Durham, N.C.—A YouTube video promoting J.D. Greear for president of the Southern Baptist Convention is raising concerns. In question is the participation of three SBC entity presidents who appear to be endorsing Greear's election.
The video, "It's Tricky," is a parody of the late 80s rap song with the same name by Run-DMC.
Concern emerged when Greear—pastor of The Summit Church in Durham, North Carolina, and a leading member of Acts 29, a church network that rejects non-Calvinist church planters and solely promotes Calvinistic governance—began circulating a promotional video in March as a campaign ad for SBC president.
Use of social media for individuals who have agreed to be nominated for SBC president is a relatively new move by nominees, as is endorsements by entity heads on social media.
Greear will be nominated by Jimmy Scroggins, pastor of First Baptist Church of West Palm Beach, Fla., at the 2016 SBC Annual Meeting to be held in St. Louis, Mo., June 14–15.
Also being nominated are Steve Gaines, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, Tenn.; and David Crosby, pastor of First Baptist Church, New Orleans. Gaines will be nominated by Johnny Hunt, pastor of First Baptist Church of Woodstock, Ga. Crosby will be nominated by Fred Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church of New Orleans.
While a number of Southern Baptist personalities appear in Greear's video, it is David Platt, president of the International Mission Board; Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission; and, Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., who are of concern.
Platt denies he knowingly endorsed Greear for SBC president, stating he was not aware Greear's request for a video clip was for the purpose of creating a campaign ad.
Platt responded to an IMB trustee via email March 23, explaining, "while I was overseas in the Middle East, J.D. asked me to shoot a 2-second video saying, 'It's tricky,'" a phrase repeated throughout the video.
But Platt said Greear did not divulge how the clip would be used.
"I had no idea what it was for," Platt clarified, although he said he knew beforehand Greear had been nominated.
Platt said it was only when he came back into the United States that he heard about Greear's use of his image and words for the electioneering piece.
"Please be assured (and please assure anyone who asks you about it) that I am not personally (and we are certainly not organizationally) endorsing anyone for SBC president," Platt wrote, noting he would "be thrilled" to serve alongside any "faithful Southern Baptist pastor who might be nominated to serve in this important role."
Platt also noted apparent disappointment with how Greear's use of him in a campaign video had created an unnecessary distraction, saying "It's definitely frustrating to come back to issues like this after a couple of weeks overseas, seeing massive needs among unreached refugees who are suffering and dying, and spending concentrated time with our front-line leaders around the world discussing how we can take the gospel to them.
"May God give us grace together across the SBC to keep our focus on that which matters most, here in the U.S. and around the world."
Akin said he did not think "being an entity head" should prohibit or prevent anyone "from expressing their support of a candidate or several candidates."
"I told J.D. ... I thought he would do an excellent job," Akin explained to The Alabama Baptist, noting that at the time of his endorsement no other candidates had been declared. Greear was announced as a candidate March 2, Gaines on March 9, and Crosby on March 24.
"Steve Gaines is also a close friend and has been so for many years," Akin said. "I do not know David Crosby well, but I was grateful for his willingness to nominate Fred Luter as the president of the SBC (in 2011). I have no doubt that each of these men would serve our convention of churches well."
Akin said his top priority is that the SBC president be "passionately committed to theological integrity, as embodied in the Baptist Faith & Message 2000, North American church planting and international missions."
Attempts to reach Moore for his response to appearing in the video were unsuccessful. An ERLC representative responded to the Tennessee Baptist and Reflector that Moore was "unavailable."
SBC Executive Committee, generally seen as an honest broker for promoting and protecting the interests of SBC churches, will not weigh in on the issue.
Executive Committee President Frank Page told the Louisiana Baptist Message via email, "Southern Baptist history is illuminating. At various times, entity heads served as SBC president. At other times, they nominated SBC presidents or commented on SBC presidential nominees."
He added that it was a free speech issue, something the Executive Committee had "never attempted to regulate" to his knowledge. "I don't anticipate that changing anytime soon."
Page also said social media is changing the medium, but not the "practice of Southern Baptists speaking their minds in an active exchange of ideas."
"This all seems healthy," he said. "Can it be distracting? That would seem to depend on the spirit in which it is done." (ASBP)
Contributing to this report, a joint project of the Association of State Baptist Publications, were Will Hall, editor of the Louisiana Baptist Message; Lonnie Wilkey, editor of the Tennessee Baptist and Reflector; and Neisha Roberts, editorial production coordinator, and Jennifer Davis Rash, executive editor of The Alabama Baptist.