• Tom Buck and I

    • Willy Rice
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    • January 31, 2023
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                 In all honesty, I didn’t really like Tom Buck. In all honesty, I didn’t really know him either. I knew Tom from a social media presence, which is quite formidable, that I viewed as contentious and argumentative. I mostly just stayed away. I didn’t have any personal animosity to Tom, I just knew he was on the opposite side of some denominational fence that somebody had built that certainly seemed real.

                Last year was a difficult one for both of us and in the course of things, our paths crossed. Many of our SBC friends, his and mine, know parts of the story. Few know it all.

                 I agreed last spring to be nominated for SBC President at our convention in June of 2022. A call from Tom Buck one weekend pretty much derailed all of that.  

                I have no desire to recount the painful episode here nor once again drag people into a limelight they never wanted. Many know the gist of the story. Tom had a past relationship with a member of our church who was in a position of congregational leadership. He knew about a past sin that was particularly egregious. This person was not a pastor, but the nature of the sin has been characterized by some as abusive. Because the issue of sexual abuse was (and still is) front and center in SBC life and would be a major issue in SBC life, Tom knew it was relevant. He was right. It was.

                Tom knew that given certain sentiments regarding how abuse is defined as well as certain resolutions that had been adopted, my stated positions strongly affirming the sexual abuse reform movement in the SBC and this leader’s service in our church seemed incongruous. Tom had made his opinions regarding the sexual abuse reform movement known and he has publicly expressed some very real concerns about the underlying ideologies and agendas of that movement. I mostly disagreed, believing that these were needed reforms and long overdue. In part, it’s why several people encouraged me to consider running for President. Tom saw the issue somewhat differently and believed the presence of this leader in our church created an inconsistency that needed to be addressed.

                I do not wish, in this format, to revisit the particulars of that controversy and the fairness or unfairness of whatever conclusions others may have drawn. My intent in writing is to talk about my relationship with Tom Buck.

                There were many who accused Tom of deliberately sabotaging my SBC candidacy. Others accused me of retaliating against Tom by supporting, either actively or passively, the release of hurtful information designed to injure Tom and his wife Jennifer. Many might assume we are enemies, or at least adversaries, and frankly, I might have made some of those assumptions as well at some point, but today that just isn’t true.

                Tom Buck isn’t my enemy, and he isn’t my adversary. Tom and I have spoken quite a bit in recent weeks, and I think a lot has healed between us. We both thought that there might be some wisdom in clarifying some misperceptions, correcting some misstatements, and even possibly demonstrating a path of healing and reconciliation that might honor our Lord’s will for unity grounded in the gospel.  

                As time passed from our convention kerfuffle, I began to realize that I had no ill will at all toward Tom. Tom came to me in private. He did not ambush me. He did not threaten me. He did not attempt to blackmail me. None of that is true, nor ever was true. There was nothing hidden here and never was. I think Tom raised a valid point that I had not considered. I do wish it all could have unfolded differently without causing unnecessary pain to some who long ago had confessed and repented of acknowledged sin and had for many years demonstrated the fruits of repentance and had no desire to become cannon fodder in an SBC skirmish. Moreover, there were others completely innocent of any wrongdoing who were badly hurt as collateral damage. I hated it then and hate it now and is a large part of why I quickly stepped away from any pursuit of the SBC Presidency. However, I believe Tom acted to address a legitimate concern and I do not believe it was his intent to cause public harm.   

                Tom and I have spoken privately and much of what we have said to each other can remain just that, private conversation between brothers. He is free to testify as he wishes, but I will say only this, between us there was mutual understanding, humility, contrition, and even forgiveness extended and received.

                As I think Tom will also attest, he knows now that I never participated, either actively or passively, in any retaliatory attempt. To this day, I have never even read that which was released surreptitiously to defame the Bucks and I have no knowledge of who did release it. It was wrong and should never have been done and the harm they have suffered was unfair and uncalled for. Those who may have accused or insinuated that I participated in that in some way were, I pray, speaking out of ignorance and not malice, but regardless I bear no ill will.

                There are other issues, realizations, even concerns, that this whole affair has surfaced in my own heart. God may, in His providence, allow opportunities to speak to those, but that is not my primary concern in this moment. I wanted people to know that there are fences in our denominational pasture that may not need to be there. That sometimes assumptions and impressions can be tools of the enemy who knows that our divisions serve his devious ends.

                 Tom Buck and I may not agree on everything. He may say something tomorrow that I wouldn’t endorse, or vice versa. If I do say something he disagrees with, knowing Tom, he will speak up, but I also know, as Tom has assured me, that we will speak privately first. I believe we now have the kind of relationship where we would speak privately, listen carefully, and dialogue respectfully. Tom Buck and I have no aught in our hearts toward one another. We agree on many things, the most important things, and I find that agreement growing on other issues. I think there is even now a mutual respect. And now that I actually know him better, I think I’m even starting to like Tom Buck. That sort of dangerous thing can happen when brothers quit talking about one another and start talking to one another.

                I’m not sure if Tom and I represent a path forward toward some healing and reconciliation that needs to take place within our fractured fellowship. Others will decide that. But at least you won’t be quite so shocked if you walk by at some upcoming meeting and find Tom and I laughing together and sharing a story, or if he tweets something of mine or I commend something of his. Don’t be so surprised; it’s not the sort of thing that enemies do, but it is just the sort of thing brothers do. I’m not sure everyone will be pleased with that: but I know of at least one who is and for me, that is enough.