It’s my honor to introduce you to a friend and brother who has served Southern Baptists unselfishly as a pastor of pastors, seminary president, scholar and statesman. I believe Dr. Ken Hemphill would lead the Southern Baptist Convention into a time of renewal and revitalization. I hope you’ll join me in praying for him in the days leading up to our time in Dallas.
I want to introduce you to a website, www.kenhemphill2018.com, which was initiated last Thursday. Its purpose is to provide information about Dr. Ken Hemphill to church messengers as they prepare for the SBC presidential election in Dallas on June 12.
There have been a few questions raised about the website because of my involvement in it (I announced in the press several weeks ago that I was one of a number of Southern Baptist leaders who sought out Dr. Hemphill to pray about allowing himself to be nominated this year), and because the website was developed on an Executive Board server. The questions ran along these lines:
1. Are LBC Cooperative Program dollars being expended on this project?
No. CP money was not expended on this project. Dr. Hemphill reimbursed the negligible cost to develop and deploy the site.
2. Was the website “secret?”
Of course not. I have not been secretive about my support of Ken Hemphill. However, the site has been moved to an independent server because Ken, although grateful for our support, did not want any unnecessary criticism to come to the LBC.
3. Why is there a “campaign” at all?
“Campaign” just means encouraging people to support your view. Both candidates have endeavored through their supporters to make themselves known to Southern Baptists as widely as possible, using social and print media, speaking engagements, and personal contacts. They desire to tell why they think God led them to accept this challenge. This is not unusual. Baptist media, in particular, are very interested in all the info they can get. Southern Baptists ought to be as well. The person elected as president has tremendous opportunities and responsibilities. Baptists should expect to be thoroughly informed.
4. Is LBC taking one side in this contest?
No one can speak for all Louisiana Baptists. Churches and individuals speak for themselves. But the Louisiana Baptist Convention has spoken for itself on some very significant issues related to this election. The LBC was created by the churches, has established entities, elected their boards, encouraged their support through the Cooperative Program and other gifts, established theological requirements for them, etc. As Executive Director, I have a duty to inform you about things that affect the work that you have authorized and to act prudently to promote and protect the operation of our approved ministries.
So why am I asking LBC to support the positions of Ken Hemphill? (A more detailed discussion of the differences between the candidates will be distributed later.) It is simple. Dr. Hemphill values and promotes the work of the LBC and the other state conventions and has been a lifetime advocate in word and deed of the CP, without which we cannot carry out our ministries. He also values the work of our partner associations and all of our SBC partners. He is thoroughly Southern Baptist.
I do not believe that Dr. Greear, the other announced candidate, shares these convictions. He has a history of neglecting and being dismissive about state convention work; he has expressed his desire to see state conventions dismantled or at least to receive no more than 25% of CP receipts (which would threaten our existence). His church’s support through CP has been almost non-existent until he began seeking the SBC presidency two years ago (he has upped it to just over 2%). Let me be clear. A church can give as little or as much as they choose. We don’t send anyone a bill. And, a pastor is free to denigrate state convention and associational work if he wants to. But we are talking about someone who wants to be the president of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Therefore, I cannot be neutral about the positions of someone I believe will harm the ministry of the LBC which I prize. And I wanted to let you know we have a great friend in Dr. Hemphill who will champion us. Some Louisiana Baptists may support J.D. Greear for various reasons. Perhaps he is a personal friend, or they like his preaching, or are impressed with his church’s size and ministry. Or maybe they are Calvinist and know that J.D. is a part of the Calvinist wing of the SBC. Each person must decide individually. But I am endorsing Ken Hemphill because, among his many other significant qualities, he endorses us!