Mohammad Kahn, whose mocking videos have done a great deal to expose the hypocrisy of Ergun Caner, president of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary, has a few questions. Well-known Southern Baptist pastor Wade Burleson of Enid, Oklahoma, offered a forum in which to answer them. We perked our coffee here today using heat radiated by the resulting exchanges.
You may wish to watch one of the videos before visiting the steaming stream of comments:
Pastor Wade Burleson turned a slimy anonymous email into a touching open letter on balancing faithful forgiveness and resolve.
Enid, Ok., pastor Wade Burleson is conducting more than a personal homiletic exercise when he flogs the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) through Matthew 23. His whip of the “Woes of the Pharisees” does burn, and rankles some SBCers.
Burleson cuts immediately to the bone with his (2) “pastors and self-proclaimed leaders of the SBC have seated themselves in positions of authority” who even demand (6) “that they be called “Dr.” by those who know them.”
No, prez Johnny Hunt isn’t the only SBCer with with a fake Phd. on his resume. Nor does Burleson gloss his excoriation with footnotes. Whether he has Hunt in mind is from the text unknowable.
Likewise, readers may find any number of SBC controversies among Burleson’s other broad hints.
Or choose to read his short-form allegorical satire – not quite Dante’s Divine Comedy – as straightforward experimental sermon.
It’s surely a stretch (unless perhaps you’re from Missouri, Georgia, New Mexico, Washington, Oregon and northern Idaho, and others on a growing list) to read (23) & (24) as somehow in part commentaries on the Great Commission Resurgence Task force recommendations. He writes:
(23) Woe to you, SBC pastors and self-proclaimed SBC leaders, hypocrites! For you emphasize giving, giving, and giving, but you neglect the weightier things: justice and mercy and faithfulness. Don’t neglect these things while you seek the dollar! (24) In your blind greed you are straining gnats and swallowing camels.
(29) Woe to you, SBC pastors and self-proclaimed SBC leaders, hypocrites! For you exalt other pastors and you build monuments to their legacy, (30) saying, ‘If we had lived in the liberal days of our forefathers, we would have helped them them in turning around our convention.’ (31) Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered your brothers. (32) Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. (33) You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to judgment yourselves?
If Burleson’s whip stings, is it because your back needs it?
John Pierce of Baptists Today grieves the wrestling among fundamentalists for spoils set off by announced retirement of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC)’s besieged International Mission Board Chairman Jerry Rankin.
When Rankin leaves next year there will be vacancies at the top at both the IMB and the scandal-plagued, resignation-rocked, domestically focused North American Mission Board (NAMB). Of that Pierce writes:
The top leadership vacancies at the two SBC mission boards will have the boys who run the denominational show now wrestling to (1) perhaps combine the two boards and (2) get a person(s) into the top post(s) who reflect their side’s political bent. That’s a battle between the Fundamentalists and the even-more Fundamentalists. . . . the ever-narrowing, suspicious, fear-based nature of Fundamentalism has played out as it always does: turning inward to find enemies.
Pierce does not touch upon the inflated and some say fabricated IMB statistics, focusing instead on the effect of “doctrinal restrictions on SBC missionaries.” Private prayer languages were a key issue. They were barred. This for missionaries some of whom had just a few years earlier had to sign the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 or be fired.
The conflicts driving those restrictions are also evident in divinity school inquisitions, sometimes acrimonious public debate among Batholics and Cathists and the online equivalent of rock-throwing which is part of discussion among Southern Baptist luminaries.
All of which is, Wade Burleson predicted after June SBC Convention, getting worse. Michael Spencer developed a list of factors driving the SBC as younger inerrantists make themselves felt. Further repression was implied by SBC President Johnny D. Hunt’s recent quiet indication that already retreating Baptist state newspaper editors pull their journalistic horns in even more.
The resurgence governing group meets behind closed doors, however. Some of the questions directed at SBC President Hunt about where it is actually going, however, were answered with questions and mockery recently.
Closed doors and anger about unwelcome reports? The resulting message may be heard from distant seats in uncushioned pews as, “Trust us. We’ve been fighting continuously among ourselves as the SBC imploded. We’ve led you into a morass each time we promised renewal. We know what we’re doing.”
Wade Burleson captures the flavor of the SBC political struggle in his Sept. 16 post when he writes:
I found myself in 2008, at times, questioning whether or not the Christ I follow is actually represented by the Convention with which we choose to affiliate. I recently spoke with J.C. Watts, former United States Congressman from Oklahoma and a life-long Southern Baptist, about our mutual affiliation and affection for the SBC. He said that politics in Washington D.C. is rough and tumble, but he has never seen anything as vicious as Southern Baptist politics. Though I have no experience with D.C. politics, I can echo similar sentiments regarding the SBC and the utter lack of civility among some.
Read the entire post here.
- Pray for women pastors and for women who are being called into ministry.
- Pray for a softening of the heart of the leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention toward women in the United States.
- Start an email cell group which would commit to pray and to enlist others.
Unusual (in our experience the email cells are) and sound strategy.
Oklahoma Baptist bloggers like Wade Burleson aren’t all about animal-friends stories. Or, once upon a time when the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) was still larger, they weren’t reduced to a metaphoric tale about about a dog and an elephant who are best friends. Even as recently as Nov. 7, 2007, although he had already left the SBC, pastor David Flick met the issues of SBC conflict head-on with a bullet-point historic summation.
