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”?
A plan is in the works to call for the Southern Baptist Convention to distance itself from embattled seminary president Ergun Caner.
Without mentioning Caner, Wade Burleson wrote about similar issues faced by Mike Warnke, a Christian comedian whose claims about a Satanic background were disputed by the Christian magazine Cornerstone. Burleson concludes with a quote from a “wise man” who said, “A people unfamiliar with their own history are destined to repeat the mistakes of their fathers.”
Fred Butler is not so subtle. He comes right out and asks if Caner is “the Mike Warnke of this generation” and sees similarities.
Both Warnke and Caner are Christian celebrities, Butler notes. While Warnke passed himself off as an “expert” in Satanism, Caner is seen as an expert on Islam. And they were both popular as speakers.
But more disturbing, Butler says, is the way their actions reflect on Christ.
Gene Clyatt says the Caner situation is “like watching a train wreck.” He tells of plans for a resolution that would call for the SBC to disfellowship Caner and the seminary until he repents.
Clyatt posted a draft resolution in the comments section of his post, which he concludes by asking Caner to repent and resign.
Meanwhile, questions asked of Caner go unanswered.
Promoted by SBC ethics czar Richard Land as a credible 2012 Republican presidential nominee, Mario Rubio is under Internal Revenue Service investigation.
The Miami Herald reports that Rubio is one of three former Florida Republican Party credit card holders being scrutinized for their alleged use of party credit cards to pay personal expenses.
Whether a full-fledged criminal investigation is merited has not been decided, and Rubio adviser Todd Harris told the Miami Herland, “There is absolutely nothing to this.”
The principal effect, as Talking Points Memo suggests, is likely to be on the dynamics of Rubio’s fight with Florida Gov. Charlie Crist for the Republican senatorial nomination, without which Rubio becomes another Land loser.
David Tolliver, executive director of the Missouri Baptist Convention, plans to ask messengers at the SBC annual meeting in June to receive the GCR Task Force report, but put off action until until 2011 so all SBC entities can do a “spiritual/financial impact study,” Baptist Press reported. The Missouri convention’s executive board unanimously passed a resolution favoring the delay.
Tolliver had earlier said the proposals in the task force’s preliminary report would devastate the Missiouri convention. That report has also been debated by others (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10).
The task force is scheduled to release its final report May 3.
It remains to be seen how GCR supporters will respond to the suggestion that action be put off for a year. They will fear another year of scrutiny could kill the effort, but must also realize that a nasty fight on the convention floor will make a GCR practically impossible, even if the proposals pass.
After making a scandal of himself in opposition to health reform, Southern Baptist Convention ethics czar Richard Land has in an interview with Politico promoted former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio as a credible 2012 Republican presidential nominee who has “more experience than Obama had.”
The gimlet-eyed journalists at PolitiFact poured that outLandish claim through their fact-filter and emerged with a “barely true.” Even that conclusion is a stretch. It assumes, for example, Rubio is elected to the U.S. Senate and serves two years — although he has yet to win the Aug. 24 Fla. Republican primary.
Sarah Palin benefitted from Land’s dubious blessings. In 2008 he sang her praises as a potential vice presidential nominee in an interview with Brian Goldsmith of CBS, mentioning Southern Baptist Mike Huckabee only as an afterthought.
Republican presidential nominee John McCain chose Palin as his vice presidential nominee and after a brief popularity bubble, she helped sink his candidacy. Then, Palin the public servant went home to abandon the governorship of Alaska.
Palin’s former prospective son-in-law Levi Johnson said at the time that she left in pursuit of cash. The dollar figures have since born Johnson out. Matthew Mosk of ABC News reported:
Since leaving office at the end of July 2009, the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee has brought in at least 100 times her old salary – a haul now estimated at more than $12 million — through television and book deals and a heavy schedule of speaking appearances worth five and six figures.
When Land comes to anoint you, candidate Rubio, if you’re really interested in public service, then for heaven’s sake outrun him.
“Prior to the SBC Annual Meeting in Orlando, FL, we will be announcing SBC Majority Initiative candidates for all major offices,” the web site says. “Also, we will be unveiling a motion which will be made in Orlando for a bylaw change which will effect greater representation of the SBC Majority on SBC entities boards.”
Puryear, who has previously questioned the wisdom of of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force emphasis church planting at the expense of existing churches, is pastor of Lewisville Baptist Church in North Carolina. Figures on the web site demonstrate the difficulty his movement faces.
The web site says SBC presidents come from churches with attendance in the top 1.4 percent, while 76 percent of trustees are from churches with attendance in the top 16.6 percent.
Clearly, the SBC rewards large churches. That’s not surprising in an organization that compiles its statistics in an “annual church profile” like last year’s showing a drop in membership. Perhaps, however, with signs pointing to denominational decline Southern Baptists will realize that higher numbers don’t necessarily equal God’s blessing.
If so, Puryear’s efforts might not be wasted.
Debated has erupted in the South Carolina Baptist Courier, over the decision of Columbia’s Eau Claire Baptist Church to call Kelly Dickerson Strum to be co-pastor.
Unlike Druid Hills Baptist Church in Atlanta, Ga., with which the Georgia Baptist Convention is set to cut ties over Mimi Walker’s role as pastor, this appointment has apparently not invoked formal exception.
The debate in the letters section of the South Carolina’s Southern Baptist state newspaper has taken what has become an almost classical form, however, beginning with an objection to the announced calling.
