The Louisiana Baptist Convention, CP Dollars and Presidential Politics

Update: I received an email from someone close to Ken Hemphill stating “Ken paid for the website and no CP dollars were used to produce it.” There’s a lot financially that goes into website production and management. Whether a domain name was the only purchase made or Ken is financially covering the costs of maintaining the site is not clear. The fact still remains, a state convention is in the campaign business, hosting Hemphill’s site and maintaining it. This article does not take aim at Ken, but the unsettling idea that an SBC entity is using its apparatus to throw support behind a particular candidate.

Original post below.

Two years ago, a video was released promoting J.D. Greear’s nomination as the next President of the Southern Baptist Convention. The video, which was sort of a SBC version of a Weird Al music video, contained some of the SBC’s most familiar faces, including a few entity leaders.

In the days and weeks after the video was released, there was a swell of articles, blogs, and comments bemoaning the perceived endorsement of the entity leaders (See links below).  One state convention in particular, the Louisiana Baptist Convention, seemed to take issue with the perception that David Platt specifically, had endorsed Greear’s candidacy by appearing in the video. Now two years later, it seems as though the LBC has chosen to ignore their previous objections, and now have not only seen their Executive Director endorse Hemphill’s candidacy, but they are apparently using the apparatus of their state convention, and one would assume Cooperative Program dollars, to support the candidacy of Dr. Hemphill for President of the SBC.

On February 1 we learned that Hemphill would be nominated for SBC President. Louisiana Baptist’s Message reported that a “group of distinguished Southern Baptists” made the announcement of Hemphill’s nomination, though no official nominator was given.

The article provides quite an endorsement from Executive Director David Hankins regarding Hemphill as one who is a Southern Baptist through and through, values our understanding of the Gospel, and, has an established record of affirming the cooperative work of our local churches through the associations, state conventions and national entities.”

The article goes on to affirm that David and others “sought Ken out.” Seeking other candidates in a convention such as ours and having others run for President is a good and healthy endeavor. We think it’s good to see Southern Baptists involved in the process.

However, after a short bit of research concerning, it quickly becomes apparent that the Louisiana Baptist Convention has built and maintains his website. Further the video interviews of Hemphill are all linked to the Louisiana Baptist Convention’s Vimeo page.

It would appear that Cooperative Program dollars from the 1600+ churches & missions in the state are being used to support one of the two candidates for the next President of the SBC.

In our view, this is unfortunate. It would seem deeply unwise for entities to engage in such behavior, particularly after this entity’s previous objections. Further, it appears even more disturbing when their previous opposition, and their current support, both serve to oppose JD Greear’s candidacy in particular. We fear that it is reminiscent of political expediency at the expense of ethical behavior.

To be clear, we have less concern about individuals (even those who work for or lead agencies) lending their support to a candidate (it has been done several times by entity heads across the spectrum of the SBC including nominating a candidate – though certainly we would welcome discussion of whether or not this is the wisest thing to do), and greater concern for the ethics of organizations themselves leveraging their CP funds and influence, in support of a specific candidate. It is one thing for an individual entity head to tweet support for a presidential candidate, and it is quite another for an entire entity, without action by trustees or messengers, to use its apparatus and possibly CP dollars to throw support behind a particular candidate.

Finally, we find great discomfort in the apparent contradiction of this about-face from two years ago, and we are concerned about the ethical implications that it raises.

Brothers and sisters, it should not be so among us.

Let’s look for men to lead us who share the gospel faithfully and unashamedly.

Let’s look for men to lead us who are faithful to invest their resources in the mission of God.

Let’s look for men to lead us who boldly preach the Word of God.

But let’s not leverage our CP dollars, and enlist the support of state and national entities, to this end. Let’s trust the messengers from our churches to do what they have always done – elect godly leaders who will faithfully guide us.