staff as well as its generous Cooperative Program and Lottie Moon offerings. Barkley’s implicit message is clear: “These guys are good Southern Baptists”. What Barkley doesn’t mention is Howe’s executive position at Baptist Press. Howe was an active executive at the press outlet until last week! Barkley doesn’t tell readers he is writing about his superior at the entity which employs them both! There is a clear conflict of interest. This is a clear failure to exercise basic journalistic ethics.

When it comes down to it, Baptist Press is less of a newspaper and more of a public relations entity for elite SBC leadership which employs bought and paid for “correspondents” like Scott Barkley. It’s an entity that employed a Cooperative Baptist in a very high and influential position in the SBC, employment which direclty preceded his acquiring the highest position in SBC employment.

People can quibble over whether or not Howe’s wife is really a “pastor” or a “minister” but they cannot deny what the Bible says:

Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?

2 Corinthians 6:14

The Cooperative Baptist Convention exists to band together those who reject the inerrancy of God’s innerant word. Believing Baptists should not partner with the CBF. Jonathan Howe is a Cooperative Baptist…and he’s now in charge of running the day-to-day operations of the SBC.

*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.

Seth Dunn

Masters of Divinity in Christian Apologetics, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary Member of the Evangelical Theological Society Certified Public Accountant