We've managed to stir up another mess in the SBC.
Well, since we've gotten so off-track with all the other messes we have in the SBC, our current national leadership, such as Johnny Hunt and some of the seminary presidents, like Danny Akin, wrote up a 10 statement article called the "Great Commission Resurgence." You can click the link and read it.
Now, I attached my digital "Doug Hibbard" to this statement, you can find me under the "H" header. I signed this because I agree with the points that are stated in it. Let's look at a few of them:
V. A Commitment to a Healthy Confessional Center. We call upon all Southern Baptists to look to the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 as a sufficient guide for building a theological consensus for partnership in the gospel, refusing to be sidetracked by theological agendas that distract us from our Lord’s Commission.
Why did I agree with this? Because we have been sidetracked before over adding things to the BF&M, and then expecting people not only to take the BF&M, but the add-ons. I think that we as Southern Baptists should be willing to work together with people that agree with our current doctrinal statement, whether they pray in tongues or not, whether they take a total abstinence view of alcohol or not, or how they interpret 'husband of one wife.' As I lead the church I pastor, I should be ok with accepting another SBC church, even if their view on these additional issues differs from mine. If we have one 'official' doctrinal statement, it should cover every issue we need to be in agreement on.
Is this exactly what the authors intended? I don't know. I'm not a fanatical listener to Danny Akin's preaching, and I'll be honest, I wasn't thrilled when Johnny Hunt was elected President of the SBC. I think we need leadership that actually understands what's going on in churches like most churches in the SBC, that run under 200. I doubt that Dr. Hunt has any idea anymore what it's like in a normal Southern Baptist church, and most seminary presidents don't see the inside of a small church, and the trustees they deal with come from bigger churches as well. So, they may be thinking of pushing other things forward, but on its face, this statement says: we agreed to the BF&M in 2000, so that's enough.
VIII. A Commitment to a Methodological Diversity that is Biblically Informed. We call upon all Southern Baptists to consider themselves and their churches to be missionaries in non-Christian cultures, each of which requires unique strategies and emphases if the gospel is to penetrate and saturate every community in North America.
This is just a good statement: it's time we realize that American culture is non-Christian too. We don't have the advantages we used to, and we need to think that way. Of course, when I see that, and think of considering ourselves as missionaries in a non-Christian culture, I think of how, in many ways, on the mission field, a lot of things that we fight about just aren't worth it. I saw this as a statement reinforcing that we need to stop splitting some of the hairs we're killing ourselves over. Does it really matter if God acts to save only the elect through hearing the Gospel, or if the elect are only the elect because God knew they would respond, or whatever (please don't give me those links. I've read them.) We are called to obediently, passionately, and with full commitment, to preach the Gospel to ALL people, ALL nations. We can let God sort out exactly how He does the saving, can't we? I can effort together with Calvinist, non-Calvinist, cessationist, non-cessationist, if what we're doing is proclaiming that Christ died for your sins, according to the Scripture, he was buried, and rose up from the grave on the third day, according to the Scriptures. (that sounds familiar, who wrote that?)
IX. A Commitment to a More Effective Convention Structure. We call upon all Southern Baptists to rethink our Convention structure and priorities so that we can maximize our energy and resources for the health of our local churches and the fulfilling of the Great Commission.
I think this is the one a lot of people have trouble with, partly because they've heard more of Danny Akin than I have, and have heard him state that some State Conventions are bloated with bureaucracy, and so they see this as leveled at their state. That may be his intent, and if it is, I'd remind him that the national level of the SBC should do a quick plank-check before speck-checking each state.
I see something different here. I see a statement that sacred cows have no place except at a cookout! There are things that we expend resources on, especially at the national level, that are not focused on the Great Commission, and those need to go. I expressed some of that in another entry on this blog. First of all, states are in a much better position to understand the needs of the churches within a state for training and help. Arkansas does a marvelous job of this, that our state convention staff is committed to the idea that they have offices in Little Rock, and headquarters in every church in the state. I've emailed a question to our state, and had people offer to drive 3 hours to help me address it. Unfortunately, not every state is as blessed as we are in Arkansas. That's for each state to address. But I signed on to the idea that this statement is encouraging each, independent, autonomous part of our denomination to consider where the money goes and what it goes to do. Then, we will trust each one to do what God directs. I'll voice my opinion here in Arkansas, in Louisville for the nation, and I'll trust you to do the same in your area.
That's a quick hash through this. I saw this more as a statement of "Let's consider, are we doing this?" Not a blanket, nobody cares, nobody does this anymore, whiny attack. Maybe if I knew the people behind it better, I'd have taken it that way, but I don't know them. For now, I'll take the statements at face value, and see what happens. I do have some reservations, though:
The first is that we'll start to fight over who signed, who didn't sign, why this person did or did not. Which we already have, so that what might have been a good idea is now looking like just another fight among the brethren. Looking back, I remember the same thing in 2000 with the BF&M rewrite. Perhaps this is going the same way, except now it will be phrased as 'this person doesn't support the Great Commission' when it is really 'this person doesn't see the need to re-emphasize what they are already giving their life to.'
The second is that this will turn into a witch-hunt or another 'sign or be fired' situation, and it will be the death of the Southern Baptist Convention if it does. Really. Because younger leaders, younger wannabe leaders (like me) will be tired of the infighting and insanity, and will instead find people to work with that want to accomplish the Great Commission. And older leaders will throw in the towel too, and lead their churches elsewhere. So, Dr. Hunt and Dr. Akin, don't push this thing. Really, don't. This cannot be a litmus test for fidelity. We did enough damage to our work by forcing career missionaries, with lifetimes of service, to sign a new doctrinal statement or be fired. And don't hang that solely on Dr. Rankin. He responded to pressure placed on him from within the powers-that-be within the SBC.
The third is that people will sign it just to go along with a movement. Or refuse to sign it just to be against a movement. I saw this as a personal commitment to consider my ways, my leadership of the church I pastor, and to examine as a participant in an association, a state, and the SBC, whether we're doing this as a whole. I signed on to do my part, not to give anyone any form of leverage against another human being.
That being said, if it turns into that type of thing, especially another instance of semi-creedalism (we're not creedal, but we sure will favor one person over another based on what they've signed or not signed) I will email the GCR website and ask my name to be taken off, and will post on this blog that I no longer find myself in agreement with it.
Until then, I remain in favor of the words and wording, based on their face value meaning, and not based on anything else.
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