Sunday, January 21, 2007

One of the Boys

My family comes from a rather diverse background. My father is of German descent via Kentucky and my mother is Greek via Chicago. Her dad, my grandfather Constantine Bouzanis, came to the United States as the result of having watched his father and mother hanged to death on the front porch in their little village in Greece by the Nazis who had come to take my grandfather's sister along with the other young women of the village. Connie's (grandfather's) dad refused to allow his daughter to be mistreated and shamed in such a way and so, seeing no other solution, took a knife and ended her life. For that offense, he and his wife were hanged forthwith.

Connie's brother, my uncle Bill, left the village and came to the United States through Ellis Island and earned his citizenship. Bill then returned to Greece and brought Connie over. Connie joined the army and served our country faithfully throughout the duration of WW II, and for doing so, he receive his citizenship.

Upon leaving the army, Connie went to Chicago to start a supper club. Unfortunately, being an immigrant, obtaining a loan was an impossibility. So, Connie turned to the only people who would take him in . . . other immigrants. He obtained a "loan" from some local business owners who he called the Boys. From that meager start, Connie turned one super club into several of the finest in Chicago and became very close friends with area politicians and other business owners. In fact, Mayor Richard J. Daley became a close personal friend of Connie's, frequenting his supper clubs and granting Connie with an honorary position in the Port Authority. Connie had hit it big.

He would use his earnings to benefit society. He even sent money back to his home village in Greece to bring running water into the community for the first time. He would periodically bring family members to the states and help them get established in businesses of their own. He paid for one family member to come to the U.S. and go to medical school in order to return home and practice medicine in his own village.

At his funeral visitation in the early 1980's, shortly after everyone had left for the evening, a group of men came in through the back of the building to pay their final respects to Connie's wife, Estelle. They looked like something out of the Godfather movies. When asked who they were, I was told by my parents, those were the Boys. I had seen a couple of them at different times at the restaurant, but there they were, all together. They had come to say goodbye to one of their own.

Nice story, but so what? While my grandfather started off in the world's eyes as a nobody, he quickly became a somebody; not because of who he was, but because he was one of the Boys. Whenever he had any difficulties, the Boys would look after him. After he was gone, it was the Boys that made sure that Estelle was taken care of. They were a great group of guys. I would have been hard pressed back then to have seen any flaw with any of them. Why? Because they had done SO much for my grandfather. These guys were heroes! Some, even became legends.

Here's my point, this same "good ol' boy" group that took my grandfather in and provided for he and his family, blinded my young eyes to the wrongs committed by them. I could never think of them in a negative light because of all the "good" things they did for him, and ultimately, us. But the truth was that these men were wrong in many ways. I just couldn't see it because I felt as if I owed it to them to always speak of them in a positive fashion. After all, I wouldn't want to appear ungrateful.

Since having become involved in state and national denominational life I have seen much the same sort of blind loyalty to those to whom our conventions feel a sense of loyal obligation. It seems as if the fact that some individuals have taken a right stand on certain issues and led us correctly in a certain direction, demands a blind obedience that is never to be questioned. It seems as if issues always devolve into matters of personality rather than substance.

I hear so often statements made like, "we owe it to [so and so]", or "have we forgotten that without [this person] we wouldn't be where we are today." I am so glad that our conventions have had sound leadership in recent years that have helped us turn the tide of liberalism, but I question the wisdom behind granting Julius Caesar the title of King, even if it is behind the scenes.

Ask most anyone in denominational life, off the record of course, if they have not witnessed this firsthand. I've heard some of the kings in our state convention speak of exactly such evils on the national level while never recognizing the strangle hold they have upon their own convention. The unwritten rule is that you never speak against one of the Boys. To do so is to subject yourself to being labeled "moderate", "liberal", "Big Tent Conservative", etcetera, etcetera, ad infinitum, ad nauseum. Suggest that you support thinking differently about methodology in missions and you're an alcoholic. Indicate that casual dress might be more appropriate in some worship services and you're inviting strippers to your church. The rhetoric that is used to guard the ideas and personalities behind the status quo is appalling!

