Contrasting Views on a Future IMB President

The various perspectives on a new IMB president fascinate. I’d like to summarize and contrast three distinct perspectives that have been posted on SBC-oriented sites. If I am citing your work, authors, please note I could not possibly hit every nuance of your original writing; readers, please see the authors in their own words via the links provided. However, there’s a question at the end that is best answered if you’ve not yet read the original articles.

*Please note: I’m not a battle blogger. If you see some fighting words here, I beg you to assume that I do not perceive them in as inflammatory fashion as you. 

For our first point of view I’ve chosen some key phrases from his article:
– Someone who will correct Platt’s course change
– Mature, seasoned, older
– Experienced at a high level of leadership
– Trusted, stable, prudent
– Someone who looks, talks, smells like SBC
– Cooperative Program advocate
– Someone who isn’t simply momentarily cool
– Someone who doesn’t challenge conventionality
– Tried and true methodology of career personnel over part-time workers
– Someone exclusively focused on the IMB

Now, let’s take a different perspective.
– Exemplar of modern SBC: Cooperative Program champion and BFM committed
– Someone stepping higher than ever before, and not a retread who might jump ship
– Committed to SBC polity of strong leadership within structure of a Board of Trustees
– Skilled preacher
– A former missionary
– Former church staff or deeply involved member
– Deep missiology/theology developer
– Sound financial leadership
– Not a rock star, but one who points to the field
– Visionary who can speak convincingly to churches
– Peacemaker in our convention, regardless of position in Cal-Trad debates

And finally, a last third-party perspective before I inflict my analysis on you.
– Not a pendulum swing selection
– Creativity
– Leader in partnering around the globe
– Someone who questions methodological assumptions

You don’t need me to point out all the unique perspectives, but I will ask questions and scratch my head.

Does “stable, older, mature” and “experienced in high level leadership” mean “another old guy with older organizational views”? I doubt Author #1 means it that way, but it seems to be the case. Author #2 does not emphasize maturity, likely assuming it in his preference for someone with both former missionary and former church staff experience. Author #3? Apathetic towards age and maturity as a characteristic worth mentioning.

Author #1 does not prioritize creativity and deeply thoughtful missiology. While we can assume he wants depth, he emphasizes older methods he feels are proven. Authors #2 and #3 value an ability to suspend assumptions and push against assumed or traditional patterns of work.

Why do the first two want a clear SBC and Cooperative Program advocate, while #3 remains silent? And what about the “look like an SBCer” in section one versus the clearer “BFM and Cooperative Program” definition of the SBC in section two? Does Author #1 hope we all know an SBCer when we see one, thus the vague statement? Or – and I’ll throw this out because someone is sure to ask it later – is he attempting to imply that Platt in some way isn’t a true SBC member because of his specific interpretation of the Bible?

Assuming a spectrum of approval for Platt’s work, with full approval at one and full disapproval of his work at the other, we can see clearly the positions our involuntary contributors take: #1 disapproves, #2 seems neutral, #3 seems to approve. Author #3 begs the trustees not to choose someone just to go back the way we came. Author #1 clearly wishes we would reverse course.

Moving away from these positions, we can see a host of other questions.

Why not a woman? The IMB is a ministerial corporation, and the traditional view has been that the president is a de facto spiritual authority over the field. The policy manual says nothing on the matter, yet there are threads of spiritual authority held by supervisors in subtle places and ways. Spiritual authority in the church has been placed in the hands of men, according to the BFM, and as such we will not likely have a woman leading the IMB until that ministerial perspective of the organization changes. Even Author #2 wants a preacher in the role, and in our convention such a position is male-only.

As Dwight McKissic would ask, why not a minority? I’d love to see it happen, but as one commenter mentioned we populate leadership roles by raising up field personnel (pre-Platt). With few minorities in our organization, the odds are daunting that one will rise through the ranks. What of Fred Luter, James Dixon, and Tony Mathews, as mentioned by Dwight? He suggested some of these godly men prior to Platt’s selection, and my response was precisely the same as it is now: do they have sufficient international living and working experience? Platt did not – and some believe this hurt him. I continue to believe as we are currently structured and functioning that an IMB president needs to have significant living and working experience internationally. Of the three men of color Dwight suggested, only one has international mission trips listed on his bio (Tony Mathews).

By the way, can you guess which of the three was written by field personnel? It’s the one concerned with productivity as opposed to convention issues. While I doubt she would pretend the convention is irrelevant, the disparity highlights the hugely different perspectives the field often has over committed Southern Baptists who remain in the US.

Thanks for supporting us, and coming alongside us.

from SBC Voices


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