Southern Religion

‘Moderate’ Baptists & the tanking SBC

When theocrats were taking over the Southern Baptist Convention (1979-90), there was debate over what to call the "others."

“Conservatives/fundamentalists” may have preferred to call the losers in that conflict “liberals” but “moderates” carried the day. To the considerable unhappiness of many thus classified.

Not any more, says Fisher Humphreys, retlred professor of theology at Samford University:

The fact that moderate was somebody else’s word for us doesn’t bother me. After all, in the first century Jesus’ followers didn’t name themselves Christians. Outsiders did, and Christians embraced the name. In the seventeenth century, Baptists didn’t name themselves Baptists. Outsiders did, and Baptists came to embrace the name. That’s how I feel about the name “moderates.”

Writing for the bulletin of the Center for Baptist Studies, he proclaims that being a “moderate” is good:

Principally because the Bible says it is: “Let your moderation be known unto all men” (Phil. 4:5). The word translated “moderation” is epieikēs. Paul used that word again when he wrote that Christian leaders should be “not violent but gentle” (1 Tim. 3:3, NRSV). He used the same word again in Titus 3:2 when he advised Christians “to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show courtesy to everyone.”

These passages display that to be moderate is to not be an extremist, it is to not be violent, and it is to not be quarrelsome.

So what’s not to like?

The good professor doesn’t sully his argument by observing that under “conservative” leadership the SBC growth is tanking, expert leadership isn’t sure a turnaround will occur and secular newspapers offer bleak advice.

True to his moderate calling, Humphreys explains:

Moderate Baptists are strong and effective people. They have deep convictions and the courage to live by them. One of their convictions is that extremism is not a virtue. Another is that, in our efforts to carry out God’s purposes in the world, we must never resort to violence. Another is that chronic quarreling is not healthy. These convictions come straight out of Paul’s teaching about moderation.

Indeed, “what’s not to like?” Or emulate?

January 8, 2009 - Posted by | Religion | , , , , ,

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