Below is a proposed document that would help people understand the identity of the Southern Baptist Convention. It is borrowed on the whole from an evangelical denomination that I am leaving unidentified at this time in order to put the focus on what it might look like as a Southern Baptist document. Words and sentences have been changed to reflect our unique identity. This is for discussion purposes only.
Proposed Distinctives of The Southern Baptist Convention
"In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, charity. In all things, Jesus Christ." -- Chrysostom
1. The Southern Baptist Convention is inclusive not exclusive.
The great heritage of the Southern Baptist Convention churches includes the fact that fellowship and ministry opportunities with each other are are based solely on on our common faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, trusting in Him alone for the salvation of His people. Participation in the ministries of the Southern Baptist Convention by members of cooperating churches requires commitment to sound doctrine as expressed in our Baptist Faith and Message. However, a Southern Baptist church member is not excluded from participation because he or she does not agree on every fine point of doctrine. Within the Southern Baptist Convention, there is allowance for legitimate differences of understanding in some areas of doctrine.
2. The Southern Baptist Convention is evangelical but not isolationist.
The Southern Baptist Convention was birthed in 1845 out of a heritage of commitment to the authority and inerrancy of Scripture and a missionary zeal. Autonomous members churches have deep convictions based on the authority of God's Word, but we do not draw battle lines over minor points. Nor do we make minor issues of doctrine a test of fellowship within the convention. We intentionally seek to cooperate with every Southern Baptist church for the purpose of cooperative ministry, and refuse to isolate ourselves from one another over disagreements on minor points of doctrine.
3. The Southern Baptist Convention is ecumenical in spirit though not in structure.
We believe in the spiritual unity of all God's people, though not necessarily in structural union with them. We join with other Christians and other denominations of like precious faith in common goals and ministries to accomplish the Great Commission. But we believe that there is strength in diversity and that it is important to preserve our Baptist distinctives. Our foremost concern is unity of spirit with our Lord, with each other and with other Christians.
4. The Southern Baptist Convention believes in liberty with responsibility and accountability.
We believe in Christian liberty, but freedom always has its limitations. Responsible Christians do not abuse freedom. The Apostle Paul wrote forcefully about Christian liberty in the book of Galatians. He shattered the legalists with the doctrine of grace. But in First and Second Corinthians and Romans, the apostle also rebuked believers when liberty was abused. He declared boldly the principles of Christian liberty but spoke with equal forcefulness about Christian accountability. The Southern Baptist Conventionc desires to preserve our freedom in Christ and encourage our church leaders and people to be responsible, godly men, women and young people who desire to live under the control of the Holy Spirit, in obedience to the principles and precepts of God's Word and in harmony with God's will for life as revealed in the Scriptures.
5. The Southern Baptist Convention believes in both the rational and relational dimensions of Christianity.
We believe the Scriptures must be applied to our individual lives with warmth of heart, warmth of message and warmth of concern. We believe it is essential to have solid biblical content in our doctrinal understanding of faith, but it is equally important to have a dynamic, vital relationship with God the Father through Jesus Christ the Son and to live by the power of the Holy Spirit. Sound Christian doctrine must be coupled with dynamic Christian experience. Ours is a ministry of love and reconciliation.
6. The Southern Baptist Convention affirms the right of each local church to govern its own affairs.
The Southern Baptist Convention is committed to a the autononomy of the local church. We believe that Jesus Christ is Lord and Head of the Church and that every local church has the right, under Christ, to decide and govern its own affairs.
7. The Southern Baptist Convention recognizes that the highest authority is the local church.
The strength of our convention lies within the local church. We are a convention of churches who cooperate together with no ecclesiastical authority. Christ is the head of the church, and the churches that compose the Southern Baptist Convention give direction to our denominational leaders and agencies.
Do you think a statement similar to the one above would be helpful in the SBC?
Have a great weekend.
In His Grace,