Monday, July 20, 2009

IS THE SBC BEGINNING TO CRUMBLE?


Many years ago I heard my good friend, Dr. Dean Register, make a statement which clearly expresses my feelings. He said, "I'm Baptist-Born, Baptist Bred, and one day when I die, I'll be Baptist Dead! In fact, were you to cut me, I'd bleed the Cooperative Program." I love Baptists, being a Baptist, and I especially love the Southern Baptist Convention. Yes, we have our faults and failures, from time to time we have fought among ourselves like siblings, and yet, evangelism and missions have remained at the forefront of our "denomination."
For all of my years as a Southern Baptist, "Jesus" has been our focus. Yes, this sounds simplistic and does not resound with intellectual elitism of which we are becoming accustomed, but for Baptists, "Jesus" has always been the 'name above all names.' As I have prayed, studied, and diligently read God's word it seems to me that anytime we give blanket adherence to any other beside our Lord Jesus we can expect to happen what we see happening.
Some call this division among Southern Baptist "A New Day", "Another Reformation", and even "The Changing of the Guard." Yet, while any spiritually sensitive believer recognizes the need for a "renewal" within the ranks of the SBC, the question which comes to my mind is "What exactly is it that we are attempting to renew?" Additionally, how do we renew that which has seemingly been forgotten?
Admittedly, I am a simple person with a very simple mind, but the struggle within our ranks seems to wear a name. Today, from many in the upper echelons of our convention's leadership and those who have seemingly become convention spokesmen we hear the name John Calvin more that we hear Jesus Christ. For me, Calvin is simply one more teacher of days past who deserves our study but does not rise to the level of 'deity' which some have given him. Although I am aware that daring to write the words which follow will give me a label for the rest of my ministry, I am compelled to state that John Calvin holds no more prominence for me than does, Charles Spurgeon, Martin Luther, John Wesley, or even St. Augustine. Now that I have "dared" to write this, let me dig my own 'theological grave' (among the SBC) a little deeper.
Let's consider Calvin's Testimony of conversion as he relays it in his Preface to the Psalms (and which is recorded multiple places); "God by a sudden conversion subdued and brought my mind to a teachable frame." Honestly, if someone were to come down the aisle next Sunday with this type of testimony, we would move them to a counseling room to see if they understood what "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ" actually meant. While we know that salvation is of, from, and by Jehovah God, we also recognize that God sent Jesus as the doorway to salvation and the Throne of Grace. Without Jesus in the equation, there can be no salvation.
When I look at Calvin's Tulip, it seems flawed from a Biblical interpretation. For years we have all heard about Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and the Perseverance of the Saints and yet, it would seem to me that "IF" this is truly a Biblical Basis for mankind, that evangelism and missions are a moot point. Admittedly, from my personal study the first and the last of these five points are completely within the bounds of Biblical theology. So, I submit an alternate TULIP.
  • Total Depravity – it is true that sin has affected all of man, every part. The heart is above all thing deceitful. Scripture clearly teaches "fallen man."
  • Unconditional Love – This is the most basic and is found in too many scriptures to quote.
  • Limitless Atonement – The blood is Jesus is given for "ALL", for "THE WORLD", for "SINNERS". These words appear repetitively in Holy Scripture.
  • Invitational Grace – This picture is given in the "WHOSOEVERS" of scripture and speaks to the responsibility of man. Jesus said, "Whosever will, let him come."
  • Perseverance of the Saints. – In Christ, we are saved, sealed, and secured for all eternity. John, Romans, and Ephesians are only three of the places where we find assurance of this truth.
Having laid forth these truths (admittedly, as I view them), hearing the debate which is raging across our ranks, and now recognizing how just how divisive this issue has become, I am afraid the convention that I love is crumbling at the foundation. True, if the GCR committee stays on point and leads us to more effective evangelism and discipleship then perhaps we can right the ship that seems to be faltering in this "philosophical" storm. (I label this philosophical because man-made thoughts are indeed philosophical in nature, this can be illustrated by saying from Calvin's Tulip to Warren's Purpose Driven Life) While both may have at least some "Bible Truth" in them, none of the Biblical writers used the Tulip or PDL in Holy Scripture.
My prayer is this; that we can return to the Bible as our source, Jesus as our Savior, and Jehovah God as our Strength, and lay aside the names and labels which we give to each other. God knows that while we are debating over 'debatable issues' we are losing our country to the darkness. Let us take our deadly weapons, rearm them with the manifest power of the Holy Spirit, 're-aim' them at our real enemy, and not make one man (except the Lord Christ) our dividing point.
An old preacher once told me, "You can't rock a boat and row a boat at the same time." Let us hear these words and right our ship. To not do so, could have a devastating impact on the future of the SBC and more importantly, the gospel.

