Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) President J. D. Greear took aim at his conservative critics in a speech to the SBC Executive Committee on February 22 in Nashville, comparing them to Pharisees and terrorists and suggesting those dominating the conversation are acting in a “demonic” fashion.
In what seemed like a speech dedicated to defending his record and pushing back at those who might besmirch it, Greear explained that the SBC “is in a crisis that comes from the recesses of our own hearts” and that “this last year has revealed areas of weakness in our beloved convention of churches, fissures and failures, and fleshly idolatries. COVID did not produce these crises, it only exposed them.”
Greear describes how “almost immediately after I began to lead our convention, the character assassinations and false accusations and innuendoes and exaggerations began,” and that people were accusing him of wanting him to turn people into Calvinists, gut state conventions, and soften statements on homosexuality. That he was friends with Nancy Pelosi, personally privately funded by George Soros, and that he was a Marxist and card-carrying member of BLM.
Of course, none of his serious and vocal critics were accusing him of these things, but rather had other, more specific grievances and criticisms that he does not list, which is a common tactic those want to obfuscate and misrepresent what the true concerns are.
Speaking of the influence of the Pharisees, he explains how they were “full of envy, slander, deceit, and backbiting. They made up stuff about Jesus and his apostles because they challenged their authority.” Bringing this into a discussion about what has surprised him most about his time as leader, he offers:
How loud, and how dominating, and how virulent are that relatively small cacophony of voices that seems bent on sowing division and anger in our midst. In fact, there have been times I’ve got a glimpse of who’s actually behind it, and it feels like that scene in the wizard of Oz where you know Dorothy pulls back the curtain or Toto pulls back the curtain and there the Wizard of Oz is just a scrawny little old man with a huge microphone and you’re like that’s it? You’re the one that’s making all the noise…
The people who are dominating the conversation are not representing Southern Baptist People, these things are demonic.
He further laments:
I am mainly grieved for many of our entity leaders and some of you who have been slandered and lied about. It was not what I expected us to be spending our time on.
Every moment that you or me or Dr. Floyd engages in a silly argument or spends time debunking untruths is a moment I’m not focused on the Great Commission. I think we need an attitude like President George W. Bush called for in 2001: We make no distinction between those committing terrorism and those who harbor terrorists.
Greear mentions 5 of 6 times through his short address how in the 1980s they “beat the liberals” and “repudiated the leaven of the liberals” and had some “hard-won battles of the 1980s and 1990s.” He argues that now that they’ve done that, it’s time to address those sowing divisions and “repudiate the leaven of the Pharisees.”
What is lost on Greear, however, is that he keeps on pointing to the “hard-won battles” against the liberals in the 1980s and 1990s as if it’s all done and dealt with just because they were able to kick out a few people and get a Baptist Faith and Message out of it. But he doesn’t acknowledge or recognize that you need to continue to fight those battles yearly, into 2020 and beyond, lest the SBC eventually become the St. Harvey Milk’s United Episcopalian Church.
The need to “repudiate the leaven of the Pharisees” now only exists because they took the pedal off the metal. The problems of 2021 exist because people have rested on the laurels of what they and their predecessors did decades and decades ago. As a result, while SBC heads sat around high-fiving themselves while giving 2003 George Bushesque “Mission accomplished” speeches, the enemy regrouped, and over the last 20 years, liberalism and progressivism crept in and saturated much of the SBC, particularly in the leadership, resulting in misdirected targets.
Greear finishes up by explaining that the SBC needs to engage in a robust theological discussion about critical race theory and need careful, robust, “bibles-open-on-our knees” discussion about what biblical justice looks like.
But we should mourn when closet racists and neo-Confederates feel more at home in our churches than do many of our people of color. And to be sure, for the vast majority of our churches that is not true, and if that is not true of you and your church then praise God.
But I have received the emails and phone calls from people in our Southern Baptist churches who do fit that description. The reality is that if we in the SBC had shown as much sorrow for the painful legacy that racism and discrimination has left in our country as we have passion to decry Critical Race Theory, we probably wouldn’t be in this mess.
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