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.
[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.