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

The Wisdom of the President of the Executive Committee of the SBC

Dr. Morris Chapman is a very wise man. He has led our Southern Baptists for over a dozen years as President of the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention. In 2004 Dr. Chapman gave an address that may go done in history as a turning point for the Southern Baptist Convention. I am reminded that when Abraham Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address no reporter on the scene thought it to be profound, but history has proven Lincoln's speech to be both a profound and prescient caution that ended up being heeded by our country years later. I am hopeful Dr. Chapman's address might have the same impact within our SBC.

Below is an excerpt of that address to the 2004 Southern Baptist Conveniton. The speech can be read in its entirety at The Fundamentals of Cooperating Conservatives.

"It is imperative that our Convention return to some sense of normalcy in the operation of the Convention. May I suggest one way to begin the process? Southern Baptists now agree that our trustees should be inerrantists. We believe they should embrace the Baptist Faith and Message (there is only one, you know… the last one). Most believe that trustees and their churches should be faithful in giving a significant amount through the Cooperative Program. We believe our trustees should have a heart for lost souls and be affiliated with churches that evangelize at home, and support missions around the globe. And finally, but most importantly, our trustees should be people who have a close daily walk with our Lord Jesus Christ.

Anyone with these characteristics of devotion to the Lord, His church, and our Convention qualifies to serve Southern Baptists in these positions. We should elect trustees who attend trustee meetings with the freedom of conscience to pray about decisions facing that board, and voting accordingly. We cannot let this Convention be driven by politics. It must be driven by passion for our Lord Jesus Christ and for the unsaved and compassion for those who are persecuted for Christ’s sake around the world. In a practiced democracy, politics, the art of influence, is always an ingredient. But the passion of a trustee should be born from deep within in an encounter with the Living Christ, and then he is free to enthusiastically persuade others of the burden God has laid upon his heart. This is how it should be in the church, the association, the state convention, and the Southern Baptist Convention. This Convention deserves to be led by trustees who listen to God’s Spirit on the way to making decisions, not trustees who are susceptible to political agendas. Politics for the sake of control by a few is not how our forefathers envisioned the operations of our Convention. But I must warn you. Politics do not die easily. Do you know why? It is because the death of politics in a spiritual environment only comes after we die to self.

Contemporary shibboleths are employed to exclude people. It is the sin of Pharisaism when good people, whose theology and ministry are above reproach, are slandered, discredited, or ostracized simply because they refuse to blindly follow particular political posturing. Innuendos, unfounded rumors, sly winks and nods are as deadly as an assassin’s bullet and usually as ungodly.

Could Southern Baptists fall into the error of Pharisaism? Could we ever, while priding ourselves on orthodox beliefs, be out of fellowship with the Living God and the true saints of God? The threat is real. I am concerned…now that we have affirmed by vigorous endeavor that Southern Baptists are people of the Book, that we will develop a censorious, exclusivistic, intolerant spirit. If this occurs, we will be the poorer for it. It will not only result in narrower participation in denominational life, a shallower pool of wisdom and giftedness in our enterprises, and a shrinking impact upon the world, but we will be in the unenviable position of being right on doctrine but wrong with God."


T A Blankenship said...

It seems that Pharisaism is a problem that is needing confronting in our convention. Having a heart for Jesus should be the highest and best qualification for serving a board or agency of the convention, not a political leaning.

Anonymous said...

Basically, Chapman is saying that the methods used to narrow the parameters excluding those who call themselves moderate should no longer be used. Seems it's hard to stop that train once it gets started.

I'm sure you'll not post this since you haven't posted any of my other comments. But this if secret caucuses and political maneuvering is wrong now, it was wrong when it was used earlier as well.

Wade Burleson said...

Mr. Anonymous,

I'm sorry for rejecting posts. I would rather err on the side of not making this debate personal and not post some excellent comments.

I hope you understand.

old emmanuel guy said...

profound, indeed! to say the very LEAST...PROFOUND!!

(almost as if he were looking thru a crystal ball into the future to see am issue needed addressing)

Kili @ Live Each Moment said...

