A Sinking Ship or Weathering the Storm: #SBC21 in 21 Tweets

A Sinking Ship or Weathering the Storm: #SBC21 in 21 Tweets June 17, 2021

This week’s Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting has been widely viewed as a moment of reckoning. With a far-right takeover afoot, with Black pastors threatening to leave the SBC should Mike Stone or Al Mohler be elected president, with Russell Moore’s leaked letters revealing the ugly tactics members of the SBC Executive Committee were accustomed to wielding to consolidate their power and ignore misogyny, abuse, and racism within the SBC, all eyes turned to Nashville.

For those of us who aren’t attending this week’s annual meeting, Twitter offers us illuminating glimpses into defining moments. And for those who don’t spend an inordinate amount of time doomscrolling on Twitter, I’ve compiled a collection of tweets for your reading (and viewing) pleasure.

First, though, a caveat. As Baylor historian Elesha Coffman pointed out (over on Facebook), it’s important to keep the SBC in perspective: “Granted, the SBC is a flaming train wreck that’s hard to look away from, but it isn’t ‘the church,’ nor is it a reflection of ‘American politics.’ It’s *a* church that embodies problems within the *Republican party.* Don’t give their conflagration more oxygen than it deserves.”

That said, as sociologist Andrew Whitehead noted, the SBC is a dominant force in American Protestantism:

And, as Laura Klenda reminded us, the influence of the SBC isn’t just about numbers:


Let’s get started, then. To understand a fairly large portion of #SBC21 tweets in the days leading up to the meeting, we should probably begin with this one. Here we have a video trailer released by the Conservative Baptist Network warning of the dangers of CRT (critical race theory), “cultural ideologies,” calls to lay down white privilege, and calls for white evangelicals to surrender their power, assertions that the gospel isn’t good news without economic and social restoration, and the like–all of which can be summed up in the alleged “liberal drift” of the SBC.

In response, certain conservative pastors resolved to #TaketheShip, and here’s the tweet that launched a thousand pirate GIFs.

Of course, it is helpful to remember that “liberal” means different things to different people, and that it’s nonsensical to call individuals like Russell Moore “liberals.”

Still, there’s a long history of ultra-conservatives in the SBC doing just that, and it was no surprise that they fell back on familiar tropes. Most notably, perhaps, Tom Buck of the reactionary Founders Ministries insisted on the need for men to be properly attired as they fight the church’s battles:

Such statements are easy to ridicule, but it’s worth keeping in mind that the power these men wield is real, and that their actions have consequences. Often devastating ones.

It is survivors like Lively who have refused to let the actions of these men go unchallenged. Another survivor of abuse in SBC circles, Hannah-Kate, went to Nashville to hand out copies of a survivors’ joint statement, and outside the convention hall she directly confronted Mike Stone, the right-wing candidate for the presidency of the SBC.

Pastor Stone’s apparently callous response incensed some observers, even as he characterized the encounter as “polite” and not unkind.

The role of survivors’ testimonies has been critical to surfacing issues of abuse–and mishandling of abuse–within SBC circles. Yet this has not come without enormous cost to survivors themselves, as Kyle James Howard pointed out:

Howard is right. The fact that this advocacy largely falls on the shoulders of survivors themselves should be seen as a colossal failure of leadership on the part of the SBC leaders.

Meanwhile, Hannah Anderson offered a steady stream of incisive commentary on the proceedings, pointing out the value system at the root of this treatment of survivors:

Jennifer Greenberg, too, noted that the independence of SBC churches that had apparently hindered the SBC’s ability to crack down on sexual predators in their midst was nowhere to be seen when it came to condemning Saddleback’s recent affirmation of female pastors:

Allison Leigh also juxtaposed the SBC’s emphasis on modesty (and yes, there is apparently a song “Modest is Hottest”) while refusing to hold sexual abusers accountable.

Back in Nashville, outgoing president J.D. Greear issued a powerful challenge to attending messengers in an attempt to stave off the right-wing insurgency:

— kate shellnutt (@kateshellnutt) June 15, 2021

Greear’s call was heeded, but just barely:

The most immediate crisis was averted. African American pastor Dwight McKissic, who had announced that he’d be leaving the SBC were either Al Mohler or Mike Stone to be elected president, said he would be staying:

He noted, however, that the recent departures of Beth Moore and Russell Moore had helped rally opponents of the ultra-conservative insurgency:

Messengers also resisted the Executive Committee’s efforts to expand their power.

On Wednesday, news also broke that the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission will entertain an audit of abuse and coverups in the SBC:

Washington Post reporter Sarah Pulliam Bailey tweeted a picture of survivors embracing after the vote to add oversight to the invetigation into the SBC Executive Committee on mishandling of abuse:

And this, from Tiffany Thigpen:

Rachael Denhollander put this development in historical perspective (take a few minutes and read this entire thread):

Jacob Denhollander celebrated his wife’s tireless advocacy to help the SBC do the right thing, finally.

And, Phil Vischer finally got to tweet the tweet he’d been waiting to tweet:

Lest one think that all this signifies the defeat of the ultra-conservative wing, Rod Martin, member of the SBC Executive Committee, sums up the lessons that his faction is taking away from their failure to win the presidency:

Martin is right. But the events of this week made clear that neither side will be going down without a fight.


**Ok, sure, I went a couple over 21 tweets here. My original draft had 21, but people kept tweeting.

About Kristin Du Mez
Kristin Du Mez is Professor of History at Calvin University and author of Jesus and John Wayne. You can read more about the author here.
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