Hi and welcome back! I saw this story today and it sure caught me by surprise! It turns out that there was a fourth candidate for the presidency of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). Today, let me introduce you to Randy Adams and the guy who wanted to nominate him — and then let’s explore why Adams’ bid didn’t go much of anywhere.
A Sudden Strange Name and Number Emerges From the Noise.
Back in January 2021, The Pathway revealed the four candidates who would be running for the office of president of the SBC.
I saw the story but promptly forgot about the fourth guy, Randy Adams. I’d never even heard of him. And most news articles about the election didn’t even mention him, so it’s not like I got any reminders about him.
But then, I noticed this story at the Conservative Baptist Network, and I suddenly realized I needed to know why Randy Adams had only gotten about 4% of the votes at the Annual Meeting this week, and more importantly why Mike Stone’s very own splinter faction’s website mentioned this figure when nobody else did.
Ask and ye shall receive, as the saying goes.
Everyone, Meet Russell Fuller.
This story has a history and a lineage. The most recent branch-off of that lineage involves Russell Fuller, who lost his job at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) a couple of years ago. That’s Al Mohler’s seminary, of course, and Al Mohler was one of those four presidential candidates as well.
And Russell Fuller does not like Al Mohler.
According to this SBTS newsletter about their School of Theology, Russell Fuller joined their staff in 1998 as a Professor of Old Testament Interpretation. In 2010, when this newsletter was created, Russell Moore served as the Dean of that school (and had since 2004). So, I’m guessing Moore agreed with whatever viewpoints Fuller held at the time. But this newsletter came out long before Moore fell out of favor with his denomination.
But then in 2020, Al Mohler, the president of SBTS, fired Russell Fuller — along with three other arch-conservative professors. This story wasn’t news much of anywhere except in extremely conservative Old Guard blogs like that linked one. That said, all of those sorts of blogs went nuts over this story at the time.
The Christians who like and run those blogs all considered these firings a sign that Al Mohler had gone dangerously soft on Jesus and conservative SBC beliefs. They even theorized that he was involved in some kind of dark conspiracy to rid SBC seminaries of TRUE CHRISTIANS™ like themselves.
Fuller alleged later that SBTS had demanded he sign an NDA and non-disparagement agreement (and apparently provided it here) in order to gain extended severance benefits. He, of course, piously refused to sign. When that accusation broke, the arch-conservatives went even nuttier.
And Russell Fuller was the guy who initially planned to nominate Randy Adams to run for SBC president.
Now, Let’s Meet Randy Adams.
Randy Adams serves as the Executive Director and Treasurer of the Northwest Baptist Convention. That’s one of the sub-conventions of the greater SBC. According to that link, he’s worked in that role since 2013, but as of today he still hasn’t yet been arsed to provide a photo of himself to his biography page on his sub-convention’s official site.
Randy Adams himself is from Idaho, but has spent much of his life in the Southern states. He’s been a pastor for a while. Before becoming the Executive Director of this sub-convention, he served as a member of a “church outreach team” for the SBC’s Oklahoma sub-convention.
The tri-states subconvention voted him in nearly unanimously, which Adams obviously took as a sign of divine approval of his move back to the Pacific Northwest. I’m sure he thought the SBC’s election this week would run along similar lines — or at least give him a chance to publicize his accusations against the main leaders of his denomination.
Make no mistake: he’s got a lot of those accusations. Mainly, he thinks that the SBC’s top leadership ranks are full of corruption, opacity, and possible serious malfeasance.
My oh my, he is quite the outspoken firebrand.
(Sorry not sorry: I will never stop thinking of Idaho as part of the PNW.)
Randy Adams, the Firebrand.
On a blog called The Truth is in Crisis, Randy Adams declared right before the election that the SBC “needs new leadership.” (He means himself, I’m guessing.) He told them:
Southern Baptists are spending $50 million more dollars per year than we did a decade ago, and we are planting less than half as many churches. [. . . They] made a huge shift in how we do evangelism at the national level a decade ago. And since that huge shift—which included defunding hundreds of evangelism positions across the nation—Baptisms have plummeted to levels not seen since the great depression.
In addition, he really doesn’t like the North American Mission Board (NAMB), and he refuses to recognize any way of dealing with abuse and racism besides declaring it un-Jesus-y.
