First, Union University was a wonderful host for the conference. Dr. David Dockery and all the faculty and staff provided a magnificent venue for the conference. The meeting space was great (with tables for meals and laptops). The meals were delicious! The staff and students of the university were very helpful. Nothing about the physical settings for the conference could be improved. This conference was obviously well-planned and it seemingly went off without a hitch.
Second, the attendees appeared to me to be an eclectic mix of pastors, denominational employees, bloggers, and Union faculty and students. It was interesting to meet some of each during the conference. Since I am the “stereo-typical” shy and reclusive blogger I didn’t meet as many people as I would have liked. However, I did meet several people and got to see many more from a distance. Especially interesting to me was to watch the “famous bloggers” interact with each other and other attendees. They are an interesting lot! I did enjoy visiting again with friends like Jeff and Christie Wright, Robbie Sagers, Russell Moore, Scott and Pearl Lamb, Timmy Brister, Tom Ascol, Ed Stucky, Ray Van Neste, and Tim Ellsworth. It was also nice to meet Brad Hughes, Steve McCoy, Joe Thorn, Greg Thornbury, Ben Dockery, Joel Rainey, Bill Nettles, and Tom Walters. It was also good to speak briefly with David Dockery, Timothy George, and Thom Rainer.
One encouraging aspect of the conference was the many Union University students who attended the conference. They were both friendly when approached and attentive to the speakers. They even asked some great questions during the Q&A sessions. It is easy to see the impact that Dr. Dockery and Dr. Thornbury (along with the rest of Union’s faculty) upon the formation of the next generation.
Finally, the speakers and topics were well chosen. They were each excellently qualified spokesmen for the topics for which they spoke. I’m not sure which were chosen first, the topics or the speakers. But whichever was the case, a near perfect match was made for each.
One of the recurring themes in the conference was the recovery of Baptist distinctives. This was not surprising since this was a Baptist Identity Conference! But what was surprising was the identification of those distinctives clearly as a recovery of a proper administration of the ordinances, pursuit of a regenerate church membership, recovery of church discipline, and an emphasis on expository preaching. These are the very issues which many of us perceive to be an uphill battle in the SBC. To hear men in the leadership positions of the Convention express their convictions in these matters was refreshing, to say the least. I was grateful for the strong leadership in these areas by David Dockery, Russell Moore, Paige Patterson, and Jim Shaddix.
Another recurring theme from the conference was a call for humble repentance. This call was heard in the lectures by Frank Page, Thom Rainer, David Dockery, Ed Stetzer, and Timothy George. This was a quite a contrast from the usual SBC emphasis on new programs as the secret to success. While I don’t think I agreed with everything these men said, I do appreciate the fact that these men called for self-examination, humility toward God and man, and repentance.
In conclusion, let me address what I believe to be the lasting impact of this conference. In my opinion, there were two key contributions made by this conference. First, the opportunity for open and, for the most part, civil discussion of issues of high importance for Southern Baptists. This opportunity for dialogue has been severely lacking in the past and although the blogosphere has emerged as a means of dialogue between individuals, it cannot replace face-to-face opportunities for the exchange of meaningful issues. Dr. David Dockery and Union University should be commended for facilitating this discussion by all interested Southern Baptists.
Second, I believe that the topics of this conference can provide a helpful framework for the kinds of discussions we need to continue to have in the days ahead. Serious issues such as these require serious thinking and debate. At this conference we have seen a model of how such issues can be engaged in a amiable way, even with those with whom we disagree. If this conference raises the level of debate among Southern Baptists by providing helpful categories for debating the issues and a model of Christ-like humility for all of us to emulate, the legacy of this conference will be one of eternal significance for the millions of lost souls that could be reached with the gospel through our cooperation.