Former President of the SBC misrepresents opponents of resolution #5

Just because you have been the President of the SBC doesn’t mean that you always tell the truth. That has been made very evident in the recent SBCLife, the journal of the Southern Baptist Convention. Bobby Welch wrote a letter to Southern Baptists that appears in the current issue (August 2006). It appears under the title, “A Word From Our Former President.” In it, he expresses his deep appreciation for being allowed to serve two terms as the President of the SBC. He also sets forth his desire to help Southern Baptist stay focused on evangelism. Early in the letter he addresses the issue of resolution #5, which calls for the total opposition of beverage alcohol. He writes that people have asked him the following question: “Were there any surprises at the Convention?” Here is his answer:

Oh yes! Undoubtedly, the greatest surprise to almost everyone was that several Southern Baptist pastors actually came to a microphone and publicly promoted the drinking of alcoholic beverages and wanted the SBC to do the same! Actually, I never thought I would see that take place, and it is not only a surprise but an outrage! My father was addicted to alcohol, which contributed to his early death. He advised me that if I would never take the first drink I would never end up like he did. I did not, and he was correct!

I understand one pastor’s blog site indicates he believes his drinking assists him in soul-winning! What a pathetic joke! These blogging Baptist pastors just blew their collective cork!

From my vantage point, as presiding officer of the Convention, I took a slow and deliberate look at the number of ballots raised in support of such foolishness and comparatively, there was hardly anyone who was in favor of encouraging the use or promotion of the use of alcoholic beverages. In fact, the overwhelming voice and raised ballot vote made it clear that Southern Baptists do not want leaders that use or promote the use of any type of alcohol.

We have many outstanding young pastors and others on their way to leading this Convention to its greatest days, and they are smart enough to know they will not do it as “sipping saints,” but as sober soul winners! God help us to never, ever elect a user or promoter of the use of alcoholic beverages to any leadership position, and I am personally sorry and ashamed if we have any in those positions now!

This kind of mischaracterization is inexcusable–especially from one who actually presided over the meeting in Greensboro. Dr. Welch did an admirable job in moderating with gentleness and fairness. I and many others have commended him for the humble, professional leadership that he exhibited while wielding the gavel. It is a shame that he follows that with these outlandish and untruthful accusations. When he writes that “several Southern Baptist pastors actually came to a microphone and publicly promoted the drinking of alcoholic beverages and wanted the SBC to do the same!,” he at best is misrepresenting what actually happened. At worst, well, at worst, he is simply being untruthful.

I was there. So were thousands of others. But don’t take my word for it. Go to the video archives at the SBC website and watch the proceedings from Wednesday morning’s report from the Resolutions Committee. One need not speculate on what was said and not said. I encourage you to watch and listen for yourself. If you discover “several Southern Baptist pastors” who spoke publicly and “promoted the drinking of alcoholic beverages and wanted the SBC to do the same,” please transcript their promotional appeals and send them to me. I will post them here and will publicly repent for questioning Dr. Welch’s comments. If such evidence cannot be found, then Dr. Welch should publicly repent. After all, the ninth commandment has not been excised from the inerrant Word of God, has it?

I know that some–maybe many–will consider me impolite (and worse) for addressing this issue in such strong language. But truth matters. And no one should get a pass on bearing false witness regardless of who he is or what positions he holds or has held. Welch’s misrepresentation of fellow Southern Baptists is very harmful to our convention. It causes those who know better to mistrust leaders. Other SBC leaders who know that Welch’s characterization is inaccurate should speak out publicly to correct him. However, if recent history is any indicator, this is not likely to happen. This kind of uncorrected character assassination will inevitably breed further frustration among the growing number of pastors and church leaders who continue to wonder why those denominational leaders who shout the loudest about the authority of the Bible stand by silently when its precepts are publicly shattered by one of their own. Will bureucratic loyalty always trump biblical fidelity?

What was the conservative resurgence all about? Was it not a fight to recover full commitment to the authority and accuracy of the Bible as the Word of God written? I say this reverently but with genuine concern as one who loves and seeks the welfare of the SBC: What difference does it make whether or not we have an inerrant Bible if our leaders are allowed to ignore and violate its teachings and to do so in the very public forum of our denominational journal? We have every right to expect more from champions of inerrancy.

Tom Ascol has served as a Pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, FL since 1986. Prior to moving to Florida he served as pastor and associate pastor of churches in Texas. He has a BS degree in sociology from Texas A&M University (1979) and has also earned the MDiv and PhD degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas. He has served as an adjunct professor of theology for various colleges and seminaries, including Reformed Theological Seminary, the Covenant Baptist Theological Seminary, African Christian University, Copperbelt Ministerial College, and Reformed Baptist Seminary. He has also served as Visiting Professor at the Nicole Institute for Baptist Studies at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida. Tom serves as the President of Founders Ministries and The Institute of Public Theology. He has edited the Founders Journal, a quarterly theological publication of Founders Ministries, and has written hundreds of articles for various journals and magazines. He has been a regular contributor to TableTalk, the monthly magazine of Ligonier Ministries. He has also edited and contributed to several books, including Dear Timothy: Letters on Pastoral Ministry, The Truth and Grace Memory Books for children and  Recovering the Gospel and Reformation of Churches. He is also the author of From the Protestant Reformation to the Southern Baptist ConventionTraditional Theology and the SBC and Strong and Courageous. Tom regularly preaches and lectures at various conferences throughout the United States and other countries. In addition he regularly contributes articles to the Founders website and hosts a weekly podcast called The Sword & The Trowel. He and his wife Donna have six children along with four sons-in-law and a daughter-in-law. They have sixteen grandchildren.
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