Ghosts of SBC liberals past scare up GCR approval
Twice during Southern Baptist Commission (SBC) adoption of the “Great Commission Resurgence” Task Force report, messengers demonstrated that it was more an SBC throwback than a bold change of direction.
First, toward the end of debate on the report when discussion had dragged on for hours and the outcome seemed in doubt, former SBC president James Merritt rose to rally support. Merritt argued that the vote offered messengers an old, often-replayed choice.
“If you think we are headed in the right direction, if you think doing the same thing, getting the same results is enough, then vote against this report,” Merritt said. “But if you think we can do better, and if you think we can do what we did in 1979 when we said no to liberalism, then I encourage you to vote for this report.”
That settled the report’s fate, Enid, OK., pastor Wade Burleson blogged just a few minutes before the final vote: “Anytime you threaten Southern Baptists that if you vote against a particular motion you are a liberal, then the SBC most likely will pass the motion.”
The overarching tone of the debate was reminiscent of SBC floor fights between conservatives and moderates in the 1980s during the “conservative resurgence.” Time and again, SBC president Johnny Hunt had to consult with parliamentarians for guidance on how to handle particular issues.
Most of the more than 10,000 registered messengers were in the hall for the GCR vote, which passed a little after 5 p.m. by an estimated three or four to one. And that brings us to the second demonstration that adoption of the GCR task force report was more a throwback than a bold, new thrust. Only a few thousand messengers returned later for a report from the International Mission Board. Even though the GCR report they had just struggled to adopt is entitled “Penetrating the Lostness,” and talks of the need to “reach the nations.”
So many messengers were more interested in voting for the report than in how the SBC is actually reaching those in other nations.
How many would have returned if Merritt had plugged the IMB report as “fighting liberals on their soil so we don’t have to fight them here”?
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