On June 12, 1987, President Ronald Reagan famously demanded of the Soviet premier, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” The Berlin Wall was a symbol of Communist oppression and secrecy. Behind the wall people suffered from corruption and abuse that was hidden from the eyes of the world. When the wall came down in 1989 it marked the end of a tragic era and led to freedom and the reunification of Germany.
The Southern Baptist Convention has walls that must come down. Walls of secrecy. Walls that enable corruption and prevent transparency. Walls that conceal failure. Walls that protect abusers and wrongdoers from accountability. Accountability doesn’t just happen. It requires tearing down the walls and shining the light so that every SBC church is empowered to make informed decisions as they advance the mission of God. Here are a few walls that need to be torn down.
WALL #1 – The Great Commission Resurgence Task Force (GCR) issued a report to the SBC in 2010, but the records were sealed behind a wall until 2025. NAMB’s application of this report turned SBC missiology upside down. For 165 years evangelism, church planting and missions was led by the local church, assisted by local associations and supported by state conventions. The national mission’s agency resourced the state conventions and local associations. Beginning in 2010 NAMB began to “take control” of church planting and hugely defunded evangelism. Missiology became top-down and at least $51,000,000 was kept by NAMB and withheld from associations and state conventions. The result is massive mission failure with steep declines in baptisms, church plants, Cooperative Program missions, everything. It’s long past time to tear down the wall that hides the GCR records. Southern Baptists have a right to know what the records reveal. Several of our key SBC leaders were a part of the GCR and supported this disastrous decision (Ronnie Floyd, Al Mohler, Danny Akin). Is that why the records are still sealed? “Trust God and tell the people” used to be the Baptist way. If we have leaders who no longer believe that, it’s time we find new leaders.
WALL #2 – Forensic audits must be conducted for every SBC entity. Forensic audits can help organizations prevent corruption, fraud, and embezzlement. SBC entities manage huge budgets with billions of dollars in assets. Periodic forensic audits will provide needed transparency and accountability as financial details are exposed to every SBC church, which will empower the churches to make informed decisions with their mission dollars. The wall of financial secrecy and opaqueness must be torn down. The books need to be open for review by every SBC church.
WALL #3 – End Non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) and cancel existing NDAs. Some SBC entities make routine use of NDAs in order to purchase the silence of former staff. This wall, purchasing the silence of former staff, must be torn down. What are we afraid of? Learning the truth? If you’re on the wrong side of the truth, you’re on the wrong side. Integrity does not fear the truth. Integrity does not fear transparency. Integrity requires accountability.
WALL #4 – Provide full reports on funded church plants. How many new churches does NAMB fund each year and where are these churches located? What is the total monthly funding for new churches? Which church plants receive grants and what is the value of each grant? Where are the NAMB-owned houses and who is living in them? This information has not been published by NAMB for 10 years. It is hidden behind a wall of secrecy that must be torn down.
WALL #5 – Appoint trustees who will ask questions, demand transparency, and hold leaders accountable. The wall of secrecy erected by trustees meeting in executive session when discussing issues and difficulties with SBC agencies must end (personnel issues sometimes require executive sessions). Secrecy has led to diminished trust and confidence for many SBC churches. Tearing down this wall will enable trust to grow and support of the cooperative mission will increase.
Lack of transparency leads to corruption and walls prevent transparency. We must tear down these walls.
Walls protect leaders from accountability. For accountability to happen, the walls must be torn down.
Walls weaken the ability of the churches to make informed decisions. The walls must be torn down so that every SBC church can fully participate in God’s mission through the SBC.
Restoring trust and rebuilding cooperation in the SBC requires that we TEAR DOWN THE WALLS that prevent Transparency and Accountability, and that we expand Participation to every SBC church. We must do this. Our churches deserve this. God’s people who entrust their mission dollars to the SBC deserve this. In the end, they will require this of the SBC or they will increasingly withdraw from our missionary efforts, and this would be a great tragedy. Oh, do not fear, God will accomplish His mission, but He will increasingly do it through others if the SBC doesn’t do the right thing.
We’ve heard an outcry from certain leaders that unity is our greatest need. No. Trust is our greatest need. Trust is built through transparency, accountability and participation. Unity requires trust. Calling for unity without rebuilding trust is manipulation.
If you elect me president of the SBC, I will represent the churches and demand that our entities do the hard work of rebuilding trust. I will not plead for unity until we show ourselves willing and able to rebuild trust. This will bring glory to God and restore vibrancy to the mission work of the SBC.
Like the walls of Jericho, these walls will come down. Either God will bring them down, or we can tear them down ourselves. I pray we muster the integrity and courage to tear down the walls before God does it as a means of judgment.