A long article about upcoming conventional controversies facing the Southern Baptist Convention reflect the increasing importance of blogs as a force and a source of information, just as has been experienced by the ABC over the past year.
With the title, "Controversies born from blogs promise stormiest SBC since 1991", Hannah Elliott, Greg Warner and Robert Marus filed a story today on Associated Press (http://www.abpnews.com/1070.article). Here are some excerpts:
Blogs have already revolutionized secular politics, and whether a subset of it has revolutionized Baptist politics will be seen at the Southern Baptist Convention's annual meeting June 13-14 in North Carolina.
The meeting, in Greensboro, will feature the first seriously contested SBC presidential election in a decade and several other controversial business items. The combination will likely produce the most contentious convention meeting since 1991, when moderates left after an epic struggle with fundamentalists over control of the nation's largest Protestant denomination.
But this time, the struggle is between fellow conservatives. Internal tensions have been thrust into the SBC spotlight mainly by bloggers -- the ever-expanding network of ideological entrepreneurs who analyze and pontificate on their own websites...
Many of the bloggers have criticized [Ronnie] Floyd's [candidate for SBC President] weak support of the Cooperative Program, the SBC's unified budget for supporting denominational ministries at the national and state levels. An SBC panel recently called for officers and other convention leaders to come from churches that contribute at least 10 percent of their undesignated receipts to the program. In 2005, Floyd's church gave 0.27 percent of its $12 million in undesignated funds to the Cooperative Program.
Floyd's candidacy was announced shortly after another prominent SBC pastor with less-than-stellar Cooperative Program credentials pulled out of the running. Johnny Hunt, pastor of First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga., had initially said he would run, but later withdrew.
One of Floyd's opponents, meanwhile, appears to have the support of many bloggers and other SBC reformers. Frank Page initially declined to allow himself to be nominated, saying he "didn't have a peace about it." But he reversed course shortly afterward, saying "an overall malaise among many people" in the convention prompted him to accept the nomination.
Page, who is the pastor of First Baptist Church of Taylors, S.C., was courted as a candidate by prominent SBC blogger Wade Burleson and other reform-minded conservatives. Last year, Page's church gave 12.1 percent of its $4.4 million in undesignated receipts to the Cooperative Program...
The advent of the SBC blogosphere has brought pre-existing internal tensions in the denomination to the surface. Many of the bloggers are under 50 years of age -- "younger" by the standards of Baptist leadership -- and there is a generational aspect to the conflict in the denomination.
In recent years, SBC officials have worked to cultivate younger pastors and other leaders, and bring them into service on denominational boards and offices. But the plan may have backfired to some extent, since some of the new recruits are leading the revolution against the old-guard establishment.
The small but influential group -- Burleson's blog (www.wadeburleson.com), for instance, has had nearly 200,000 visitors as of the afternoon of June 5 -- has attacked everything from controversial new restrictions on missionaries to perceived cronyism among trustees.
Burleson is probably the most widely read of the new SBC bloggers, whose ranks also include Georgia pastor Marty Duren (www.sbcoutpost.blogspot.com) and Texas pastor Benjamin Cole (www.baptistblogger.blogspot.com). His blog got started as a way to criticize actions taken by a majority of his fellow trustees at the International Mission Board. Trustees attempted to remove the Enid, Okla., pastor after he refused to stop discussing controversial new board policies online.
My purpose in bringing this article to the attention of DD readers is not to draw them into the byzantine world of SBC eccclesial politics, but to illustrate the fact that Blog Power is here to stay. Any information-based movement would be wise to take that into account. News is checked and filtered and opinion shaped and critiqued here as never before. Behold, the power of the Blog!