Dear NAMB Trustees,
As the pastor of a Southern Baptist Church happy to partner with NAMB in the planting of new Southern Baptist churches, let me thank you for all that you are doing for His Kingdom. I assure you the request I am making in this correspondence stems from a profound sense of gospel stewardship and an unwavering belief that those churches who participate through the North American Mission Board in planting new churches deserve to receive a complete disclosure of any and all information deemed helpful in understanding our mutual work.
The concept of a coalition united around the spread of the gospel of Jesus Christ is unassailable for a Great Commission Christian such as myself. In fact, I belong to just such a gospel coalition formed in 1845 and still going strong. It is known, of course, as the Southern Baptist Convention. Interestingly, this word coalition often has political connotations rather than religious ones. Millions of Southern Baptists do not realize there exists a certain coalition, with members inside and outside the SBC, united around a particular theological view and ministry philosophy. This organization is known as The Gospel Coalition.
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).