Southern Religion

How to kill a state convention in four years [Update]

Posted by SteveDeVane at 10:11 PM

A recommendation in the Southern Baptist Convention‘s Great Commission Resurgence Task Force progress report would be a “death sentence” for some state Baptist conventions and harm others, a state executive said.

Others have also raised concerns about a proposal that would end cooperative agreements between the North American Mission Board contributions and state conventions over four years. The move would cut $50.6 million that NAMB sends to state conventions each year.

Joseph Bunce, executive director of the Baptist Convention of New Mexico, said in an article for Baptist Press that some parts of the report concern him.

“I would rather not take my concerns item-by-item at this point, but highlight one area that, if the report is adopted as-is, would create a huge dilemma for our state convention and dismantle other Western state conventions,” he said.

Bunce points out that once the cooperative agreements end, missionaries that have been jointly funded by NAMB and state conventions would come under the direct supervision of NAMB, rather than the state conventions as they have historically.

“This is huge for New Mexico and is a death sentence for other Western state conventions,” he said. “For example, if jointly funded missionaries were removed from the Wyoming Convention staff, only one out of the eight people serving in their leadership could be supported by the Wyoming Convention.”

According to the 2010 NAMB Ministry Report, 3,666 of the 5,304 NAMB missionaries operate “under various levels of cooperative funding with state conventions and local associations.”

Bunce noted that the report calls for states to adjust their budgets, which would reduce the amount forwarded to the SBC.

“I find it very difficult to understand this logic, as state conventions have been chided for not sending on more gifts for work outside their respective states,” Bunce said. “Now we are told to keep more dollars in-state to pay for our own staffs, rather than have jointly funded missionaries.”

The progress report said, “When churches give more through the Cooperative Program and state conventions keep less of it within their respective states, and a compelling unified Gospel vision is cast for Southern Baptists, we will see giving through the Cooperative Program increase in a major way.”

Bunce pointed out that the report is not final. And Tim Patterson, chairman of the NAMB trustees, told Baptist Press that the GCR task force is leaving the particulars of implementing the plan to NAMB’s trustees. He said NAMB will still work under cooperative agreements and will still work with state conventions as highly valued partners.

“The states will absolutely take on a greater role than ever before,” Patterson said. “Their responsibilities will increase as NAMB becomes much more of a facilitator than a program provider.”

But the progress report says that any future partnerships involving financial support, would be “project-driven, meaning these projects must be driven by the North American missional strategy and fulfill the direct mission and priorities of the North American Mission Board. Additionally, any funding must be streamlined, since the North American Mission Board will become the leader in reaching North America.”

Jim Drake, pastor of Brushfork Baptist Church in Bluefield, West Va., wrote in a blog post about the possibility that NAMB would stop sending money to state conventions.

“I wonder how this will impact small conventions like West Virginia’s,” he said. “My initial impression is that support will continue, but with far less state autonomy.”

George Bullard, who has consulted with 50 different denominations, said in one of 20 observations he made about the report that he thinks the state conventions will “manage their budgets accordingly” as the report suggests when they lose national cooperative agreement funds.

“They will adjust Cooperative Program percentage to replace what they feel is essential,” he said.

Bullard said that he agrees the cooperative agreement system needs revision.

“But, it does not need eliminating,” he said.

Even worse, eliminating the program would eliminate some state conventions.


Scott Brewer is president of the 425-church Northwest Baptist Convention. He wrote that money the Northwest convention would stand to lose from NAMB is a large part of the convention’s budget. Brewer, whose convention consists of Washington, Oregon and northern Idaho, said:

Obviously this raises questions about the future of state conventions that exist outside of the South. I’m not sure how a large southern state convention would be impacted by this but our convention would be radically impacted.


February 27, 2010 Posted by | Religion, SBC | , | Comments Off on How to kill a state convention in four years [Update]

Blocked/ignored/slammed for asking questions about or of Southern Baptist leaders?

It is an American axiom that timely questions often help the nation, its organizations and its people make better decisions. Tough questions, like those like those currently being asked of Ergun Caner, writes Wade Burleson, are “legitimate queries of a Christian brother to ensure accountability and integrity of Christian ministry.”

