Thursday, May 24, 2007

The “Good Ol’ Boy System” is a Reality

The newly formed “Save Our Convention” group within the Missouri Baptist Convention has some interesting behaviors that discredit their objectives. They are supposedly against any one group or person “controlling” the convention, but they are seeking to “control” the nomination process and the President’s privilege of appointments. They are supposedly against “power” and “powerbrokers” all the while organizing to gain power. They don’t like things kept “all in the family” even as they keep their campaign “all in the family”. And they decry ‘legalism’ and bemoan ‘narrow parameters’ even as they denied Missouri Baptist Convention President Mike Green the privilege of speaking at their recent meeting at First Baptist Church of Harvester. Sounds an awfully lot like Orwellian doublespeak to me.

Are we to believe this new group, if they succeed in seizing power—oops, strike that—if they are successful in attaining the convention’s delegated authority to enlist persons to influence and serve in various positions (yes, that’s much better), won’t be nominating their friends and compatriots for said positions?

I’d have only a small problem with this group if they’d be a bit more straightforward and say something like “we don’t like where we think the state convention is headed and feel the majority of our fellow Baptists currently serving should be replaced by others who share views closer to our own.” I could live with that a little better. This group has every right to band together to elect a President and nominate others who share their ideology and attempt to influence the direction of the Missouri Baptist Convention. But their current banter seems like a thinly veiled smoke screen and is incredibly disingenuous—“we hate powerbrokers, so we’re going to try to become the new powerbrokers.”

By the way, to speak of Roger Moran and the Missouri Baptist Laymen’s Association as “powerbrokers” is a bit of an overreach in my mind. Influencers, yes. Powerbrokers, no. These brothers ought to know better than to take their cues from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The bottom line is that if the “Save Our Convention” folks get enough Missouri Baptists to support them and their views, they’ll be putting “their people” into positions of influence. Missouri Baptists should know, we’ll only be trading one “political machine” for another. We will not be dismantling any “good ol’ boy” system. Nor should we.

That’s right, nor should we. The good-ole-boy system is simply someone recommending someone they know to a position of service. The alternative would be some type of Missouri Baptist lottery where someone draws a name out of the hat and recommends that person. Could you, reader, in good conscience recommend a stranger? We recommend our friends. People we trust and believe in. Colleagues we’ve worked with and developed relationships with. I can guarantee the “Save Our Convention” people will be recommending people they know and people who are committed to their same ideology, whatever it is.

I personally am a recipient of this system. I was a Missouri Baptist for 34 years and a Missouri Baptist pastor for 12 years before I was nominated to the commission I now serve. As the tent is broadened, and it has been broadened under Moran's influence, more Baptists are involved in convention decisions. I personally know of some life-long Missouri Baptists who are just now serving our state convention. They've taken no oath of loyalty to the MBLA and they aren't jihadists for a Moran crusade.

Consider blogging celebrities Wade Burleson and Ben Cole. Both are relentless critics of the SBC power structure. But when they were invited to a pow-wow with former president Jimmy Carter, who do you think they called up to tag along? (Hint: it wasn’t me and they didn’t flip through the pages of the SBC Annual for a random selection). That’s right, blogging buddy and partner in crime Marty Duren. Humm, could it be they have a little power group of their own? And wouldn’t it be more than a little irresponsible for them to have selected some stranger to accompany them? I can think of a couple of Republican goofballs who would have embarrassed them to no end.

The good-ole-boy system is a staple of American life. You can decry ‘politics’ all you want in Missouri Baptist life, but as long as we have elections there will be a political element. One of the reasons I hate the 2nd Vice-Presidential election at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention is because I rarely know the nominee or the nominating speaker. I could be voting for some scoundrel for all I know—which is why I don’t vote for someone I don’t know anything about.

I’m digressing a bit. The “Save Our Convention” needs to be genuine. I’m not buying them becoming political because they hate politics. And I can’t believe they really want us all to get along, even if we don’t agree perfectly when they refuse the convention President Mike Green the privilege of speaking at their rally ostensibly because he doesn’t agree totally with their agenda. No, there’s a clear agenda here, and I’m left wondering what it is. More about that later.

