Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Return of SBC Outpost

June 27, 2007

ST. JOSEPH, MO — On Monday, July 2, 2007, the online conversation
concerning the future of the Southern Baptist Convention will move forward
as a group of prominent bloggers merge their efforts to provide a forum
for ministry ideas, missionary support, church revitalization, and
denominational reform., previously administrated by Pastor
Marty Duren of New Bethany Baptist Church in Buford, GA, will be launched
as one of the premier sites for Southern Baptist news and commentary.

Little doubt exists that blogs have dominated the conversation in Southern
Baptist life for the previous 18 months. At times, the conversation has
engaged substantive issues of theology and ministry. At others, the
dialogue has been shrill and divisive. With the launch of a newly
reformatted blog, the chance for elevating the meaningful
dialogue and limiting the intensity of contention will arrive for all
Southern Baptists.

Intentionally designed as a bridge for the diverse constituencies of
Southern Baptist life, will bring together denominational
executives with rural pastors and church planters, missional pastors with
traditional pastors, seminary theologians with Sunday School teachers, and
field missionaries with their prayer partners. The day has passed for
monopolies in news and information. will seek to
supplement, not replace, the excellent coverage of Southern Baptist life
already offered online through Baptist Press, Associated Baptist Press,
and various Baptist state papers. is singularly unique, however, in the chance for reader
interaction and commentary, offering a forum for the discussion about the
future of culturally-informed, Christ-honoring witness and ministry
paradigms for the Southern Baptist Convention. In addition to this unique
format, will launch with the largest aggregate readership
of any alternative news source dealing with Southern Baptist issues. The
mission statement of is "to provide interactive,
substantive, and reflective dialogue for Southern Baptist churchmen and
women to participate in shaping the future of the Southern Baptist

The stated intention of is to become the number one choice
for discussion of Southern Baptist news and commentary, and the blog
editors would like to encourage all Southern Baptist entities to include as a part of their regular schedule of recipients for all
press releases, news updates, and other statements as they are released to
major media sources by emailing

Saturday, June 23, 2007

5 Things I Dig About Jesus

I got tagged by Micah Fries for a 5 Things I Dig About Jesus meme. Here are the rules:

  1. Those tagged will share 5 things they dig about Jesus.
  2. Those tagged will tag 5 other bloggers.
  3. Those tagged will provide a link in the comments section here of their meme so that others can read them.
Here is my list (not in any particular order):
  1. I dig that Jesus loves me, this I know. Sometimes the most profound truths are those that are the most simply stated. When I was an enemy of God, Jesus loved me enough to die for me. When I fail God, Jesus loves me enough to forgive me. As Paul wrote in Romans 8:31-39, there is absolutely NOTHING that I or anyone else can do that can separate me from the love of Christ. And since I know what I do I am truly amazed that Jesus, who also knows everything that I do (more than even I know), continues to love me and always will.
  2. I dig that Jesus was tempted in every way that I am, yet He NEVER sinned. Maybe it's just me, but I find the idea of the Trinity easier to understand than how anyone can live in this world and never sin in any way. You know there had to be times when, in His humanity, he was tempted to say to His critics, "You don't believe in Me? You don't believe in ME? Well, here's a sign that will MAKE you believe in Me?" and turn them into newts or something along those lines. Or when He healed someone and they failed to show gratitude, there had to be a temptation for Jesus to unheal them. And you know there had to be times when He just wanted to take His disciples and knock their heads together until they got what He was telling them. And yet, in a way that just baffles me, Jesus never did any of these things. He responded appropriately at all times, patiently enduring human arrogance, ingratitude, and ignorance in the process.
  3. I dig that Jesus knew His purpose, and He never let anything distract Him from fulfilling it. In a nutshell, Jesus came to earth to carry out the Father's work of redemption. He did this by living a truly God-centered life, preaching the gospel of the Kingdom, showing the love of God to all people, and ultimately by dying on the cross to atone for our sins and by rising from the dead to deliver us from sin's curse. In doing this He experienced physical discomfort, was misunderstood by His own family, was rejected by His own people, had lies told about Him, and in general had a difficult time. Conversely, He had to ward off the efforts of others to steer Him down the path of fame and power. Through everything, both good and bad, Jesus maintained an unshakable focus on the Father and on the work the Father had given Him.
  4. I dig that there is nothing we can face in life that Jesus' power cannot overcome. If Jesus can control the forces of nature, heal the most terrifying diseases of the day, compel demons to submit to His will, feed thousands of people with one sack lunch, raise the dead, and rise from the dead Himself, what can possibly happen in our lives that is too great for His power to overcome?
  5. I dig that Jesus has called me to participate in His mission. If Jesus' primary concern were efficiency, He never would have chosen people (especially this one) to continue His work after He ascended back into heaven. And yet that is exactly what He did. He has commanded all of us who are His people to carry on His work of proclaiming the gospel of the Kingdom, showing the love of God to all people, and being agents of reconciliation between holy God and sinful humanity. Knowing how unworthy I am to take part in this work, it truly demonstrates how amazing and vast God's grace is.
OK, I'm tagging the following people:
  1. Kevin Hash
  2. Cam Dunson
  3. Alyce Faulkner
  4. Dave Samples
  5. Debbie Kaufman

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Reflections from a Distance

For the first time since 2003, I was not present at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention. Furthermore, since I have been able to spend an average of only a few minutes a day online for the past few weeks I was unable to follow the events leading up to San Antonio and the convention itself as closely as I would have liked. In addition, since I have dialup Internet access at home and streaming media and blogs are blocked on my computer at work, I have been unable to watch any of the convention proceedings. I say all of that to make it clear that my observations about San Antonio are based entirely on secondhand knowledge.