 


 

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Who Knows?

The debacle of the SBC Executive Committee seems to still light up the Press, Twitter, and even Facebook. Today I read response after response calling for Dr. Morris Chapman's resignation. Even in this heightened emotional time, most (if not all) acknowledges Dr. Chapman's longevity and leadership during these past 30 years and thus, simply states that he has lost touch with the rank and file Baptist, has developed a skewed perception of what the SBC is all about, or is one whose time has passed. Candidly, it is not my place (at this point) to join this call as I believe him to be a good man who has indeed led us for years and deserves better than this. But it is my belief, that every person employed by an SBC church or entity deserves better than this.

That being said, there still exist several telling issues which require the Executive committee's attention (now, I'm talking about the ENTIRE Executive Committee as opposed to only the officers and administration of the Executive Committee). Some of these are;

  • Why does it seem to be that Dr. Hunt and Dr. Chapman are communicating through the press and not in a personal setting? Would it not be better for our two elected leaders to come to some kind of understanding of what is going on in the upper echelon of SBC life?
  • Why is it that Dr. Chapman gives the perception that he is above being accountable to the churches he serves? This is not meant to be trite or mean spirited but every level of the SBC has checks and balances. Even the Executive Committee is accountable.
  • If Dr. Chapman does resign, will he be given the same type of treatment that Bro. Clark was given? Here today and gone tomorrow.
  • Why is it that the entire Executive Committee has not been "in the loop" of this publicity scandal? Isn't that what we elect them to do and be? Yet, it would seem that they have been kept out of the loop.
  • What happens if the at-large members of the Executive Committee demand to be "filled-in" on the circumstances of this issue? Will they be told "no comment", "we do not comment on personnel matters", or in the converse, will they be replaced with a "no comment?"

I know these are tough, mean sounding questions, but God knows my heart, they are not meant that way. There is nothing mean about accountability, but it is tough. It's easy to ask for a resignation and it's tough to handle the questions which ensue. It's easy to look the other way; it's tough to look a problem in the eye. It's easy to say "no comment"; it's tough to speak the truth in love.

May we never forget that we are God's people, doing God's business, hopefully in God's way! Backroom dismissals, hiding behind bureaucracy, and refusing to inform those elected to be informed is not God's way. However, if this actions stands without any accountability being demanded, then maybe our churches and institution will follow suit, who knows?

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Here We Go Again

In the aftermath of the SBC it has been interesting to talk with people who were "in attendance" in Louisville and those who "attended" via the internet. The consensus has been that this was a good Convention but like so many times before, the after story becomes the story. Enter a fine young man named "Clark Logan" accompanied by the bureaucratic "two-step" which has become so prominent.

Candidly, I've met Bro. Morris Chapman one time about 15 years ago and I've never met Bro. Clark, so it is not that I have a "dog in the fight" of the employee-employer relationship publicity scandal which has surfaced. However as a Southern Baptist, any time a situation develops which causes a black mark on the Southern Baptist name and thus, negatively impacts our testimony of grace and gospel concerns me greatly. While those "inside the beltway" of the Executive Committee might see this as a "Personnel Policy" being implemented, the public perception (including me at this point) is that we have one more time "bloodied our own nose." Statements like "no comment" and "We do not comment on personnel matters" only serve to promote speculation about a bureaucracy gone wild. Honestly, in my heart I believe that the SBC is better than this, deserves better than this, and has a right to demand better than this.

While it is obvious that Bro. Clark was given the privilege of resigning (effective immediately) it is equally obvious that something is amiss in this situation. Whereas it is true that the general public doesn't have to know all the "ins and outs" of a personnel review, the personnel policy might need to be reviewed if it is the practice of the Executive Committee to call for a resignation in the AM and an evacuation in the PM. If an employee is not measuring up, the process should allow for more notice and direction than this.

However, the disturbing thing here is this; in a time when the Executive Committee and all of our national ministries just made a call for more support, their integrity comes into question with a unilateral decision to take the livelihood from a young man who is well thought of among his peers. Additionally, others are so afraid that they have little or no comment.

I am not angry, but saddened about this entire situation. I am saddened for Bro. Clark and his loss of a job in such a public manner. I am saddened for Bro. Morris and his loss of respect (at least from me) for the way this has been handled. I am saddened for the Executive Committee who seems to have been given a black-eye for their remaining silent (instead of giving some statement which assures us that this has gone through proper channels and processes). I am saddened for Southern Baptist who, once again, made the news by giving the perception that we have been unfair to one of our own. I am saddened for the gospel who always suffers when we make a mess of things. Let us not "Go this way again."

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