23 comments:

martyduren said...

Rodney-
Just a minor correction as it relates to your chronology: Wade invited both Ben and me; Wade and Ben did not invite me.

Scott said...

"we’ll only be trading one “political machine” for another"

Exactly, Rodney. This is precisely the point everyone seems to be missing. SOC or Project 1000, what's the difference. The complaint of the SOC folks is not that there are powerbrokers/influencers, etc. It's that THEY are not the ones in charge. And quite honestly, if someone has to be in charge, I'm more comfortable with well-read non-pastor types, representing the bulk of the MBC than I am in following along behind the mega-church pastors in our state.

Dick Clark said...

Dear Rod,

Please permit me to identify myself to lend credibility:
I was associate pastor with Richard Wallis at Bethany Baptist Church, Kansas City, 1975-1980. I worked with your parents, Ron and Marcie, and came to greatly admire their dedication to our Lord.
I retired after 35 years pastoring in Missouri, Illinois and Oklahoma; the six years at Bethany were my only years not as senior pastor.
My daughter, Christy, (now age 41), became good friends with your sister and her husband while they served at Southern Hills, Bolivar.

Here in the Springfield area we have a fellowship of retired ministers that meet monthly. ALL of us have been heart broken over the events tearing apart our state convention. Many tears have been shed as we have prayed for her.
In the 15 years I have lived here since retiring, I have come to personally know and appreciate John Marshall and Mike Green. I have great respect for other men who were involved in the Save Our Convention meeting. Kenny Qualls did a remarkable job pastoring here in our Association. I trust these men for sincerely seeking the mind of Christ.

As I read the stated purposes of SOC I can find no deficiency in them; they should be a "given:"
1. To break the power-hold that a small group has on the Missouri Baptist Convention;
2. To halt the spread of a legalistic spirit and allow for diversity of opinion on non-essentials;
3. To include all those who want to work together with the Baptist Faith and Message as our guide.

Your idea that "we’ll only be trading one 'political machine' for another" seems logical at first, until you personally know these men. If you did a study of the list of persons who have served on boards and committees during the last 10-15 years you would see a pattern confirming the fact that a very limited group of persons exercise authority in our convention. This is a pattern that seems to cycle throughout the years. I did such a study in the 1970's and it was eye-opening. You probably know from working with churches that such a pattern can develop when the same persons exercise authority year after year.

Please make this a matter of prayer and hold off on your criticism. And as Gamaliel advised in Acts 5:38-39, let's see if this is the Lord's doing.

In Christian love,
Dick Clark rclark01@juno.com

Rod said...

Marty:

Thanks for the clarification. I hope it didn't sound harsh, but it did help make my point.

Rod said...

Dick:

Thanks for your post, my dear brother. I do remember you and Christy. I remember you as a very kind and gracious minister. You picked me once to carry in the American flag for VBS--that will endear you forever to any little kid!

I can appreciate your perspective. I too, know some of the leaders of SOC and can appreciate them and their past and future service to the MBC. I focused on the SOC as a movement/organization; perhaps I should focus more on them as persons.

I also know the leaders they are castigating (yes, that's a strong word but I think it is an apt fit) and am greatly frustrated because of the things being said about them. Those persons are not a power-hungry group bent on controlling our denomination.

I hope you'll drop by again. Perhaps you'll help keep any of my vitriol in check. I hope to get to know you better and reacquaint ourselves.

Rob Ayers said...

Rod,

I've posted here in the last few days more than the past year! Sorry about that. While I am on the mailing list of SOC, I did not make the meeting at Harvestor. I have strong concerns about "naming names" and the list of eleven without a small church pastor on it - and using the leverage of "things don't change, then we are gone." If the concern here is "one good ole boy" network for another, I believe that concern is well founded.

