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

November 2, 2011


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.

The Theological Aspect

The presenting problem, as it has been described in all the published reports, is the theological problem that the other churches in the Daviess-McLean Baptist Association (DMBA) found the strong Calvinism of Pleasant Valley Community Church to be unpalatable. The brief DMBA statement unfortunately offers an overly abbreviated their discussion of this issue, rather than providing a more detailed discussion. As reported in the Associated Baptist Press story, the Credentials Committee noted that the doctrine of Pleasant Valley Community Church was “Calvinistic in nature,” and “affirms the doctrine of election and grace.” Clearly, this alone would not make the doctrine of Pleasant Valley Community Church unbaptistic. Article V of the Baptist Faith and Message is entitled “God’s Purpose of Grace,” and begins with the words, “Election is the gracious purpose of God, according to which God regenerates, justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies sinners. It is consistent with the free agency of man, and comprehends all the means in connection with the end.” So belief in election and grace would make a church’s doctrine baptistic, not unbaptistic. The association would have to go into much greater detail than their statement does (at least, the part of it quoted in published reports) to clarify what they found problematic in PVCC’s doctrine. It would have been especially helpful to us outside observers had the association been more specific about the doctrinal issue involved.

However, from what we can discern about Pleasant Valley Community Church, its doctrine was apparently so obviously and distinctively Calvinistic that a more detailed statement seemed unnecessary to the association for this purpose.  It was sufficient for the Credentials Committee to note that “we do recognize that it [the theology of PVCC] is vastly different than the majority of churches within the DMBA.”  The association voted 104-9 to deny admittance to Pleasant Valley Community Church to DMBA. This wasn’t a close vote. This indicates that the doctrine of PVCC was well known among the ministers in the association, and it was significantly different in some important ways.

It is not surprising that that the overwhelming majority of pastors in this or another association would differ in doctrine from a church that is strongly and exceptionally Calvinist in its doctrine. LifeWay statistics indicate that 90 percent of Southern Baptist pastors are not five point Calvinists. If most associations were minded to deny or remove from membership all Reformed churches, the majority of most associations could do so merely by voting their own doctrinal beliefs. In fact, however, few associations have denied membership to churches over the doctrines of Calvinism, and the pastor who nominated PVCC for membership in DMBA was not a five-point Calvinist. By and large, associations that are made up predominantly of non-Calvinist churches have been accepting of Calvinist churches into their fellowship. So what made PVCC stand out so much from DMBA?

The “Pastor of Preaching and Vision” of Pleasant Valley Community Church, recent Southern Baptist Theological Seminary graduate Jamus Edwards (whose picture reflects a handsome young man), downplayed his church’s distinctive Calvinism to the Western Recorder, telling them that the church does not self-identify as Calvinist because it is not “helpful in most contexts” but rather “distracting and largely misunderstood, precisely like it was in this situation with the DMBA.” However, Edwards’ statement seems a little disingenuous in light of a number of factors. First of all, not only did PVCC refrain from using “Baptist” in their name, but also rather than making the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 their confession, the church has its own 60 page doctrinal confession instead, which is unambiguously Calvinistic. For example, the PVCC confession affirms hard determinism:

“From before the foundation of the world, in order to display His glory, God freely and unchangeably ordained all things that would come to pass. From the casting of the lot, to the bird falling from the sky, to the activities of the nations, to the plans of politicians, to the secret acts of individuals, to what will happen to us tomorrow, to scheduling the very day that we will die, God has written our stories and the stories of the entire universe.”

 

Also in the PVCC confession, God’s absolute predestination of everything that happens includes “the results of His plan of salvation as set forth in the Gospel of Jesus Christ” in double predestination:

“We believe that God’s election is unconditional — from Old Testament Israel to individual sinners. That is, from before the foundation of the world, God chose in His grace to save for Himself an elect people through Jesus Christ. God’s choice of His elect was in no way affected, or conditioned by, some merit or deed that He foresaw these individuals would possess. Neither (as many argue) did God make His choice based upon those whom He foresaw ‘would’ have chosen Him of their own will and accord.”

 

Another piece of evidence – PVCC’s strong identification with the Acts 29 Network – undermines Edwards’ claim that PVCC does not self-identify itself with Calvinists. Edwards has an interview in the Acts 29 Network website in which he clearly identifies PVCC with that group (giving special appreciation to the influence of Mark Driscoll on his life). Since the Acts 29 confession requires agreement with Calvinistic theology (note Acts 29 doctrine four, being “Reformed” in its view of salvation) as a prerequisite for participation, it appears that Edwards should have at least qualified his statement somewhat. Indeed, it is evident from the article that PVCC sought the approval of the Acts 29 Network before it sought membership in the DMBC.

