By Timothy Pigg and Jessica Pigg
June 21, 2021
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — With Southern Baptist attention focused on the then-upcoming presidential election for the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), the SBC Executive Committee plenary session held Monday, June 14, and the Committee on Nominations report presented June 16, drew election-related attention as well.
June 14 Election of Executive Committee Officers
Executive Committee Chairman Rolland Slade, eligible for re-election to his position as chairman, was re-elected by acclamation by the Executive Committee.
SBC Recording Secretary John Yeats nominated Monte Shinkle to the position of Executive Committee secretary, describing him as a “convictional peacemaker.” Shinkle now occupies the position previously held by Conservative Baptist Network Steering Council member Joe Knott.
Another Executive Committee officer position requiring an election in the plenary meeting was that of vice chairman. Philip Robertson, Louisiana state chapter coordinator for the Conservative Baptist Network, nominated Tom Tucker for re-election to his position, the outcome of which was an overwhelming vote of affirmation for the nomination.
In a move that appears to disregard years of precedent, however, the Southern Baptist Convention Committee on Nominations did not nominate Tucker to re-election on the Executive Committee as is typical, despite his eligibility to serve a second term.
Executive Committee member Mark Ballard expressed his disappointment concerning the unconventional decision to members of the Executive Committee during the June 14 meeting and also to Conservative Baptist Network Press in a statement. The full text of Ballard’s statement is published below.
“Having served Southern Baptists, associations, state/regional conventions, and the national convention for the last 37 years, I have never witnessed the cold, calculated, dirty, political maneuvering that I have seen in the last few weeks,” Ballard said, citing the decision to not renominate Tucker, the subsequent failure to notify him of the decision, and the lack of opportunity for willing Executive Committee members to address the matter from floor microphones during the Annual Meeting.
While then-SBC President J.D. Greear explained during the Annual Meeting that time limits and random selection of speakers determined who would or would not be called on to speak from floor microphones, conservatives have reported disappointment with what they perceive as a trend of conservative messengers positioning themselves at microphones but not receiving an opportunity to speak. Former Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) professor Russell Fuller reportedly rose to speak but was not recognized. Former Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) professor Candi Finch rose to speak during the seminary reports but also was not recognized. Carol Swain, an author, commentator, and former professor, waited in line at a microphone to address Critical Race Theory but, she too, was not recognized to speak. Swain addressed the scenario on Twitter.
“The #SBC’s leadership were more interested in public perception and potentially negative media coverage than they were in allowing people like me to speak about CRT,” Swain wrote. “Parliamentarian procedures & speaker discretion shutdown debate. I never had an opportunity to speak. #SBC21”
Some Southern Baptists say the polity works. Others are less certain.
“With several EC members standing at microphones to speak for our vice chair and reveal the truth of the situation, President Greear refused to let even one of us speak,” Ballard said. “The Convention had to vote without knowing the truth.
“This type of politics had never been allowed to stand in the SBC previously. The last time something like this was attempted the sitting president allowed fellow trustees to speak and the Convention overwhelmingly stood by the man being railroaded out of office by the Committee on Nominations. The tragedy is Tom Tucker, a humble grandfather, would have served Southern Baptists well.”
June 14 Election of Executive Committee Chairpersons
Executive Committee governing documents stipulate that the chairman has the responsibility, in consultation with the chief executive officer, to make committee chair nominations to the full Executive Committee.
The Executive Committee elected by acclamation three nominees for re-election put forth by Chairman Rolland Slade. Robert Showers will serve as the chairman of the committee on ministry and missions. Robyn Hari will serve as the chairwoman of the committee on convention finances and stewardship development. James (Jim) Gregory will serve as the chairman of the committee on Southern Baptist relations.
The Executive Committee did not elect by acclamation every nominee, however. Slade recommended Erik D. Cummings of Florida to serve as the chairman of the committee of convention finances and strategic planning. Cummings served previously as the vice chairman of the committee. The recommendation of Cummings signified a move to unseat Conservative Baptist Network Steering Council member Rod Martin from his position as chairman of that committee.
Mike Lawson nominated Martin for re-election to the chairmanship of the same committee. The nomination of two contenders required the Executive Committee to take a vote. In the first vote, neither candidate reached the 40-vote threshold required for election. Martin received 28 votes, and Cummings received 35 votes. A second vote was taken subsequently with Martin receiving 28 votes and Cummings receiving 39 votes.
In what was called a spirit of unity, Martin withdrew his name from consideration and recommended the Executive Committee elect Cummings by acclamation instead of by vote. The Executive Committee did elect Cummings who will now serve as the chairman of the convention finance and strategic planning committee.
“Erik Cummings is a friend and a good man,” Martin said. “Obviously, I’d have preferred to win, and when you lead from the front sometimes you get shot. But the unity of the body is important too.”
June 16 Committee on Nominations Report and Motion
During the Committee on Nominations report in the Wednesday morning session of the Annual Meeting, Lewis Richerson, a messenger and lead pastor from Woodlawn Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, La., was recognized at a floor microphone and made a motion to replace the nominated name of David Sons with Tom Tucker, the newly re-elected vice chairman of the Executive Committee.
