By Steve Lemke, Provost, Professor of Philosophy and Ethics, McFarland Chair of Theology, and Director of the Baptist Center for Theology and Ministry at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
For over a year and a half, I have had the privilege of assisting a team of contributing editors in posting articles in SBC Today, in order to continue this blog that had previously been discontinued for some months. Although some may have perceived my role at SBC Today to be greater than it actually has been, I have played a role in it for these many months. It has been quite a ride! Through many ups and downs, SBC Today has gone from being an inactive blog to among of the highest ranked Religion blogs in the Technorati blog rankings (especially in recent days during the discussion of “A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation”).
This experience in blogging has taught me much. From a personal perspective, I am appreciative of the many affirmations that have come my way through this experience. On the other hand, it has been surprising and disappointing for me to see the mean-spirited remarks by fellow believers about some of the articles and the persons who wrote them. There is a basic problem when our doctrine drives us to be divisive, mean-spirited, and unChristlike in our comments. That phenomenon is not true just in this blog, of course. There is part of the bloggerworld that plays to the fleshly nature, and many there be who fall into its trap. Among other things I have learned are a clarification of what others believe and a recognition on my own part of the need for me to write more precisely.
However, the main thing that I learned is that I don’t have the time to continue having such a demanding role for a high readership blog. The time demands of my regular responsibilities, along with some new responsibilities that I have recently accepted, make it impossible for me to continue my involvement at this level. I have not had time to contribute a new article of my own in SBC Today since February, and we have had to rely almost completely on our contributing editors. As some of you know, I have been seeking a likeminded person or group for a number of months who could take over the leadership of SBC Today. After a few earlier possibilities did not work out, I am happy to say that a suitable new owner has arisen to whom ownership of SBC Today will be transferred from its current private owner.
Emir Caner of Truett-McConnell College has agreed to captain a new editorial team that is being assembled. The transition of SBC Today to TMC direction has been underway for several weeks, and official ownership is being transferred today.
My role at SBC Today has been that of a facilitator, not as the primary author. With my time limitations, I could not have done what we have achieved without the help of a team of contributing editors. Some of them prefer to remain anonymous, so I’ll not mention them by name, but they know who they are. I have received much too much credit for the success of SBC Today, and these friends have received much too little recognition. But SBC Today could not have thrived without their contributions, editing help, and technology help.
I also want to express my profound appreciation to the many people who have contributed articles to SBC Today through these months. Though space does not permit me to list them all, for they are numerous, but let me express my thanks particularly to those who made regular posts, including Joe McKeever, Franklin Kirksey, Thomas Douglas, Michael Cox, Ron Hale, David Crosby, Waylon Bailey, Lynn Jones, Wes Kenney, and many others. Your articles have been the woof and warp of SBC Today, and your writing ministry has been a blessing to us all. I also appreciate our hundreds of persons who have commented on the articles, without whom SBC Today would not be the forum that it has become.
The reason that I got engaged in blogging was because I felt that the “Baptist identity” perspective was dramatically underrepresented in the Christian bloggerworld. There are dozens of strongly Reformed Baptist blogs, but not many mainstream Baptist identity blogs. We wanted to create a “safe haven” setting where mainstream Baptists (or whatever we might be called — “traditional,” “mainstream,” “majoritarian,” “Baptist identity,” “Anabaptist,” etc.) would feel comfortable voicing their Baptist identity perspective. (The Reformed pundits have challenged each of these names, most recently the “traditional Baptist” nomenclature, and in my opinion it is not an ideal name. Nor are “Southern Baptists” or “Great Commission Baptists ” ideal in every way. But for simplicity’s sake, we’re the group which LifeWay Research has demonstrated yet again as being the overwhelming majority in the SBC, being neither Arminian nor Calvinist in identity, but Baptist). Many mainstream Baptists have expressed their frustration to me that when they tried to voice their opinions on other blogs, though some disagreed respectfully, inevitably some responded with unkind words, caricatures, misrepresentations, and ridicule. By providing a “safe haven” for Baptist identity people, I think we achieved several objectives – not only has SBC Today been successful beyond my imagination, but we have actively encouraged and promoted other Baptist identity blogs as well.
The overwhelming majority of our articles in SBC Today have been devotional or ministerial in orientation – sermon ideas, help for bivocational pastors, devotional thoughts, and wise words for dealing with various issues that arise for church leaders. However, like all other Baptist blogs, the articles that have brought the most attention are those dealing with Reformed theology. We didn’t make that happen; our readers did. I do hope that the Baptist bloggerworld gets beyond this obsession, but until then, it is the elephant in the room, and SBC Today probably shares some credit for pointing out that pachyderm.
We have attempted to provide a forum for Baptists at SBC Today. In so doing, we have allowed some of our contributors to express some strong opinions. At the same time, we have given an unusually wide berth to our commentators, who have expressed equally strong contrary opinions. Our conviction is that unless we talk through the issues on which we differ, we as Baptists will never achieve unity. Talking through issues about which we disagree is painful, but hopefully doing so helps facilitate conversation and dialogue, which is better than opposing sides talking about each other but never talking with each other.
I look forward to seeing what Dr. Caner and his team will do with SBC Today in the days to come. Dr. Caner shares the Baptist identity perspective that SBC Today has had before and during my time working with the blog, and it pleases me that SBC Today will continue to be a voice for the majority of Southern Baptists.
I would encourage all the contributors, commentators, and readers of SBC Today to continue to participate in SBC Today under its new ownership. You make SBC Today what it is, and I look forward to what you will make of it under this new ownership!