Yet Southern Baptist leaders are apparently often prey to an allergy to questions. Ordinary twitter users who seek clarification from key leaders like SBC President @johnnymhunt, researchers like President of LifeWay Research @edstetzer or sometimes even from a publication like the @westernrecorder (just to name a few) learn this quickly enough.

Genuflection via retweeting is the default SBC twitter response to leadership tweets. That’s why resounding silence is likely to greet even the best-phrased, best-intentioned, most germane of queries.

Violations of the genuflection rule are punished. Curious twitter users may find themselves blocked (forbidden to follow a user’s tweet stream) for asking a pointed question. Even more often twitter-blocked is anyone who somehow receives and asks additional questions about an answer. Much less disagrees. Thus making inappropriate and disruptive use of the “block” function to suppress ordinary debate and commonplace journalistic inquiry.

Because so many of the SBC chickens do barricade themselves in their pulpits, SBC twitterworld offers satiric accounts, like @fakebp, directed at gently smoking them out with humor. Similarly, there are satiric twitter hashtags, like #fakeGCR.

Together those help reveal how often clarity of statement and transparency of intention are disdained.

But accountability, Pastor Burleson?

Srsly. For the time being, not absent the application of a hammer or like device.

February 27, 2010 Posted by | SBC | , , , | 1 Comment

Religious Right + SBC Fundamentalists = flight of millennials from the church?

Oklahoma’s Bruce Prescott ponders the conjunction of dates. The millennials, “who were born after 1980 and came of age around the millennium,” certainly grew up amid the ardent voices of the Southern Baptist Convention’s fundamentalists and the others of the Religious Right. As Prescott observes:

The fundamentalist takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention began in 1979. The rise of the Religious Right in America dates from the same year.

Certainly Prescott is not the first to see “a link between in-your-face religion in the public square and declining interest in organized religion among young people.”

While not focused precisely on the issue Prescott addresses, Michael Gerson, senior research fellow in the Center on Faith & International Affairs at the Institute for Global Engagement, made a show of discovering the relationship for himself late last year.

Somewhat similarly, Tullian Tchividjian, grandson of Billy Graham, responded to the shift in public attitudes away from right-wing political zeal and turned Ft. Lauderdale’s Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church away from its hyper-political, right-wing activist heritage.

Of course he had to fight off an attempt by the old hands to remove him from the pulpit there.

In the necessity of that fight is one answer to Prescott’s closing question: Will those who helped bring the alienation about “ever realize“?

Apparently not.

February 26, 2010 Posted by | Politics, Religion | , , , , , , | Comments Off on Religious Right + SBC Fundamentalists = flight of millennials from the church?

The online demise of The Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood [Update]

The Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood Web site is back. They explain their long absence as follows:

Approximately three weeks ago, it appears that someone hacked into our server and severely damaged the CBMW website. Not only did this prohibit use of the site but is also kept us from even being able to send out a mass email to even explain the challenge we were facing to some of you.

We have been working around the clock to fix the problem. In addition to this, we moved our entire site to a different server that will give us access to more technical help in the future and will save us quite a bit of money as well. I am deeply grateful for the people who helped us rectify the situation and enable us to once again serve you with material that will help your home and church.

Not persuasive reasons for an extended outage, unless you stir in large helpings of other management issues. Whatever the case, they did not fulfill Wade Burleson’s wish [explained below].

The Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) is as of this writing missing from the Web and Internet at large. The domain name has apparently not been lost to them, but it isn’t attached to a server.

They lent their fundamentally Southern Baptist clout to the Danvers Statement on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, which was subsequently affirmed as a key document of faith by Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and by Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Wade Burleson today says in his comment on the CBMW’s perhaps temporary Internet invisibility:

Over the course of the past three years I have written a few times about The Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW). Southern Baptists, including Dorothy Patterson, Al Mohler, Danny Akin and others, serve on the Board of Directors of the Council. Randy Stinson, Dean of Church Ministries at Southern Seminary, serves as the Executive Director of the CBMW. I have written about CBMW teaching various forms of patriarchy, calling Irving Bible Church elders’ decision to allow a woman to teach the Bible “a grave moral concern” (comparable to homosexuality), advocating the eternal subordination of women to men, encouraging abused women to merely “pray for their husbands,” and stating that opposing “male authority” is the same as opposing Christ’s authority.

