Sullivan pledges 'teetotaler' agency trustees

by Joni B. Hannigan/Florida Baptist Witness, posted Thursday, November 30, 2006 (12 years ago)

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FORT MYERS, Fla. (BP)--Citing embarrassment over having spent more than 30 minutes debating the issue of whether trustees of Southern Baptist Convention entities should be limited to those who abstain from alcohol, John Sullivan, the executive director-treasurer of the Florida Baptist Convention, says he intends future action in the FBSC "on this very issue."

"We are not going to have people on our boards of trustees that do not believe in total abstinence," Sullivan said to the loud applause of messengers to the Florida Baptist State Convention, which met in Fort Myers at McGregor Baptist Church for its Nov. 13-14 annual meeting.

In June in Greensboro, N.C., messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting engaged in a lengthy debate on a recommendation concerning the use of alcoholic beverages. Messengers passed with more than a four-fifths majority a resolution not only opposing the manufacture and consumption of alcohol but also urging the exclusion of Southern Baptists who drink from election to the convention's boards, committees and entities.

The passage of the resolution marked the first time since 1991 the SBC had approved an alcohol-related recommendation, according to the records of the convention's Executive Committee. The 15-year gap is the longest between approved resolutions on alcohol since the convention adopted its first such recorded measure on the topic in 1886. In all, the SBC has approved 57 resolutions related to alcohol since that year.

Sullivan, speaking in a time-slot dubbed "Concerns of Florida Baptists," told FBSC messengers he supported the SBC amendment that specified trustees should not be "anything other than a teetotaler."

"We spent 30 minutes of God's precious time debating that issue," Sullivan continued. "I was embarrassed."

Of alcohol, Sullivan said: "God saved me from that and when we make decisions, I want it to be done in sobriety. We may not always be right, but we'll always be sober."

Earlier in the convention Voddie Baucham, a Houston evangelist, delivered a message which referenced alcohol use. Speaking from Ephesians 5 and Titus 1, Baucham referred to the biblical instruction for pastors to teach and lead their own families. Baucham said there is irony in the way people apply those passages.

"That text does not say the man can't take a drink," Baucham said. "It says he can't be a drunkard.

"I don't drink, don't want to, don't need to. That's not my point. But I can't make that text say that the man can't take a drink," Baucham added. "But you and I both know that the man who takes a drink, even if he takes a drink socially, he's not gonna get a job as a pastor if he admits that."

Continuing to talk about what he sees as the inconsistent application of Scripture when it comes to taking care of one's family, Baucham said the focus on alcohol is misguided.

"Don't you let it touch your lips. How ironic is that?" Baucham asked. "Can I tell you why that's the position we take? Because we don't have a problem with alcoholic pastors in the Southern Baptist Convention. And it's easy for me to pop my collar and say that I don't drink alcohol. I'm not tempted to.

"Don't have a desire to. And it says nothing about my character. And so you can raise that requirement as high as you want, however, it's hard to be a biblical father and raise children the ways the Bible says."

Bemoaning pastors who don't take care of their wives or children, Baucham said, instead, "we beat our chests because we refuse to take a drink of alcohol.

"Shame on us. And I'm not suggesting, I didn't even say that we need to lower the other -- that's not what I said. Don't you go lying on me and saying that I said that. That is not my point," Baucham said. "Our homes are a wreck, from the top down. Our culture is a wreck from the top down. People don't know how to be married, they don't know how to raise kids and unfortunately, the pulpit is not a place that they can look to get answers because our homes are no better off then theirs are."

Baucham concluded by pointing out that God has outlined in Scripture the qualifications for leading a family.

"I don't say this to beat you up today. And it's been tough with you and your kids. That is not my point at all, any more than when we mention alcohol we're trying to beat up somebody who has recovered from an addiction," Baucham said. "That is not the point at all. Here is my point. How long are we gonna stick our heads in the sand and act like we haven't heard precisely what God has said as it relates to the biblical qualifications in our homes with our wives and with our children?"

Barbara Denman, public relations director for the Florida Baptist Convention, confirmed that Sullivan had planned his remarks prior to Baucham's talk.

Said Sullivan, "I listened very closely to what Dr. Baucham had to say. I loved what he had to say about the family. I agree with that. I do believe we have responsibilities to our families first and foremost."


Joni B. Hannigan is managing editor of the Florida Baptist Witness, on the Web at www.floridabaptistwitness.com.

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