The likely GOP presidential candidate and leaders of the pre-convention meeting agree that controversy over the invitation could create an unnecessary “distraction.”
An invitation to likely Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson to speak at this summer’s Southern Baptist Convention Pastors Conference has been withdrawn after it was criticized in Baptist blogs.
Pastors Conference President Willy Rice said in a blog April 24 that he didn’t want the invitation to create an “unnecessary distraction” to SBC President Ronnie Floyd’s efforts to unify the denomination.
An April 23 blog posting on B21 raised concerns about Carson’s religion, Seventh-day Adventist, which Southern Baptists consider heterodox, and that his appearance would perpetuate a popular perception that the SBC is in bed with the Republican Party.
Rice, senior pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Clearwater, Fla., said he believes Southern Baptists benefit by hearing from national leaders from outside the convention, noting that Carson has spoken to other evangelical groups, including at Southern Baptist churches.
“He loves Southern Baptists and considers them friends,” Rice said. “I believe most Southern Baptists equally respect and appreciate him.”
Rice said he also disagrees with those who believe the convention should avoid all political attachments.
“While I know of no Southern Baptist leader who believes our answer is found in a political party or political solution, there are times when we must be engaged in the public arena,” he said.
“If Southern Baptists will not speak, then who will?” Rice asked. “In these current days where Christian brothers are being butchered overseas and religious liberties are under assault at home, will we stay silent out of some misguided attempt to avoid politics altogether? I pray not. Political leaders who stand for religious liberty, speak out for the oppressed and have the strength of moral convictions should know they have a friend in Southern Baptists.”
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SOURCE: Baptist News Global