Furthermore, Edwards states in the interview that in becoming pastor he “inherited an unbiblical leadership model (church government structure).” [Edwards does not describe specifically what this “unbiblical leadership model” was, but one could imagine that it was a polity common in Baptist churches, and perhaps closer to the polity outlined in the Baptist Faith and Message than PVCC’s elder-led polity]. Edwards continues: “In an effort to transition out of this unbiblical model, we took over a year to teach through 1 Timothy and the biblical model for church government. The Scriptures began to do the work and eventually the church body eagerly accepted the elder-led model.”  However Pastor Edwards reads 1 Timothy 3, the chapter that discusses the qualifications and responsibilities of the two scriptural offices in a New Testament church, it cannot possibly advocate the Presbyterian elder-led model as opposed to Baptist polity – in fact, the word “elder” doesn’t even appear in that chapter! Edwards obviously appears to be reading his Calvinistic theology into Scripture, rather than allowing Scripture to determine his theology.

So, taking all this evidence into account, it appears that Edwards’ claim that the church did not self-identify as a Calvinist fellowship is somewhat inaccurate. In fact, the church took a number of steps to distinguish themselves from other Baptist churches in name and doctrine, and sought to align themselves with Calvinistic groups before seeking membership in the DMBC. This unambiguous Calvinism was evident to the other churches in DMBA.

This is not the first time or the only issue that the Daviess-McLean Baptist Association has chosen not to be in fellowship with a church whose doctrinal views significantly differed from the other churches in the association. As the Associated Baptist Press story mentioned, DMBA voted 242-24 to withdraw fellowship from the Journey Fellowship (formerly named Seven Hills Baptist Church in Owensboro) because they hosted a group which they viewed as accepting or endorsing homosexuality. So the DMBA does not appear to be on a one-issue “witch hunt” about Calvinism, but is interested that the churches in the association be of like faith and practice in the interest of unity. This concern for doctrinal agreement is commendable. In fact, associations in general tend to be rather generous (perhaps overly so at times) in allowing for doctrinal diversity and respecting local congregational autonomy. For example, Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas has been removed from membership from both the Southern Baptist Convention and the Baptist General Convention of Texas because of their open advocacy of a homosexual lifestyle, but last I heard, they are still members in good standing with the Tarrant Baptist Association.

However, returning to the DMBA issue, as we often discover in counseling, it is often the case that the “presenting issue” cited as the problem at the beginning of the conversation turns out to be not the major issue when the problem is explored in greater depth. It becomes evident that there is some other deeper issue which is the most basic problem. While I’m confident that discussions about Calvinist doctrine were an important aspect of these discussions, it seems to me that the doctrinal issue was more of a “presenting issue” than a “real issue.” That leads me to the next section, the Attitudinal Aspect.

The Attitudinal Aspect

As the Baptist Press story on this issue underscored (and this has been confirmed to me by persons familiar with the situation and have talked with some of the persons involved), although it appears that there were doctrinal issues involved in denying membership to PVCC, the issues involving Calvinism did not appear to be the primary problem.  (The Baptist Press story brought out this attitudinal aspect more, while the Associated Baptist Press story underscored the theological aspect of the decision). Indeed, according to published reports, the association’s Credentials Committee said, “Ultimately, we were not satisfied that Pleasant Valley Community Church would be sympathetic with the purpose and work of the body of the DMBA,” and expressed concern about “an overall lack of the key elements of cooperation found in patience, humility, kindness, compassion and gentleness” from PVCC.

The Daviess-McLean Baptist Association committee openly acknowledged in their documents that the Pleasant Valley Community Church’s doctrine was not heretical or aberrant. According to published reports, the Credentials Committee findings stated that “We believe the teaching of Pleasant Valley Community Church to be sound in their doctrine,” and that “We know the doctrine is not heresy.” Clearly, then, the association had no question about the fact that PVCC was not aberrant or heretical in doctrine, but they did “recognize that it is vastly different than the majority of churches within the DMBA.” So, although the “presenting issue” in this case was doctrinal, it would appear that this was not just the doctrinal issue, and in fact, the issue clearly appears to be primarily one of fellowship, not doctrine.  It may be (and this is just my speculation) that the mention of Calvinism in the decision was directed more toward the nexus of negative attitudes and actions sometimes associated with some neo-Calvinists than purely the theological issues per se.

