Dr. Dan Nelson, Pastor, First Baptist Church, Camarillo, CA
7. . . . that we are controlled by a Hierarchy
First, the Bible does not teach that we should have a hierarchy of religious officials over the church. Pastors lead the congregation as a spiritual leader while the deacons assist him. We have already asserted the independence and authority of the local church. We are a part of several groups: our denominational offices in our local association, state conventions, and then the national convention.4 These groups could not control us if they wanted. The local church calls the pastor, sets the types of ministry we will have, and the amount of money they will send to the denomination for their missions.
Baptists do not believe in human heads over churches. We were not started like the Methodists by Wesley, or Lutherans by Luther, or Reformed by Calvin. Instead, we can say there was not a time in the Post-Apostolic age when Baptists began.5 We believe our teachings are in line with what churches in Acts taught and what Christ commissioned them to do. Christ is our head. It is his church according to Matt. 16:18.
8. . . . that we are forced to believe in certain positions as a denomination
A denomination is a group of churches that voluntarily choose to work together and have similar beliefs. Our church is not bound to amendments passed at the Southern Baptist Convention. We are not given positions that we must take in order to be Southern Baptists.6 The debate over Calvinism is an example of this. There is enough latitude in our denomination to arrive at different interpretations on matters that do not impact salvation or the person and the work of Christ.
We do not subscribe to creeds or traditions as equal to Scripture. We have a common statement of faith that is a consensus of what fellow churches believe. When a church departs from these affirmations and ceases to identify with these teachings, the SBC acknowledges it.
Paul did not have the final authority to decide for the church in Corinth in the matter of the immoral man still serving in 1 Cor. 5:1-5. Instead, he urged them to act as a body to correct the error. They were responsible for their own church.
Dr. Dan Nelson, Pastor, First Baptist Church, Camarillo, CA
The disciples were first called Christians at Antioch by people who saw their lives. They assumed they were like Jesus by how they lived. All of us have been confronted by people who think they know what Baptists believe and practice. If these practices have not been associated with Baptists, however, they are wrong assumptions.
Today people have formed wrong assumptions based on misinformation and wrong conclusions. What are these wrong assumptions?
1. . . . that the Church is a Denomination (Acts 14:23)1.
Baptists believe every church is an independent autonomous body of baptized believers. We have no such thing as the Baptist church. We are affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention for purposes of missions and fellowship. Other groups refer to themselves as a universal entity. Yet, the Bible makes the distinction in Acts 14:23 where Paul was assisting in the ordination of leaders in every church.
This is important because what any cooperating Baptist does is not top down but from the local church on up. We are not controlled by other higher bodies. We think the local church has the authority to decide in matters of faith and practice. Therefore, we think every believer ought to be in a local church. Paul explains that we need to do more than just profess our faith in Christ, more than just participate in a universal fellowship of believers known as the kingdom of God; we need to take an active role in our communities because the church is local.
2. . . . that believer’s baptism by immersion is just another form of baptism.
Infant or adult sprinkling is never taught in the Bible. Instead, the word transliterated baptism (baptizo) always means immerse or dunking in water.2 That is how Jesus was baptized, and that is how the early church baptized. (Matt. 3:15-17, Rom. 6:4). They did not sprinkle.
We do not accept any other mode of baptism as a valid form of New Testament baptism. It may have been meaningful to you; but we ask you to be immersed as a believer in order to show that you follow Christ, that you believe in the gospel, that you have died to life without Christ, that you are raised to walk in Him, and how we will be resurrected. No other method pictures this.
Wes Kenney presented a motion during the convention at Orlando that was referred to the Executive Committee. The following is the motion in full:
I move that the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Orlando, Florida, June 15-16, authorize the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention to consider any church’s affiliation with the Alliance of Baptists to constitute an action to affirm, approve, or endorse homosexual behavior.
Some may try to call this “guilt by association”, but it allows the Executive Committee the authority to make a determination during the year instead of waiting six or seven months after an incident. Also, it keeps precious business time from being consumed on the convention floor.
The catalyst for this motion was the DC City Council bill that was passed legalizing same sex marriage. The bill presented to the DC City Council was based on a Declaration that was authored by Clergy United for Marriage Equality. This group has for its members an area DC Baptist pastor the Rev. Dr. Amy Butler. Dr. Butler is Senior Pastor of Calvary Baptist church in Washington DC. Calvary Baptist, while not sending messengers to the convention, is sending ACP information to the Southern Baptist Convention and thus is listed as a Southern Baptist Church. Also if you scroll down to the signatories of this declaration one will find Rev. Stan Hastey, Alliance of Baptists. Rev. Hastey is not just a representative of the Alliance of Baptists but he is Executive Director of this group The Alliance issued a position statement on same sex marriage back in 2004 as follows:
“Affirming that our federal and state constitutions exist to protect the rights of minorities from the tyranny of the majority and in the context of the current debate over same-sex marriage, we of the Alliance of Baptists decry the politicization of same-sex marriage in the current presidential contest and other races for public office. We specifically reject the proposed amendments to the constitution of the United States and state constitutions that would enshrine discrimination against sexual minorities and define marriage in such a way as to deny same-sex couples a legal framework in which to provide for one another and those entrusted to their care.
As Christians and as Baptists, we particularly lament the denigration of our gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender sisters and brothers in this debate by those who claim to speak for God. We affirm that the Alliance of Baptists supports the rights of all citizens to full marriage equality, and we affirm anew that the Alliance will ‘create places of refuge and renewal for those who are ignored by the church’.”
While many in the Alliance openly affirm same sex marriage the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship is not quite ready for that step, or is it?
This recent article reporting a break-out session that was attended by nearly 300 persons is one reason we see a need for the Kenney motion. While Kenney’s motion does not identify the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship it may not be long before a motion similar in language may be needed. Why would I say such a thing? Notice the position one of the presenters at the 2010 Cooperative Baptist Fellowship gathering takes. George Mason, Pastor of Wilshire Baptist in Texas presented the following thoughts in a break-out session of approximately 300.
“I can tell you that my mind has changed and I am seeing differently on this over time.” That has disappointed some people, he said. “As a pastor, I have known the pain of people who have left the church I serve because I was too conservative about the matter – and people who have left because I was too liberal about the matter.”
“A family conversation about same-sex orientation is not necessarily about behavior,” Mason said. “Some people think different orientations don’t exist, that there is only acting gay and sinning as a result. Others say people are simply born one way or the other.”
“I’m not certain about either position,” Mason said. “It seems that people are more on a continuum about their orientation. That’s uncomfortable.”
Mason noted that the few biblical texts that mention homosexual behavior are more likely to be about specific acts like rape or pederasty, and that “the Bible seems to be silent about orientation.”
It appears that now the position of non-committal is the favored position of the CBF. There is only one step left for this organization to take and that is the position of orientation. Orientation is the only viable position left for those that want to say they believe the Bible but be seen as scholarly by the academy. In the orientation position the ungodly behavior is not the fault of the person it is the fault of the Creator. If the CBF position of non-committal prevails, I believe, within five years the position on same sex marriage of the CBF will be the same as the Alliance of Baptists.