Resolution on the Moral Character of Public Officials

Below is a resolution that I submitted to the Resolutions Committee for consideration at next week’s annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). It is nearly identical to a resolution that was approved by the SBC at our annual meeting in Salt Lake City in 1998. As Southern Baptists have a history of passing multiple resolutions, over the years, on the same or similar topics in an effort to speak clearly and in a manner that is consistent and applicable at various times, it seemed helpful to me for the SBC to speak to this issue in a manner similar to our resolution submitted and approved in 1998.

Resolution On Moral Character Of Public Officials
Phoenix , Arizona – 2017

WHEREAS, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.” (Proverbs 14:34 CSB); and

WHEREAS, Serious allegations continue to be made about moral and legal misconduct by certain public officials; and

WHEREAS, The Bible calls upon all citizens to submit themselves to their governing authorities as ministers of the Lord (Romans 13:1; 1 Peter 2:13); and

WHEREAS, Scripture further teaches, “Whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves” (Romans 13:2); and

WHEREAS, Governing authorities are not themselves exempt from the rule of law and must submit to the nation’s statutes, rather than mocking them (Romans 13:1; 1 Peter 2:14; Proverbs 19:28-29; 2 Samuel 12:7; Mark 6:17-18); and

WHEREAS, Some journalists report that many Americans are willing to excuse or overlook immoral or illegal conduct by unrepentant public officials so long as economic prosperity prevails; and

WHEREAS, Tolerance of serious wrong by leaders sears the conscience of the culture, spawns unrestrained immorality and lawlessness in the society, and surely results in God’s judgment (1 Kings 16:30; Isaiah 5:18-25); and

WHEREAS, Many public officials and candidates deserve our gratitude and support for their consistent moral character and their uncompromising commitment to biblical principles of right and wrong, resulting in blessing upon their people.

Therefore, be it RESOLVED, That we, the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention, meeting June 13-14, 2017, in Phoenix, Arizona, affirm that moral character matters to God and should matter to all citizens, especially God’s people, when choosing public leaders; and

Be it further RESOLVED, That we implore our government leaders to live by the highest standards of morality both in their private actions and in their public duties, and thereby serve as models of moral excellence and character; and

Be it further RESOLVED, That we urge all citizens, including those who serve in public office, to submit themselves respectfully to governing authorities and to the rule of law; and

Be it further RESOLVED, That we urge Southern Baptists and other Christians to fulfill their spiritual duty to pray regularly for the leaders of our nation (1 Timothy 2:1-4); and

Be it finally RESOLVED, That we urge all Americans to embrace and act on the conviction that character does count in public office, and to elect those officials and candidates who, although imperfect, demonstrate consistent honesty, moral purity and the highest character.

Micah is a husband to Tracy & a daddy to Grace, Kessed & Haddon. He’s Senior Pastor at Brainerd Baptist Church in Chattanooga, TN. Most of all, he’s a debtor to grace.

SBC Panel Discussion on “Salvation and the Mission of God”

Sign Up Here!

  • Does one’s belief on the extent of the atonement affect their understanding of mission and the offer of the gospel?
  • Can two Christians disagree on soteriology and partner in ministry?
  • Does the order of salvation affect how one does evangelism?
  • When it comes to the theological particulars of salvation, what is the difference between compromise and cooperation?

Join us at The Southern Baptist Convention to hear Ed StetzerFrank PageDavid Platt, and Trevin Wax discuss the topics of salvation and mission. Only 500 seats available, so sign up now!

  • Date: Tuesday, June 10th
  • Time: 6:30am – 8:00am (Be there at 6:15am!)
  • Place: The Baltimore Convention Center
  • Location: Ballroom IV on Level 400
  • Free breakfast and books

Each attendee will receive a bag of free books including:

We look forward to seeing you at The Southern Baptist Convention. Sign up for the breakfast here. 