One public relations or image problem being experienced by contemporary neo-Calvinism is that the negative attitudes and actions of a few have come to stereotype the whole. This is not an observation made only by persons on the opposite side of this issue. Calvinists and other non-agenda driven friends such as Ed Stetzer, Joe Thorn (and here), Dave Miller, William Thornton (and here), Howell Scott, and others have expressed concern and even embarrassment about some neo-Calvinists who express these attitudes. As they correctly note, these attitudes give “angry Calvinists” (and their Lord) a bad name. It was a high Calvinist who taught me the term “Calvinazis,” referring to a fringe group of neo-Calvinists who sometimes exemplify strongly negative attitudes and actions at times. They characterize persons of this ilk as sometimes being angry, argumentative, arrogant, belligerent, combative, contemptuous, divisive, and schismatic. By no means are these attitudes represented by all or most neo-Calvinists, and nor am I suggesting that these attitudes were necessarily represented by anyone associated with PVCC. However, it is the nature of such stereotypes that the negative attitudes and actions of a few can color the reputation of the many. In this cyberspace age, a pastor of a small Reformed church plant can have as much or more impact through the evangelical blogosphere as larger church pastors and respected leaders. The extreme actions of a few color the perceptions of the many. Hence there is need for more circumspect neo-Calvinists to attempt to control those within their own fellowship who are more extreme in expressing these negative attitudes and actions (as many of the articles cited above sought to do).

The 104-9 vote by the messengers of local churches in Daviess-McLean Baptist Association to deny admittance to Pleasant Valley Community Church suggests that DMBA had experienced some problems with the attitudinal perspectives expressed by PVCC in a way that made the churches in DMBA reluctant to enter into fellowship with them. This was evidently why, despite acknowledging that PVCC had no doctrinal error, the member churches of the association agreed with the Credentials Committee that “ultimately” there was reason to doubt that “Pleasant Valley Community Church would be sympathetic with the purpose and work of the body of the DMBA,” and that PVCC demonstrated “an overall lack of the key elements of cooperation found in patience, humility, kindness, compassion and gentleness.” It was evidently the offensive attitudes that were exhibited by PVCC (as perceived by the member churches of DMBA), perhaps some of the attitudes stereotypically associated with some neo-Calvinists, which led the DMBA to choose to deny membership to PVCC in DMBA. The churches of DMBA (by overwhelming numbers) evidently valued harmony and unity in the association over the inclusion of a church whose leadership had already given the churches in DMBA a perception that they were lacking in cooperativeness and gentleness of spirit.

Conclusion

Let me say again that my knowledge of this situation is limited and from outside the situation, so it is possible that I may have read the situation incorrectly. But this is the sense I got from reading the published reports and talking with people familiar with the situation. In Part 2 of this article, I will suggest some possible implications of the DMBA decision for future similar situations in other churches and associations in the SBC.

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volfan007

I’m sure that there was much more to this situation than what many bloggers knew. Many bloggers started commenting on this situation, who had absolutely no idea what all was going on, and didnt really know anything about this. Yet, they wrote condemning the Association. I think your post fairly spells out the issues that are available for people to see. Thanks.

Also, in the Association I’m a part of, we had to deny membership to a Church due to their accepting people as members, who had been sprinkled, instead of immersed. Some other people also didnt like the aggressive Calvinism that this Church seemed to be a part of. They were also Acts 29 friendly, and a friend of the Founders. But anyway, the Credentials Committee and the Assoc. could not go along with the baptism belief of this Church, mainly.

David

Bill Mac

Dr. Lemke,

Are you suggesting that elder-led polity out of harmony with the BFM, or simply this particular church’s elder-led polity? If the former, could you elaborate?

Hershael W York

Well, you certainly proved the wisdom of the dictums you ignored.

    Tim Rogers

    Dr. York,

    What has Dr. Lemke ignored? I do not think it was Dr. Lemke who publicly tweeted against an autonomous association’s decision without knowing the facts. At least Dr. Lemke admitted he was not trying to decipher who was right and who was wrong. He merely is stating the “facts” as presented in the media. Where did you get your “facts” from for your tweet? The morning after the vote you were already saying;

    “I am grieved that the Daviess-McLean Association last night refused to admit the Pleasant Valley Community Church because they are reformed.”

    “Because they are reformed” is not the only reason according to the news reports. Their radical reformed/Acts 29 connections is more accurate. Thus, according to your logic you would see a partnership with Acts 29 to plant churches as a good thing?

    Blessings,
    Tim

Bruce

I would love to hear you elaborate on your concerns about polity. I know these brothers from Pleasant Valley. The un-biblical leadership they inherited was a group of lay people made up of men and women who, in the absence of a pastor, were making decisions for the church.

Now their leadership is made up of 4 elders/pastors. 3 men on staff and 1 lay. There are also many deacons ordained and functioning within the church.

Do you take issue with this model? Do you think the previous model was better? I think you were wise in your pre-requisites for discussing this. When you are unaware of details it’s better not to speak.

These brothers were the ones trying to humbly associate with others that were unlike them. Seems the un-cooperative chose not to cooperate.