Like Burleson, he sees intolerance as an overarching problem. He wrote:
This week, Southern Baptist intolerance has raised its ugly head yet again. The International Mission Board could not tolerate trustee, Wade Burleson’s, principled dissent on several issues of little consequence. In the scheme of things, Burleson’s dissent amounts to little more than a hill of beans. Yet the IMB, led by chairman John Floyd and former chairman, Jerry Corbaley, censured him. In a wildly slanderous and lengthy report, Cobaley accused Burleson of slander and sin. Burleson’s censure says a lot about the credibility of the IMB. on a scale of 1-10, the IMB’s credibility is minus-6. It says a lot about Burleson’s credibility as well. On the same scale, Burleson’s credibility is a strong-9.
Yet more than intolerance is involved, Flick argues in a document here which deserves to be revisited while others attempt to arrest the well-foreseen inquisitorial process which has been grinding down the SBC. Flick details a history of manipulative conservative Baptist myth-making. Baptist-associated businesslike institutions — colleges and hospitals, for example — which are capable of reacting to the conservative takeover strategies have in general done so. They have progressively disassociated themselves from the SBC. Tony Cartledge chronicles North Carolina’s experience with those departures in The Changing Face of the BSC [.pdf].
Left behind are enterprises like the North Carolina Biblical Recorder, which was apparently too legally entangled to detach.
Yes, Burleson is late to the game, as John Pierce of Baptists Today observed in reviewing Burleson’s new book, Hardball Religion: Feeling the Fury of Fundamentalism.
Still it is Hardball, as Burleson said in the title of his book — not saccharine zoo-animal stories — and has been played for decades, with an accumulating destruction score.
Burleson’s courage to stand toe-to-toe with abusive power-brokers, to expose the misuse of denominational authority and resources, and to defend those harmed by heavy-handed tactics is commendable.
Yet, for so many of us, his recent “discovery” of fundamentalism in the Southern Baptist Convention is not breaking news. It shows just how late Burleson is getting to the game.
He writes: “I began to realize in 2005, to my horror, that the issue causing such pain in the Southern Baptist Convention was not a battle for a belief in the inspired, inerrant word of God.”
Burleson is right. It is about something else — something very destructive.
Read the entire review here.
At length he suggests:
Fundamentalists fighting is nothing new. But the fighting has reached a new level in the Southern Baptist blogosphere. All I know is that the old white guy-dominated Southern Baptist blogosphere can stir up more drama than a handful of teenage drama queens.
There is of course some rejoinder from those taken down. Read it all here.
Tom Ascol, executive director of Founders Ministries, has a reasoned review of the more scholarly voices in this debate at Reflections on the dust-up over Calvinism at SWBTS.
His conclusions are complex. They include a call for tolerance and for responsible civil debate in the inevitable future public discussions.
His accuracy questioned, pastor/blogger Wade Burleson published a transcript today demonstrating that the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) inquisition against which he warned, was indeed at hand.
A refined taste for Protestant theology is required to see how, in the course of a tape-recorded interview, SWBTS chancellor Paige Patterson confessed that he did indeed wish to winnow all of the Calvinist professors out of his staff.
To the untutored ear, the key statement sounds like a Christian divinity school throwaway line:
Southwestern will not build a school in the future around anybody who could not look anybody in the world in the eyes and say, “Christ died for your sins.”
Patterson is conversing with theological illuminate. however, and they know the targeted Calvinists would not say that.
Calvinists believe (oversimplifying) some sinners are damned by their failure to repent. Thus Christ did not die for them. As you can see. For his death did not save them.
So a Calvinist would say, as Burleson explains:
Christ died for sinners. Do you know yourself to be a sinner and in need of a Savior? If so, Christ died for you.
That distinction is made by the tulip Calvinists whom Burleson is defending as part of his larger defense of doctrinal diversity among Southern Baptists.
Amid his demonstration that he was both honest and factually correct in his warnings of a looming (perhaps now abandoned) anti-Calvinist inquisition at SEBTS, Burleson does make his larger intention clear:
. . . It is the essence of five-point Calvinism, and these are the people Patterson wishes to purge from Southwestern. If Southern Baptists cannot see that the purging in the Southern Baptist Convention continues, and that anyone who doesn’t agree with a particular ecclesiological, soteriological, pneumatological and eschatological ideology of those currently in charge and their vocal sychophants, then we are in a very dangerous place as a cooperating convention of autonomous churches.
Diversity is winning hearts and minds, and in addition, Burleson’s opponents are finding it difficult to persist with the argument that further harm is just fine, thank you.
The former Southern Baptist International Mission Board member also provided more detail and made it clear that he isn’t just fighting for Calvinists — he’s fighting for fair treatment in Baptist life and healthy diversity in Baptist faith culture.
He reported a victory this week for fair treatment and diversity:
There will be faculty reductions at SWBTS as there will be at Southern and other educational institutions of the Southern Baptist Convention. But, due to the uproar over the exposure of removing only the Calvinists at SWBTS, the chosen method of reduction, at least as of today, will be different.
One march is not the war. He admonishes:
Southern Baptists better realize the path being taken by some leaders, and by God’s grace, we better do all within our power to stop the forced removal of those people from SBC service and employment who don’t agree with particular ecclesiological, soteriological and eschatological idealogues leading our Convention. This week was a solid step in the right direction. And, as the picture above shows, saving the tulips at SWBTS is on behalf of the next generation of Southern Baptists.
Whether or not you’re a Southern Baptist, we recommend the entire piece to you here.
Part one of the debate, with its stream of sometimes harshly accusatory comments attached, is here.