Yes, it’s all a matter of timing.
Over the course of the past six months, Baptist Press has come out with three articles besmirching Mark Driscoll and Acts 29. But have you paid attention to the timing of their pieces and what Baptist Press is attempting to do? I have, and here are my thoughts.
The Context and the Agenda
For contextual purposes, we need to go back to the starting point of Baptist Press and their coverage of Acts29, which of course was the “controversy” with The Journey hosting Theology at the Bottleworks. The principal antagonist (and still to this day) was Roger Moran, a layman who also was serving on the Executive Committee–where Morris Chapman is CEO, and who are also responsible for Baptist Press. In the Executive Committee meeting in February 2007, Moran gave a speech where he went after Darrin Patrick, Mark Driscoll, and the “emerging church” in the SBC, aligning them with the CBF. In March 2007, Baptist Press followed up with their article entitled “Alcohol, Acts 29, and the SBC.” In that article, Norm Miller pulls quotes from non-SBC churches affiliated with Acts 29 stating their pro-alcohol positions in attempt to beef up their case against dually affiliated SBC/Acts29 churches, all of whom were eventually defunded (in Missouri). Patrick explicitly stated to Baptist Press that he abstains from alcohol and that The Journey “doesn’t personally encourage nor corporately promote the use of alcohol.” The next word from Baptist Press was “However . . .”. And when Patrick became aware of an alcohol-related picture and removed it because “it does not reflect the values of our church,” the next word from Baptist Press was “Still . . .”. Baptist Press simply does not want to present objectivity and report a story; they want you to believe *their* version of the story, which is the version of Roger Moran.
Of course, the underlying issue here is to employ the “guilt by association” tactic and malign anyone connected to the ill-represented Mark Driscoll and remove their influence in the SBC. So you get paragraphs like this in the article:
Patrick’s SBC connections include the North American Mission Board. He co-chaired NAMB’s Young Leaders Task Force with Ed Stetzer, a NAMB employee who is on the board of Acts 29. The task force last met over a year ago.
But they are not finished because “there are other SBC connections to Acts 29, too“–referring to the speaking engagement of SBTS professor Dr. Bruce Ware at Mars Hill and Southeastern’s Convergent conference where Driscoll was scheduled to speak later in the Fall.
The agenda of Baptist Press as seen in the 2007 article sets the stage for the three articles that have come out in 2009. They (1) uncharitably depict Mars Hill, Acts 29, and Mark Driscoll, (2) attempt to draw connections for guilt-by-association based on their trumped up charges in #1, and (3) attempt to create controversy in the SBC and malign those associations in #2 through their subversive actions. They are not reporting the news. Baptist Press has become the news by creating it.
Case 1. SEBTS 20/20 Collegiate Conference
SEBTS hosted their 20/20 Collegiate conference on Feb. 6-7 of this year to a sold-out crowd of over 1,400 college students where Mark Driscoll and C.J. Mahaney were keynote speakers. Less than a week after the conference, the “staff” of Baptist Press came out with an article entitled “Driscoll’s Vulgarity Draws Media Attention.” It was obvious that this was an attempt to embarrass Dr. Danny Akin and shame SEBTS for having Driscoll come speak, and in the article, the “staff” pulled from watchdog blogger Ingrid Schlueter and David Tolliver (who I am led to believe was not aware that his comments were directly related to a forthcoming article on Mark Driscoll) with comments intended to portray Driscoll in the most negative light.
It was evident to many that the impact from the Collegiate conference (and the influence of Driscoll) was intended to be thwarted by the efforts of Baptist Press. Between the Times, the blog of SEBTS, responded, “We were very disappointed in the BP piece, which we believe was inaccurate in content and harsh in tone.” Unlike Baptist Press, the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina reported on what actually happened at the conference.
Case 2. SBC Annual Meeting in Louisville
The Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention took place in Louisville on June 23-24 of this year. Just one week prior (June 17) to the convention, Baptist Press published an article entitled, “Bott Radio Blocks Driscoll, Replaces Segment Mid-show.” Dick Bott stated, “While no vulgar language was used by Driscoll in his interview with Rainey, Bott said he could not trust Driscoll, given his track record . . .”. For all the times that Driscoll has been called “the cussing pastor,” has anyone provided a detailed “record” of the times he has cussed in the pulpit? But that’s almost besides the point.