    Steve Lemke

    Bruce,
    A couple of further responses. You say: “The un-biblical leadership they inherited was a group of lay people made up of men and women who, in the absence of a pastor, were making decisions for the church.” In Baptist terms, we would say that a Church Council or Leadership Team was functioning in the interim to provide leadership in the absence of a pastor until one was called. So, by this statement you are agreeing with Pasor Edwards that this interim leadership was “un-biblical”? Could you point out specifically in Scripture where such an interim measure is ruled out? Are you saying that it is “un-biblical” for churches without pastors to have any interim leadership structure of volunteer leaders to make operational decisions until a pastor is called?

    Second, you cite your personal knowledge of the PVCC leadership — “I know these brothers from Pleasant Valley.” Then you (and Hershael) chided me for consciously but cautiously suspending the “dictums,” saying, “When you are unaware of details it’s better not to speak.” You then presented the judgment that “These brothers were the ones trying to humbly associate with others that were unlike them. Seems the un-cooperative chose not to cooperate.” So, unless you’re disobeying the dictum, in making this rather harsh judgment of the churches in the association, you’re saying you know all the 104 church messenters people who voted against admitting PVCC into DMBA, particularly their motives for doing so? You really believe that the PVCC elders were totally and completely humble and cooperative at all times? You think how they respond to people with whom they agree at Southern Seminary is the same they respond to people with whom they disagree? And you believe that the messengers of not one, not five, not ten churches, but 104 messengers of many churches were all mean-spirited, arrogant, and uncooperative? Really? I think you know by common sense that it isn’t that simple. That’s what you see on the cartoons on Saturday morning, not in real life.
    swl

Steve Lemke

Bill Mac,
My main point was not to critique the church governance of PVCC, but to point out the rather inflexible description in the Acts 29 interview that the previously existing church governance was “unbiblical.” I was suggesting that although the pastor of PVCC said they didn’t identify themselves as Calvinist for pragmatic reasons, in fact his language in this interview seemed to suggest greater inflexibility.

As for my own view, I believe that the Bible allows some leeway about methodology, though as a Baptist I believe that there is a preferred way. And I believe I have biblical reasons for affirming the Baptist position. But I wouldn’t describe the Episcopalean or Presbyterian forms of church governance as “unblbiblical,” since there is some biblical basis for them. I just believe they are not the best forms of church governance.

Concerning “elder-led” church governance, I’m not quite sure exactly what this language refers to — it could be synonymous with pastor-led, staff-led, or elder rule. If it is either of the first two, I believe it can be consistent with the ecclesiology in the BF&M as long as the congregation is the ultimate (earthly) authority in decisions, i.e., “Each congregation operates under the Lordship of Christ through democratic processes” (Article VI). Elder rule would violate both congregational governance and the identification of pastor and deacon as the two scriptural offices. My disappointment was that the pastor made no reference to congregational governance in the interview. I was a bit surprised that the pastor mentioned in the interview that a study of 1 Timothy led to the church’s decision to endorse an “elder-led” system, when the chapter in 1 Timothy addressing the offices, job descriptions, and qualifications for church leadership — 1 Timothy 3 — deals just with the two offices of pastor/bishop and deacon, and does not mention elders. I consider “elder” to be synonymous with “pastor” or “church staff.” How about you?
swl

    Bill Mac

    Yes, I consider elder-led to be the same as pastor-led, and “led” to mean congregational polity. I personally believe plural eldership is what is taught in scripture, as well as congregational polity. Most elder-led churches that I am familiar with in the SBC are also congregational, but of course I don’t know them all.

Steve Lemke

Bill Mac,
I’m fine with what you say.
swl

David R. Brumbelow

Thanks, Dr. Lemke. Very interesting, informative article. You’ve brought out things from the news articles that others have not.
David R. Brumbelow

Steve Lemke

Bruce,
Thanks, this is helpful information about the specifics of the church governance at PVCC. Again, for the purposes of the article, the concern I was addressing was not their current church governance but the description of the former one as “unbiblical,” with reference to how the churches in DMBA got this strongly Calvinist perception of PVCC.

From what you described, I think it would be unfortunate to describe that prior leadership structure in the interim between pastors as “unbiblical.” It appears to have been just an interim means to fill in the leadership gap that was missing, and (presuming that they were appointed or authorized in some way by the congregation to be in these roles) was entirely consistent with congregational governance (or, for that matter, an elder led model). You asked if I thought the previous model was better. I think it was fine as an interim measure in the absence of a pastor. I would not favor it if there were a pastor. Pastors should be given the freedom to lead, within the constraint of congregational governance.

No, I don’t take issue with the current model at PVCC (nor did I in the article). I took issue with the statement that the prior model was “unbiblical,” and with the statement in the interview that that 1 Timothy teaches an elder-led model when the primary chapter addressing the issue, chapter 3, doesn’t even use the world “elder.”

The one thing that was absent from both the pastor’s description and your description of PVCC’s “elder-led” governance was the word “congregational.” Is their elder leadership over against and in place of congregational governance (and hence not baptistic), or is the congregation the ultimate earthly authority? From a perspective of Baptist ecclesiology, the absence of the word “congregational” in reference to polity is troubling. Hopefully, it was just assumed.

