Here are five observations regarding current Southern Baptist events. We have been pulling on a loose thread for quite some time. Now, it is finally unraveling.
1. Anti-Missions Support
The Voluntary Retirement Incentive targeting existing missionaries comes with a certain price tag. We are paying trained missionaries to incentivize their premature return from the field. This does not increase missions, but decreases it. When you think about it, we are now paying both for missions and against missions. If the hiring freeze option had been chosen, no money would have been spent to reduce missionary work. Yes, we would not be adding missionaries, but at least we would not be paying to subtract them. We would not be breaking our pledge to hold the rope for existing missionaries. Not one dime would subsidize reduced missions.
2. Godfather Offers
If they do not accept the Voluntary Retirement Incentive being offered in this first phase, our missionaries have been told the options available to them in the future will be less generous. Some observers have referenced The Godfather line about “making an offer one cannot refuse.” While technically this offer can be resisted, any claim that it is entirely voluntary fails to consider the intrinsic coercion of the deal’s ticking clock. “You are free to turn this down,” says the supervisor, “but the long-term financial strength of your retirement program will suffer since this is the best deal you are ever going to get.” Can we agree that this offer is only as optional as one’s desire to provide one’s family with the optimal level of financial security?
3. BINO Amnesty
The term Baptist In Name Only (BINO) applies to pastors like James MacDonald, who until recently considered the form of church government affirmed by Southern Baptists to be Satanic. It also applies to Charismatics like C. J. Mahaney, whose Pastors College partnership with Southern Seminary was dissolved in 2014 amidst a scandal. Now Mahaney’s BINO students, who are truly Calvinist Charismatics, may attend Southern Seminary and receive the very same Cooperative Program tuition discounts received by real Southern Baptist students from real Southern Baptist Churches who have supported the Cooperative Program for decades. To put it simply, Charismatic Calvinists are holding up the Cooperative Program train. They are crossing the SBC border illegally. We have no fence to keep them out.
4. MINO Amateurism
The term Missionaries In Name Only (MINO) applies to untrained, inexperienced students, professionals and retirees who will soon be commissioned to go overseas while being asked to raise their own support. This “funnel blowing” approach is really nothing new. It simply follows the very societal form of missions funding Southern Baptists rejected a century ago in favor of the cooperative approach. Some refer to this new model as the amateurism of missions in the SBC. With this approach, we may eventually be able to show a greater number of people overseas, but many will be less trained and more preoccupied with other pursuits such as school, work and personal fundraising. As we move in this direction, we lose the great distinctive of Southern Baptist missions, becoming just like everyone else. If the IMB becomes just another mission society, and no longer exists as the unique conduit of cooperative missions funding, there is little reason for Southern Baptists to prefer it to any other mission society. We will forfeit our greatest contribution to missions, inviting Southern Baptists to select from all the societies in the cafeteria. Many of us will select an entrée other than the Calvinist Charismatic Casserole.
5. Moore Partisan
Recently Russell Moore wrote a scathing attack of Republican front-runner Donald Trump. (Full disclosure: just like all of the other candidates, Donald Trump is a sinner.) However, Moore overlooked the sins of Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton—being less than forthcoming regarding Benghazi, supporting Planned Parenthood and favoring gay marriage. Current polls show the leading Republican candidate is Donald Trump—a man that Moore, speaking on behalf of Southern Baptists, officially despises even more than Megyn Kelly does. Moore has been silent, however, in the face of news stories like the murder of the broadcasters in Roanoke, Virginia, and the plight of Kentucky’s Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis. Moore speaks when I would be silent and remains silent when I would speak. Most of the time, I do not find him representing my views as a Southern Baptist in the public square. Rather, he lectures me on what he thinks my views ought to be.
I love Southern Baptists and I always will. But increasingly, I don’t even know who these people are who are wearing our label. Some of our missionaries are using verses from the Koran in an attempt to lead people to Christ, identifying as Muslims on a technicality when they are Christians. This deception is wrong.
I don’t want to support that. I also don’t want to pay for anti-missions, Godfather offers, the tuition of BINO’s, the amateurism of MINO’s or the annoying partisan posturing of a man who claims to speak for Southern Baptists but is steering us so far leftward that he clearly does not speak for me. I will never leave the Southern Baptist Convention. But increasingly, it is leaving me. If I believe in the direction of the SBC less and less, then how can I be expected to give to it more and more?