Pastor Willy's Blog - Complete Post
I considered it a great honor months ago to invite Dr. Ben Carson to address our Pastors’ Conference. I asked him to speak as a national leader on issues of pressing importance. Dr. Carson is a great American hero and a man who boldly and publicly professes his faith in Christ. Those closest to him, including several Southern Baptists, know him to be a man of unimpeachable character and deep faith.
I invited Dr. Carson knowing that, he has not only been a consistent courageous voice on the national scene, but he has also been a frequent and welcomed guest among evangelicals. He has spoken at the National Prayer Breakfast twice (the only other person to do so was Billy Graham); he was a frequent guest of James Dobson; he has spoken at several Southern Baptist churches for major events. He loves Southern Baptists and considers them friends. I believe most Southern Baptists equally respect and appreciate him.
Yet, over the last few days several Southern Baptist voices have expressed their opposition to his invitation. Their concerns are both theological and political. As a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Dr. Carson is publicly identified with theological positions that differ from those of Southern Baptists. While this is true, I believed, and still believe, that leaders gathered for our Southern Baptist Pastors’ Conference are open to listening to persons from outside our denomination. I believe most are willing to hear from national leaders even if we disagree on some points of doctrine as we have done in the past, particularly when the point of the discussion is a biblical worldview of prevailing cultural issues.
Nevertheless, it has become clear to both Dr. Carson’s team and to me that Dr. Carson’s appearance could create an unnecessary distraction for us both. When I first invited Dr. Carson he was not a declared candidate for President. It now appears likely that he will announce his candidacy and, though he has never held political office nor to my knowledge engaged in a political campaign, many have voiced their objections at having a declared candidate speak at our conference.
I have watched over the last year as our Southern Baptist President, Dr. Ronnie Floyd has worked as tirelessly as any person I have ever seen to call our convention to clear agreement, visible unity and extraordinary prayer. Clear agreement. Visible unity. He has worked too hard and too much is at stake for us to be sidetracked from that worthy call. While I don’t agree with those who have voiced their opposition to this invitation, I have heard and respect their concerns and for the sake of unity we have reached a mutual decision with Dr. Carson’s team to forgo his appearance at our Pastors' Conference.
Some will applaud this decision and others will be disappointed, but it is my sincere hope that all of us will join together to humble ourselves and cry out to God for genuine spiritual awakening.
To my friends who believe that we should avoid all political involvements, I must respectfully disagree. While I know of no Southern Baptist leader who believes our answer is found in a political party or political solution, there are times when we must be engaged in the public arena. John the Baptist was not jailed for preaching the gospel. He was jailed for speaking truth to power. Southern Baptists cannot and should not back away from appropriate engagement in political life.
If Southern Baptists will not speak, then who will? In these current days where Christian brothers are being butchered overseas and religious liberties are under assault at home, will we stay silent out of some misguided attempt to avoid politics altogether? I pray not. Political leaders who stand for religious liberty, speak out for the oppressed and have the strength of moral convictions should know they have a friend in Southern Baptists.
I am sad that Dr. Carson will not speak at our conference, but I am willing to sacrifice what some may want for the greater unity of our Southern Baptist family. I must decrease and He must increase; it’s the theme of our conference and perhaps this is an opportunity to model it. Whatever your thoughts about this matter, I ask that those offended show forbearance and forgiveness, and that we put this behind us and join together in crying out to God for spiritual awakening.