Again, I violated the dictums consciously, but I don’t know how I could have shared any perspective at all on this event with more humbly, cautiously, or tentatively than I did. I qualified virtually every statement, and restated my limitations of knowledge multiple times. I did not absolve DMBA in this, either. Let’s be fair and balanced in our assessment here.
swl

    Bruce

    Steve,
    I can affirm that PVCC is congregational. Every decision isn’t made in the shadow of Robert’s rules, but the things such as church discipline, budget, hiring and removing staff ect are made as a congregation.

    As for 1st Timothy teaching that elders are an office in the church…… Nearly every non-catholic scholar affirms that the terms overseer, pastor, bishop, and elder are all interchangeable. I think the connection between teaching that passage and the results are clear enough to be free from scrutiny.

    To quickly reply to your comments on Acts 29 and leadership. A29 is actually more lenient in admitting churches who come from varying backgrounds than the SBC. I’m not saying that is an admirable trait, rather just stating the facts. They admit Presbyterian churches along with Baptistic models.

      Steve Lemke

      Bruce,
      I think you’re bringing coals to Newcastle here about the synonymous nature of pastor/bishop/elder. We all know that. I had already pointed it out in my comments above to Bill Mac, and have expounded on it in several published articles.

      But this is chasing a rabbit. I’m sorry that the connection of this point to the flow of my argument was not clearer. The reason for bringing up this example was not to debate polity, but, as I said in several statements in the article before this example, and in a summary statement immediately after this example, I wrote: “So, taking all this evidence into account, it appears that Edwards’ claim that the church did not self-identify as a Calvinist fellowship is somewhat inaccurate.” The point was not to debate polity, but that Edwards’ use of “elder-led” as a model and his description of other models as “unbiblical” was clearly separating and distinguishing PVCC in doctrine from other churches in DMBA.

      So, here is the point: if bishop (episcopos), elder (presbuteros), and pastor/shepherd (poimea) are synonymous, what language do most Baptists use? Do most Baptist pastors call themselves “Bishop Edwards” (or whatever their name)? They could, with biblical justification, but they don’t — probably because of the natural association of bishop/episcopos with Episcopalean church governance. Do most Baptist pastors call themselves “Elder Edwards”? They could, with biblical justification, but they don’t — possibly because of the natural association of elder/presbuteros with Presbyterian church governance. So most Baptist pastors call themselves “Pastor Edwards.” So, if one were seeking to minimize your distinctiveness as Calvinists, as Pastor Edwards said he was in the interview, you would probably not describe your church governance as “elder-led” without any reference to congregational goverance, but would have said “pastor-led” or “staff-led” . . . “under congregational authority.”

      Again, my reference to this quote was just another example that PVCC used language that set them apart from the language used in most other Baptist churches. It’s not necessarily wrong language, but it was just another point that made them stand out from the other churches in the association rather than identifying with them.

      The same issue is the problematic aspect with regard to PVCC’s identification with the Acts 29 network. As you note, it is (Calvinistically oriented) Baptist churches and Presbyterian churches that identify with Acts 29 and their overtly Calvinist doctrine. You’re helping make the point that I was trying to make. By identifying with a group of Presyterian/Calvinistic Baptist churches affirming Reformed doctrine even before identifying with the Southern Baptist churches in their own association, contrary to Edwards’ assertion in the interview that their Calvinism was downplayed and understated, PVCC overtly self-identified themselves as a Calvinistic church. Again, they have every right to do that, and I would defend their right to do so under local church autonomy, but it does seem a bit disengenuous then to say that you don’t distinguish or self-identify yourself as a Calvinistic church.
      swl

Steve Lemke

Hershael,
I’m sorry to hear that you were disappointed in the article. I will note that while my comments were offered with humility, tentativeness, and were highly qualified, yours were not.

So, if you think I entirely misread the situation, how do you account for DMBA’s decision?
swl

Ron Hale

Dr. Lemke,

Thanks for helping us dissect this decision; I appreciate you words and wisdom!

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Les Puryear

Good for the Association. I hope other Associations will follow their lead.

    Joshua

    One day, there will be a Calvinistic SBC association made up of over 100 pastors. If they, Lord forbid, deny acceptance to a libertarian Arminian free-will SBC church (not self-described of course) because of a lack of doctrinal agreement, I am sure all the current “hoorah’ers” will be quite upset and feel a deep sense of injustice. Of course, most Calvinists I know think the SBC and the BF&M is wide enough for both Calvinists and non-Calvinists to associate.

    One may dismiss this as being a witch hunt, but this certainly shows a “narrowing” or “circling of the wagons” within the SBC.

      volfan007

      Joshua,

      Most of the aggressive Calvinists that I know would exclude all non-5 point Calvinists…..because they’re not 5 pointers. Most of them that I know would be for narrowing the tent down to just 5 pointers.