Micah is a husband to Tracy & a daddy to Grace, Kessed & Haddon. He’s Senior Pastor at Brainerd Baptist Church in Chattanooga, TN. Most of all, he’s a debtor to grace.

SBC Calvinism Advisory Committee Report

Although Calvinism and non-Calvinism have shared a home together in the SBC since her founding, in recent years this specific theological issue has been a particularly contentious one that has threatened to fracture our cooperative Great Commission relationships. In response to that, Dr. Frank Page, President & CEO of the Executive Committee of the SBC, called for the creation of an Advisory Committee to examine the issue and chart a way forward for Southern Baptists. After much study and many meetings, their report was released in the early morning hours. You can access the report, entitled “Truth, Trust, and Testimony in a Time of Tension” here.

While the report has much to say, and I do not have time to comment on all of it, one particular element of the statement is extremely well stated. Under “Trust” they have this to say about cooperation.

We affirm that Southern Baptists stand together in a commitment to cooperate in Great Commission ministries. We affirm that, from the very beginning of our denominational life, Calvinists and non­Calvinists have cooperated together. We affirm that these differences should not threaten our eager cooperation in Great Commission ministries.

We deny that the issues now discussed among us should in any way undermine or hamper our work together if we grant one another liberty and extend to one another charity in these differences. Neither those insisting that Calvinism should dominate Southern Baptist identity nor those who call for its elimination should set the course for our life together.

I cannot affirm this strongly enough. Although there are extremists on either side of the soteriological divide who would have us exclude those who find themselves across the aisle on this specific issue, our history and, more importantly, God’s word indicates to us the importance, nay the biblical necessity of partnering together to advance the gospel of Jesus Christ to the nations. My friend Dr. Nathan Finn recently communicated this point much more eloquently than I could here.

May we be a people who rally around the gospel, and who measure our denominational relationships based on our commonly agreed upon confession, the Baptist Faith & Message 2000. I pray that this statement find us in agreement, and the result is Great Commission advance.

Should you be inclined to read it, here are the statements of the Advisory Committee in respect to the statement itself.

For several years, Southern Baptists have been asking important questions about our identity and our future. At times we have struggled with trying to grasp the breadth of our doctrinal and historical differences, particularly related to matters such as Calvinism. What has been needed is a new consensus that will help point us toward a new sense of cooperation and renewal for the sake of the Gospel. It is our hope thatTruth, Trust, and Testimony in a Time of Tension, while not a perfect statement, will, nevertheless, provide a significant and positive step in that direction. The statement reflects the efforts of many diverse voices who have attempted to speak as one with a sense of convictional civility and Spirit-enabled charity toward and with one another. We pray that these efforts will enable us to serve collaboratively and work faithfully, while offering a joyful and Gospel-focused witness to a lost and needy world.
David S. Dockery, chairman; president, Union University, Jackson, Tennessee

Truth, Trust, and Testimony provides a unified witness across the spectrum of Southern Baptist life that we hold much in common concerning what we believe and how we should live. We do have differences that are significant but they are not so great as to keep us from working side by side and hand in hand to fulfill the Great Commission and reach the nations with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I believe this statement provides a way forward. It is time to unite behind King Jesus and take up the sword of an inerrant Bible and engage our real enemies of Satan, sin, death, and hell.
Danny Akin, president, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, North Carolina

I affirm the Calvinism Advisory Committee Statement for four reasons: 1) it strikes a good balance as a consensus statement; 2) it stakes out the ground where we can stand together on the issues; 3) it stipulates some of our key theological differences without being polemical; and 4) it steers a good course for continued future discussion.
David Allen, dean, School of Theology, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas

Southern Baptists are a doctrinally diverse group who, by God’s grace, agree on the essentials of the faith. As this consensus document affirms, we can no longer afford to allow our doctrinal differences to obscure our substantive and vital areas of agreement. It is my prayer that as we move forward we will do so joyfully acknowledging our unity in Christ and humbly engaging areas of doctrinal disagreements while focusing our energies and passion on spreading the glorious Gospel of our crucified and risen Lord to a lost and dying world.
Tom Ascol, pastor, Grace Baptist Church, Cape Coral, Florida

