By Wes Kenney, Pastor, Trinity Baptist Church, Valliant, OK
At its annual meeting in Indianapolis in 2008, the Southern Baptist Convention spoke clearly on the issue of regenerate church membership. This is an area in which many SBC churches (my own included) have struggled greatly. At an earlier time in our convention’s history, it was not at all uncommon for a church with 100 members to average 200 or more in weekly attendance. We have turned that right around in the last century or so, and that’s not a good thing. We’ve taken membership and discipline far less seriously than we ought, and our witness as churches has suffered for it. It is indeed sad that a person who may have walked an aisle, repeated a prayer, and been immersed in a tank of water when they were seven years old can, at the age of 50, say with a straight face that they are a member of the church where these events took place when they have not attended a service for three decades or more. What is even sadder is that the church might be more concerned with offending someone than they are with the spiritual condition of their erstwhile “member.” Yet this situation, in some variation or other, is played out countless times in churches throughout our convention.
Southern Baptists, Racial Reconciliation, and Diversity:
A Response to Aaron Weaver
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
In a recent post on his “The Big Daddy Weave” blog site, Aaron Weaver questioned the nomination by SEBTS President Danny Akin of Fred Luter to First Vice President of the SBC this year, and the affirmation by SBTS Dean of Theology Russ Moore that Luter should be elected President of the SBC next year at the convention meeting in New Orleans. Furthermore, Weaver discounted the set of recommendations coming from the SBC Executive Committee to the Phoenix convention to make “the convention’s leadership positions more reflective of the growing ethnic diversity in its churches” as an attempt at what Weaver labeled “Affirmative Action.” Weaver’s apparent rejection of these initiatives in the SBC to engage a broader ethnic/racial diversity in the SBC cause me concern at several levels. Let me respectfully voice several of these concerns, starting with some that are less important and moving toward the more important. My primary purpose is to endorse the candidacy of Fred Luter for significant positions of leadership in the SBC, and to affirm the recommendations about greater racial diversity being brought forward at this year’s SBC convention in Phoenix.
The Elder Brother?
To be clear, Weaver is not questioning these moves because he is opposed to greater racial diversity. It doesn’t take long perusing his website (the pictures of Jimmy Carter, Walter Rauschenbusch, and Barbara Jordan among his heroes on the banner to the website might be a clue) that Weaver advocates essentially a liberal Democrat agenda. It does appear clear, however, that his raising the Affirmative Action issue is something of a smokescreen or red herring to bash SBC leadership. Weaver has hosted the website for years, but through these hundreds of posts he does not have a single prior post specifically defending or addressing Affirmative Action. There are, however, dozens of articles critical of SBC leadership. So let’s just be honest and acknowledge that the issue is not Affirmative Action in the first place, but Weaver using it as a pretense to demean SBC leaders. At best, Weaver exemplifies the attitude of the elder brother when the prodigal came back home. If the SBC has been slow to address adequately this issue of greater racial diversity, and Weaver has been further ahead on this issue, at the very least he “has an attitude” about us prodigals coming to ourselves, rather than entering into the joy of the Father for this step of progress.
By Tim Rogers, Pastor, Ebeneezer Baptist Church, Indian Trail, NC
In a recent “SBC Discussion” article for Baptist Press Trevin Wax discussed how Southern Baptists were needed by evangelicals in order to overcome splintering within the evangelical community. I have many concerns about this approach, but the main concern is a denominational employee suggesting Southern Baptists move into areas many are not willing to go. Lest we forget, Wax is employed with Lifeway, which is an entity charged with producing educational material.
In Wax’s article, Being Southern Baptist among & for Evangelicals, he relied on some phantoms as he presented his facts. It is the phantoms and facts that I want to address in an effort to offer an objective critique of the article.
