Category: Associational News

Thoughts on the Daviess-McLean Baptist Association Decision
about Pleasant Valley Community Church
Part 2: Reflections on the Significance of What Happened

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Thoughts on the Daviess-McLean Baptist Association Decision
about Pleasant Valley Community Church
Part 2: Reflections on the Significance of What Happened



By Dr. Lemke, Provost, Professor of Philosophy and Ethics, occupying the McFarland Chair of Theology, Director of the Baptist Center for Theology and Ministry, and Editor of the
Journal for Baptist Theology and Ministry at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.


Reflections on the Daviess-McLean Decision

In Part 1, I shared my perceptions (from admittedly incomplete knowledge) about the decision of Daviess-McLean Baptist Association (DMBA) to deny the membership request from Pleasant Valley Community Church (PVCC). The main point was that although theological issues were involved in the decision because of the strongly Calvinistic doctrine of PVCC, the decision appears to have been based more on attitudinal issues by PVCC that the member churches of DMBC felt could be divisive. Here are some brief reflections on my understanding of the significance of the association’s decision to deny membership to PVCC, and the implications of this action for other churches and associations as we move forward.

(1)   The local church is the center of (earthly) authority in Baptist polity. Local church autonomy is a distinctive Baptist belief (as I have discussed). The local churches in Daviess-McLean Baptist Association were perfectly within their rights to deny membership to Pleasant Valley Community Church. This determination was made not by associational officials, but by duly authorized messengers from the member churches of DMBA. They were voting as representatives of their own local church, not as representatives of the association as a whole. At the same time, DMBA has no authority to force PVCC to change their doctrine or practice. PVCC can worship as they choose, believe as they choose, and do church as they choose. The biblical foundation of church autonomy, of course, is the priority given to local churches in the New Testament. However, theologically it reflects that through the priesthood of believers (another Baptist distinctive), each member seeks the will of God, the headship of Jesus Christ, and the leadership of the Holy Spirit, and represents that divine leadership in voting on decisions in the church. This collective reflection of the will of God is much more reliable than putting this decision solely in the hands of a few fallible authoritarian leaders. This is a wonderful and marvelous thing that inflexible top-down hierarchical denominations like Catholics and Presbyterians “desire to look into” (1 Pet. 1:12, KJV).

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Thoughts on the Daviess-McLean Baptist Association Decision
about Pleasant Valley Community Church
Part 1: Attempting to Analyze What Actually Happened

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Thoughts on the Daviess-McLean Baptist Association Decision
about Pleasant Valley Community Church
Part 1: Attempting to Analyze What Actually Happened



By Dr. Lemke, Provost, Professor of Philosophy and Ethics, occupying the McFarland Chair of Theology, Director of the Baptist Center for Theology and Ministry, and Editor of the
Journal for Baptist Theology and Ministry at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.


News stories from the Western Recorder, from Associated Baptist Press, and Baptist Press reported last week that the Daviess-McLean Baptist Association in Kentucky chose to deny membership to Pleasant Valley Community Church, purportedly in part because of the strong Calvinism affirmed by Pleasant Valley Community Church. In this article, I want to suggest my best guess of the factors which led to this decision. In Part 2 I want to suggest what could be some implications of this decision for other churches and associations in the SBC.

Some Important Caveats

These are some wise dictums which we should normally heed as guidelines for wise living:

Dictum 1: Don’t get enmeshed in other people’s fights.

Dictum 2Don’t speak about things about which you have little knowledge, because when you open your mouth you’ll reveal your ignorance.

I’m going to risk cautiously disobeying these wise dictums in order to comment on the denial of the application of Pleasant Valley Community Church to join Daviess-McLean Baptist Association in Kentucky. (I could note that many blog commentators frequently violate both of these dictums). So let me do so with these important caveats:

(a) I do not know anyone on either side associated with this event, nor have I spoken with them personally or communicated with them. The only thing I know comes through published reports and commentaries, and a couple of conversations with persons closer to the situation who have communicated with some of the persons involved. I have not read all of the documents associated with the event. So I am writing based on the limited published information I have seen, along with some hearsay evidence. That’s not very strong evidence in a court of law or in the scholarly world, and as a former journalist I would not publish such unconfirmed opinions as a factual news story. So what I am sharing is just my opinion or speculation based on my best understanding of the limited information I have.

(b) I am not a member of a church in the Daviess-McLean Baptist Association, so I have no real standing in this discussion. This is their decision, not mine. I am simply commenting on the event as an outside observer.

