Endorsement video creates SBC election flap

A YouTube video promoting J.D. Greear for president of the Southern Baptist Convention has raised concern about the apparent endorsement of Greear’s election by three SBC entity presidents. (Screen Capture image from YouTube video)

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A YouTube video promoting J.D. Greear for president of the Southern Baptist Convention has raised concern about the apparent endorsement of Greear’s election by three SBC entity presidents.

Rap 300“It’s Tricky” is a parody of a 1980s rap song with the same name by Run-DMC.

The concern emerged when Greear—pastor of The Summit Church in Durham, N.C., and a leading member of Acts 29, a church network that rejects non-Calvinist church planters and solely promotes Calvinistic governance—began circulating the promotional video March 14 as a campaign ad for his SBC candidacy.

Use of social media

The use of social media for individuals who have agreed to be nominated for SBC president is a relatively new move by nominees, as is straight-up endorsements by entity heads on social media.

Greear will be nominated by Jimmy Scroggins, pastor of First Baptist Church of West Palm Beach, Fla., at the 2016 SBC annual meeting in St. Louis June 14–15.

Other candidates are Steve Gaines, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, Tenn., and David Crosby, pastor of First Baptist Church in New Orleans.

Gaines will be nominated by Johnny Hunt, pastor of First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga. Crosby will be nominated by Fred Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans.

While several Southern Baptist personalities appear in Greear’s video, the concern focuses on David Platt, president of the International Mission Board, Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, and Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Platt denies knowingly endorsing Greear

Platt denied he knowingly endorsed Greear for SBC president of the SBC, stating he was not aware Greear’s request for a video clip had to do with a campaign ad.

Platt responded to an IMB trustee via email March 23, explaining, “While I was overseas in the Middle East, J.D. asked me to shoot a 2-second video saying, ‘It’s tricky,’” a phrase repeated throughout the video.

Greear did not divulge how the clip would be used, Platt said.

“I had no idea what it was for,” Platt reported, although he said he knew Greear had been nominated.

Platt did not hear about Greear’s use of his image and words in the electioneering piece until after he returned to the United States, he said.

‘Definitely frustrating’

“Please be assured—and please assure anyone who asks you about it—that I am not personally—and we are certainly not organizationally—endorsing anyone for SBC president,” Platt wrote. He would “be thrilled” to serve alongside any “faithful Southern Baptist pastor who might be nominated to serve in this important role,” he added.

Platt also expressed apparent disappointment with how Greear’s use of him in a campaign video had created an unnecessary distraction.

“It’s definitely frustrating to come back to issues like this after a couple of weeks overseas, seeing massive needs among unreached refugees who are suffering and dying, and spending concentrated time with our front-line leaders around the world discussing how we can take the gospel to them,” Platt said.

“May God give us grace together across the SBC to keep our focus on that which matters most, here in the U.S. and around the world.”

Akin responds

Akin said he did not think “being an entity head” should prohibitor prevent anyone “from expressing their support of a candidate or several candidates.”

“I told J.D. … I thought he would do an excellent job,” Akin explained, noting at the time of his endorsement, no other candidates had been declared.

Greear announced as a candidate March 2, Gaines followed March 9 and Crosby stepped forward March 24.

“Steve Gaines is also a close friend and has been so for many years,” Akin said. “I do not know David Crosby well, but I was grateful for his willingness to nominate Fred Luter as the president of the SBC (in 2011). I have no doubt that each of these men would serve our convention of churches well.”

Akin said his top priority is that the SBC president be “passionately committed to theological integrity, as embodied in the Baptist Faith & Message 2000, North American church planting and international missions.”

Attempts to reach Moore for his response to appearing in the video were unsuccessful. An ERLC representative responded Moore was unavailable.

The SBC Executive Committee will not weigh in on the issue.

Executive Committee President Frank Page said via email: “Southern Baptist history is illuminating. At various times, entity heads served as SBC president. At other times, they nominated SBC presidents or commented on SBC presidential nominees.”

Presidential campaigning is a free-speech issue, something the Executive Committee had “never attempted to regulate” to his knowledge, Page said. “I don’t anticipate that changing any time soon.”

Social media is changing the medium, but not the “practice of Southern Baptists speaking their minds in an active exchange of ideas,” he added.

“This all seems healthy,” he said. “Can it be distracting? That would seem to depend on the spirit in which it is done.”

This story was a joint project of the Association of State Baptist Publications. Contributors include Will Hall, editor of the Louisiana Baptist Message; Lonnie Wilkey, editor of the Tennessee Baptist and Reflector; and Neisha Roberts, editorial production coordinator for The Alabama Baptist. The story was compiled by Jennifer Davis Rash, executive editor of The Alabama Baptist.

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