Thursday, January 19, 2006

What's the Real Issue?

With so many issues facing the Southern Baptist Convention because of the recent IMB trustee actions, what is THE issue that is at the heart of the matter? Why are so many of us so passionate about what's going on?

Is Wade Burleson the issue? No. Our passion regarding these issues has nothing to do with Wade himself. While Wade is closely connected to what has been happening, few of us had even heard of the man before he voiced his opposition to the new IMB policies. Were it someone else in his position, our response would be no different. (That being said, the way Wade has conducted himself has earned our respect and admiration.)

Is Baptist polity the issue? No. While there are legitimate concerns that the IMB has violated local church autonomy by overruling the decision of a local church to determine the validity someone's baptism, most of us just don't get that excited about Baptist polity. Besides, there are instances where an SBC entity should reject the decision of a local church.

At first glance there seems to be some disagreement over what the real issue is that is behind all this mess. Jason Sampler sees the main issue as being one of doctrine and theology. He states, "My beef with the trustees is doctrinal. I disagree with their theology, or specifically the new guidelines that [they] have enacted regarding baptism and prayer languages." On the other hand, Wade Burleson has a somewhat different perspective on what the real issue is. He says, "I have tried to remind everyone in this blog that the major issue for me is NOT so much the new policy forbidding the appoint of missionaries who have a private prayer language, or even the policy that rejects prospective missionary candidates who are not baptized in a Southern Baptist church or in a church that teaches eternal security. Sure, I believe both new policies go beyond Scripture and the Baptist Faith and Message, but they are only symptoms of a deeper problem. The real problem? We are continuing to narrow the parameters of fellowship and cooperation in the area of missions and evangelism by demanding conformity and agreement on non-essential doctrines." (Emphasis Wade's.) While on the surface Jason and Wade seem to see two different issues, when you think about it they are talking about the same issue, just from two different perspectives. Doctrine lies at the heart of both of their statements. Jason's primary focus is on the doctrinal shortcomings of the new policies, while Wade's primary concern is with narrowing the parameters of cooperation on the basis of doctrinal interpretations on issues that are not essentials or that are not supported by absolutely clear biblical evidence. At least that's how I read their arguments. (If either of you read this and feel that I have misstated your views, please correct me.)

While Jason is right on the mark in his analysis of the doctrinal and theological shortcomings of the new policies, I tend to frame the larger issue similar to how Wade does. There are certain core doctrines on which the Bible clearly speaks where we would be unwise to cooperate with those who hold different views, but on secondary issues or on issues where the Bible's meaning is not explicitly clear we should be willing to cooperate for the sake of the Kingdom with those who hold different views. Drawing lines of cooperation too narrowly, especially when those lines are based on biblically dubious views, is a major mistake that will hurt our efforts to fulfill the Great Commission.

What do you see as the main issue at the heart of the IMBroglio? Why are you so interested in and passionate about what's going on?


Jason Sampler said...


Thanks for mentioning me in your post. Let me be clear, though, so that I am not misrepresented or misunderstood. I do not think THE MAIN ISSUE is the theological issue. I think it goes deeper than this. However, I feel that my greatest contribution is to this 'sub-problem'. I don't know much about convention politics or about how to provide a fundemental change in convention thinking. however, i do feel equipped to speak on the doctrinal issue of baptism.

If we are only able to make small steps, i want this to be the first. I don't know what will happen to Wade. I doubt he will be removed. However, I wish to focus my energies on the issue that I think will have the greatest probability of being changed. Do I support Wade? Yes. Do I agree that the most fundemental issue is cooperation? Yes. I will lend my support to both of these. However, i feel my gifts allow me to speak most effectively regarding Baptist doctrine.

I hope this clarifies my thougths on the matter. Thanks for allowing me to clarify.

Kevin Bussey said...


Wade Burleson said...

Excellent post.

I agree wholeheartedly

Kevin Bussey said...

I forgot to answer the 2nd part of your question.

I'm passionate because I tired of being bullied around. The SBC is my denomination and I feel there are many of us who really want to cooperate with other like-minded evangelicals for the sake of Missions both here and abroad!


Hashman said...

kdawg said, "I feel there are many of us who really want to cooperate with other like-minded evangelicals for the sake of Missions both here and abroad!"

Why can't you do that? I can cooperate with whoever I want to.
Who are you not being allowed to cooperate with.


Kevin Bussey said...

I do cooperate with them. I grew up in a Para-church family. I personally support a few para-church people $$. I feel the IMB doesn't want to cooperate with their new polices.

Tim Sweatman said...

Thanks for the explanation.

I'm with you on wanting to cooperate with "other like-minded evangelicals for the sake of Missions both here and abroad," but IMO this particular issue is more related to cooperating with fellow conservative Southern Baptists than with "other like-minded evangelicals." When we have missionary candidates who give evidence that God has called them to be missionaries, who are faithful and committed members of SB churches, and who affirm the BF&M 2000 being rejected by our SB missions agencies on the basis of doctrinal issues and/or interpretations that are neither clearly and unambiguously taught in the Bible nor addressed by the BF&M, that is a sign that we are drawing the parameters of cooperation too closely. Some will argue that the rejected candidates have other options, which is true, but having to pursue these other options will cause unneccessary delays in their arriving on the missions fiels, delays that could be avoided if we didn't draw the lines of cooperation any narrower than the BF&M (which is too narrow for some, but since we as a convention adopted it then it should be THE line of doctrinal demarcation for our missionaries).

Kevin Bussey said...

You are right Tim

Rick said...

You know, I'm in IMB missionary and the truth is, us missionaries are just not at all concerned with the new rules concerning tongues and baptism. We just want to plant churches and win people to the Lord.

Tim Sweatman said...


Glad to see that our missionaries are keeping the main thing the main thing! I know that there are quite a few missionaries who have some concerns about the future ramifications of these actions (especially if the trustees were to revisit the issue later and make the policies retroactive, which would not be unprecedented).

art rogers said...

The main issue? Power. Who has it and who does not. I know that all of the other stuff is true and a real part of the deal, but I think that the ability to control the direction of the convention is the heart and all other things flow down from there. This begs the question: "Why power? For self or for righteousness?" I can't say that I think the power brokers are in wholesale corruption, but neither do I think they seek power for purely righteous reasons, either.

I am passionate about this stuff because I have been silent too long. I have avoided the entire issue twenty years, but the truth is, my roots are deep here. I was baptized and joined First Baptist Church, Bellaire, TX when I was 12 years old. I had no idea who the guy was they brought in to speak regularly, just that he was a Judge, and that was impressive.

Over the next couple of years he came more frequently. He kept yelling about what people were saying about us and him, although I didn't understand any of it.

The year I joined? 1978, the year before we sent him, as a messenger for us to the SBC, even though he was an "Honorary Member."

Yes. I introcduced myself to Judge Paul Pressler as a 13 year old. He introduced me to his family and specifically his son who was my age, but who had had an accident and whose brain was damaged. He needed a friend and I always tried to be nice to him when I saw him.

It was probably almost ten years later before I understood what was going on, who it was that I met and the significance of my home church. I kind of feel like I was on the sidelines of history, but didn't even know what was going on. I don't want to do that again.

BTW, I put a link on my blog to yours, Tim. I hope that's ok.

Also, I currently live and minister in Russellville, right down the road. Just thought that was cool.

art rogers said...

Oh, on the upside, I doubt anyone at the IMB would question my baptism!