There's growing tension in the Southern Baptist Convention over what many see as a leftward drift in America's largest Protestant denomination. As the SBC approaches its annual meeting in Southern California in June, when it will elect a new president, radio talk-show host Janet Mefferd says there's been an ugly effort to smear one of the conservative faction's most visible leaders, Pastor Tom Buck.
It concerns a story of redemption penned by Buck's wife, Jennifer, and published last month about difficulties early on in their marriage that included accounts of her husband's "anger and controlling nature" as well as her suffering a miscarriage in the fourth year of the marriage. Mefferd offers her summary of Jennifer Buck's article.
"She wrote a story during the 'MeToo' movement … recounting how the Lord transformed Tom and how he repented and changed his life by the grace of God and he came back to a life of holiness and godliness and their marriage was restored," she tells AFN.
But Mefferd tells AFN that an anonymously obtained, early draft of that story was weaponized by someone to give Tom Buck a black eye. She's referring to an article written by David Bumgardner ("This one was a tough one to write," he shared via Twitter) and published by Baptist News Global a few days later.
"[The Bucks] found out in recent days," Mefferd continues, "that the rough draft had been circulating and they were being essentially blackmailed, where people were saying to them Oh, have you abused your wife? We have the rough draft."
In response, Jennifer Buck tweeted:
"This article [in Baptist News Global] is filled with lies. They are twisting partial truth to use me to attack my husband for their political purposes. This is what they truly think of people who they even believe might be abuse victims. They are little more than pawns in their political games." [See tweet]
"Let me make this clear: There is nothing I've experienced in my entire life that I feel more abused by than what the SBC leaders are doing to me and my husband. These people are wicked!" [See tweet]
Mefferd contends that those behind the leak did so in hopes of slowing down the conservative movement within the SBC.
"You have people who have managed to get to the top echelons of the SBC in the bureaucracy as well as some other positions who are saying they're conservative and not acting like conservatives and not fighting for conservative causes in any way, shape, or form," the radio host accuses.
The executive director and publisher of Baptist News Global has explained why his news outlet published Bumgardner's story in the first place – and that despite requests to "take the story down," BNG has no intentions of doing so.