During the 1985 Southern Baptist Convention in Dallas, Texas, I woke up before the crack of dawn in order to reserve twenty seats on the floor of the arena for each day of business. I was a young, motivated pastor. I wanted to be a part of a Convention that believed the Bible to be the Word of God. I wanted to do my part.
Yet, I was confused. I remember hearing Dr. Winifred Moore preach when I was a boy (he pastored the church my father eventually pastored), and I always thought Dr. Moore to be a rock solid evangelical conservative. But I was being told in 1985 that he had compromised his convictions about the Word of God. Rather than calling Dr. Moore and asking him personally (who was I to call such a man and waste his time?), I trusted the word of the people I admired, and thus labelled Dr. Moore "the opponent."
I was further confused because I was told other men like Dr. Daniel Vestal and Richard Jackson were also part of those who wished to lead our convention down the slippery slope of liberalism, from which we would never recover. Again, Dr. Vestal had pastored Southcliff Baptist Church in Fort Worth, the same church that my father eventually pastored while I was in high school. Dr. Vestal was highly respected among the people at Southcliff, and considered a solid evangelical conservative, so surely my confusion as to why he was now considered a "liberal" was simply because I was young and did not fully know how to identify a true liberal of the faith.
Then there were other men like Dr. Clyde Glazener, Dr. Charles Wade, Mr. John Baugh and others who, unlike the preceeding men mentioned, were considered absolute "heretics" by those with whom I associated. I did not know Drs. Glazener, Wade, and Mr Baugh, but I absolutely accepted the word of Bible believing men around me, men that I respected in 1985, and as a result of believing them, I determined to do I could to rescue the convention.
Now I realize I was fighting for the wrong thing. I should have been fighting for Southern Baptists to TALK to each other, to PRAY with each other, to COOPERATE with each other, to LOVE each other, rather than to divide into sides and conquer one another. True, classical liberals need to be removed from any positions of authority in the SBC, but it should be done in a proper manner, following all protocol and procedures established for such an event.
Read carefully. I do not regret any attempt to solidify our respect of the authority and sufficiency of the Word of God. Again, any professor in our seminaries who denies the faith, ridicules the Word of God, or makes a mockery of the person and work of Jesus Christ should be dismissed with haste.
However, I now realize that several good, solid conservative evangelical Christians have been slandered and maligned. Men who are gracious, gentle and gospel believers have been called liberal, heretics, and even worse.
I now have met everyone of the above named men. They all believe the Bible. They all love the Lord Jesus Christ. They all love missions.
They are our brothers in Christ.
There are thousands of kind, gracious, compassionate, Bible believing Southern Baptists in the Baptist General Convention of Texas and the Baptist General Convention of Virginia.
In a few months I would hope Dr. Frank Page will be appointing men and women from both the above named Conventions to serve on boards and agencies of the Southern Baptist Convention, just as he said he would.
This time, if I hear that "liberals" are being appointed, I will not remain silent, but will hold accountable that Southern Baptist who seeks to divide us.
This time, if something is said about a brother in Christ that calls into question his character, theology or commitment to Christ, I will call the accused, and if it is untrue, I will then confront the accuser, first privately, then publicly if there is not reconciliation.
This time, I will not allow myself to become emotional or get angry. If some of my fellow Southern Baptists say things about my character, my theology, my commitment to the cause of Christ, I will do what I can to defend my conservative, evangelical credentials, but I will not get angry.
I am prepared. I am not leaving. I will not give up.
The Southern Baptist Convention needs to evaluate the tactics of the past in order to map out a better plan for the future.
In His Grace,