My concern is this: As you have stated, "networks" tend to gravitate towards friends and people one knows. Seminary buds, folks in associations, that sort of thing. But here is the problem: A great majority of our Missouri Baptists churches are rural and small who are predominantly served by bi-vocational pastors who more than likely have little college education, much less seminary. They are predominantly conservative (hence the former regime and their fear of being inclusive to these small churches), yet predominantly historically and currently are underepresented as a body in the work of the Convention. They will never run in the circles that finds themselves networking with many of the full time pastors/staff or otherwise. If you are asking me, the lottery system sounds a whole lot more representative than the current system in place. Hence the anger everytime the Nominating Committee changes the rules, or resorts to cronyism to fill positions. The anger when someone once more fills a position who has served multiple times, whereas a church who has been in this convention for upteen years has never been represented on any board or the MBC (thus my confusion at the anger at keeping Gerald Davidson off the EB - has he not served this convention multiple times already?). This stuff needs to stop. Another reason for the existence of SOC.

What I think is that all of us need to get our heads out of the sand and deal with all of these issues together before any more fur flies.

Thanks brother - you know -

Rob

Rod said...

Rob:

I'm not sure how your concerns can best be addressed; I believe there is some way without a public crusade, so thanks for not launching one (yet?!?!).

I hope you'll soon make your entry into denominational service; your insights and demeanor are always helpful.

Rod said...

Rob:

And keep posting! There's definitely not a quota on this blog. I think we're up to 6 posts on this entry (3 of which are my responses) which ranks this 2nd place on my blog history!

Rob Ayers said...

Hey man,

I broke my blog record the other day at 27 - mostly me and a critic (a "moderate" one at that) going after it ball and chain. Let's keep it up! Maybe it will increase your traffic!

Rob

Rod said...

Rob:

You mean you're still posting? The last time I check you had one from like 1983 or something.

Rob Ayers said...

Go check it out man. I've posted twice in the last week. In one I talk about reinventing the state convention. Tell me what you think!

Rob

Scott said...

Regarding Dick's comments:
"I read the stated purposes of SOC I can find no deficiency in them."

The problem is in the assumption that they complaints are true.

1. Prove to me that there really is a power group running things. I just don't see the proof.

2. What exactly is the leagalism being talked about? Is it really legalistic to promote the sufficiency of Scripture, etc.? Again this seems like a "percieved" issue.

3. Who doesn't want to work with the BFM?

All three of these, along with the other stated "issues" in the SOC only have standing if they can be proven; which I've seen little proof of, and lots of opinion. Until I have much more proof, I stand by the statement that this is simply a group of folks who are only upset because THEY are not the ones "in charge."

Rob Ayers said...

Scott,

Have you ever heard the saying "perception is reality?" Like Dick above, let's hold off in ascribing motives until we know more - certainly these men have shown in the past that they are on the "good side." Everyone has an opinion that is worthy to sit down and listen to. And you should know that one person's "legalism" is another's "sufficeincy." All the more reason to talk it out without a hearing. Agreed?

Rob

There, Rod - I'm keeping it going!

Scott said...

Rob:
And yet, these very things could be said about the men and women that the SOC group is slandering. They are on the "good side", have worthy opinions, etc. So why are we attacking them and using terms like "Save Our Convention." This seems to be much more than an exchange of ideas. It suggests there is an enemy we are in need of being saved from. The whole thing just smacks of politics and personalities, not legitimate concerns. I've heard their complaints, I just don't see any validity to them. And that's my worthy opinion.

Rob Ayers said...

My brother Scott,

Just because you see no validity does not make it so. Again, read my first comment "Perception is reality."

Rob

Scott said...

Rob, OK, perception is reality. Why then does that not apply to the "other side." If Jeff White or others perceive a problem with some of our relationships as a convention, then they are real and need to be dealth with. And indeed they are. But since McAlpin is the only one on the investigative committee to disagree with that perception, we now have SOC. It goes both ways, brother, and if so, then the whole SOC thing is pointless.

And by the way, Rodney, thanks for letting us use this forum to "discuss" the matter, since I joined you in leaving the MoBaptist list.

Rob Ayers said...

Scott

Read my first post again "Everybody has an opinion that is worthy" so I would suspect that I mean both sides of this issue. Both sides (IMHO) need to concede some issues, and compromise on others to find a solution that would glorify God. At the end of the day probably no one will be happy - but we will still be working together. In my opinion (if a 'majority' is allowed to rule), a mere majority of 51% will cause the other 49% to leave and vice versa. That is where we are at.