He proposes that CBMW return as a site of “scholarly exegesis.”

Rather than, say, continue as a living caricature of Christian paternalism.

February 26, 2010 Posted by | SBC | , , , | Comments Off on The online demise of The Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood [Update]

Caner apologizes for calling Rankin a liar

The president of a Baptist seminary has apologized for a personal attack on the head of the International Mission Board.

Ergun Caner, the president of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary, said he got carried away while criticizing the Camel Method of outreach to Muslims, according to a report by Associated Baptist Press. Caner said the deceptive strategy meant IMB president Jerry Rankin is lying.

Caner said he admitted in a chapel service at the seminary that he made a mistake. He also sent Rankin a letter of apology.

“If you’re dumb enough to say something like that, you’ve got to be man enough to own up to it,” he said.

February 26, 2010 Posted by | SBC | , , | Comments Off on Caner apologizes for calling Rankin a liar

Toward a new Legionaries of Christ/Regnum Christi beginning

Legionaries of Christ

The Legionaries of Christ (LC) and associated lay organization Regnum Christi (RC) continue to struggle amid debate and uncertain leadership toward the report of the Apostolic Visitation [investigation], due in March. That investigation may be followed by a refounding of the order under new leadership, suggests the Mexican newspaper “Reforma.”

The Apostolic Visitation was provoked not only by reports that LC founder Marcial Maciel fathered perhaps six children, attended by news that some are pursuing legal action seeking compensation from the $250-million-a-year organization, his cult-like leadership and abuse of subordinates. But also by the Legion leadership’s history of coverup and legal actions to silence former members and suppress documents.

A Jan. 24 attempt by LC Director General Father Alvaro Corcuera to suppress a roiling email debate over the order’s future, failed. If it ever really stopped, the debate was reopened by an “open letter” from Father Julien Durodie of the LC in Paris. He wrote, among other things:

I see the Legion as a work made by human hands and therefore needs to be purified and perfected. It has made mistakes, yes, and it will continue to do so. Any organization facing such a situation is entitled to differences and hesitations. Benevolent exterior criticism is also normal and understandable. All of this is now clearer than ever. And although I may be wrong, I have no fear, because I know how to tell the difference between God and his works.

I also believed, especially after living with Fr. Maciel for three years at the headquarters, that he was holy. Why not?

But, I never put my supernatural trust in him as a human person. My faith is not affected by his disordered life, but on the contrary, it is purified. Of course I am affected by the scandal, and the cries of the victims fill me with sorrow. But all of this does not call into question God’s call.

Shortly thereafter the Secretary General of the order, Rev. Evaristo Sada, told a gathering of more than 10,000 members of Regnum Christi in Mexico City that the crisis caused by revelations of the double life led by Rev. Marcial Maciel has led them to a time to “face the consequences and, with determination, correct what must be correct.” He went on:

With all my heart, I wish to ask forgiveness of the persons who our founder may have affected as a result of the immoral acts in his personal life, and the persons who may have been wounded by their consequences. Father Alvaro (Rev. Alvaro Corcuera is the current leader of the order) has done so and has is doing so publicly and personally, but we again ask forgiveness because we sincerely regret what the Church and these persons have suffered.

While no longer denial, strategic, still. March beckons.

February 25, 2010 Posted by | Catholic, Pope Benedict XVI, Religion | , , , | Comments Off on Toward a new Legionaries of Christ/Regnum Christi beginning

Extreme Makeover: SBC Edition [pretty outcome not guaranteed]

The “progress report” released Feb. 22 by Southern Baptist Convention’s Great Commission Resurgence Task Force is “strategically naive and historically ignorant,” a denominational expert says.

George Bullard, strategic coordinator for The Columbia Partnership consulting group, made the comment on Twitter just after the report was released. Bullard, who retired as associate executive director of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina and also served on the staff at the South Carolina convention, made more than a dozen observations about the report on his Facebook fan page.

In a video presentation that’s as much sermon as report, task force chairman Ronnie Floyd went over the document’s six components, including a new vision statement supported by eight core values. (A downloadable pdf file of the report is available here.)

