by Max Brantley
Hotline has a pretty good analysis of the Southern Baptist Convention, where Arkansas pastor Ronnie Floyd took an unexpected pasting from Frank Page in the election for convention president. (We can tell you that there are some Arkansas Baptist preachers who privately cheered this news. "Ronnie has short preacher syndrome," one non-admirer told us.)
The article relates the election to national politics, including:
First, Page defeated Ronnie Floyd, who can't seem to appear in a newspaper article without the words "pastor of the biggest church in Arkansas" attached to it. Floyd is one of the most powerful preachers in the South. When Mike Huckabee, an unassuming minister ran for president of the SBC in AR,, associates of Floyd, his opponent, pegged him as too liberal for the state. Huckabee and Floyd are close, though, and have grown closer over the years. Huckabee, in an interview, said denominational politics "was way too much for me. They can be so much more brutal than regular ol' politics, he says.
This year, Floyd's national SBC presidential campaign was endorsed by the leading lights of the convention, including Paige Patterson, one of the original conservative reformers who yanked the SBC to the right (or, toward purity) in the late 70s and early 80s. Patterson is now the head of a venerable SBC seminary. One of the major issues: a complicated row over what's called the Cooperative Program, which helps to fund SBC ventures across the country. The split is sort of similar to the debate in the Democratic Party over Howard Dean's decision to spend money on state and local parties. Floyd was, at best, a medium-warm supporter of the Cooperative Program; Page promised to strengthen it. Smaller churches want less CP money to be controlled by megachurches like Floyd's in AR, and Huckabee, who keeps up with the church bulletins, said the election probably represented the collective will of small churches who thought that Page "would stand up for the little guy" over the larger megachurches.