After my study, I found there is no biblical support for women to be ordained as a pastor of a New Testament church. As our Baptist Faith and Message puts it, men and women have gifts for service in the church, but pastor is not one of those women are gifted for.
Richard E. Moore of Columbia, a member of Eau Claire Baptist, responds with both an appeal to church autonomy and a personal example:
In addition to the Scripture referenced by Mr. Krieger, I would like to share some other verses: Proverbs 3:6, Philippians 4:13, 2 Corinthians 3:3, Matthew 28:19-20 and, probably most on point, Galatians 3:28 and Acts 2:17. Having two small granddaughters of my own, it saddens me to think of young women being taught that these verses might apply only to males. Throughout the history of Christianity there are examples of how the Bible has been used to justify discrimination of one kind or another against our fellow human beings. We all know that all human beings are made in God’s image and that, as Christians, we all become children of God, but maybe Fred Craddock was correct when he wrote that “learning what we already know is painfully difficult.”
Ray Elder of Ridgeland then comes with an ax:
The autonomy of the local church has become a “trump card,” allowing any given congregation to do as it pleases with little or no accountability to the Scripture. The New Testament concept of autonomy is summed up in The Baptist Faith and Message as it states:
“A New Testament church of the Lord Jesus Christ is an autonomous local congregation of baptized believers ‘governed by His laws ‘” (Article VI).
Autonomy in the local church never trumps accountability to the Scriptures!
Although associations had no official authority over the church in the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries, local churches were held accountable to the Scriptures by the associations through censorship from participation. (See Mark Dever, “Polity,” Nine Marks Ministries, 2001). Where there is a clear violation of Scripture, associations and conventions are responsible to hold churches accountable to the Scriptures to protect the integrity of the body, which was the New Testament pattern. The head of the church, the Lord Jesus Christ, might well have an ax to grind with the church today concerning the autonomy of the local church versus accountability to the Scriptures.
The Prince of Peace with an ax? The scripture doesn’t lead Southern Baptists like Wade Burleson to that conclusion.
After much Batholicism, some local Southern Baptist association, state convention and/or the SBC is one vigorously innovative church less than it was before.
Cody Sanders, a doctoral student at Texas Christian University’s Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth, writes:
Our ever-narrowing confessions of faith, enforcement of theological homogeneity and proliferation of churches expelled from denominational and associational bodies seem to suggest that the commitments that have historically set us apart as Baptists don’t really matter to us anyway.
Officials of the Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT) on Wednesday asked 500-member Royal Lane Baptist Church of North Dallas “to remove the partnership with the BGCT from any of its church’s publications” until questions regarding the church’s apparent tolerance for homosexual members are resolved. BGCT officials also said they would hold in escrow any funds received from the church while the issue is being resolved.
As of this writing, the church Web site does not link to BGCT as a ministry partner.
Their About Us section does still conclude:
Royal Lane is an ecumenical Baptist congregation affiliated with The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and The Baptist General Convention of Texas.
Royal Lane’s membership “includes BGCT employees and a BGCT executive board member. BGCT employees must belong to an affiliated church, so a split with Royal Lane could force some to choose between workplace and worship place,” the Dallas Morning News reported.
Royal Lane Baptist Church is an inclusive, multi-generational congregation joined in Christian community. We are a vibrant mosaic of varied racial identities, ethnicities, sexual orientations, and denominational backgrounds.
The church is considering its response.
University Baptist Church in Austin was disfellowshipped by the BGCT in 1994 “for ordaining a gay man as deacon and for failing to regard homosexuality as sinful.” The church was expelled by the Austin Baptist Association in 1943 for accepting black members, and later readmitted. In the 1970s, University was the first in the Southern Baptist Convention to ordain women as deacons, the church history shows. It left the Southern Baptist Convention in 1997 “because of ramifications of the fundamentalist takeover of that organization.”
Broadway Baptist Church of Fort Worth, Texas, postponed a similar confrontation last year when it chose not to send messengers to the BGCT annual convention. Broadway was nonetheless found not to be in friendly cooperation by the Southern Baptist Convention last year because it was deemed to “approve and endorse homosexual behavior” as a result of a confrontation provoked when it published photographs of same-sex couples in the church directory.
Broadway’s expulsion by the SBC was an assertion of the kind of Cathist inflexibility that independent demographic analysis predicts will frustrate achievement of expansive evangelism goals like those pursued by the SBC’s Great Commission Resurgence Task Force.
Feb. 22’s Great Commission Resurgence Task Force (GCRTF) interim report shocked Southern Baptist Conventioneers (SBC) with news that two-thirds of their missions money is spent in the old south. That meant they were spending the most money to spread the faith where they’re already strongest. Bad.
Those dismal numbers were wrong, North Carolina Biblical Recorder Editor Norman Jameson explained in his blog today.
Actually, “53 percent of NAMB missionaries serve outside the old south states,” according to Jameson's parsing of numbers in a correction issued by the SBC's North American Mission Board, from whence those numbers come.
Re-reconsideration (it has already been considered and reconsidered by the Southern Baptist Blogosphere (SBB)) of the GCR may begin.
GCRTF chairman Ronnie Floyd sought to minimize the importance of the error. GCR documents have been revised to correct for the error, but Cooperative Programs funds were the major concern of the task force, he told Baptist Press. Specifically:
“[W]e spend 2/3 of the Cooperative Program dollars on 1/3 of the population and conversely spend only 1/3 of the Cooperative Program dollars on 2/3 of the population in the United States,” Floyd said.