Last June at the SBC meeting in Phoenix, OBU administrators presented the first annual "Herschel H. Hobbs Award for Distinguished Denominational Service" to the Reverend Dr. Tom Elliff. Elliff is indeed a denominational statesman. He pastored a megachurch for 20 years, served as president of the SBC, and was a leader on a variety of SBC boards and agencies. Subsequent to receiving the Hobbs Award, Elliff was elected president of the International Missions Board of the SBC.
However, he is most certainly not a denominational statesman in the mold of Herschel Hobbs. Hobbs was pastor of Oklahoma City, First from 1949-1972 and was a noted moderate voice in the denomination. Elliff, on the other hand, catapulted to leadership after the fundamentalist takeover of the SBC was nearly complete and the fundamentalists moved on to seizing control of state conventions like the BGCO.
The comparison between Hobbs and Elliff is not only wrong, it is inflammatory. It is unbelievable that the Hobbs family and Oklahoma City, First have allowed the BGCO and OBU to hijack Herschel Hobbs's legacy and attach it to so many fundamentalist causes. I guess no one has the power to stop them. It just seems so wrong.
In creating this award and renaming the Joe L. Ingram School of Christian Service after Hobbs, OBU leaders are rewriting history and presenting a continuity between the moderate SBC that existed at midcentury and the fundamentalist denomination that exists today. But the two are not continuous. There was a definitive break, a calculated, political takeover whereby a few fundamentalist power brokers used fear, slander, half-truths, and raw political power to push moderates aside and remake the SBC and all its institutions in their own image. Herschel Hobbs was not a part of that crowd. And OBU leaders are praising the people who were.
Notice how this presentation took place far from Bison Hill and amid the denomination's annual proceedings. Presumably, if they had tried to pull this off during a regular OBU chapel service, many would have protested loudly and boycotted the award presentation. So it was much easier to go a thousand miles away when most OBU students, faculty, and alumni were not paying attention. Yet again, we vividly see where OBU administrators' true loyalties lie.