As I have said, if I had known where this committee was going, then I would not have voted for it. I am hoping that cooler and saner heads will snap it in Executive. I believe that the model of this compromise can be found in Acts and the model of the Jerusalem council. What say you?

I can call my Brother Jeff White by his first name - that is the honorable and loving thing to do even though I have questioned what exactly he is doing. Dr. McAlpin has a name and a title that is also honorable, having earned his Ph.D. the old fasioned way, and speaks a couple of languages to boot. He is also a Pastor who has proven his worth to Missouri Baptists and in the Conservative Resurgence. And while he may have done some things in which you disagree, is he also not worthy of your respect and grace?

Rob

Jim Shaver said...

Rob,

I'm curious about one thing you mentioned. That of being on the SOC mailing list.

I wasn't aware that they had one but apparently they do!

One of my greatest frustrations with all of this MBC MESS is that nobody is communicating.

Tolliver is not Communicating except for his article in the Pathway every two weeks.

Hinkle is not Communicating outside of his biweekly publication. Even W&W Scooped Pathway on the meeting in Harvester.

SOC is not communicating at least with me. I did get an email from D. McAlpin after I emailed him and asked him what the meeting was all about. And only then at the last minute - the morning before the meeting.

Roger Moran is not communicating except for his Letter to the Editor in the Pathway.

It seems to me if anyone wants to make a big difference in MBC life right now there is an opening that could be exploited by any "thinking" person who would start compiling an email mailing list and start getting his message out.

I just find it incredible in this modern age of technology that somebody in Missouri is not bouncing emails into my inbox every day trying to change my mind about something.

Scott said...

Rob:
Talk about being touchy. Absolutely no disrespect was intended. You and I both know that we often use last names only, if nothing else as a sort of short hand. If I was well known enough for people to even recognize my name, I would not be offended at all if I was refered to in print of this kind simply as Weldon (even though I am only a dissertation away from a doctorate as well, but I've even asked our church not to call me Dr. Anything if and when I get there).

You are still skipping the point. If you want to argue for perception as reality, then why is SOC and others denying that reality to Jeff (yes, I can call him by the first name, too, since he was the former pastor of the church I now serve)? Other sound - minded individuals are on that committee and yet Doctor McAlpin is the only one upset.

So by this argument, if I get outvoted in a committee, my reaction should not be, OK, the majority has spoken, but instead I should go out and marshall the troops and see how much division I can stir up. Well, that certainly doesn't seem like the compromise attitude you mentioned in Acts, now does it?

I can tell you this. If that kind of thing happened in our church committees, we would be constantly at odds, putting out fires, and have no unity at all. Hmmm..I guess that IS where the MBC is right now.

Rod said...

Rob:

One thing I've pretty well decided against is the "wait and see" attitude advised by you and Dick. I understand the value of proceeding cautiously, wisely and Christianly. But isn't it safe to say SOC hasn't defined itself proactively, but reactively? Haven't they "declared war" on MBLA? And if I KNOW these persons to be good men of integrity, wouldn't it be irresponsible of me to watch them be criticized?

I, like Scott, see no proof of cronyism, power control, etc. These are reckless charges. I restate my objections that SOC, if truly bothered by power and control, would not be doing what they are doing, which is all about power and control.

I'll restate again, these Baptist leaders have every right to organize in order to influence. But they should be honest and courteous to acknowledge that's what MBLA has done.

To label Moran and others, in essence, as power hungry/controlling people, even while you threaten the President to override his appointments unless they are "more representative" of Baptist life (and who's to determine that?) is so clearly disingenious, hence my post--which is in essence being re-posted through this comment, which is why I'm ending.

I wish I had a rock to crawl under. Don't most of us?

Rob Ayers said...