I have heard in committee meetings things said such as, "Well, [so and so] says they're okay, then that's fine with me. I figure if the higher ups approve them, then I should too." I know of an instance where one individual bucked a local king on an issue and ironically enough, our committee never received his nomination for service as a trustee even though the president of that institution assured me that his information had been presented. When I asked, I was told that no one ever saw the information.

Now here's what I'm getting at. I believe that if we are ever going to see God move in a Great Awakening sort of fashion in our state or nation, it will only happen if and when we can move past this mentality of blind loyalty to the Boys. If I may be so bold, it wasn't the Boys that brought these conventions around, it was God. To substitute one "good ol' boy" network which was liberal with one that is "conservative" is wrong.
I know that some have already called me Brutus, but I cannot with a clear conscience be a mute member of a machine that operates at the whim of an individual no matter how great they are rather than the leadership of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps I was just not cut out to be one of the Boys.


loveforthelost said...

no offense - but I don't think you know what you are talking about. If you did you would be able to tell us who this "good ole boy" network is both at the state level and the national level.

Who are these men (or women)? So many people say there is this power hungry network of folks, but no names but Paige Patterson are given. It sounds like a bunch a fluff on the level of saying the gov't is secretely keeping the American public in the dark about alien invaders.

Just don't get the "the boys" after me know for disagreeing with you. JJ. I am willing to be persuaded of this, but as of right now, with no names being brought to the forefront, I am not.

loveforthelost said...


I posted hours ago. Is there a reason you didn't put it out yet?

Rev. said...

Et tu, Tom?

Thanks for opening up a part of your family history and life story with the rest of us. Very interesting and very applicable. [German on one side and from Chicago on the other? You can't be all bad!] ;)

Don't know about you, brother, but in many respects I feel like a "man without a country" at this point and time. I'm seeing the importance and centrality of the local church more and more.

martyduren said...

Keep standing, Tom. Your tribe is increasing and no one is looking for handouts, payola or favors.

We are willing to let God use us as far as He will to accomplish whatever He can. Or He can squash this convention tomorrow and He still reigns!

Tom Willoughby said...

loveforthelost, sorry I don't know your name. No offense taken. I was gone all day today at a state evangelism conference. With a name like yours, I'm sure you can understand my not getting things published as quickly as you may have liked.

Anyway, to answer your critique, let me just say that I NEVER mentioned a name for the very specific reason that to do so is to do exactly what I was addressing in my post (i.e. turning issues into personal attacks). My concern is not that any one endure a character assasination, but rather to give specific direction toward our prayer and our awareness.

It seems interesting that you request a name, but you yourself are reluctant to post your own name on your profile. I have seen first hand what I have seen. My concern is not to convince you of this but simply raise the question, should these things be so? You may disagree that such invisible structures exist, that is your prerogative. There are many who doubt that there ever was a crime syndicate, a moon landing or even a holocaust. They are entitled to their views however misguided they may be.

I have sat through the Nominating Committee meetings, the Executive Board meetings held in Executive Session, been part of the phone calling ring to secure votes for the conservative resurgence, etc., etc.. I could go on, but I think the point is made that my insight does not come from hearsay or gossip, but rather first-hand experience.

Denial is never the way toward healing in the land. And a blog is not the place to list names to call into accountability, but rather one should go to these individuals (which I have), and to confront them privately.

I do find it interesting that you automatically assumed that I was referring to Dr. Patterson. Is this a guilt by association comment? Or was there something in what I wrote that led you to believe that I might in fact be speaking of Dr. Patterson? I would be interested to know the answer to that.

Tom Willoughby said...

James, I just had dinner tonight with a church planting leader who is DEEPLY concerned that several of the new church starts he is working with in a major metropolitan area are hanging on to the convention by a thread. What a thought! We are just a thread away from losing the one link we have between the convention and this generation!

I can't tell you how much this breaks my heart. I believe more and more that part of my calling is to help bridge the gap between the convention and this unreached people group called age 18-35.

If I didn't believe in the SBC and the Cooperative Program, I would waste my time; but I believe that God has raised this convention to reach this generation just as much as the tribes of Western Africa. God help us to see the light and share His love.

Tom Willoughby said...