In his observations on Facebook, Bullard commends parts of the report, but questions other portions. He supports the call to reach cities, but doubts that it can happen with the national strategy dictated by the report.

Bullard agrees with the emphasis on church planting, but says the committee’s call for “implementing a direct strategy” for planting churches in North America shows that it does not understand denominationalism.

When asked, via a comment on Facebook, to explain the comment Bullard said he believes “the committee does not understand what makes a complex denominational system work with effectiveness.” Committee members “show a narrow understanding of the role of state conventions and associations,” he said. Also:

They are right about the focus on congregations and urging them to be missional. They are wrong about what type of denominational structures will best empower and support them.

They are right about the primacy of church planting, but not about doing so from a national and direct strategy. Passion is essential for great church planting, and you cannot push that from a national perspective. It must be grassroots.

They do not understand that national strategies must be frameworks that focus around principles, and that the best specific strategies of locally-owned, custom-made, and open-ended.

In one of his Facebook postings, Bullard said that regarding the report’s call to work with other Christ-followers, the SBC has traditionally wanted to “go it alone.”

“Working with other Baptists in North America has even been a challenge; even though some are more conservative and evangelistic than SBC,” he said.

Tony Cartledge, a contributing editor for Baptists Today, posted on his blog that he found the frequent mention of “missional” in the report interesting since that term has been used by the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship for years. He notes that while CBF uses the term more as a “holistic call for churches to live and minister to all as Jesus did,” the GCR task force defines it as merely evangelism.

“Whether you define “missional” in terms of holistic ministry or propositional evangelism, it’s easier said than done, and certainly can’t be implemented by decree,” Cartledge said.

Cartledge points out potential areas for disagreement in several parts of the report. He notes that the report says “envy, strife and division” need to become unacceptable in the SBC.

“Given the major structural shifts, blurring boundaries, and financial redirection called for in the task force’s preachy-toned report, the outcome is likely to be more strife and division in the SBC, not less,” he said.

Wade Burleson, an Oklahoma pastor and prominent Baptist blogger, talked about the report in light of an International Indian Conference in 1843 that led to lasting peace among warring tribes.

“One of these days, hopefully soon, there should be a similar conference among Southern Baptists,” he said.

Burleson commended the GCR Task Force for trying to accomplish the difficult task of finding common agreement among Southern Baptists.

“But as long as some groups see other groups as the enemy (and want them gone from the SBC), it will be difficult to focus on the Great Commission,” he said.

February 25, 2010 Posted by | SBC | , | Comments Off on Extreme Makeover: SBC Edition [pretty outcome not guaranteed]

Silsby & Coulter to be freed

BBC reports:

Bernard Sainvil told Reuters the case, which involves 33 children, should be closed this week because there were no criminal grounds to pursue it.

A lawyer for the two said he thought they would be freed by Thursday.

ABC reported that with regard to Laura Silsby and Charisa Coulter, the judge has all the information he wants.

February 24, 2010 Posted by | SBC | , | Comments Off on Silsby & Coulter to be freed

Archbishop Fisichella stands his ground

Archbishop Salvatore (Rino) Fisichella is standing his ground against an eruption of U.S. “hyper-partisanship” into Vatican affairs. He isn’t going to resign, apologize or lend further ink to his critics.

Five members of the 145-member Pontifical Academy for Life, which Fisichella heads, circulated a letter calling for his resignation.

Their campaign was supported by Judie Brown, president of the American Life League and in an essay by Monsignor Michel Schooyans, an academy member and emeritus professor at Belgium’s Louvain University. Schooyans argued that Fisischella had fallen into a trap of “bogus compassion.”

The letter was greeted with surprise by the Vatican spokesman, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi. CNS reported:

“It’s a bit strange that persons who are members of an academy address a request of this kind without addressing it to the competent authorities,” Father Lombardi said. “It’s astounding and seems incorrect that such a document be given public circulation.”

At issue is the March, 2009, case of a nine-year-old Brazilian girl, about whom Allison Hantschell wrote:


I had an Easy-Bake Oven, when I was 9. It made tiny cupcakes and itty-bitty cookies, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since I read about the girl in Brazil.

