I was born in 1993 in the same month that, just a state away, Al Mohler was being elected to replace Roy Honeycutt as president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Both my parents attended and graduated from Southern in the late 1980s, and my dad became the campus minister at Marshall University before continuing on to a long and beautiful career as one of the greatest pastors I have ever known (I may be biased).
That 30-plus-year calling has brought with it the highs and lows of ministry that many who identify as clergy have known. I, like many of my current colleagues in ministry, have grown up witnessing and hearing the stories of pain “The Fall” caused our parents and mentors.
We have grown up hearing of the “witch hunts” as professors like Molly Marshall were fired for encouraging their students to ask questions. We have grown up hearing how women were deemed “less than.” We have grown up hearing how subterfuge and a thirst for power helped a few religious leaders take over beacons of Christian learning.
If I recall my Bible correctly, Jesus loved questions, empowered women and did not particularly appreciate religious leaders imposing themselves on others. For 30 years now, the stifling “leadership” of the Southern Baptist Convention has continued to cause pain and grief, rubbing salt in old wounds and causing new ones. Wounds we Millennial ministers have inherited and feel deeply. While those wounds exist, and sometimes seem to fester, I have reason to hope.
As “The Fall” brought pain, a Spirit-guided few saw fit to begin the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. While CBF is just an organization, its members have added much joy to my life, guiding and loving me into the minister I am today.
It is because of this that I know Paul Pressler and Paige Patterson could have used some of that miracle mud Jesus used to help the blind see when they were making their plans. You see, they were shortsighted. They might have been victorious in the moment; however, 30 years later, they have unknowingly produced ministers who invite their youth and children to ask any question they want. They have unknowingly produced ministers who champion and mentor women in ministry. They have unknowingly produced ministers who will continue doing the good work the outcasts of “The Fall” taught them to do. The seeds have been cast on good soil, and we intend to bear fruit.
Will Raybon serves as associate pastor of children, youth and families at Benson Baptist Church in Benson, N.C. He is the son of seminarian parents who exemplify Jesus every day and a proud student of Gardner-Webb University School of Divinity, where some of those Southern refugees found a place to sow some seeds.
The lion, the witch-hunt and the boardroom: Reflections 30 years after the harrowing of Southern Seminary | Opinion by Brad Bull
Thirty years later, no one has reshaped the SBC more than Albert Mohler | Analysis by Mark Wingfield