      So, yea, I could see that happening.

      David

      Ron Hale

      Joshua,
      That Association already exists. It’s called Founders Ministries (Associaiton). It is a non-geographical Association and they have their requirements for membership.

        Joshua

        Ron,

        Your comment is in error.

        Founders Ministries is not an association and has no membership.

        From the website founders.org: “While no formal membership exists, we encourage all those who share our vision of reclaiming the gospel and reforming churches to participate in our conferences, subscribe to the Founders Journal…”

          volfan007

          And yet, Joshua, they have a lot of Churches registered as Founders Friendly Churches. Also, Joshua, you need to go to SBC Tomorrow blog to see what Dr. Mohler said….it may shed a little light on who is excluding who.

          David

          Ron Hale

          Joshua,
          Sorry … it’s an “informal” Association — with complete listing of churches in their network.

sal

I’ve seen this before where people convince a church to yield congregational governance and to accept elder-rule and lots of doctrines. Then everyone’s equally inflexible as they imagine they’re restoring the lost church and learning lost wisdom. Others who don’t like it are forced to vote with their feet.

tom jefferson

Some folks will not be happy until the SBC, their state convention, their association, their church is just like THEY want it — everyone else is “unregenerate”.

boy, I wonder if we’ll be surprised when we get to heaven, and find that not everyone there is a calvinist, an armenian or even baptist?

come to think of it, I don’t even think Jesus wore one of these labels.

Steve Evans

Why is said church so interested in the association anyway? They already have membership in the state & national conventions. BTW, my daughter & son-in-law are attending there much to my dismay. I find their doctrinal confession of limited atonement quite troublesome. Thank you, Dr. Lemke for your fair and gracious observation. Those who fussed after the fact were nowhere to be found on the night of the vote. They had their opportunity to vote their convictions but……..

Eddie Duke

Dr. Lemke –
First of all, I would like to say thank you for a very insightful blog. We have never met, but I look forward to meeting you some day. Your analysis of the facts and ultimate conclusion was very accurate. I can say that because my name is Eddie Duke and I am the moderator of the Daviess-McLean Baptist Association and was a member of the Credentials Committee that was faced with two defining decisions over the course of this past year. Both decisions were difficult and ones which we did not take lightly, but prayerfully considered.
I am responding on my own and my opinions may not necessarily be those of neither the Credentials Committee nor the Daviess-McLean Baptist Association. I am proud of our Daviess-McLean Baptist Association and consider myself to be their number one fan. We are 56 churches that work in harmony with each other with an undying love for Jesus Christ and the communities in which we serve. We love our churches and our churches have served Christ and contributed to the overall good of both the Southern Baptist Convention and Kentucky Baptist Convention since our inception.
I am writing because I have been disappointed at the response, tweets, blogs, and comments of Dr. York and other leaders within our state convention and elsewhere expressing their “grief” and “concerns” regarding a recent decision to not bring a church that is Calvinistic in nature into the association. They almost made it appear that we looked at this church’s Acts 29 association and their Confession of Faith affirming the 1833 New Hampshire Baptist Confession, The Bethlehem Baptist Church Elder Affirmation of Faith, etc., and immediately dismissed them because they were reformed. After all, some are quick to point out, they were accepted into the Kentucky Baptist Convention and Southern Baptist Convention with no problem. Why else would we have taken the steps that we did?
Surely people that are a part of a local association realize, however, how necessary it is for churches that are a part of an association to have a spirit of cooperation and unity. Unlike the Convention, where you may or may never see these people, we see and work with these people every day. We see them at Wal-Mart, at high school football games, and we are neighbors. People in our communities identify the churches in our association as believing similarly and operating together. Honestly, Dr. Lemke, I don’t know about elsewhere, but I did take note of the Lifeway poll that 90% of pastors do not affirm Calvinism, and I will tell you that in this association, the pastors overwhelmingly are not Calvinistic. A few made that very clear at the meeting that night and of course, everyone is aware of the vote which affirmed that neither are the churches in the association. I believe you correctly labeled it as a “presenting issue” of a “theological aspect” and because their Confession of Faith did clearly indicate a Calvinistic hermeneutical viewpoint, we were initially concerned. That was the primary concern. We were not concerned because we felt Calvinism was heresy (we don’t) and we stated that clearly. We were concerned because what they believe is not what the majority of churches in our association teach and believe. Their Confession of Faith and articles of constitution are unlike any other church in our association, I assure you. With this in mind, we had to answer the “real issue” of the “attitudinal aspect” (as you again correctly stated).
Basically, since they were not like us in this regard, would it be a problem or would there be issues with them being sympathetic with the purpose and work of the body of the DMBA? I won’t restate what you have accurately quoted in this blog and I won’t go into details that we discovered while trying to satisfy our concerns. I only wish people who are making irresponsible comments would look closely at what was said here and consider that there really may be more to this story.
I am thankful our goal within the Kentucky Baptist Convention this year is “More for Christ”. We are looking forward to decreasing the events over this past year and increasing Christ and His Kingdom and His righteousness within the communities of the Daviess-McLean Baptist Association and our state. Thanks for letting me address this within this forum and thank you for your wisdom. I appreciate your heart and your service. Thanks.