I don’t know her name, but she’s 9 years old, living in Brazil. Brutally raped by her stepfather, multiple times over a period of years, and finally impregnated with twins.

Nine years old. And instead of playing baseball, or learning numbers, or baking tiny cupcakes and itty-bitty cookies, this little girl is at the center of a worldwide controversy over the Roman Catholic Church, its views on abortion, and, above all, the role of mercy and the incoherence of men.

In response to the abortion, the Archbishop of Olinda and Recife, Brazil, Jose Cardoso Sobrinho announced that he was excommunicating the doctors and the young girl’s mother. When that was not received well, the response was recast.

Anyone (with certain exemptions) who consciously worked to stop a birth excommunicated himself/herself, so:

Brazil’s Catholic bishops conference denied that the archbishop of Recife and Olinda, Jose Cardoso Sobrinho, excommunicated the mother and doctors who practiced a legal abortion on a nine-year-old girl that was pregnant with twins after being raped by her stepfather. . . . The secretary general of the bishops conference, Dimas Lara Barbosa, said that the prelate “at no time excommunicated anyone.”

Archbishop Fisichella’s alleged sin was to write in the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, that the public declaration of the already automatic excommunications was “hasty” and the nine-year-old girl, whose life was saved by the abortion of twins she was physically unequipped to have, “should have been above all defended, embraced, treated with sweetness to make her feel that we were all on her side, all of us, without distinction.”

For this, he was accused of “pseudo-compassion” – no idle charge. And one he has rejected. For good reason. Indeed, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a clarification in July, reiterating the Catholic Church’s unwavering opposition to abortion and observing that Fisichella’s words had been “manipulated and exploited.”

February 24, 2010 Posted by | Catholic, Health, Politics, Religion | , , , | Comments Off on Archbishop Fisichella stands his ground

Smoking Jesus and other blasphemies

Deja vu stalked last week’s uproar over print publication of cigarette-smoking Jesus of the Sacred Heart, drinking something out of a can. This time, it manifested in a Skyline Publications Meghalaya, India, cursive writing exercise book. Which was promptly taken out of service by the government of that 70% Catholic province.

The image made a previous appearance in June of 2008, reported IndiaTime , when it was printed on the cover of “Vachana Jyotis, a magazine published by [the Catholic] diocese of Neyyattinkara, in the southern state of Kerala.”

About a year earlier, in August of 2007, that or a similar image caused an uproar and temporary government shutdown of a newspaper in Kuala Lumpur. Agence France-Presse reported

KUALA LUMPUR — A Malaysian newspaper has apologized to Kuala Lumpur’s Roman Catholic archbishop after publishing a front page picture of Jesus Christ clutching a cigarette, the paper’s manager said Thursday

The Makkal Osai, a Tamil-language daily, printed the picture earlier in the week, provoking criticism from religious leaders and politicians in multicultural Malaysia.

S.M. Periasamy, general manager of the paper, said someone had downloaded the image from the internet to illustrate an article, and did not notice that Jesus appeared to be smoking.

“We are sorry for the mistake, but it was a very honest one,” he told Agence France-Presse, adding that the person responsible had been suspended.

Local media reported that the picture also showed Jesus holding a beer can in one hand, but Periasamy said it was in fact non-alcoholic.

Christians aren’t being singled out. Kurt Westergarrd still sees life-threatening backlash from his cartoons of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad. The Mexican Playboy had to apologize for its nearly nude Mary in 2008. Artist M.F. Husain was arrested in 2006 for his nude representations of Hindu gods and goddesses. There was much unhappiness in 2004 over Buddha Bikinis. In 2003, Denmark’s Kvickly supermarkets decided to ditch a line of sandals which had people walking on images of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary by putting their images on the inside of slippers – after selling some 4,000 pairs but receiving some 200 complaints. A Catholic priest in Aarhus, Denmark, accused the store of blasphemy.

Such works, whether art or bad digital imaging hacks, cannot equal in their desultory impact the force of living blasphemies, written into the lives of those whose trust and bodies are defiled by clergy.

February 22, 2010 Posted by | Religion | | Comments Off on Smoking Jesus and other blasphemies