Politicians, SEND, & the SBC

Since the ERLC announced that they will be having a discussion about religious liberty with a couple of politicians at the SEND conference, we have been asked to respond. After all, we’ve been questioned, if we have concerns about the SBC pastors’ conference invitation of politician Ben Carson, shouldn’t we have concerns here? It’s a fair question. Perhaps those asking for a quick response will forgive us for our response time. In relation to the Carson post, we had months of time to wrestle with it before we sent our post to the pastors’ conference leadership. Then, we gave it another month before we posted it. While it’s tempting to do something similar with the SEND conference leadership, here are a few initial thoughts about why we aren’t as concerned with the SEND invites as we were with the other.


First, the goals of the conferences are different. The SBC pastors’ conference is primarily for pastors. The SEND conference has been marketed for all people. There are speakers you would invite to a conference about the mission of God that you wouldn’t invite to speak at a pastors’ conference. The SEND conference seems to be broader in scope. As a pastor, I’m taking 25 of our church members to the conference because I want them to be better equipped to live on mission. I didn’t take our people to the SBC pastors’ conference, although I as a pastor attended. NAMB and IMB, the creators of the conference, both understand that the mission of God is big enough to include all aspects of the lives of the people of God. And my people are facing the sophisticated religious liberty challenges at work—even here in the South. So a discussion on religious liberty is more appropriate with this type of conference.


Second, the formats and topics of the conferences are different. At the pastors’ conference, Ben Carson was going to speak in a sermonic fashion, opening his bible and talking about cultural values. The politicians at the SEND event will not be speaking in the same way, but will be interviewed specifically on religious liberty issues. They will not be opening a bible and delivering a sermon. Am I surprised the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission is having a discussion on religious liberty? No. It’s one of the reasons they exist. Do I think having a politician opening up a bible and talking to us generally about its values is a good idea, especially when he has significant different theological views? No. There’s a significant difference here. Baptist21 never called for a complete disengagement from political involvement. We did, however, raise concerns about the way we were engaging politically as a denomination. We hope the SBC can be a prophetic voice that is not tied to one party, but is wed to the Kingdom of God and the mission of God. However you think that should play out, the formats and topics of these two conferences are different.


Third, the invitations to the conferences are different. At the pastors’ conference only one politician from one party was invited. This party—the Republican Party—is the only party that has historically received invites to SBC events. Our concern was that a close association with a political party would dilute our gospel witness. The ERLC invited candidates from both parties. Regardless of who comes, they have made an effort to engage with both parties. Whether one thinks this is enough or not, it is a different approach—one I believe that makes our previous concern harder to raise. In fact, during the pastors’ conference situation, when different parties behind the scenes asked us how pc leadership might handle the situation differently, we suggested that they could invite a politician from the Democratic Party to have a discussion on religious liberty. This is what happened with the SEND invite. There’s progress here. Whether or not there is enough progress to avoid diluting our message and mission is yet to be seen. Some B21 members are skeptical. The news that Democrats will probably not be represented at SEND is disappointing and still contributes to the perception that the SBC is tied to 1 party, but we are thankful for the effort to include both parties.


These are just quick points of observation. We assume that they won’t be completely agreed upon. Even among the Baptist21 brethren there are those not excited about this portion of the SEND conference. But the Southern Baptist emphasis on cooperation assumes different perspectives. The question isn’t whether we’ll disagree or not. We will. The question is whether we will disagree without being disagreeable or not. Let’s not be offended by opposing views. Let’s engage with them. Voice your own as winsomely as possible and let’s advance the kingdom of Christ together.

The 2015 B21 Panel Book List

One of the joys of hosting the Baptist21 Panel at the SBC is the opportunity to give away great resources to our attendees. This year, we will give away 12 books to our attendees for FREE. We have listed the books below. If you have yet to register for our event, then make this the reason! You can register here.

Hope you enjoy the books!

  • Church with Jesus as the Hero by Dr. David Prince
  • Life in Community: Joining Together to Display the Gospel by Dustin Willis
  • Preaching Christ from Proverbs by Dr. Jonathan Akin
  • Forward: 7 Distinguishing Marks for Future Leaders by Dr. Ronnie Floyd
  • Firmly Planted: How to Cultivate a Faith Rooted in Christ by Dr. Robby Gallaty
  • The Joshua Code 52 Scripture Verses Every Believer Should Know by Dr. O.S. Hawkins
  • Exalting Jesus in Galatians: Chris-Centered Exposition Commentary by Dr. David Platt and Dr. Tony Merida
  • HCSB Compact Ultra-thin Special Edition Bible
  • Glory Hunger by J.R. Vassar (e-book)
  • Engaging with Muslims by Dr. John Klaassen (e-book)
  • Sexual Brokenness and the Hope of the Gospel edited by Russell Moore (e-book)
  • Protecting Your Ministry booklet by ADF and ERLC (e-book)

On top of these 12, we will also be giving away some copies of Dr. Russell Moore’s new book Onward and Exalting Jesus in Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi from the Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary Series. We have a limited number of these. Attendees will also receive a copy of Light Magazine with the title “Marriage Redefined?,” as well as many other gifts and information from our sponsors.

We are able to do this because of the generosity of many publishers. We would like to thank the following for allowing us to give away these books to you!

Finally, don’t miss the books! Register for our event TODAY. We have already had to change rooms and tickets are moving fast. Register now!

Ronnie Parrott

B21 Panel Location Change


Due to ticket sales exceeding the capacity for our room,  we have had to move locations in order to accommodate the amount of registrants.

New Location: Battelle Grand Ballroom A/B, which is on the 3rd level

Sign up now if you want to secure your spot! Room is filling up quickly. We won’t be able to change rooms again! Don’t miss out on lunch, great conversation, and plenty of free books. Register here.


We would like to thank all of you for this great turn out! We know it’s largely because of you that we can host this important event.