Potential presidential candidate Ben Carson was recently disinvited from a speaking invitation at a Southern Baptist Pastor's Conference in Columbus, Ohio, in June, because of concerns raised by some Baptist pastors.
The decision for Carson to no longer speak at the SBC Pastors' Conference in Columbus was supposedly "a mutual decision" made by the leadership of the SBC Pastors' Conference and the Dr. Ben Carson's team:
"The leadership of the SBC Pastors' Conference and Dr. Ben Carson's team have come to a mutual decision that he withdraw from speaking at the Conference. Here is a link to Willy Rice's statement. We have recognized all along that this decision is Pastor Rice's alone to make, and we can't imagine how difficult the decision has been. We are thankful for his humble and courageous leadership, and we wholeheartedly join in his call for unity."
On the Baptist21 website was listed objections to Carson's invitation, including his Seventh-Day Adventist theology.
"Why not invite another courageous voice whose doctrines would more closely align theologically with Southern Baptists, and who would equip us to live courageously in the midst of our culture where religious freedom is eroding?" asked Baptist21.
In an Easter Facebook statement, Carson declared, "Let us also remember that Jews, Christians and Muslims all believe in God, and while there are ideological differences in who Jesus was, we should find peace in the fact that we are all God's children."
Baptist21 raised objections to this statement because it is anti-Trinitarian, and further called it "liberalism."
The Christian Post reached out to Ben Carson for comments but did not receive a response before press time.
Pastor Willy Rice of Calvary Church in Clearwater, Florida, said in a statement on his blog that he disagrees with the decision to exclude Carson, but understands and accepts it in the spirit of unity.
Rice is responsible for extending the invitation to the potential presidential candidate and former neurosurgeon.
"Dr. Carson is a great American hero and a man who boldly and publicly professes his faith in Christ," noted Rice. "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."
In an interview with The Christian Post, Jonathan Akin, a leader of Baptist21 and a pastor at Fairview Church in Lebanon, Tennessee, sees the greater call for withdrawal of the Southern Baptist Convention from politics as a positive: "I think it is good for the SBC to distance ourselves from political parties," he said, "so that we can maintain a prophetic voice with both parties and in the wider culture."
"If we are even perceived to endorse a specific party, then our voice is muted in the culture. I think distancing ourselves from political partisanship better reflects the SBC tradition and mission. We don't believe that legislation changes people. It never has."
"Yes, we should engage in the political process, but our hope for transforming America is not in politicians, legislation or Supreme Court rulings; our hope is in the proclamation of a crucified and resurrected King and that proclamation still changes the world."
In yesterday's Washington Post, Thomas Kidd published an op-ed titled, "Southern Baptists canceled an event with Ben Carson. Here's why it matters." Kidd, a professor of history at Baylor University, agreed with the arguments made by Baptist21.
"If politics creeps toward the center of the evangelical mission," declared Kidd, "then the gospel of salvation through the grace of Christ alone can become corrupted by politicization (usually Republicanization, at least for the SBC)."
"Baptists can seem more concerned with preserving nominal Christian culture and aligning with politicians who affirm that culture, rather than proclaiming with laser focus that each person is lost without Christ, and that, as Jesus taught in the Gospel of John, they must be born again."
Ben Carson has spoken twice at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., and has spoken at Southern Baptist Churches and events in the past.
The Southern Baptist Convention, with 16 million members, is the largest protestant denomination in America and the world's largest Baptist denomination.