Tuesday, July 7, 2009

SBC Controversy of the Month-July

The Southern Baptist Convention's Controversy of the Month for July is brought to you by:

So, what is our Controversy of the Month?

It's the sudden resignation of Clark Logan, Vice President of Administration and Finance for the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention. So, why is that a big deal?

First, background: The Executive Committee is funded by Cooperative Program gifts, and has, as I understand it, these responsibilities: study things related to the whole SBC, divide up the Cooperative Program checks that come in, make the Annual Meeting happen, and promote the Cooperative Program. The Executive Committee employs people to accomplish these tasks. These folks are full-time employees of the SBC, and should be understood to be there to serve the churches that make up the SBC. The Executive Committee are actually elected representatives. They meet occasionally to make sure the staff are doing what they ought to do. It's fundamentally the same as a Board of Trustees with a University.

Morris Chapman is the President of the Exec. Committee (from here out, EC). Clark Logan was a Vice President of the EC, and was actually the man who did most of the organization of the annual meeting. There are additional vice presidents and staff, plus administrative staff at the EC offices in Nashville. In theory, all of these people are hired by the actual EC. In practice, they're hired by their direct report. So, Clark Logan would have been hired by Morris Chapman. Also, in theory, apart from a demonstrated moral failing, the EC is who has the power to fire. In practice, though, things get mushy.

This is where we get to the Controversy of the Month. Morris Chapman asked Clark Logan to resign. Right now, there's some fussiness over Chapman not being up front about that when he was first asked about it, but this is the SBC. We were the home religious group of the President of the United States who wanted to argue what the meaning of 'is' is. He didn't learn that just in school. We've been exemplifying hedging and politicking in our churches for a long time. Chapman was answering a question, but the news sources don't give the question. Note to news media: if you want to give us the quoted answer, give us the quoted question. His answer was "It is not the practice of the Executive Committee to respond to rumors." Now, if the question was a very direct "Did you ask Clark Logan to resign?" then implying it was a rumor and refusing to answer was inappropriate. But, if the question was "What do you say to the rumors Clark Logan was fired?" then the answer is acceptable. And even when dealing with religious news media, you have to be careful volunteering information. So, it's actually important, as whether Chapman was being deceptive or not is relevant to his credibility.

Now, what made this big enough to be Controversy of the Month? These things:

1. Suddenness. Logan had just managed the annual meeting. And done well. Why is he quitting now?

2. Chapman's opposition to the Great Commission Resurgence movement in the SBC. While we don't have a public statement from Logan on the GCR, it's possible they were at odds over it. Logan would have needed to not publicly bicker with his boss over this issue. So, soon we may know. We do have public statements from Drs. Mohler and Moore at SBTS expressing support and kinship with Logan. As these two men remain leaders in the GCR movement, there's a strong likelihood Logan and Chapman differed here. The controversy side is that 95% of messengers at the annual meeting supported the GCR-related motion. The EC staff works for us, and, at this point, Morris Chapman needs to be for the GCR, because his bosses, the people of the SBC, have said we're doing it. To fire a subordinate for agreeing, privately, with the directions of the SBC is not good leadership.

3. Logan's involvement with Moore and Mohler, alongside his graduating from and working for Southern Seminary gives a decent hint he leans towards the Calvinist side of Southern Baptist life. He might not, but as Bob the Tomato said once, it's highly probable. Chapman doesn't understand how a Calvinist leaning fits with the missions and evangelism drive in Scripture and Baptist life. He showed this in his speech at the annual meeting that was interpreted as a rant against Calvinism. He actually didn't describe any Calvinists I know, but rather attacked the caricature of Calvinism that's easy to dislike. If he thinks that's what Southern Baptist Calvinists actually believe, he's wrong. See my thoughts here. If Logan and Chapman were at odds over theology, then that could be a problem with their working relationship. However, Chapman should have said so.

4. A lack of information. This thing brewed up over 4th of July weekend, with no information. There were tweets back and forth, but they lacked substance or links to substance. Simply statements of "I stand with Clark Logan." Logan was trying to respect the organization and get out of the limelight. Chapman was trying to protect the organization and his leadership and say nothing. So, you had people getting all riled up with no information. That may have worked 30 years ago. Even 20 years ago. You can't do that these days. If you start the tempest, you need to provide information to substantiate it, and soon. Otherwise, hold on to striking that match. By Saturday, there were people twittering that Morris Chapman needed to go as President of the EC. Maybe he does. But you couldn't be making that call Saturday. For all the information that was publicly available, Logan had quit because he wanted to. We copied our pattern of whispering from churches into this. It's bad in church too, but we do it. All we had was "Mohler said there's more to this" and "Moore says there's more to this" being retweeted. Well, I find no reason to distrust Mohler and Moore, but I still see no reason to distrust Chapman, either. I actually get more suspicious when someone says "you should be angry about this, but I won't tell you why." I don't respond as a pastor to the "I can't tell you who, but there are people upset about _____" comments.