Thanks Marty, you're an encouragement to me. Blessings on you Brother!

Alycelee said...

Tom, I think your observations about blind loyalty in family, carried over to systems in church/sbc life are both interesting and true. I've seen it for some time now, attending both associational and state conventions. Many don't even know the issues at hand, but it so-in-so says it, that's good enough for me.
We just don't want to be the next cool aid generation. We must be listening to the Holy Spirit and our allegiance is to Him first and foremost.
Thanks for the reminder.

For His Glory said...

Good word...good thoughts Tom.

I sure am thankful we have you in Missouri.

My hope is that under the umbrella of the BF&M and the uncompromising fundamentals of the faith which provide unity for Southern Baptists, we will return to a spirit of grace and liberty and thus value something called the local autonomy of the church.

Keep up the great work!

Darren Casper

Bob Cleveland said...


Ironic you used a picture of the "godfather". God is the Father, and I suspect that where He finds a "godfather", He simply wouldn't hang around.

There's only one "godfather" in any organization.

Lee said...

Thank you for this post. You're right on track. My guess is that if thirty people who are involved in denominational life, from denominational employees to pastors and church staff, to actively involved church members, put their heads together, they would come up with lists of names that, with few exceptions, would be remarkably similar.

It only takes being on the receiving end of the actions of one of those "networks" to cause someone to completely reconsider their ministry career course.

bryan riley said...

This is a great example of how God is always speaking, through all of life, for those who will listen.

Thank you for sharing this story and message.

Anonymous said...


Maybe it's a new day in Missouri and for the MBC.

I had the privilege (?) of serving as a MBC executive board trustee (1998-2001) at the time when that state Baptist convention chose to come apart at its seams--unnecessarily and as an absolute embarrassment to Heaven, I'm sure. At that time, it actually was possible for a biblical/theological conservative--like me--to vote his informed conscience before God and STILL be castigated as, first, a theological "moderate" and later a "liberal" (and this by at least one very public face who claims to stand for the truth and telling it plainly--but who apparently means by this his uninvestigated version of it, who does not have courage corresponding to his reported moral convictions, and who fails to respond to inquiries regarding his practices). The level of hypocrisy displayed at that time in executive board sessions--public and closed--was incredible and sad. In 2001, the MBC board was led by ones also guiding that state convention's congregations into numerical decline--a condition from which I hope they now have recovered. Yes; no one is perfect--and imperfection was on full-display at that time.

If I'm incorrect and it isn't yet a new day either in Missouri or for the MBC (this actually is suggested by recent reports), please work to make it so, brother. May the Lord be with you as you do.

David Troublefield
Wichita Falls, TX

Tom Willoughby said...


Thank you for your insights. Let me assure you that it is the desire of a very large percentage of our current board to see a radical transformation take place that would end the reign of the political power-brokers and return us to a day of spiritual brokenness before God. It remains to be seen as to whether there is a majority on the board, but I can say that there is most assuredly a ground-swell statewide toward that end.

The word that needs to be heard throughout the MBC and SBC are the words of Joshua recounted in the Willoughby Paraphrase ;) "Choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the power brokers who live toward the river, or the voices of fourth and fifth generation Missourians in whose land they will remind you that you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."

Please keep us in your prayers. We need them!

Anonymous said...

Bro. Tom:

Thank you for your reply, and for the heart for the Lord that its content appears to evidence.

Remember: in your elected position, you are as much a "full member" of the MBC board as is any other trustee--power-broker or otherwise. Despite committee assignments, there is no "pecking-order". Do not be a silent board member; do not fail to stand up or to speak up in any board or committee meeting. Ask every question which should be asked of both board members and of staff members--and the questions others want to ask but fear to ask. Lovingly call for a cessation of the trouble and for repentance--and keep calling until those who should do both actually do both or give up and go home. Insist that the MBC press accurately reports the truth of matters--after it personally and professionally investigates those matters (and refrains from what editors of other state convention newspapers have indicated to me they consider extreme and off-the-wall comments).
Let righteousness win the day.

You are being prayed for (Exodus 14:14).

David Troublefield
Wichita Falls, TX