Don Hinkle, the editor of Missouri Baptist’s Pathway, drafted this piece which quickly became a part of the propaganda spearheaded by none other than Roger Moran (also of Missouri) to be passed out on the convention floor in Louisville. Complete with the copyright of The Southern Baptist Convention Baptist Press, this article was formatted and freshly inserted into Moran’s hit piece entitled, “Acts 29 and the Emerging Church: The ‘Controversy’ in the Missouri Baptist Convention is making its way to the SBC.” The first half dealt with Southeastern Seminary and Mark Driscoll, saying that “SEBTS has become the leader in charting the new course toward a more tolerant view of the ‘new liberalism’ that is infecting the SBC in a significant way.” Following the charges against SEBTS was that of Ed Stetzer, whom Moran calls the “chief defender of Mark Driscoll and Acts 29.”
During the convention, more motions (five in total) were made against Mark Driscoll and Acts 29 than anything or anyone else–Driscoll himself not even being a Southern Baptist. But the motions against Driscoll were not the only things Baptist Press and Moran had in their scope. The lead architect of the Great Commission Resurgence–the driving narrative of the convention–has been Dr. Danny Akin. It should be noted that, solely based on Moran’s literature, a motion was made to investigate Akin, Stetzer, and Alvin Reid–literature of which Baptist Press had played a part.
Most recently, when the profiles of the Great Commission Task Force were provided by Baptist Press, they took extra effort to add this to J.D. Greear’s profile:
Greear/The Summit are members of the Acts 29 Network, whose covenant requires governance by a plurality of elders; agreement with the theological beliefs of Acts 29; and the commitment of 10 percent of internal tithes and offerings to church planting with primary consideration given to Acts 29-approved planters.
Was this necessary? No. Well, if you are Baptist Press and are seeking to expose any and all connections to Acts 29, then yes. Surely other GCR task force members have affiliations with non-SBC organizations to some degree, but none were mentioned except that of Acts 29.
Case 3. Fall Semester Kickoff @ SBTS
Seminary classes began for students of Southern Seminary on August 17. Two days later (August 19), Baptist Press runs an article entitled, “New Driscoll/Acts 29 Leadership School Features SBC Staffers Stetzer, Ware, and Allison.” The Resurgence Training Center (Re:Train) was originally announced on June 1, 2009–over two months ago. The problem for Baptist Press is that it is not newsworthy in the middle of June but rather the middle of August because it is not Re:Train they want to report, but the egregious associations of SBC professors with Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll in order to create controversy over this affiliation.
You see, Baptist Press could have simply reported on the joint teaching of these professors and kept it at that, but that is what objective news wires do, not Baptist Press. BP has to present MHC and Driscoll in the worst light, so they bring up everything else they have trumped up to this point (vulgarity, Bott Radio, SEBTS conference, etc). The “staff” begins with talking about the professors (117 words), then turns the bulk of their attention to Driscoll (358 words), and then concludes with the professors again (181 words) attempting to draw close association between the SBC professors teaching at Re:Train and the former actions of Driscoll, of which he has repented. If you consider the weight of the article in words, it is not about Re:Train as much as it is about Mark Driscoll. Additionally, it should be noted that they even included the statement that “one motion called for the investigation of Stetzer and two other SBC entity employees for their ties to Acts 29” when that very motion was publicly rebuked on the convention floor in Louisville.
It should be clear to everyone paying attention that Baptist Press is no longer reporting the news. They have become the news. The are not revealing controversy. They are the controversy. With well-timed articles smearing Mark Driscoll and attempting to shame anyone who identifies with them, they have carried the water of Roger Moran and furthered his anti-Acts 29/Mark Driscoll agenda under the banner of Southern Baptist news service. Whether it is Danny Akin, SBTS, Ed Stetzer, Darrin Patrick, or anyone else who associates with them, Baptist Press will attempt to further the anti-Acts 29 agenda by adding fuel to a fire they have lit with their own matches.
Yesterday, Mohler gave a fantastic presentation about the future of the SBC on the day Baptist Press printed their article about SBTS professors (BP did not report on Mohler’s message). In his presentation, Mohler said that “on the floor of the Southern Baptist Convention, crankiness is evident. We criticize people who are not even there!” He went on to add that “if we are a denomination of unhappy cranks, we will decline and disappear, and deservedly so.” Scripture tells us that where there is no wood, the fire goes out (Prov. 26:20). We can either get rid of the wood and put the fire out, or we can watch our denomination slowly disappear through the unhappy cranks.