According to a recent press release from the Associated Baptist Press (strange that a group calling itself the California Conservative Coalition would choose the ABP as their news funnel) California pastors Ron Wilson and Wiley Drake are starting a new California Baptist convention “that will compete with the 67-year-old California Southern Baptist Convention for denominational loyalty.” Let me state at the outset that I consider Wiley and Ron not only Christian brothers but also friends. We all could learn from Wiley’s church in reaching out to those less fortunate than ourselves. And let me state that they certainly have a clear right, considering Baptist polity, to form a new convention if they so wish. Historically, we Baptists hold dearly the right to association with others of like-minded belief.
However, this new convention startup bothers me. In trying to analyze what exactly bothers me about it I think I’ve been able to pinpoint the prick in my gut that concerns me most. What bothers me most is that this seems to be an effort to posture themselves as the “true conservative Southern Baptists of California” and to brand the CSBC as something other than that. Well, I’m not ready to cede the title of “true conservatives” to Ron and Wiley.
Their press release states: “California is the fourth state to witness such a move, joining Texas, Missouri and Virginia. In those states, alternative Baptist conventions have resulted in competition with the more traditional organizations for contributions and membership.” California is NOT Texas, Missouri and Virginia. The CSBC is not the BGCT (Texas), nor the BGAV (Virginia) nor the MBC (Missouri). Each of those states saw the establishment of a new state convention of conservatives in response to the moderate/liberal leanings of the established state convention. There is NO SUCH need in California. The CSBC is not moderate, nor liberal. As a long time pastor in this state who has been involved in the various entities of our state I know the leaders and the overwhelming majority of pastors of the CSBC to be folks strongly committed to and cooperating with the SBC and all its entities. These are folks who applaud the conservative resurgence in the SBC. To suggest otherwise is to build a “straw man” of a convention in order to further one’s own agenda.
So, to my brothers, Ron and Wiley, I love you and I wish you nothing but the best. But please, PLEASE, don’t try to usurp the label “conservative Southern Baptist” from me because I am committed to the CSBC. If you must separate yourselves, that’s your choice. Personally, I’d rather see all of us, as conservative California Southern Baptists, stay together and work for the glory of God in the spread of His Kingdom.