My Brother Scott -

With all respect for you, I am not sensitive, just observant. In previous postings you referred to your friend "Jeff" as just that - in fairly positive tomes I might add - and to David as "McAlpin" - in fairly negative hostile tomes. Now I admit I am only going by the written word here, but to be truthful you are fairly hostile to Dr. McAlpin and his group, right? I am just of the conviction that we treat those in the household of faith with a modicum of respect in both our discussion and writing. This should be done universally because the Scripture instructs us to. One cannot clamor for the "sufficiency of Scripture" without it being sufficient in all areas. That is my only sensitivity to your comments.

Jim,

I totally and completly agree. In my mock State Convention, there is an Associate Director who is in charge of media/technological services whose job it would be to provide and maintain mailing lists of both pastors and churches - as well as maintain daily the website of MBC as well as the News Journal. I think it is high time that we get our heads out of the sand and get into the technology that is available for us to use instead of the 19th century. It should be in the interests of the Convention that all of the churches have access to e-mail and high speed systems for communication. If I could generate such a list, I would enlist you to help me try to bring about some peace in this convention. Again maybe not. One of the weaknesses that has been pointed out by many on the SOC group is that they seem to be "big church" heavy.

Rod,

My only "but" to your comments is the Special Commitee report. In it, there are recommendations for the Committee of Contiuing Review to look at as to Nominating Commitee procedures. Now, brother, to tell you the truth I was flabergasted at some of the recommendations. I thought that several of the concerns listed there had already been taken care of. How come there are still charges of cronyism? How easy it it to change Nominating Committee rules by successive committees? How come there are repetitive names being placed before the convention when there are churches who have NEVER been represented? This is outrageous - and something that I thought Project 1000 was going to cure. The reason why we are still discussing this is very discouraging to me - hence probably why I am on the SOC mailing list.

I agree that the system in place encourages power groups and cliques - and the "changing of the guard" only leads to a different group in charge (vis a vis George Orwell's "Animal Farm"). Yet at this time all that I have to recommend for change is a radical departure from what is which will never fly.

As Jim says, we need more communication not less. We need to be deluged with information with less hidden agendas and more transparency from all sides. How come Roger Moran's letter-to-the-editor was printed before Dr. Devines response to the Ad Hoc Committee? I could use that as antedotal evidence that would convince conspiracy theorist. Do you see it? I am hoping that you see the other side of this concern, and that these issues are not flippantly ignored (for in my opinion they have been).

Rob

Scott said...

Rob:
To clarify. Though Jeff White is previous pastor here, I've only met him once; I was just trying to make a point. And the truth is, I'm not "hostile" to Dr. McAlpin or anyone else. I remember attending a Project 1000 meeting at his church several years ago and was favorably impressed. I aplogize once again for any perceived disrespect, none is inteneded.

I am simply trying to understand their "hostility." As Rodney has pointed out, the SOC folks have all but declared war on the "enemy" and that sort of language is divisive anytime, anywhere, just as the language used by Gerald Davidson at last year's convention was. People are sitting around thinking, "where is this coming from." And from the perspective of people in my church and many others it just seems like those who are not calling the shots crying "foul" in hopes that they CAN call the shots. Politics as usual.

By the way, how many of these "power mongers" do you know personally? How many of them have you asked about their motives in any of their percieved influence. I don't know any of the names mentioned in the SOC well, save one or two moderately well, but my brief interaction with any of them strikes me that they are all kind and compassionate individuals who have given much of themselves for the MBC, never asking anything in return. None have ever struck me as the power mad individuals they are made up to be. And for the record, as a card carrying Project 1000 supporter, I don't remember hearing from anyone in that group for the last several years about voting one way or another, etc. You said perception is reality; well that's my perception and reality to me and lots of other folks until we're presented with hard facts to the contrary. If that makes me sound hostile to SOC, so be it.

Rod said...

Rob:

Never say never! ("all that I have to recommend for change is a radical departure from what is which will never fly.")

"Keep hope alive!" --Jesse Jackson

I haven't chewed on your proposal enough, though I agree with the great need of developing the technology side of the convention. I wanted to do weekly podcasts or vodcasts to the convention for CLC stuff, but couldn't get it off the ground.

There's probably more hope of your ideas becoming reality than of Roger Moran being elected convention president!