I am happy to support Christians laboring together for the Gospel. I’ve appreciated the leadership that Frank Page, David Dockery, Eric Hankins, Al Mohler, and others have given on encouraging cooperation for the Gospel in our discussions.
Mark Dever, senior pastor, Capitol Hill Baptist Church, Washington, DC

I affirm this statement, the conversation, and the men and women who participated in this process. May The Lord guide Southern Baptists to pursue biblical truth and the oneness that Jesus prayed for so the world may know Him (John 17:23).
Leo Endel, executive director, Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention, Rochester, Minnesota

It is an honor to be a member of the Calvinism Advisory Committee and I stand ready and willing to work for the advancement of the Gospel-centered principles outlined in our statement. I fully affirm every aspect of Truth, Trust, and Testimony in a Time of Tension. The statement reflects the kind of biblically informed wisdom needed for such a time as this. May our Lord Jesus Christ be pleased and glorified above all.
Ken Fentress, senior pastor, Montrose Baptist Church, Rockville, Maryland

I am pleased to endorse Truth, Trust, and Testimony in a Time of Tension. It is a very good effort and I trust will contribute to a way forward that honors Jesus Christ. This document is a model of charitable truth-telling among convictional Baptists over issues that have long roiled Bible-believing Christians. May God use this document to move us closer to Christ and closer to one another—to the end that God will be glorified in ever-increasing measure.
Timothy George, dean, Beeson Divinity School of Samford University, Birmingham, Alabama

I am excited and honored to present Southern Baptists with a consensus statement driven by the things we hold so dear: the Word, the Spirit, mission, cooperation, and freedom. I believe it effectively articulates and models the way forward, taking seriously both our theological unity and diversity as a truly positive component of our “one sacred effort.”
Eric Hankins, senior pastor, First Baptist Church, Oxford, Mississippi

I am totally satisfied with the fairness of this document, which does a magnificent job of articulating our shared belief. I wholeheartedly add my full support to this document. I am grateful to each person that has worked so hard to help us speak with Christ-honoring clarity.
Johnny Hunt, pastor, First Baptist Church, Woodstock, Georgia

I am totally supportive of the statement. I believe history teaches us there is room for various shades of thought on this topic. I’m praying we will joyfully coexist and the Gospel will go forth in greater power because of our unity!
David Landrith, senior pastor, Long Hollow Baptist Church, Hendersonville, Tennessee

Prior to our first meeting, I sought input from a variety of lay people as to what they felt our focus should be on an obviously hot topic. Top on the list was an appeal for civility—pleading that we simply learn how to engage the issue of Calvinism respectfully and stop the name calling and rude behavior. I was thrilled that so much of our discussion addressed this problem and bore fruit as our respect grew for one another. Secondly, our appeal for honesty regarding doctrinal convictions on the part of candidates interviewing with churches is, in my mind, the key to solving deep divisions that have arisen in churches that feel betrayed. Churches and ministerial candidates must show integrity in the search process as to who they are and what they believe. I pray Southern Baptists will do three things: stop talking so much about that which they have overheard but not personally studied or verified; actually read our report before judging it; and show up in Houston to witness during Crossover block parties where we demonstrate what we claim to be our priority of pleading with sinners to believe in Christ, confessing to others that “our Lord is mighty to save and that He saves to the uttermost.”
Tammi Ledbetter, homemaker and journalist; member Inglewood Baptist Church, Grand Prairie, Texas

For Christians to work together cooperatively requires broad doctrinal agreement, although not agreement in every point of detail. This statement underlines the broad areas of doctrine upon which the overwhelming majority of us as Southern Baptists agree. It outlines the basis on which we can continue working together cooperatively and constructively for the cause of Christ.
Steve Lemke, provost and director of the Baptist Center for Theology and Ministry, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, New Orleans, Louisiana