5. A lack of understanding of the Trustee/Board system for our denominational life. The EC meets occasionally, though they also confer via phone, email, and other means between meetings. But they cannot take any action without being in an official meeting, even if they have to call one to make it so. Then, since it's a personnel issue, they would have to confer with legal counsel and personnel involved before they could publicize much of their actions. In other words, there are people who can, should, and will deal with whether this was done right. But it takes time. I think some of the twitterers were hoping to see Friday bring an announcement that Morris Chapman had resigned and Clark Logan was taking his place. It won't happen for a while, if at all. Logan will not starve, I assure you. If he gets through this month without being employed at either SBTS or SEBTS, the next month will find him with a church staff or pastorate role. Contact your state's representative on the EC, and ask them to investigate and act appropriately. Ask them to get the permissions necessary to publicize the decisions and process.

On that note: spend the 2 quarters to buy a stamp and mail them a letter. Really. Don't mass email the EC. None of them are full-time EC staff. They have jobs and lives, and many are church pastors. How many mass emails do you read? Wait until you have enough real information to write a letter and then mail it. Also, do your own research. I don't know if Internet Explorer has it, but I know Firefox 3.5 and Safari 4 both have this nifty box in the upper right corner for easy searching! Type "SBC Executive Committee" in the box. You'll find their website, and then click on the "Officers and Members" section. You can find the names yourself! And there's enough info there to find out how to contact them. Don't expect somebody to post a listing of all of their emails. You don't broadcast yours that much, do you? Just how much spam do you want to serve them? This isn't like searching old books for stuff. If you can tweet, blog, Facebook, then you should know how to search the internet! It's likely that some of the 'old guard' probably already knew who to contact and how to contact them by keeping such things written down.

My take on this:

1. The "young" leaders movement just burnt a lot of its credibility with me. You can't throw a fit without information. It smells fishy, but we didn't know. And yet we started screaming for someone's job and head without knowing. Oddly enough, some of these same folks were agitated 2 weeks ago at the SBC Annual Meeting over the Driscoll motions, and wanted people to trust the trustee processes to deal with those problems. Ok, shoe's on the other foot now. You wanted people to trust the trustee process to deal with their disagreements. Is that how you handled this? Not until I saw a retweet of Ronnie Floyd's statement to contact the EC yourself did I see people in the net sphere going that direction. We can't have it both ways. Also, on our credibility: I watched parts of the movie Crimson Tide on TV this weekend. I think Bravo channel was running it every 3 hours or something. Anyway, plot of the movie: Gene Hackman is Captain of a nuclear missile sub, Denzel Washington is his second in command, or XO. They receive a message to launch the sub's missiles at a group of rebels that have taken over an old Russian nuclear launching area, because the rebels are threatening to launch their captured missiles at the US. To launch, the Captain and XO must agree that the order is valid. In the movie, receiving the order is interrupted, and the two disagree. The whole movie is their battle for control of the sub. Eventually, Denzel is proven right to not launch, but the whole thing is a mess. He could have been proven wrong. The issue is that while the ends were right, the means were wrong.

We run the same risk. If we jump automatically to people's defense, to the point of attacking someone else, we run the risk of being proven wrong. We won't what-if Clark Logan's reputation to death, but there have been pastors and denominational leaders before that were quietly asked to resign to save their own embarrassment. Do we want to stake our reputation the next time Morris Chapman asks someone to resign? What happens when that guy was living in sin or derelict in his duty? It's fine to 'Stand with Clark Logan' but you don't have to automatically stand against Morris Chapman to do so.

2. I'm not Ed Stetzer, so I don't have the research handy, but I think it's safe to say that every month, if not every week, a pastor loses his livelihood in the SBC through no fault of his own, but because sometimes people with power in church can be petty, bitter, and do foolish things to others. Do we throw a fit for all of them? No. Many of them wake up on Monday or Thursday not knowing what they'll do for insurance, housing, meals, or work. They even lose their church family. And it happens to the whole family of a fired pastor. Some states, Arkansas is one of them, recognize this problem and do what they can to help. But to some, the funds held onto by states to do this fall under the "bloated bureaucracy" in the SBC they want to get rid of, and that Morris Chapman wants to keep. My point is not the Clark Logan deserved being asked to resign, my point is that week-in, week-out, faithful pastors get treated that way and worse by churches in the SBC, and very few people "stand with" them. I have no doubt that Logan will land on his feet from this, but what happens to many of those pastors? They end up selling insurance or taking whatever job they can find, because we won't help them. It's aggravating that we'll get this upset over a denominational employee but won't over a normal pastor.