 

With those important caveats in mind, I will share my perception in this Part 1 of the root causes of this event. As I best understand it, there are two primary contributing causes that led to this event – one more theological in character, and the other more attitudinal in nature. At this point, I am more interested in describing the perceptions involved than the realities involved – that is, I’m attempting to understand what perceptions may have led to this decision.  I have no way of judging the accuracy of those perceptions. Perceptions aren’t always the same as reality, but they do impact reality. Again, I want to be very clear that some of this at least to some degree speculation on my part, based on the available evidence. Then, in Part 2, I’ll suggest some implications of this decision in other associations, and propose a way that might help avoid repeated occurrences of similar events in other associations.

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Podcast Episode 12

podcast logoScheduling conflicts prevented us from recording a podcast last week, but we’re back this week with episode 12. Joe Stewart couldn’t make it, but the rest of the gang is here, along with a special guest. Bill Tomlinson, who retired to his native Virginia earlier this year after fifty years serving as pastor to churches in North Carolina and Virginia, joined us this week, and it was an honor to have him. Our conversation started with a review of a couple of resolutions passed by a couple of our associations, and wandered in all directions from there.

Listen using the player below, or subscribe in iTunes by clicking the logo in this post, or the sidebar button. Feel free to leave comments here to let us know how we can improve the podcast, and while you’re on our iTunes page, give us a review or a rating. We appreciate the feedback, and as always, thanks for listening.

Here are .pdf versions of the resolutions we discussed:

C.B. Scott and Associational Missions

In this episode of SBC Perspective, C.B. Scott joins us in the spotlight to talk about associational missions and his volunteer work for the North American Mission Board’s Associational Initiatives Team. In our news roundup, we discuss the turmoil surrounding Criswell College, recent Lambeth Conference in the Anglican Church, and other issues of interest.

We’re grateful to Peter Lumpkins for filling in on very short notice for Scott Gordon, who had an unexpected hospital visit to make. We appreciate the feedback we received on the first episode of Perspective, and hope you enjoy this one. If you know of a pastor or other leader in the SBC who should be in our spotlight, please let us know.

You can listen online by clicking the links below, or you can subscribe to our podcast in iTunes by clicking the iTunes button at the top of the right sidebar.

On Church Membership and Baptism

It was my privilege to serve as chairman of the resolutions committee of the Frisco Baptist Association (FBA) this year. We had our 114th annual meeting last night, and our committee presented five resolutions, all of which passed without opposition.

Below is the text of the longest of the five, a resolution intended to begin conversations in our churches about the disparity between our membership and our attendance. While the inspiration comes from Tom Ascol‘s two failed attempts to have the Southern Baptist Convention address this issue through resolutions, much of the text of the resolution comes from a similar resolution passed by the Missouri Baptist Convention at their annual meeting in 2006.

Some of the language is carried over from a resolution passed last year by the FBA concerning the requirement that baptism precede membership in a local church. That resolution came out of the debate surrounding Henderson Hills Baptist Church‘s consideration of dropping that requirement.

It is my hope that we will see similar resolutions adopted by associations and state conventions throughout the SBC, and that this groundswell will result in the entire convention addressing the issue, and ultimately, working toward a recovery of authentic, regenerate church membership. The resolution:

On Church Membership and Baptism

Whereas, our 2006 Annual Church Profile reveals that though we had a total of 9,698 resident members, we ran an average of only 3,034 people in Sunday School attendance, which includes non-members such as children, guests, and visitors; and

Whereas, the continual reporting of inflated membership numbers creates a distorted picture of ministry, can breed integrity problems, and perpetuates a misunderstanding of the nature and significance of membership in the local church; and

Whereas, Membership in the local church is a covenant relationship of mutual accountability and submission, both to one another and to the Lordship of Christ; and

Whereas, the church is described as a family, a flock, a body, and a temple, all of which point to the importance of mutual love, support, accountability, and interdependency among the saints (1 John 3:14; Hebrews 10:24-25; Eph. 2:19-22); and

Whereas, Baptism is chief among the doctrinal distinctives that we as Southern Baptists hold dear; and

Whereas, Baptism is a requirement, not for salvation, but for obedience to the example and to the explicit instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ; and

Whereas, The Baptist Faith and Message adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Orlando, Florida, June 14, 2000 clearly states that baptism, as one of the two ordinances of the church, is a prerequisite to the privileges of church membership (Article VII); now therefore be it

Resolved, that the messengers of the Frisco Baptist Association, in annual session October 9, 2007 affirm our belief in and commitment to the principle of a regenerate and scripturally baptized church membership, and be it further

Resolved, that we encourage our pastors to facilitate open dialogue within the churches to arrive at a greater understanding of the cause, resolution, and future prevention of inflated membership rolls. (Acts 20:28)