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A Private Matter

Forced resignation of Southern Baptist leader prompts calls for transparency.

Southern Baptist leaders face growing controversy over the forced resignation of former Executive Committee vice president Clark Logan on July 1, just one week after the denomination's 2009 annual convention in Louisville, Kentucky.

Logan released a July 6 statement to the Florida Baptist Witness revealing that he was asked to resign before the end of the day on July 1. He also clarified that he was "not involved in, or accused of being involved in, any immoral or unethical action." Executive Committee president Morris Chapman confirmed the veracity of Logan's statement, but would not comment on the reasons for Logan's dismissal, citing a longstanding SBC policy that personnel matters stay private.

The privacy of personnel matters apparently extends to other members of the Executive Committee. Christianity Today spoke with several members of the committee, none of whom knew the reasons for Logan's departure. Each spoke highly of Logan's service to the convention and wondered what might have brought about his dismissal.

"I've known and worked alongside Clark Logan for years. [He] is one of the hardest-working men I've ever known in denominational life," said Russell Moore, dean of the School of Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. "He's also one of the most Christ-like. His sudden, forced resignation is one of the most puzzling things I've seen in a long time."

The timing of Logan's resignation has fueled speculation about conflicting visions held by Chapman and the other officers of the Executive Committee. Chapman has been outspoken in his opposition to the Great Commission Resurgence, a document co-sponsored by Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Johnny Hunt, current president of the SBC.

On June 23, Southern Baptists voted overwhelmingly (95 percent to 5 percent) for Hunt to appoint a "Great Commission Task Force" that would examine the current structures of the convention to find more efficient ways to provide increased funds for Great Commission causes. Younger Southern Baptists, who showed up in larger numbers at this year's meeting, were especially energized by the call for a Great Commission resurgence.

Social networks such as Facebook and Twitter were used frequently by Southern Baptists at this year's meeting. Just days after the convention, even the SBC president joined Twitter. Hunt has now gained more than 1,600 followers. When Logan's resignation was announced, dozens of younger Southern Baptists used Twitter to ask questions about the circumstances surrounding his departure. Speculation has run rampant.

On July 8, Hunt weighed in on the controversy. He told the Florida Baptist Witness that Chapman should be "more forthcoming" about Logan's resignation. He wondered if perhaps Logan's "youthfulness and creativity as well as his willingness to be open to change could have served as a stretch for some."

Hunt's leadership as president has energized young Southern Baptists who have called for unity around the Great Commission and transparency in Southern Baptist leadership.

"I've never seen the Southern Baptist grassroots more unified, love-driven, and open to the future," said Moore. "Johnny Hunt's leadership has united older and younger Southern Baptists, and bridged theological and methodological divides that seemed at one time irreparably split. The bureaucracy hasn't quite joined that movement, it seems."

Hunt has demonstrated a willingness to listen to questions from people from all sides of Southern Baptist life. After publishing the Great Commission Resurgence document online a few months before the convention, Hunt revised portions of the document in response to concerns from other Baptists. Likewise, after appointing the 18-member Great Commission task force during the convention, Hunt listened to concerns that the group needed greater ethnic representation and on July 9 added four more members. "I want Southern Baptists to know I have heard their concerns and have responded," he said.

Now many Southern Baptists are calling for the same type of transparency from those in other positions of leadership. The controversy surrounding Logan's departure from the Executive Committee has fueled many concerns, but so far has elicited little response. 

Trevin Wax is associate pastor of First Baptist Church in Shelbyville, Tennessee, and author of Holy Subversion: Allegiance to Christ in an Age of Rivals (Crossway, 2010).

Related Elsewhere:

Other recent stories on Southern Baptists include:

Revolution Redux | Southern Baptists debate relationship between evangelism and identity. (June 29, 2009)
TULIP Blooming | Southern Baptist seminaries re-introduce Calvinism to a wary denomination. (January 17, 2008)
Southern Baptists Elect President, Dismiss Abuse Database | Johnny Hunt says he'll be challenging spirit of lethargy. (June 11, 2008)

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