A Georgia layman who announced recently he is running for president of the Southern Baptist Convention says it looks like his agenda to shake up business as usual in the nation’s second-largest faith group will have to wait another year.
Seth Dunn, a blogger and licensed CPA living in Cartersville, Ga., wants to eliminate the SBC Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, merge the International and North American Mission Boards and end retail sales by LifeWay Christian Resources.
He describes the Cooperative Program, the convention’s unified funding plan, as a relic from the New Deal era that puts millions of dollars into the control of multiple layers of state and national convention bureaucrats at a time when Southern Baptists are laying off missionaries due to a lack of funding.
“Like most of the millions of Southern Baptists in this world, I am not a professional pastor,” Dunn wrote in a blog announcing his candidacy. “I’m just a regular lay person from a small church. I’m appalled to see the direction of my denomination. For far too long it’s been run by a cabal of well-to-do megapreachers from well-to-do megachurches. These mega men, in my opinion, exist to sell their own books, speak at each others’ conferences, and push their unbiblical brand of satellite campus McChurch. I’m tired of it. They don’t represent me and they don’t represent most Southern Baptists. Someone needs to bring back order and accountability. I can be that someone.”
Dunn said as an outsider to the “oligarchy” of big steeple pastors and agency heads calling the shots on behalf of 46,000 Southern Baptist churches, he has no interest in appointing his friends to leadership posts or helping them land high-paying denominational jobs. He said his committee appointments would be in harmony with the full Baptist Faith and Message, including an article describing the church as “an autonomous local congregation of baptized believers,” which he interprets as excluding multi-campus churches like Cross Church in Northwest Arkansas, led by current SBC president Ronnie Floyd.
A pastor in Missouri sent a letter to denominational media announcing his intent to nominate the 33-year-old member of Expedition Church, a Southern Baptist congregation in Cartersville, Ga., but Dunn said June 3 the pastor changed his mind after being contacted by someone from First Baptist Church of Woodstock, Ga., a megachurch which Dunn formerly attended. The senior pastor is former SBC President Johnny Hunt.
Hunt announced in March he is nominating Steve Gaines, pastor at the 16,000-member Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., as SBC president when the convention gathers June 14-15 in St. Louis. Other announced candidates for the presidency are J.D. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., a multi-site congregation with a weekly worship attendance of about 10,000; and David Crosby, pastor of First Baptist Church in New Orleans, which averages 658 in worship and gives a high percentage of its budget to the Cooperative Program.
Dunn, who has been attending New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary part time since 2009 and has five classes to go before receiving his master of divinity degree, said he put out feelers for someone else to nominate him for the race, but this close to the convention he doesn’t hold out much hope. “If nothing happens, I’ll just look forward to Phoenix,” he said, referring to the site of the 2017 convention.
Lacking a travel budget from his church to attend the SBC annual meeting, Dunn, a father of three whose wife is a stay-at-home mom, turned to a GoFundMe appeal for the “Seth Dunn for SBC Prez Travel Fund.” He was $200 toward a $550 goal when the plug was pulled on his nomination.
None of the media originally contacted by the pastor who planned to nominate Dunn wrote a story about it, and he did not reply to a request for comment by Baptist News Global sent to his church email address.
Dunn laid out his agenda in a series of videos on his blog and a pamphlet titled The Cooperative Program and the Road to Serfdom he published last year. He is also an editor at Pulpit & Pen, a group blog dedicated to issues of “theology, polemics” and “discernment.”