As SBC President I want to thank our chief encouraging officer Dr. Frank Page for his efforts in calling together and meeting with the Calvinism Advisory Group. This group had the difficult task of dealing with a subject that many Southern Baptists have very strong opinions about. My personal prayer is that this report will be an example of how believers can come together to impact the Kingdom of God and not personal agendas.
Fred Luter, president of the Southern Baptist Convention; senior pastor, Franklin Avenue Baptist Church, New Orleans, Louisiana

There is little that I will sign in the way of corporate statements. My love for the unity in essentials among Southern Baptists for the purpose of getting the Gospel to every human on earth has wrung my signature on this document from my heart. The most important aspect to me is the provision for honesty and integrity for all. God grant that it be so.
Paige Patterson, president, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas

This statement speaks volumes about the ability of all Southern Baptists of good faith and good will to work together eagerly and enthusiastically. As the statement affirms, these tensions have been present within the Southern Baptist Convention from the very beginning of our life and work together. We are people who take theology seriously. But we are also people who take seriously our joy and privilege in working together in service to the Great Commission. We also made a bold statement of support for and agreement in The Baptist Faith and Message. We are a confessional people, gladly affirming together the faith once for all delivered to the saints. I am thankful for every member of this task force and for the privilege of working together in this process and on this historic and timely statement.
R. Albert Mohler Jr., president, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky

I enthusiastically affirm the statement of our committee. While it candidly acknowledges differences Southern Baptists have, it’s a powerful reminder that we stand together on essential doctrines such as the inerrancy of Scripture, the free offer of salvation through Jesus Christ alone, and the universal sufficiency of Christ’s work on the cross. I’m thankful that the statement encourages all Southern Baptists—wherever we may stand with respect to Calvinism—to be gracious and constructive as we serve the Lord together.
Stephen Rummage, senior pastor, Bell Shoals Baptist Church, Brandon, Florida

I am in full agreement with the Truth, Trust, and Testimony document. It is the product of a very candid yet respectful dialogue regarding theological issues, attitudes, and practices. While it is understandable that each side would prefer stronger support for its views, the fact is that this document establishes fair parameters for understanding and collaboration and is unequivocal regarding its affirmation ofThe Baptist Faith and Message and its commitment to the Great Commission. My prayer is that this document will pave the way for all Southern Baptists to make an even stronger commitment to win North America and the rest of the world for Christ.
Daniel Sanchez, associate dean, professor of missions, and director of the Scarborough Institute of Church Planting & Growth, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas

I gratefully and gladly affirm this fine statement because it focuses our unity in the Gospel, in our Baptist heritage, in The Baptist Faith and Message, and in the Great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Jimmy Scroggins, senior pastor, First Baptist Church, West Palm Beach, Florida

Micah is a husband to Tracy & a daddy to Grace, Kessed & Haddon. He’s Senior Pastor at Brainerd Baptist Church in Chattanooga, TN. Most of all, he’s a debtor to grace.

Christ-Centered Preaching & Teaching Panel

At this year’s Southern Baptist Convention in Houston The Gospel Project is hosting a discussion panel on Christ-Centered Preaching and Teaching. Ed Stetzer will moderate the panel with Trevin Wax, Eric Hankins, and Jon Akin. We are working with several publishers to give each attendee free resources on Christ-Centered preaching and teaching. There will also be a free breakfast. We only have room for 350 so sign up soon because I am confident that this is going to fill up fast.

Here are the details;

Christ-Centered Preaching and Teaching: A Discussion Panel
Tuesday June 11, 2013
George R. Brown Convention Center
Room 351A-F on Level 3
6:30 a.m. to 8:00 a.m.