I came away from the 2006 convention in Greensboro optimistic that meaningful reform could be accomplished in the SBC, but based on what I have read over the past few days I believe San Antonio demonstrated that reform is a long way off, if it is even possible at all. Ironically, it is the reform movement's most tangible victory in San Antonio---the adoption of the Executive Committee report concerning the role of the BFM as it relates to the agencies of the convention---that is the primary source of pessimism. The fact that the report was adopted with 57-58% of the vote should be a cause for optimism, as this demonstrates that the majority of Southern Baptists seem to desire that we come together around the essentials of the faith and core Baptist beliefs to cooperate for the sake of missions and the work of the Kingdom. However, the response by certain convention leaders and defenders of the status quo reveals just how deeply entrenched the opponents of reform are.

The words that follow are somewhat strong, and it is with dread that I write them, but after several days of reflection I sincerely believe they are true. The response of many SBC leaders reflects a degree of arrogance and even contempt toward the people who make up the SBC. Here are a couple of reasons why I believe this to be the case:

  1. Soon after the vote to adopt the report, some defenders of the status quo began saying that the motion to adopt passed because the messengers did not understand what they were voting on. While the wording of the actual motion might leave some wiggle room for interpretation, let us remember that earlier in the day Executive Committee President Morris Chapman spoke about this issue during his report to the convention. Now if anyone is qualified to speak to the meaning of the Executive Committee report, I would think it would be the president of the Executive Committee. Dr. Chapman's remarks leave no room for ambiguity when it comes to the Executive Committee report:
    (1) Any practice instituted by an entity in the Southern Baptist Convention that has the force of doctrine should be in accord with the Baptist Faith and Message and not exceed its boundaries unless and until it has been approved by the Southern Baptist Convention and secondly,

    (2) If an entity of the Southern Baptist Convention adopts a confession of faith separate and distinct from the Baptist Faith and Message and it includes a doctrine unsupported by our confessional statement, the entity should request approval from the Convention prior to including the doctrine in its confession.
    If this convention followed a pattern similar to the ones I attended, the vast majority of the messengers were present for Dr. Chapman's address. While Dr. Chapman's remarks are not an official part of the report adopted by the messengers, they certainly inform us about the Executive Committee's intent in presenting the report. I would expect that people who are committed to the ideal of original intent when it comes to interpreting Scripture and the U.S. Constitution would be consistent and apply the same standard to this report. Thus, those who heard Dr. Chapman almost certainly knew what the Executive Committee meant when they presented their report. In addition, the debate on the motion to adopt the report clearly demonstrated the way most proponents and most opponents of the motion viewed it. It is likely that some individual messengers were unclear about what was being voted on, but to claim that the messengers as a whole did not understand even after hearing Dr. Chapman's remarks earlier in the day and the debate before the vote is an insult to the intelligence of Southern Baptists and, in my opinion, reflects a mindset that believes we should let denominational elites run the convention because those poor deluded folks who make up the convention cannot be trusted to understand the issues.
  2. After the motion to adopt the report passed, some of our entity leaders basically said they were going to follow business as usual. In other words, even though the convention had expressed its will that the BFM be the doctrinal guide for our entities, some entity leaders have decided not to adhere to the will of the convention. Some of them have tried to advance the argument that the report is ambiguous, but as I demonstrated above that is a weak argument. Others make the point that the BFM is a "minimalistic" document that only expresses our core doctrinal beliefs as Southern Baptists and is not meant to be exhaustive. I agree with them on this point, but not on its ramifications. They seem to be saying that since the BFM is a minimalistic statement, our entities need to define more narrowly what Southern Baptist doctrine is. The problem with this approach is twofold. First, no single entity can speak for the SBC as a whole. Second, if two entities adopt contradictory positions, which one is the SBC position? The fact that the BFM is a minimalistic statement does not mean that our entities need to add to it in a de facto manner. It means that as a convention we come together around the essentials of the faith and core Baptist doctrines. The BFM is minimalistic so that cooperation and participation can be maximized. Art Rogers explains this concept in a simple but profound way:
    This [the BFM] is the minimum consensus that we can honestly expect to achieve in our varied interpretation of the Word. In other words, pretty much everything else that we agree on is a bonus, but not a test of fellowship.
    Regardless of which reason is given, those who would lead our entities to continue making their own doctrinal statement are going against the expressed will of the SBC. One of the greatest weaknesses of the SBC is that the convention is powerless to put a stop to such a blatant disregard for the will of the convention. In a practical sense, SBC leaders are not accountable to the convention, and they know it and act accordingly.
In addition to the aftermath of the vote on the Executive Committee report, another discouraging sign was the refusal of the Committee on Resolutions to present Tom Ascol's resolution on integrity in church membership to the convention for the second straight year. Considering all the publicity this issue received over the past year, it is unbelievable that this resolution was not reported out of committee. To me, the failure to bring this resolution to the floor reflects a general unwillingness within the SBC to deal with issues of substance that directly affect our churches, and in this case an issue that makes a mockery of one of our core Baptist beliefs---regenerate church membership.

I am much more pessimistic about the future viability of the Southern Baptist Convention as an avenue of cooperation and partnership for the work of the Kingdom than I was a year ago. I haven't even addressed the failure of the IMB Board of Trustees to rescind the narrow doctrinal requirements that were imposed on missionary candidates in November 2005, the actions of the Executive Director of the Florida Baptist Convention in distributing Jerry Vines' infamous anti-Calvinism sermon to every pastor in the state, or the departure of several of the leading voices from these debates and discussions. When all of these things are taken into account, we seem to be going the wrong way.