Understanding that Tucker was eligible for re-election to serve a second term on the Executive Committee, the committee had elected Tucker to a second term as vice chairman during its meeting Monday. The only caveat to this re-election was that messengers would have to amend the 2021 Committee on Nominations report to include Tucker among the nominees, since he was not nominated for the customary second term by the committee.
Richerson offered a motion regarding the replacement of Tucker as vice chairman of the Executive Committee, stating that it was customary for Executive Committee members to be nominated for two consecutive terms.
“Tom Tucker has served one term and is eligible for a second term,” Richerson said from the floor of the convention hall.
Richerson made a motion to replace the name of David Sons, lead pastor of Lake Murray Baptist Church in Lexington, S.C., with Tucker, the president of Tom Tucker Ministries, former president of the South Carolina Baptist Convention and current Conservative Baptist Network Steering Council member.
“There is no reason given to why he should not serve a second term,” Richerson told messengers. “In addition, he was just elected [on Monday] as vice chairman of the Executive Committee of the Convention.”
Andrew Hopper, chairman of the Committee on Nominations and pastor of Mercy Hill Church in Greensboro, N.C., responded to Richerson’s motion by explaining that Tucker had already completed a term of a previous member and had served his own full-term.
“While you are correct that Mr. Tucker had served one term, he had come in on a previous term,” said Hopper. “He had not only served two years of a previous term, but then served his full term, and then was going to be given another term. So it’s not really about a second term. What we’re talking about is kind of a super-term – a long term.”
Ballard said the response to Richerson’s motion and the preclusion of input from other Executive Committee members standing at floor microphones led to messengers having to cast uninformed votes.
“I was saddened to see the cold, political calculation of some at work when it came time,” Ballard said. “Lewis Richerson made the motion to amend the Committee on Nominations report. Several EC members were standing by at various microphones to speak for Tom. However, following Lewis’ motion, the committee claimed that they had made their decision 18 months earlier. At this moment we realized how cold and calculated this action really was. If the committee really made the decision 18 months earlier, there is absolutely no excuse for not contacting Tom and letting him know.
“Yet, the cold, calculated, political maneuvering continued. With several EC members standing at microphones to speak for our vice chair and reveal the truth of the situation, President Greear refused to let even one of us speak. The Convention had to vote without knowing the truth.”
With the motion to amend the Committee on Nominations report defeated, the Executive Committee is expected to hold a new election for vice chairman to fill the now-vacant role during its next called meeting scheduled for September.
FULL TEXT: Statement provided by Dr. Mark Ballard
Having served Southern Baptists, associations, state/regional conventions, and the national convention for the last 37 years, I have never witnessed the cold, calculated, dirty, political maneuvering that I have seen in the last few weeks. One example is what happened to my friend Tom Tucker, a vocational evangelist from South Carolina. Last Monday at the Executive Committee meeting, I rose to speak for his nomination to be re-elected to serve a second term as vice chair.
It has been the long-standing process in SBC life to invite a person who has served one term in office to serve a second term. However, when Baptist Press published the report of the 2021 Committee on Nominations, Tom Tucker, who was eligible to serve a second term on the Executive Committee was being replaced. I was riding down the road with another member of the EC when that publication came out. He began reading the report and discovered the news about Tom. We immediately called Tom to find out why he would not be serving his second term. Tom was shocked by the news. No one from the Committee on Nominations had even given him a courtesy call. We were sharing the news for the first time.
When my fellow EC member and I arrived at our destination, an Executive Director from a regional convention approached me. He asked if I knew why the sitting vice chair of the EC, Tom Tucker, refused to be nominated for a second term. I responded, “he didn’t refuse to serve. In fact when the BP article came out an couple hours ago, we called him to find out what was going on and he didn’t know. No one contacted him.” The regional executive director replied, ‘Wow! I heard at a meeting last week, that Tom refused to serve a second term.’
When I shared these facts last Monday at the Executive Committee meeting, Tom won re-election to serve his second term as vice chair overwhelmingly. Not only did the EC stand behind one of the most godly and humble men with which I have ever served, several EC members determined to speak for Tom’s re-election to serve a second term on the EC during the Committee on Nominations report on Wednesday morning of the Convention.
I was saddened to see the cold political calculation of some at work when it came time. Lewis Richerson made the motion to amend the Committee on Nominations report. Several EC members were standing by at various microphones to speak for Tom. However, following Lewis’ motion, the committee claimed that they had made their decision 18 months earlier. At this moment we realized how cold and calculated this action really was. If the committee really made the decision 18 months earlier, there is absolutely no excuse for not contacting Tom and letting him know.
Yet, the cold, calculated, political maneuvering continued. With several EC members standing at microphones to speak for our vice chair and reveal the truth of the situation, President Greear refused to let even one of us speak. The Convention had to vote without knowing the truth.
This type of politics had never been allowed to stand in the SBC previously. The last time something like this was attempted the sitting president allowed fellow trustees to speak and the Convention overwhelmingly stood by the man being railroaded out of office by the Committee on Nominations. The tragedy is Tom Tucker, a humble grandfather, would have served Southern Baptists well.