Monday, April 17, 2006

Why Does Greensboro Matter?

For the past few months there has been a great deal of talk in the Southern Baptist blogosphere about how the 2006 SBC Annual Meeting in Greensboro could be one of the most pivotal annual meetings in SBC history. Some have expressed a belief that Greensboro 2006 could be as significant as Houston 1979 (considered by many to be the beginning of the Conservative Resurgence). Only time will tell if that will be the case, but make no mistake, this year's annual meeting will be important for a number of reasons.

  1. At the 2004 annual meeting in Indianapolis, Jimmy Draper expressed concern about the lack of involvement in the SBC by younger people. In an effort to connect younger leaders to the SBC, Draper began the Younger Leader initiative in 2005. There will be another Younger Leader meeting on the eve of the annual meeting in Greensboro. A primary focus of younger leaders is to lead our churches, and by extension our convention, to become missional communities living as the presence of Christ in our communities. Imagine the possibilities if this missional focus permeated the entire SBC. However, many younger leaders have distanced themselves from the convention because they perceive that the convention is more concerned with power and politics than with living out the gospel. Younger leaders also feel that a number of prominent SBC leaders look down upon them because they use nontraditional methods and reach out to people who have been neglected by most SBC churches. The only way that these things will change is for younger people to get involved in the workings of the SBC and bring about these changes. We need to get involved and change the SBC or affiliate with a group that shares our vision.
  2. Also at the 2004 annual meeting, Morris Chapman stressed the need for conservatives who agree on the essentials of the faith to cooperate so that we can more effectively do the work of the Kingdom. However, what we have seen in the past few months is an effort to exclude conservative Southern Baptists on the basis of doctrines that are either nonessentials or not clearly taught in Scripture AND that are not addressed in the Baptist Faith & Message. The SBC is standing at a fork in the road: one path is the way of cooperation and unity, the other path is the way of separation and uniformity. The first path will lead the SBC to its greatest potential in reaching the world for Christ; the second path will lead the SBC to its demise as an effective means of reaching people for Christ. We must take a stand for cooperation and unity.
  3. Our SBC missions boards (NAMB and IMB) are facing difficult situations that threaten their effectiveness at taking the gospel to all people. The dust is still settling at NAMB in the wake of Bob Reccord's resignation; it is too early to predict what might happen there. The situation at the IMB is more clear, and at the moment more of a danger. For the sake of brevity I won't describe what has been happening at the IMB; if you're not familiar with these events you can go to Marty Duren's blog or Wade Burleson's blog for the best summaries and analyses of what's been happening (start with the November 2005 archives and work your way forward). If the recent actions of the IMB Board of Trustees are allowed to stand (especially the November policies), the result is going to be the loss of many God-called, faithful, committed Southern Baptist missionaries from the mission field. We CANNOT allow this to happen. While we will not be able to overturn these actions at Greensboro, if the convention expresses its disapproval then it is more likely that the trustees will reverse their actions.
  4. There is a growing effort among some within SBC leadership to suppress any dissenting voices. Policies have been passed to prohibit public dissent by trustees of the IMB. Efforts have been made to remove people who do not follow the prescribed party line. However, free and open discussion is healthy for any organization; history is filled with examples of the dangers inherent in groupthink. If the environment of the SBC continues to become more restrictive, demanding an enforced uniformity of opinion, younger people will leave the SBC in droves. We must let our voices be heard and demonstrate that true unity is NOT the same thing as uniformity. We must insist that principled dissent, which has played a pivotal role in the shaping of our convention from 1845 until the present, not be suppressed.

As you look at the list of challenges facing the SBC, you may be thinking that this annual meeting won't make any difference. I acknowledge that the needed changes won't all take place in Greensboro, nor in San Antonio. They may not even happen in Indianapolis or Louisville. But if we make the commitment, they WILL come to pass. But for this to happen, we have to take the first step, and that is Greensboro.


Jeff Richard Young said...

Dear Tim,

Great post. I agree that this is just the beginning, but it is important that we do begin!

The hardest job to finish is the one you never start.

Love in Christ,


Joel Williams said...

The reasons that Greensboro are important are exactly what you've stated. I hope YSBCers everywhere are paying attention and going. I also feel strongly that an overwhelming number of SBCers (young or old) agree with the principles you've mentioned, and want the same thing. Keep up the good work communicating!
I am praying that God uses you and that His spirit speaks through you as you preach on Sunday.
Missionary Joe