He also opposes the idea of the SBC being an “umbrella organization” over churches. See, if an abuse victim sues the SBC for their abuse, that might threaten the SBC as a whole. So keeping the SBC’s power minimal helps in cases of abuse lawsuits. This is his stated explanation. (Dude’s definitely looking ahead, here.)
Randy Adams was definitely a hard-right candidate, then. But one who wanted a lot of big changes to the SBC’s operations.
Then, Randy Adams Soundly Lost the SBC Election.
Randy Adams arrived at the SBC’s 2021 Annual Meeting (#SBC21) with a bunch of prints of a tabloid-style newsletter called SBC News, which he distributed to convention attendees. It detailed many of his accusations against SBC leaders. He refused to say where he’d gotten the money to produce these newsletters, nor who’d written its articles.
On Tuesday afternoon, outgoing president J.D. Greear asked for nominations. Fred Luter (the denomination’s only Black president to date) nominated Ed Litton, who would eventually be the winner of the vote.
Interestingly, Russell Fuller did not nominate Randy Adams. Instead, Mary Habila nominated him. Habila is the president of her sub-convention’s Women’s Missionary Union (WMU). Most sub-conventions seem to have these organizations, and they all seem to be led by women. I wonder if her being the nominee was a statement.
(Oh, who am I kidding. Of course it was, somehow.)
First, the SBC had a runoff election. In that vote, Al Mohler got 26.32% of the votes. Mike Stone won 36.48%. Ed Litton got 32.38%. (Oh, I’m sure he and his faction were biting their nails at this point!) Alas, Randy Adams received only 673 votes, amounting to 4.71% of the total. The two lowest-ranked candidates dropped out, and then the SBC held a second election. In the second election, Ed Litton won by a nose.
And Randy Adams got to act like he was very happy to be going home.
Why Did We Only Hear About This Guy From Mike Stone’s Group?
Earlier today, I was noodling around various SBC leaders’ blogs and more-legitimate news sites to see what they thought of the election.
Not a single one of these sources even mentioned Randy Adams. I mean, all kinds of sites had mentioned Adams as a nominee back in January, but then he dropped off the face of the earth.
Then, I checked out the site of Mike Stone’s group, the Conservative Baptist Network. There, I saw Randy Adams’ name. When I read it, I fixated immediately on Adams’ name — and his low number of votes. I needed to know more. I needed to know why. More importantly, I needed to know why I’d only heard about this from Mike Stone’s group.
I mean, I can see why Adams didn’t win.
Even if Randy Adams shared so many ideals cherished by the really extremist faction of the Old Guard, there’s no way they could vote for him.
Adams is a hardliner who seems to want to make big huge changes to the denomination. (Even if those changes won’t do a single thing to affect the SBC’s scandals or hypocrisy, as we saw with his “umbrella” explanation.)
He just about had to lose. But it’s weird that nobody talked about him at all except Mike Stone’s group.
The Hardliners Rejected Randy Adams.
However, nobody really wants big changes.
SBC leaders like being able to call abuse victims “whores” in private and complain about the wrong side winning the Civil War — and know that nobody will say boo to them about it. They like being part of a good ol’ boys network that they can rely upon for protection and nest-feathering. And they tend to cluster together to resist any suggestion that’ll change their comfortable lives.
Plus, let’s just face facts: those tabloids sound like pure cringe.
(But oh, I want one.)
To me, this story is important because it illustrates something of great importance about this utterly dysfunctional group. I don’t think Randy Adams would have done much for the SBC besides push its followers into weirder and more extremist territory, so I’m not sad that he lost.
However, the fact that so few big-name people in his faction seem to take his ideas about reform seriously speaks volumes about why they’re really trying to hijack the denomination.
NEXT UP: We check out how Augustine of Hippo further warped the doctrines involved with Hell. See you tomorrow!
Please Support What I Do!
Also please check out our Graceful Atheist podcast interview!
If you like what you see, I gratefully welcome your support. Please consider becoming one of my monthly patrons via Patreon with Roll to Disbelieve for as little as $1/month! My PayPal is email@example.com (that’s an underscore in there) for one-time tips.
You can also support this blog at no extra cost to yourself by beginning your Amazon shopping trips with my affiliate link — and, of course, by liking and sharing my posts on social media!
This blog exists because of readers’ support, and I appreciate every single bit of it. Thank you. <3
PS: I’m laughing right now. On that convention newsletter, p. 4 #63, some poor guy raised a resolution to beg the convention center to turn up the air conditioning. And then they ARGUED about it before adopting it. #SBC21 is srs bzns!