    Hershael W York

    There’s more to this story that is relevant. In their very first meeting Director of Missions Jerry Tooley told pastor Jamus Edwards that PVCC could not be admitted to the association because of its doctrinal position. Jamus called me after that meeting on that very day and related that with great disappointment and a sense of disbelief. Everything after that was pretty much a foregone conclusion. One can either believe that 1) Jerry Tooley knew his association well and correctly predicted the outcome or 2) Jerry Tooley worked behind the scenes to encourage the outcome he predicted. I do not know which is true, but I know that it happened because of my own conversation with Jamus on that day and after every subsequent conversation he had with Jerry Tooley. Jerry’s dislike of anything that has a whiff of Calvinism has been known in the state for some time. Perhaps one might reasonably wonder who actually had an overall “lack of the key elements of cooperation found in patience, humility, kindness, compassion and gentleness.” Again, the association has the right to admit or exclude whomever it wants. I just hate all the “attitude” stuff thrown in to justify your actions when it was not in the official report and the discussion over the motion was almost exclusively about Calvinism. The vast majority of Baptist associations would be cut in half if we started evaluating attitudes, and those doing the evaluating will hardly live up to their own standards.

    In most associations we can’t even get members to show up. I think I counted 56 member churches on the Daviess-McLean Association website, yet the vote on PVCC membership at your annual meeting was 104-9. Many young pastors question the necessity of working with local associations and as a seminary professor I do my best to teach them the value of cooperation and working together with other churches, particularly with churches that see things a little differently. I sometimes feel like a lone voice in that regard.

    In this case a young guy who actually wants to work together presents himself and he and his church are refused. The repercussions of this will go far beyond your association or even beyond the Calvinism issue. It’s going to strike at the viability of associations themselves. This will just reinforce the feeling of so many young pastors–whether reformed or not–that it’s more of a headache than it’s worth to be involved in associations. Associations I fear, are dying. Ultimately that has ramifications if not a foreshadowing for our entire convention.

    While I affirm the right of the association to determine its membership, I am indeed grieved at the decision the association made, all the while claiming to want to do “more for Christ.” I just don’t understand how we are going to reach the lost, reverse the decline in baptisms, church membership, and cooperative program giving when we are excluding churches that are completely within the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 (though I understand your association still affirms only the 1963 statement) from working with the association. I think in all honesty you should change your association’s doctrinal statement to reflect the position you enforced.

    Ironically, the Pleasant Valley Baptist Church is getting along great with other churches and is going to be featured for their mission work during the IMB report at the Kentucky Baptist Convention. Furthermore, if PVCC were admitted, it would actually be second in rank in baptisms in the association. In other words, PVCC has more baptisms in the past year than every church in the association except one. PVCC had 50 baptisms last year! Many times I have heard those who disagreed with a reformed position do so on the basis that it harms missions and evangelism (Adoniram Judson, Hudson Taylor, and a host of others notwithstanding), but that is hardly the case here. PVCC would be a pacesetting evangelistic church that others in the association would do well to emulate.

    I truly do not mean to be cantankerous, in spite of my original droll comment to Dr. Lemke. And the last thing I am trying to do is beat the Calvinist drum. I’m every bit as upset with Calvinists who won’t work cooperatively with others and question the gospel commitment of anyone who sees it differently and I might be the only guy in the SBC who thinks we should be back in the Baptist World Alliance. So my concern is genuinely not about that. It’s really about “More for Christ” and the vast task that lies before us. Unlike many commentators who aren’t vested in Kentucky and don’t work with all these churches, I am and I do.

    In my association, the Franklin Association, we have churches that are definitely not reformed, churches that are, a lot of churches that don’t know the difference, and even at least one Acts 29 network church. We get along. We aren’t threatened by one another. We work together. We’re building an orphanage in Haiti together as an association, and though we have slightly different views on parts of Scripture and interpretations of the doctrines of grace and though we fall at different points on the continuum of theology within the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, the orphans we are caring for don’t seem to notice. And we’ll do more for them and we’ll do it better because we are doing it together. Last year we worked together to reach our community in the Find It Here campaign. Now we’re trying to do More for Christ. My church has raised it’s CP giving from 10% to 12% in two years, and we’re not asking about either the degree of reformed theology or the attitude of those who receive our funds. We know that a lost world demands all of us to unite behind the gospel and penetrate the darkness, and that we do it better together than apart. Baptists cooperate.