 REGISTER HERE

Micah is a husband to Tracy & a daddy to Grace, Kessed & Haddon. He’s Senior Pastor at Brainerd Baptist Church in Chattanooga, TN. Most of all, he’s a debtor to grace.

What God Says Next? Preaching at Southern Seminary

Much to my surprise, I received an invitation recently to preach in chapel at Southern Seminary. What a great privilege to speak in that historic pulpit to what is an excellent student body. I preached on Luke 11 in a message entitled “What God Says Next” dealing with the missionary call.

Micah is a husband to Tracy & a daddy to Grace, Kessed & Haddon. He’s Senior Pastor at Brainerd Baptist Church in Chattanooga, TN. Most of all, he’s a debtor to grace.

Anatomy of a Name Change

When the invitation of Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) President Bryant Wright came to serve on a task force dedicated to deliberating the possibility of changing the name of the SBC, I was thankful for the invitation and excited to serve with other men and women who care about the SBC. I was not sure what to expect, but I found myself surrounded by some of Southern Baptists’ brightest minds from a variety of regions, age groups and ethnic communities. It was a blessing to serve with them – many of whom have become friends through this process.

In the end, we recommended to President Wright that we not change the name, but that we instead officially recognize an informal descriptor, or tag line, for use by Southern Baptist churches and entities. President Wright received our recommendation. It became an official motion to the Executive Committee of the SBC, who overwhelmingly supported it, and now stands approved for consideration this summer at the annual meeting of the SBC. Since the announcement of this new descriptor in our name came out, there have been many opinions about whether or not this is actually a good move for the SBC. I have heard from a significant number of Southern Baptists who love the new concept, many who are not in favor of it, and even more who are fairly ambivalent about the entire matter. Almost to a person, however, I have heard a bit of confusion as to what this exactly means for the SBC and how this name was chosen by the task force. While I obviously do not speak for the Task Force, I do believe the choice we made was good and helpful for the future of the SBC and I would like to make an attempt at clarifying how and why we arrived at the conclusion we did.

The Task Force convened on two occasions, but we were tasked with a fair amount of work apart from our face to face meetings. There were a number of issues that must be addressed. Was there a benefit to a new descriptor for the Southern Baptist Convention? If so, what should it be? How would it affect Southern Baptist life? What legal ramifications would be involved? Would there be a cost in terms of reputation and influence? What were the financial costs associated with such a change? These and other matters weighed on our minds as we progressed through our proceedings.

We requested opinions from across SBC life, specifically from the Executive Directors of each of the state conventions. The responses we received were quite varied. A significant number of people (both at the grassroots level and those in positions of denominational influence) believed that some sort of name change would be beneficial to them and their Great Commission work. While no one believed this to be a “fix” for the decrease in baptisms or lack of evangelistic fervor, many did believe this would be helpful step toward that end. There was not uniform agreement about the need for a name change, but there was a large and vocal group of Southern Baptists who were convinced it would be helpful to their work. This indicated to us that we should at least consider options to see if there might be a solution that would prove helpful.

Once we determined that we possessed sufficient evidence to allow us to move forward in our study, we began to research the legal options and ramifications of some sort of a name change. This involved a multitude of questions and answers that would need to be addressed concurrently. We studied the history of name change proposals and discovered this issue had been at the forefront of Southern Baptist consciousness throughout our history. Starting with George Hillyer of Georgia in 1903, Southern Baptists have dealt with this issue over and over again.

As we began to consider the legal options, we quickly learned it would be nearly impossible (and not necessarily beneficial) to change the name of the SBC. There are many Southern Baptists who believe a name change would be valuable to our cooperative work. There are many others who believe it would be of no value to us. Across the nation, we understood there is great equity and name recognition with the Southern Baptist Convention’s name. SBC Disaster relief efforts in New Orleans and New York City in recent years have only helped to solidify this reality. Our unity in theological conviction on critical aspects of biblical fidelity has proven to be of great worth in many places in our nation and around the world.

