Well-known evangelical scholar and conservative Southern Baptist Albert Mohler is expected to be nominated for president of the Southern Baptist Convention in June.
Robert Jeffress, pastor of the historic First Baptist Church of Dallas announced this week his intention to nominate Mohler, noting that the 47-year-old Baptist provides "the kind of visionary leader Southern Baptists need to communicate a missional conservatism and biblical clarity to the world," according to Baptist Press.
While many do not deny Mohler's affirmation in sound biblical doctrine and his strong leadership at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, some say Mohler isn't the leader they're looking for to lead the 16-million member denomination – the largest Protestant group in the nation.
"I appreciate and applaud his academic and theological strengths but his weakness as a unifying leader concerns me - particularly at this pivotal time in our convention," said Jason Pettus, pastor of Living Hope Baptist Church in Bowling Green, Ky. "Although I affirm Dr. Mohler's theology and passion, I do not believe what he can offer is what this convention needs in a president," he wrote on his weblog.
Pettus believes the Southern Baptist Convention needs a unifier, someone who can gather and challenge pastors to lead their churches to cooperate together for the cause of Christ, and a pastor who gives to the Cooperative Program and is reaching the lost.
"Dr. Mohler is a good man, even a great man, but he is not the man for SBC president," said Pettus.
Jeffress, however, announced his decision to nominate Mohler on the belief that Mohler would bring Baptists together and place his focus on evangelism.
He said he believes Mohler would "motivate Southern Baptists to unite around cooperation for global missions and evangelism," he stated in a news release to the Southern Baptist Texan.
Jeffress also credited Mohler's prominent voice in representing Southern Baptists in the public square as well as his commitment to scriptural truth as reasons to elect him as president. Mohler is a popular media-go-to conservative and recognized as one of the nation's most influential evangelicals.
"When Southern Seminary seemed to be lost to liberalism and irrelevancy, Dr. Mohler put his life and ministry on the line for the truth of God's word and the urgency of sharing Christ with a lost world," Jeffress said.
If elected president, Mohler told the Texan that the greatest challenge in the denomination is to recover their passion for the gospel in evangelism and missions and to renew their determination to defend the gospel in "an age of postmodern confusion."
"I would hope to articulate a vision that would unite Southern Baptists and energize us together," said Mohler, who is expected to carry the support of the SBC's conservative establishment.
Leaders like Mohler are needed in the academy to defend the gospel, Pettus noted. But the Bowling Green pastor is not convinced Mohler should head the denomination.
"Southern Baptists need Dr. Mohler as a seminary president, but not as the president of our convention," Pettus stated. "I want Dr. Mohler at Southern Seminary and on CNN, but we need an SBC president who has led a local church, regularly participates in international mission trips, does not polarize the conversation, and is known as a 'unifier.'
"Right now we need a president that is a shepherd; one who can compassionately bring the different camps that call themselves Southern Baptists together to cooperate. This is a time to come together. We need a bridge builder."
In addition to Mohler, Dr. William L. (Bill) Wagner – president of Olivet University International in San Francisco – will be named on the SBC presidential ballot at Southern Baptist Convention's annual meeting in June.