      Steve Lemke

      Thanks for your comments, Hershael. I do hope we in the SBC can find ways to work together constructively for the sake of the Lord and His Kingdom.
      swl

        volfan007

        Hershel,

        With all due respect, I’m really growing weary of hearing how we’ve got to bend over backwards and bow to every whim of every “young person” in order to keep them from taking thier marbles and going home.

        David

          volfan007

          Maybe if the “youngsters” are gonna have the attitude of “do everything my way, or else I’ll leave;” then it’d be best to say, “God bless….have a nice life.”

          I’ve been hearing this said over and over again for the past….oh, how many years in Southern Baptist land….I’m not sure….but, I’m really getting sick of hearing that arguement used for everything under the Sun. It seems to me that the “youngsters” should be willing to give a little, as well….because the older ones have given much.

          David

      puzzled

      Your comments about the Director of Missions of the DMBA are out of line. Very unprofessional.

        puzzled

        – Kenny Rager, Pastor of Living Faith Baptist Church (part of the DMBA), and served on the Credentials Committee

          volfan007

          Puzzled,

          I’m puzzled about who you are directing your comment toward, and is that who you are, Kenny Rager?

          David

          Kenny Rager

          David,

          yes my name is Kenny Rager. I originally worte “puzzled” as a topic header, because I was puzzled at Dr. Yorks comments. I know Jerry Tooley personally and I can assure you that he was not a “master mind” manipulator, as suggested in this comment. Jerry really did have a pulse beat of this association, and he cares deeply for it.He Loves the Lord and leads well. In my opinion, I find it very strange that someone would make such comments about Jerry Tooley without personally talking to Jerry himself. In addition to that, one must remember that this association is autonomous and it makes its own decisions. The DMBA is a good organization, and I have been thankful to serve on the Credentials Committee and to be part of it. I do wish the best for PVCC, and I believe they have been very gracious and polite in their responses to the decision. I was very pleased with their statement, and it showed good character. On the other hand, Dr. York’s comments about Jerry Tooley did not.

      peter lumpkins

      Dr. York,

      Your statement is pure hearsay. The DOM has not been mentioned in any reports. Nor has he made a public statement about this. If he has, please show where it is. If he hasn’t, you’re going on sheer hearsay no better than a piece of gossip. Please, brother, if you’re going to contribute to the argument, let’s stick to what we may point to as public information.

      The truth is, I talked to the DOM myself. And, I talked to CC members, one of which I served with in another association. I’m confident of his integrity. But I will not divulge what he mentioned on this blog as “proof” of anything.

      That said, Dr. York you owe the DOM an apology. We’re all going to have to do better than your unacceptable tale-bearing if we ever hope to get along.

      With that, I am…
      Peter

Kelly Randolph

I just want to know if this association is going to disfellowship other churches with “attitude problems” whose doctrine is not Calvinistic.

Steve Lemke

Eddie,
Thanks for sharing your affirmation of this account, as one who was intimately familiar with the circumstances involved.
swl

Debbie Kaufman

Eddie, I respectfully ask this question, but where have the blogs and leaders who have spoken out been wrong? You denied this church because they were Calvinist according to what I am reading in your comment. That is what the blogs and some in leadership are disagreeing with, so where is the wrong information?

Eddie Duke

Dr. York – Thanks for your response. I appreciate you bringing something out that needs to be added. There are several who are going to read this blog and not know Jerry Tooley other than what they just read that you wrote. Let me say that Jerry Tooley is a great friend to the churches and pastors that serve in the Daviess-McLean Baptist Association. He is loved and has been faithful here as the Associational Missionary for 12 years now. You speak to those who know him (even those who don’t necessarily agree with him) and you will find people have very positive reflections. I believe his record of consistent and Godly leadership speaks adequately for itself. I am not sure people would get that impression if it were based solely on what you wrote.

It’s also interesting to me that you have based your conclusion and findings solely upon talking to the leadership of PVCC and not once have you attempted to contact myself or any other member of the Credentials Committee as far as I am aware. As a result, I do not believe you have arrived at a fair assessment.

Eddie Duke

Debbie – Thanks for your response. We based our report on concerns that we had as to the nature of Calvinism and how it related to the other churches within our Association. By the way, isn’t it interesting the response that this has received? The emotions of anger and … division. Where I believe leaders have erred is that they have attacked this decision by an autonomous association without fully understanding the dynamics that were involved in this decision.

    volfan007

    Eddie,

    Anger, strife, and division seems to be what aggressive Calvinism always stirs up. This seems to be an unfortunate pattern that has been repeated time after time in Church after Church. Aggressive Calvinism has led to many Churches having strife and division. I’m afraid that we’re in for a lot more of this in the future.

    Sad, aint it?

    David

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