1. “Many Southern Baptists looked outside the SBC for energy and support in the “battle for the Bible
While I would agree with respect to “energy,” I would argue that “support” is his phantom. Certainly there were evangelical scholars, such as the ones Wax named, that were very articulate in debating inerrancy, and many of these were in print at the time. However, the support for this battle did not come from outside of the SBC; it came from within. Grass roots Southern Baptist pastors and laymen were the catalysts. Men like Bob Tenery, who was willing to jeopardize his own ministry and who invested his own money to begin the SBC Advocate, gave the underlying support needed. The SBC Advocate was a periodical that informed pastors and laymen about the issues. Pastors of churches large and small realized if they did not make a move, it was just a matter of time before we were going to have neo-orthodoxy filtering from pulpits to the people in the pew. In some cases, such was already happening. This “support” came from many pastors whose churches could not afford to send them to conventions, yet they came on their own nickel and voted.
Dr. Jerry Nash, Director of Missions, Harmony Baptist Association, Trenton, FL
If the current trend continues there will be another attempt to change the name of The Southern Baptist Convention within the next few years. When the name changes I believe there will be thousands of SBC churches which will not make the transition.
You may remember the only word in our name which the name-change proponents agreed with is The. They are anti-Southern, anti-Baptist, and anti-Convention. I have a suggestion for those who wish to lead the SBC in a new direction. Let us agree to let the anti-SBC, anti-CP, anti-Association, anti-State Convention and pro-Primitive Baptist doctrines be blessed to go out and become whatever it is they want to be. I believe God would be honored if they left before destroying The Southern Baptist Convention.
For those of that perspective, they can take with them any seminaries that want to go. For those who believe we need only one missionary sending agency, let them take the New NAMB with them. Early indications are that the shift has already begun. Why not make it official? If we continue to support non-Baptist networks and fund non-Baptist new churches, it is only a matter of time before SBC churches will further reduce CP giving.
As more and more of our SBC churches discover the shift in direction and doctrine, there will be less and less loyal support. As in 1 Corinthians 14:8, the trumpet is making an uncertain sound. I believe there is a limit to unquestioned, lifetime loyalty to a denomination. We see it in other denominations around us.
The Southern Baptist Convention is the largest evangelical denomination in America. Our critics think we need to make major changes to become more relevant and effective. The time has come for those who not truly Baptist in faith and practice to move along and form their own convention (or whatever they want to call it) instead of trying to fix what isn’t broken.
Jerry W. Nash
Tim Rogers, Pastor, Ebenezer Baptist Church, Indian Trail, NC
There is a movement that seems to be sweeping our denomination and it is called Spontaneous Baptisms. I for one believe, if done properly, we should not be concerned with this movement. However, with every movement there comes some who refuse to adhere to the clear teaching of scripture and thus dumbs down the scriptural understanding. Therefore, I call this “Baptism-lite”. This phrase is taken from an article I saw referencing the Church of England and their uprising concerning the prayers being offered over the waters. In the Church of England their Baptism has a salvific meaning to it and as such I would vehemently disagree with their practices and their thought that the Priests prayers does something special to the water.
Steven Furtick, Pastor of Elevation Church in Charlotte, NC, in a sermon he has prepared on his website concerning how to prepare for a spontaneous baptism service expresses some things that are completely tied to scripture and some things where he abandons the scripture to fuel his own particular beliefs. Concerning the meaning of baptism Furtick says; “Baptism is an outward expression of an inward change. The reason we dunk people all the way under the water is that Jesus went all the way into the grave and came back up again.” Amen and Amen!! PREACH IT, PREACHER!!!!! “Great opportunities necessitate immediate obedience.” “Today my mom is choosing it to be her spiritual birthday.” “This has nothing to do with you joining a church.” This is where Furtick leaves the scripture. Baptism has more scriptural evidence with becoming a part of a local body than it does with identifying a spiritual birthday. Thus, the baptisms that are performed at Elevation have nothing to do with church membership because Elevation does not have a membership role. When Elevation baptizes people they view this as baptizing them into the “universal” church and nothing to do with accountability within the local community of baptized believers we refer to as the local church.