Timothy George has an article in the most recent issue of First Things that is a must-read for anyone interested in the goings-on of the nationâ€™s largest Protestant denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). The article is aptly titled â€œSouthern Baptists after the Revolution,â€ as it discusses new currents that have been flowing through SBC life since the conservatives secured control of the convention in the 1990â€™s.The big story coming out the SBCâ€™s annual meeting this past summer was the election of dark-horse candidate Frank Page to the presidency of the denomination. Pageâ€™s election marked only the second time since 1979 that a person has won the presidency who was not pre-selected by the conservative leaders of the convention. George argues that his surprise victory was owing to the accidental coalition of five subgroups who influenced the election:
3. Womanâ€™s Missionary Union
4. Baptist Bloggers
5. Younger Moderates
I wrote a little bit about Frank Pageâ€™s election last summer, but frankly I think Timothy George has the best explanation Iâ€™ve seen yet. The only thing I would add to Georgeâ€™s account is that I think there is another group mixed in with the bloggers and younger moderatesâ€“the emergents. Itâ€™s really just a hunch, but I have a feeling the SBC has a number of people who have been influenced by the emerging church movementâ€“a movement that is unambiguously in protest of traditional church forms and structures. That they would vote against an establishment candidate is not surprising.
Iâ€™ll finish by agreeing with Georgeâ€™s reflections on the burgeoning Calvinist movement in the SBC:
This issue was tackled head on by Paige Patterson and Al Mohler, two Southern Baptist educators, in a public debate at this yearâ€™s convention. While clearly holding to different views, they agreed that both parties should have a place at the Baptist table. And Page, not a Calvinist himself, said the same thing. If this spirit prevails, there will not be a divisive fight over Calvinism, as some have predicted. No doubt, both hyper-Calvinism and five-point Arminianism are still out of bounds among Southern Baptists, but between those two extremes there is room for a healthy debate on the precise balance between divine sovereignty and human responsibility (source).
Go read the rest of â€œSouthern Baptists after the Revolution.â€ Itâ€™s an interesting analysis.