"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

Jim Henry's 1996 Presidential Address

I've been doing some reading and found this excerpt from the 1996 Convention Address by Jim Henry to be very insightful:

We, as Southern Baptists, are a diverse people. This is a source of our richness, but this is also a source of challenge for us as a denomination. To succeed and be revitalized, we must have more than tolerance and sympathy. We must appreciate and appropriate this diversity for the common good.[i]

Our challenge is there are some among us who seek to pigeon hole all of us into their pigeon holes, but we Baptists flocks do not fit into them very well! There must be a clear rejection of this legalistic and narrow spirit, which one writer notes, is marked by the weaknesses of intolerance, hasty judgments, inflexible to constructive change, intimidation by others evaluations of them, and tending to such separation from mainstream Christianity that they become almost isolated.[ii]

In any society, church or denomination there are extremists. There are also some who are, as one writer describes, fanatical. A fanatic is someone who has lost his way and redoubled his effort. He makes up for his spiritual emptiness with noise and activity. He is as dangerous as he is insensitive. Get close to one and like the drowning man in the lake, he's liable to pull you under. Southern Baptists need to steer clear of this spirit or we'll all be pulled under. It is a type of rigid boundary marking mania that goes beyond the bedrock doctrines and principles of the Word of God.

It reminds me of a story that comedian, Emo Philips tells about the end result of boundary marking. In conversation with a person I had recently met, I asked, "Are you Protestant or Catholic?" My new acquaintance replied, "Protestant." I said, "Me too! What franchise?" He answered "Baptist." "Me too!" I said.˜Northern or Southern Baptist?" "Northern Baptist,"he replied. ˜Me too!" I shouted. We continued to go back and forth. Finally I asked, ˜Northern conservative fundamentalist Baptist, Great Lakes Region, Council of 1879 or Northern conservative fundamentalist Baptist, Great Lakes Region, Council of 1912?" He replied, ˜Northern conservative fundamentalist Baptist, Great Lakes Region, Council of 1912." I said, ˜Die, heretic!" [iv]

Almost 40 years ago the editors of Look magazine posed a question to a young Baptist evangelist about to lead a large crusade in New York. When they asked if he was fundamentalist or liberal in theology Billy Graham replied, " ..if by fundamentalist you mean narrow, bigoted, prejudiced, extremist, emotional, snake handler, without social conscience - then I am definitely not a fundamentalist. However, if by fundamentalist you mean a person who accepts the authority of the Scriptures, the virgin birth of Christ, the atoning death of Christ, His bodily resurrection, His second coming and personal salvation by faith through grace, then I am a fundamentalist. However, I much prefer being called a Christian. The terms liberalism and fundamentalism have arisen in modern days. Neither is found in sacred scripture."[v]

Wholeness is not a kind of monolithic sameness in which individuals lose identity, but the Bible sees it as fellowship within the family...the whole family fellowship is much larger than any particular element in it.[vi]


[i]John Gardner, op. cit., pp. 10-11.

[ii]Craig Skinner, Ties that Bind (San Francisco: Christian Universities Press, 1993), p. 64.

[iii]Jamie Buckingham

[iv]Paul Kroll, ˜Boundary Marker Christians," The Plain Truth, August 1995, pp. 20-21.

[v]Craig Skinner, op. cit., quoting "Billy Graham...," Life, 1956:49, p. 63.

[vi]Ibid., p. 65.


Paul said...

I hope it isn't too late.

Jon said...

Wade, was a previous blog entry deleted?

Your brother,

Jon B.

Former M said...

