In 1976 a Southern Baptist entity leader rejected “evangelical” as a “Yankee word.” In 1983 James Leo Garrett and Glenn Hinson addressed the relationship of Southern Baptists and Evangelicalism in Are Southern Baptists “Evangelicals”? Garrett asserted that Southern Baptists were “denominational evangelicals,” but such an assertion remained contested for years. Yet, four Southern Baptists have served as president of the Evangelical Theological Society in the past ten years. While the many causes of this transformation merit a book-length treatment, this paper will examine how one of those four ETS presidents has contributed to Southern Baptist/Evangelical engagement since the 1980s. David S. Dockery helped shape internal Southern Baptist conversations about their relation(s) to Evangelicalism, and he modeled, convened, and encouraged Southern Baptist/Evangelical dialogue that transformed the terms of the debate.
This paper will examine 20 years of Dockery’s leadership in Southern Baptist/Evangelical relations from 1989-2009. In this span, Dockery organized conferences which furthered conversations about Southern Baptist Identity and brought together leading evangelicals and Southern Baptists. Multiple volumes emerged from these gatherings, including: Beyond the Impasse? Scripture, Interpretation, and Theology in Baptist Life (1992), Southern Baptists and American Evangelicals: The Conversation Continues (1993), Southern Baptist Identity (2009), and Southern Baptists, Evangelicals, and the Future of Denominationalism (2011). These gatherings produced relational networks and scholarship that transformed Southern Baptist perceptions of the role of the SBC in broader evangelicalism. Through these conferences and publications, David Dockery furthered Garrett’s vision of Southern Baptists as Denominational Evangelicals.