When the SBC was founded in 1845 in Augusta, Georgia it was organized under a charter issued by the legislature of the state of Georgia. Southern Baptists were granted some legal exemptions that have proven to be extremely valuable to us. Should we have chosen to recommend a legal name change, we would face a possible change to our charter that would potentially require that our updated charter be under the jurisdiction of current Georgia non-profit statute. This would place the SBC in the vulnerable position of forfeiting our current legal status. Moreover, current non-profit statutes require that a non-profit organization operate under the administration of a Board of Directors, as ultimate authority. This poses a problem, as the SBC officially only exists two days each year.  Our messengers, not a Board of Directors, are the ultimate decision making body of the convention. Southern Baptist polity would have been compromised and radically reoriented our life together by placing ultimate authority in the hands of a board of directors. How would such a board be selected? How could they function within our polity? These problematic questions stymied our ability to change the legal name of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Serious financial implications confronted us. As we began to contemplate the potential financial costs of everything from the legal professionals required to assist in this process to the modification of logos, the cost estimates became counterproductive and insurmountable. We literally could not calculate the enormous financial cost to a legal name change.

Another option was that of a Doing Business As (DBA) recognition. From a legal perspective, this option  forces some binding, legal obligations on local churches, organizations and/or entities affiliated with the SBC which would cause widespread (and unnecessary) problems. The task force also rejected this option.

Southern Baptists have long held various monikers for our cooperative work. These have been used in publications, websites, etc. Until now, we have never considered selecting any of these descriptors as an official descriptor of the work of our convention. Selecting a formal descriptor/moniker for our identity and work preserves our legal status and allows us to honor those who live in areas where “Southern Baptist” continues to maintain a position of goodwill and brand equity. It honors those who love the SBC because of our doctrine and missions, but who may find our name to be a hindrance from time to time. It communicates to them that we care about them and value them as partners in the Gospel. A significant number of our ethnic partners pled for a name change, and this action demonstrates our love and appreciation for them as we desire to join them in their struggle with others in their traditions who do not understand and/or appreciate Southern Baptists.  To our church planters and other church leaders in non-traditional SBC areas, it highlights our love and thankfulness for them. This option is voluntary and allows every church and/or entity in the SBC to utilize the new moniker (or not) depending on the approval of their leadership/congregation/trustees.

Why ‘Great Commission Baptists’? Obviously we had to eliminate names that were utilized by other organizations and names that struck at our polity (such as ‘International Baptists’, ‘Global Baptist’ etc. as the SBC simply does not exist outside of the USA). ‘Great Commission Baptists’ continued to rise to the top. While some in SBC life seemed concerned (or excited) that we would consider a more ‘contemporary’ name, I was of the opinion that any option be what I called a ‘Legacy name’. In other words, it must be a name that would stand the test of time. Changing the name to something that sounded good today, but would lose potency and effectiveness over time had little appeal to me. From my perspective, Great Commission Baptists was a great choice, as it did not preserve some of the baggage that comes with a name like Southern Baptist all the while clearly explaining our desire to unite around the Great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ.  The Task Force came to the unanimous recommendation that ‘Great Commission Baptists’ captures well who we have historically aspired to be and propels us forward to a bright Great Commission focused future.

I would encourage you to prayerfully consider supporting this recommendation from the Executive Committee of the SBC. Southern Baptists are a Great Commission people, and this new option for our ministry together is such that each congregation will be able to assist others in their Gospel labors. I am looking forward to my travel to New Orleans in June where I will gladly, and enthusiastically, place my vote for ‘Great Commission Baptists’.

*Please note, the logo above is a quick image I created for the purpose of this article. It is not, in any way, a logo that anyone has even seen prior to this article being written. 

Micah is a husband to Tracy & a daddy to Grace, Kessed & Haddon. He’s Senior Pastor at Brainerd Baptist Church in Chattanooga, TN. Most of all, he’s a debtor to grace.