Would that more of us could live in accord with Jim Henry's words! Jesus' words in John 17 remind us that the goal of Christian unity is the same quality of unity as He shares with the Father. That is no easy mark to achieve, but requires more humility and greater grace than I have ever seen in SBC life.
When our goals and objectives lose sight of the character of Jesus' message and ministry, we fail the whole test. The world will not know that we belong to Christ because of our doctrinal stance, but because of God's love pouring through us.
Love stresses including, rather than excluding; dialogue, rather than debate; openness, rather than secrecy; and compassion, rather than judgment.
When we fail these tests, we do not live according to His will, but according to selfish motives.
On the mission field, we could cooperate with many folks with whom we did not agree. We did not feel it necessary to control the whole process of God's mission, but to allow Christ to work through us and others we would otherwise deem unacceptable. Correctives were often needed, just as in Galatians 2. We were corrected in the process as well. How much right do I have for control, when I am neither the Lord of the mission, nor the Lord of my life? Yes, it is often frustrating to live without the control I desire. The problem is that the desire is mine and selfish. Jesus did not call me to be comfortable or in control. He called me to humble service. Only love measures up to that call.

Micah said...

Is there any wonder why Henry was not the pick of the "inner circle," and that they were very displeased when he defeated Fred Wolfe? Though at the time I had no idea who Henry was I came to value and appreciate his leadership. I hope we consider his words.

Kevin Bussey said...

Is he eligible to run again? He is a wise man!

Wade Burleson said...


The previous blog had a link to a post that nobody was quite sure who wrote it (either Tom Nettles or Tom Ascol). Since I was not sure either, I removed the post with the link.

Thanks for asking.

James Hunt said...

Okay. I agree with Jim Henry. There are people who lose there way and then isolate themselves in extreeme separation from all those who disagree.

I am for cooperation. But in this talk about not narrowing the borders of cooperation I have to wonder...what are the parameters? Are there any?

Internationally or in our own back-yard should with whom should we cooperate for Kingdom efforts, evangelistically or otherwise, with those who don't hold to one or more of what we would consider to be the "biggie" doctrines...the Essentials? For instance, should we cooperate with those who teach progressive justification that begins at baptism? Should we cooperate with those who are flamingly charismatic...teaching health and wealth and a blessing for a price?

What are the parameters?

Just thought I'd ask.

Wade Burleson said...

Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, Sola Scriptura, Solus Christus.

A good four sided fence.

Wes Kenney said...

Wade, I must say I'm troubled by your response to James' post. While those may be the criteria we use to determine whether or not to call someone "brother," do we not need greater levels of interpretational agreement to justify greater levels of missiological cooperation? The pastor of our local Methodist church holds to those four essentials, but I would not inviter her to preach in my pulpit.

Wade Burleson said...

Missiological cooperation on the field should involve any brother who agrees with the four Latin phrases.

Missiological cooperation within the SBC should include acceptance of the BFM 2000 --- but not beyond.

Former M said...

Even with the BF&M2000, you exclude many faithful Southern Baptists. Which do we hold in higher regard, the BF&M 2000 or the Bible? Why do we call conservative those who take a higher view of the BF&F 2000 than the Bible?

Tim Batchelor said...


To clarify your above statement,
are you saying that since the BF&M says nothing about the Charismatic movement you have no problem with appointing individuals who are practicing charismatics (or Bapticostals) as seminary professors, missionaries and denominational leaders?


Jon said...

Wade Burleson said...


The previous blog had a link to a post that nobody was quite sure who wrote it (either Tom Nettles or Tom Ascol). Since I was not sure either, I removed the post with the link.

Thanks for asking.

February 02, 2006

For those that might have missed it, one of the two fellows mentioned above quoted in his blog a statement by the Board of Trustees. The quote is as follows:

"[Baptism] must take place in a church that practices believer's baptism by immersion alone, does not view baptism as sacramental or regenerative, and a church that embraces the doctrine of the security of the believer." Furthermore, "A candidate who has not been baptized in a Southern Baptist church or in a church which meets the standards listed above is expected to request baptism in his/her Southern Baptist church as a testimony of identification with the system of belief held by Southern Baptist churches."

I added the emphasis.

My jaw dropped. In my opinion, such a thing represents a corruption of the concept of baptism.

Your brother,

Jon B.

Tim Sweatman said...


My sentiments exactly, on both points.