Sixteen years ago I made my first trip to a Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting. I learned I had been nominated to serve on the General Council of the Baptist World Alliance and would qualify to make my first meeting in Hong Kong about a month later. I needed a passport.
Living in flyover country means getting a passport quickly required either paying for accelerated processing or visiting a city where you could receive a passport within twenty-four hours, like New Orleans. Our Youth Minister, at the time, and I made the trip to NOLA to get a passport and make our first SBC Annual Meeting.
I admit to thinking the Disney Boycott was silly. However, I was heartened by the recent affirmation of the SBC apology for our history of racism.
Just a few months ago I had no plans to attend the SBC meeting this summer. In fact, after my trip to San Antonio I was not sure I would make another Annual Meeting. Two reasons for this decision. First, our family takes an annual vacation and some years the SBC Annual Meeting falls within those dates. It looks like that is the case for next year. My parents won’t live forever so we take the opportunities and make the best of them. Second, I just lost interest for a variety of reasons.
What changed? Two issues. First, I wanted to participate in the election of the first African-American President of the Southern Baptist Convention. Dwight McKissic had told the story of his trip to Nashville after San Antonio. He discovered the lack of ethnic diversity in SBC leadership at the Executive Committee. “Do better” promises were made. Maybe this vote would signal more than just promises.
Second, I was incredulous in the aftermath of the Dr. Richard Land imbroglio and wondered what action would be taken in light of his racial comments and instances of plagiarism. Would the SBC have the resolve to act? If I were unwilling to offer an action on the matter, I had little room to complain. If you have read much here in the last couple of months, I have written several posts on the subject. It is easy to write and post. My own convictions needed an expression beyond the keyboard.
The result was the submission of the following motion yesterday morning. Here is the text of the motion,
I move the Southern Baptist Convention publicly agree with Dr. Richard Land when on May 9, 2012 he acknowledged his words regarding the Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman incident were harmful thereby repudiating the notion Dr. Land initially expressed when he suggested most Southern Baptists feel the same way. And, further that the Southern Baptist Convention publicly affirm the reprimands issued by the Trustees of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission in their review of the issues thereby publicly exhibiting our willingness to own our mistakes and reestablish our public commitment to racial reconciliation.
Trustees of the ERLC announced their response to the Land affair on June 1. My options for a response were limited. The rules on submitting resolutions allowed for an electronic submission but a letter providing my credentials to offer such a resolution required an accompanying letter be submitted 15 days before the Annual Meeting, June 19. I believed it presumptive to to offer a resolution before knowing what the Trustees would do. Thus, putting a resolution together would take a bit of time. The earliest I would be able to mail the accompanying letter would be Monday, June 4. The letter would arrive too late to meet the resolution deadline even if overnighted it.
I considered submitting a motion my only option. I would offer the aforementioned motion. Not only did I believe I would not make the deadline for submitting a resolution, I believe a motion bears much more weight than a resolution. So, while some believe the motion sounds like a resolution, the motion calls for action by the convention that results in both repudiating Dr. Land’s contention most Southern Baptists felt as he did and reestablish our commitment to racial reconciliation. And, I do remind you that both of Dr. Land’s apologies were brokered – one by President Bryant Wright and one by a group who met in Nashville in early May. Our action would not be brokered. We would not wait to be cajoled.
A motion stands beyond the feelings of a given group of people noted in a single year, like a resolution, but becomes a transcendent statement. I believe such a motion would be a significant response to Dr. Luter’s election. It would be an action that says to the watching world, we will not wait to react to future opportunities, we will make an opportunity for ourselves. I had hoped we would discuss this before his election and before the ERLC report. I thought it would be good if we both voted in an election and followed it up with a public declaration that declares what we have said we will do. Or, in the words of Scripture, we will bear fruit in keeping with repentance.
We will see what the Committee on the Order of Business chooses to do with this motion later this morning.