3. If we're headed down this path because of the GCR movement, then count me out. First of all, just because someone opposed the document or the motion doesn't make them against the Great Commission. This is bad logic, but statements to that effect have been made, and they qualify as dumb. To look at people who spend their lives trying to spread the Gospel and say they're against the Great Commission because they didn't want an extra committee? On the other side, if Morris Chapman asked Clark Logan to resign because Logan was for the committee, that's wrong too. At this point, the SBC bus is forming a committee to discover why we're inefficient with the Great Commission.

4. At this point in SBC life, we need to have an openness policy with anyone that's a "Vice-president" or equivalent, like "Special super-consultant" or above, that personnel decisions regarding them will be openly discussed. And that people in those roles may not be asked to resign, fired, nor resign on their own without written documentation processed by the Annual Meeting elected board. In other words, Morris Chapman can ask Clark Logan to resign, but he's got to document why to the EC, and it will be published.

Yes, I know we like the idea of allowing superiors to hire/fire at will, but then we light the world on fire when they do it. So, we need that check. At some point, we've got to stop acting like we have so much to hide.

All told, we have now taken a positive momentum for the SBC and run it into the ground. And by next year's meeting in Orlando, we'll have a whole controversy to deal with, won't we?

Let's pray for wisdom for our denominational employees, for Logan as he seeks employment, and for Chapman as he is one of the day-to-day faces of the SBC. And pray for your church to become the force of the Great Commission.


(just for clarification, Despair, Inc. does not sponsor Southern Baptist Controversies. They do, however, provide excellent products related to them.)


  1. Wow, so much spare time to think about an irrelevant non-scriptural institution. The whole idea of a huge bureaucracy of paid personnel sucking up funds that could actually be used to meet needs of those around us like that kook Jesus talked about so much makes me laugh. "Pardon me homeless man but I need to step over you so I can go into this beautiful church and give my tithe so we can enjoy this beautiful building and also pay our dues to the SBC. Also, please try to drag yourself somewhere else so I don't have to step over you again on my way to lunch."

  2. Okay, Anon, I'll bite. However, if you refer to the Lord Jesus Christ as a kook again, I'll delete your comment and any further ones. You want to be snarky about Southern Baptists, feel free to do so. Don't apply it to Him. If you really think He's a kook, let's talk about that first. But, I'm reading that as words placed in the mouth of us Baptists.

    So, in your opinion, all of the money that comes into a church should be used only for giving to the poor? Is that accurate? Does this also apply to believers and their finances? If so, I'll assume that you are using free internet at the local library rather than spending money that could go to the homeless?

    I'll also assume that you have never benefited from any form of church bureaucracy, such as through having a church building or any form of education funded by Christians.

    So, how would you have it done? Would you suggest we simply hand out $20s in the marketplace? That we expend no effort to make sure what we do is actually useful? Would you argue that no act of worship should cost money, but it instead should be spent on the poor?


  3. Interesting. I sat through 2 "vote the preacher" out meetings as a kid. It has an impact on you. Then as an adult, I attended another such meeting and voted against the pastor. Experiencing both sides of the fence has given me an interesting perspective.

    Also, living in New England among numerous independent Baptist churches, I've seen missionaries return to the States and spend their entire furlough or SAS raising funds. I definitely think the cooperative program is a better way of doing things.

    Though I do think there is some disconnect between local (small) SBC church and their missionaries. Knowing the money you are giving is going to a specific M. gives you more of a vested interest in their ministry.

    OK. This comment has gone way off topic so I'll stop here. :) Thanks for sharing your thoughts on SBC things.

  4. I don't disagree that we've got a disconnect in many of our SBC churches between local churches and the missionaries we are supporting. Once upon a time, many SB missionaries traveled to churches large and small to share about the work they were doing. It seems more and more that the IMB requests they go to the 'Mission Festivals' that bigger churches hold.

    I think we could get back to having a balance between the personal touch and having the stabilized support. There's 40,000 SBC Churches, and somewhere around 20,000 missionaries between IMB and NAMB, counting short-term (2 year or less) volunteers. Each church could adopt one missionary, and that would double-cover us. Then we could treat that one as "our" missionary, but take part in supporting all of them.

    That's just one of many ideas that might help us make a connection.



To deal with SPAM comments, all comments are moderated. I'm typically willing to post contrary views...but I also only check the list once a day, so if you posted within the last 24 hours, I may not be to it yet.

Sermon from May 19 2024

 Good morning! Yesterday we talked about Simon Magus. Didn't actually hit on the sin of simony, because we don't really see it that ...