Pastor Burleson,
Thanks so much for your posts. I enjoy reading them daily.

Anonymous said...

Old emmanuel guy said, “almost as if he (Chapman) were looking thru a crystal ball into the future to see an issue needed addressing.”
What one man has the most important position in the SBC year after year? That would be the president of the Executive Board would it not?
Wade, I believe you would agree that “an issue needed addressing” is not in the future but is now.
So if the SBC needs repairing, who is the most responsible for it being broken? I will submit that Chapman is not looking into a crystal ball but into a mirror based on the facts of the past.
Remember Rankin announcing he had saved the IMB from something worse than 911 by having missionaries sign the BFM or words to that effect? He never made it known what terrible force was about to explode on the IMB. It sure wasn’t moderates. So who was it?
A missionary requested a SBC newspaper stopped being sent him because he was tired of all the slander in it or something like that. Anyway, the letter or email ends up on Chapman’s desk. Chapman calls Rankin and tells him he better get his missionaries under control or something.
Wade, I know you will not print this so I’ll get personal. Rankin wrote me, August 8, 2002; “Morris Chapman did not ask me to call Scott McIntosh, as reported; I did so because of my personally concern for one of our effective missionaries I respected who was obviously having a problem due to some unfortunate perceptions, just as I would seek to encourage and minister to any of our missionaries. Where did anyone get the idea that our missionaries are being “forced” to sign something that they may not agree with, or that anyone would be terminated if they did not respond to my request? Neither of those positions has been advocated or communicated by the IMB. It certainly is not the first time missionaries have not agreed and done what I asked them to do. I am disappointed that you would presume to attribute motives of “enlarged egos” to those conscientious denominational leaders who are seeking to keep the Southern Baptists Convention anchored to the inerrant word of God.”
Wade, do you see the point I’m trying to make? Rankin would never have fired missionaries, but PRESSURE made him do it. That pressure came from above and it wasn’t God.
In my letters to Rankin, I have given him a hard time. My son told me once, if I knew everything, I would be on Rankin’s side.
Rex Ray

Beverly Shelite said...

Wade, you mentioned Pharisaism. That is exactly what concerned me from the beginning of this situation. We just cannot as a people go in this direction of making man made rules.

jackaaz said...


I served on the Ex. Comm. with Dr. Chapman several years ago. It seems to me that he has a heart for God and our convention much like Dr. Rankin. However, many of these guys are being surrounded by people who want to continue to define Southern Baptists in an ever smaller circle thus marginalizing us in the greater Kingdom conversations. I saw this spirit on the Ex. Comm. and I am sure this is some of what you have faced at the IMB. Once again this reminds us of the need to elect trustees that have a larger understanding of Southern Baptist life and the Kingdom endeavor.

Thanks for being one of those guys.

Dr. Gray Lambert said...

Dear Brother

I was just reading the Christian Index here in Georgia. I am appalled by the actions of the Trustees of the IMB.

I have served the Lord in our denomination for a lifetime and am now retired having served such churches as FBC of Houston with Dr. K. Owen White former president of the SBC.

My family left the controlling Anglican heirarchy when our family moved to the colony of Georgia from North Carolina and originally from New Jersey. They became Baptists just after the Revolution during the evangelical preaching of Daniel Marshall from North Carolina. They have stayed the same (for the most part) until today. Many family members have served our denomination in many ways.

Baptist doctrine historically would never allow censurship of any leader for a "private" prayer language.

What believers and denominational leaders do in private, unless it is blatantly opposed to the clear teachings of Scripture, is their own business and NONE of any denomination's business.

Such censure is out of touch with Christian liberty - a cardinal Baptist conviction. Where will such moves lead us? What's next??

I resent such actions deeply. Censure should be placed upon "trustees" who fail to uphold historic Baptist positions which they have been elected to hold in "trust" rather than Dr. Rankin.

Hats off to Dr. Rankin. I would appreciate his prayers - even his private prayers.

In Him

Dr. Gray Lambert