Three weeks ago, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS), one of the six seminaries funded by the SBC and led by Danny Akin, announced that the former SBC President James Merritt was joining the staff as Visiting Professor of Preaching and Christian Leadership.
“I cannot believe I have been so honored to be asked by my dear friend Dr. Danny Akin to be a visiting professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary,” said Merritt. “I am humbled beyond words and honored to be a part of a great faculty like that. I give Jesus all the glory!”
One week ago, he retweet a sermon from his son and encouraged his thousands of followers to listen to it, commending it as both “brilliant” and “faithful to the gospel. The sermon was, in fact, terrible. The fact that his son is a “Side A” Sodomite made matters all the worse, with Merritt refusing to walk back his words of praise and admiration but rather doubled down.
Yesterday morning, we released audio from a former staff member who accused James Merritt of assault and battery, as well as telling racist Jokes.
Later that evening, Danny Akin announced that James Merritt had resigned from his teaching position he was set to start in December and that he honored his request.
As Tom Buck would succinctly point out on Twitter “What should make anyone angry is not that James Merritt resigned, but that he did not repent.” Last we heard, he was doubling down on his defense of his son, rather than answering questions of how his actions are defensible in light of 1 Corinthians 5:9-13.
Furthermore, the fact that Danny Akin wasn’t the one to pull the trigger upon hearing Merritt’s defense and promotion of an unrepentant homosexual preaching a sermon, regardless of whether it was his son or not, is a damning indictment upon his leadership. This also does not answer a host of questions we have, as pointed out by Allen Nelson, who also previously sent an open letter to SEBTS about the issue:
“I appreciate Dr. Merritt stepping down from SEBTS. He should. I also appreciate Dr. Akin honoring that request to resign. A gracious departure is okay. But, a big BUT, what’s not okay is the silence over *the* issue at hand.
Reminds me of when @BethMooreLPM left SBC. She *should have* left SBC as she wasn’t Southern Baptist for a long time. And we didn’t need blog posts lamenting her departure. She left because she wasn’t Southern Baptist. And it’s sad that wasn’t addressed by many in leadership positions.
BUT: Dr. Merritt’s situation is different. He has declined an SBC seminary professorship *because* he has endorsed the preaching of an openly gay man and a sermon that was gospel-less calling it faithful. (This is all the more sad since the gay man is his son.) Now Dr. Akin has accepted the resignation b/c Dr. Merritt doesn’t want to be a “distraction”. (Well, a bit too late!)
But what is left unaddressed is the sin and now we are left to wonder does @SEBTS agree merely that Dr. Merritt is a “distraction”?
OR: Does SEBTS uphold the BFM 2000 in opposing homosexuality? Does the school affirm the preaching of openly gay men and gospel-less sermons? This we don’t know publicly because SEBTS and Dr. Akin haven’t responded publicly. They’ve merely cited the “distraction.”
Further: Because Dr. Akin lauded Dr. Merritt as “a model for us all” what does this mean in terms of Merritt’s approach to the preaching of openly gay men? Should southern Baptists also affirm this type of preaching or not? This is simply not clear from Dr. Akin’s tweet.
Also: Is Dr. Merritt remaining in the SBC? I assume so. But if this is his position on homosexuality, how can his church be in step with the BFM 2000? And how can he be applauded as a model for us all?
Finally: I very strongly do not like the political type tactics of accepting a resignation and move on and not address the issue. Political parties can do that but not gospel people. Gospel people address sin, confess sin, repent of sin, forgive sin, and reconcile.
But As long as our leaders cannot model gospel humility and repentance and confession of sin, there’s little hope for turning ye olde SBC ship.
Ultimately, this is an example of making a bad situation worse with a failure of courageous leadership.
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