Editor’s Note — The following is a perspective piece shared with The Alabama Baptist by Melissa Golden, SBC Executive Committee trustee from Alabama. She was elected by messengers in June and is one of five trustees serving from Alabama. The Executive Committee board of trustees has a total of 86 members.
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility, count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interest of others” (Philippians 2:3–4).
Holy Spirit, will you plant and grow this charge of compassion, love and humility in my own heart, and the hearts of all who claim Jesus as Messiah?
My friends, our corporate and collaborative grief for the brokenness of our world, our communities, our churches, our families and ourselves is overwhelming. It is simply too much to bear. Our hearts are shattered, and we are experiencing feelings of sadness, outrage, loss, hopelessness, fatigue, weariness, doubt and confusion. As your fellow concerned struggler, please allow me to suggest these are normal reactions to abnormal circumstances.
My own heart is also heavy and overwhelmed by the process we are all going through here (with the SBC Executive Committee). My heart cries out to God for hope, truth, comfort, discernment, courage, steadfastness and love. I am certain I am not alone in these pleas to our faithful God.
‘Bias and brokenness’
My heart, like yours, is burdened by the votes, comments, conversations, motions, questions and interpretations of each of those things being communicated to our Churches and our world regarding the September Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee meeting. As we know, each of those interpretations (as well as my own) come with a bias and a brokenness.
As I have read interpretations of the events of this week, I find many truthful things as I remember and interpret them to be. I find what I believe to be well-intentioned misunderstandings, and I find what I believe to be feelings of severe grief and mourning shadowing over what I remember and interpret to be true.
In addition to reading, I have lamented, prayed and processed. Holy Father, give us all spiritual and godly discernment, even in my own writing and processing, to recognize truth, seek truth and speak truth, even if that means putting our own interests/biases/agendas on hold in order to champion YOUR truth.
Three takeaways from the meeting
In my own processing of the recent meeting, I will share three of my quick takeaways:
- The Southern Baptist Convention and all of its entities are a missions movement. Our ultimate goal is to reach our entire world for Christ.
- Many wonderful, God-ordained things were celebrated at the meeting, including:
- The International Mission Board reported reaching 1,400 unique people groups internationally in 2020.
- Lifeway reported 1,400 salvation decisions among their summer camp attendees.
- The North American Mission Board reported that this year is on track toward being the largest giving year to date.
- The most anticipated item on the agenda was getting the Sex Abuse Task Force started on its work to bring darkness into light. Expectations of signing an agreement, including the waiving of attorney-client privilege for the Executive Committee over the past 21 years, were astronomical. In our haste, some of us have overlooked some other important parts of this discussion, including:
- The Sex Abuse Task Force received the vote and funds needed by the Executive Committee to begin their work as directed by our SBC Messengers.
- Many of the legal details of the investigation agreement, including the intricate details of how, when and if to waive attorney-client privilege, depending on the legal ramifications of several available options, are currently under collaborative review with the Executive Committee officers, the Sex Abuse Task Force and GuidePost, LLC, the organization selected to conduct the review. All of whom, at the meeting, seemed to willingly agree to do so.
- The intricate legal details being negotiated are more complex than the question of “Will they do what they were told to do or not?” There appear to be many pieces to this significant legal jigsaw puzzle which require much prayer, counsel, patience and multi-professional expertise in order to provide an acceptable and honest investigation.
- It is my understanding and hope that the group will make a “good faith effort” to solve this daunting jigsaw puzzle.
My friends, you’ve heard words such as “We want to do this, and we want to do it right.” These words may have brought about pain and eye-rolling. These words may have brought fear, hopelessness or outrage. Possibly, you’ve experienced each of these and more. It is my earnest prayer and hope that these words will become actions of integrity, that we will be able to see in the coming days. Oh, God, bring true darkness into true light, for your glory alone.
‘Long and gut-wrenching process’
Friends, this is, and will continue to be, a long and gut-wrenching legal process. The legal issues at hand appear to have significant present and future ramifications possible for every cooperating entity and every autonomous local church in cooperation with the Southern Baptist Convention. These matters cannot be taken lightly nor can decisions be made quickly.
May I humbly encourage you to pray that God will redeem brokenness. Please pray His hand will be on us all, as we move forward. May I ask you to pray that the Lord will reign over each person affected, each decision made, each interview conducted, each story shared, each dollar spent, each report communicated and that every heart will be prepared by God alone to confess and repent as we represent Christ and seek to glorify His name alone.
Again, as your fellow concerned struggler, may I encourage you to take several, good, deep breaths to slow the stress hormones swirling your brain right now. May I encourage you to thank your Savior for something special or kind that He has given you today, and may I encourage you to work to continually surrender your fears, grief, anger, confusion and doubt to Him. I commit to join you in these requests.
Father, remind us that you alone are in control and that you care deeply for each and every person, for we are all made in your image.
—Melissa Golden, SBC Executive Committee trustee from Alabama