Conservative Baptist Network denies conflict of interest

Conservative Baptist Network denies conflict of interest

Six of the 48 individuals named as members of the new Conservative Baptist Network’s steering council also serve concurrently on the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, but one leader who serves on both committees said the simultaneous leadership roles pose no conflict of interest.

Rod Martin, founder and CEO of The Martin Organization in Destin, Florida, was elected on June 16 to chair the EC’s Committee on Convention Events and Strategic Planning. On June 17 Martin was listed among those serving on the Network’s steering council.

In an exclusive interview with The Alabama Baptist, Martin explained, “The two organizations are entirely separate. The Executive Committee is a standing committee of the Southern Baptist Convention … (that) carries out the work of the annual meeting between meetings. It is elected by the messengers to broadly represent Baptists across the nation. By contrast, the Conservative Baptist Network is a private organization of Southern Baptist churches and individuals.”

Formed ‘for a course correction,’ according to media reports

The Conservative Baptist Network was formed in February 2020 “to cultivate the momentum needed for a course correction” in the Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press reported. The Network released a list of 48 steering council members on June 17.

Others named to serve on the Network’s steering council while also serving the EC include: Mike Stone, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Blackshear, Georgia, who served as EC chairman 2019–2020; Jim Gregory, senior pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Mountain Home, Idaho, and chair of the Committee on Southern Baptist Relations for the EC; Tom Tucker, a vocational evangelist from Rock Hill, South Carolina, and EC vice chairman; Joe Knott, an attorney from Raleigh, North Carolina, and EC secretary; and Mark Ballard, president of Northeastern Baptist College in North Bennington, Vermont.

Chuck Kelley, retired president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, was also named to the Network’s steering council. Kelley and his wife Rhonda now live in Fairhope.

One person initially listed as part of the steering council asked to be removed from the list.

Tim Patterson, executive director of the Baptist State Convention of Michigan, said in a statement released on June 18 that he had been invited by a friend during a brief phone call the previous day “to join a group dedicated to the inerrancy of Scripture and world evangelism,” adding “the name of the Conservative Baptist Network was never mentioned during that brief call.”

Patterson said when he learned that less than an hour after the phone call he had been named as part of the steering council, he asked that his name be immediately removed, and said he had “never been a member nor part of the leadership of the Conservative Baptist Network.”

‘We are concerned’

In the press release announcing the launch of the Network in February, Brad Jurkovich, pastor of First Baptist Church, Bossier City, Louisiana, and Network spokesperson, explained, “We are concerned about the current road our Southern Baptist family is traveling.”

At that time, Lorine Spratt, executive assistant to Jurkovich and a recently named steering council member, said, “The emphasis (in the SBC) has shifted in a direction that is diametrically opposed to the Word of God.”

Immediately following the launch of the Network, Martin added, “I’m not willing to stand in front of Jesus and explain why our generation dropped the ball.”

In the June 19 interview with The Alabama Baptist, Martin said he doesn’t believe the EC and the Network “have any divergent perspectives.” Martin affirmed the Network “is concerned about certain issues in the Convention and rejects various unbiblical ideologies such as Critical Race Theory, intersectionality and so-called ‘social justice.’ We believe the gospel is the only way to reconcile people of both sexes and all races and nationalities, and (we) are deeply concerned about efforts by some to add alien worldviews to Christ’s simple gospel. We strongly affirm the sufficiency of Scripture in this and in all other things.

“I cannot imagine how groups of Baptists acting together to advance the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, the gospel, and the Cooperative Program could possibly be in conflict with the work of our SBC,” Martin said. “Indeed, I’m reasonably certain that many EC members, trustees of other SBC entities and even Great Commission Council members are publicly involved in many SBC and non-SBC groups. … I would be most surprised if such men and women would question our similar organizing.”

In addition to naming its steering council, the Network has announced several upcoming events. However, Martin said “at this time,” the Network does not plan to seek support from the EC. He stated that the Network “is strongly in favor of the Cooperative Program and CP-funded ministries, and we will certainly support them … and heartily promote their work wherever it makes sense to do so.”