I estimate that I have received close to 10,000 written letters, emails or comments from fellow Southern Baptists in 2006. My life is richer through the relationships that I have developed with Southern Baptist men and women who have become as much a part of my extended Christian family as my own church. I never dreamed that a recommendation for my removal from the IMB Board of Trustees would ultimately lead to an admiration for, and friendship with, Pastor Dwight McKissic; hours of gut wrenching laughter with the soon to be "Dr." Ben Cole, delightful moments with wonderful missionaries who have told me that my blog has been a source of inspiration and a topic of conversation for them while on the field, and the growing realization that many people in the Southern Baptist Convention seem to know far more about me (or at least think they do) than I them.
All in all 2006 has been a memorable, rich and rewarding year for me. I would not wish what I have experienced on anyone else, but I am glad God has chosen this path for me. I am a better man for it. I am hopeful that 2007 can be as rich and rewarding.
I will not post again until Monday, but over the weekend I would like to leave you with a personal confession regarding this past year. It is something that I have told just a few, including my wife and my family. I don't know why I feel compelled to blog about it today, but it's one of those things that surfaced today in my thoughts. My confession may not be startling to you, but it is genuine and honest. Maybe it will help you understand why I remain just a tad confused, even to this day, over the imbroglio of this past year.
Here it is:
I remain puzzled why certain trustees made such a big deal over my dissent of the new IMB policies.
Whether it was my initial post regarding the new baptism policy, or my initial post about the new tongues policy, I simply voiced a difference of opinion.
I have always been respectful of my fellow trustees, and have repeatedly and emphatically stated that I do not advocate tongues, or as it is often called ,'a private prayer language.' I've never had one, don't want one, and am disinterested in obtaining one, but I am positively convinced, and equally adamant, that to exclude Southern Baptists who have been so gifted from leadership or cooperative ministry is a certain death nail in the coffin of future growth in Southern Baptist cooperation and missions.
Additionally, everybody knows that the debate on baptism has NEVER been over immersion, or the proper candidate for baptism. Frankly, any trustee who knowingly approved a Southern Baptist missionary for appointment who had not been baptized by immersion after having come to faith in Christ should be ashamed. The IMB policy, since IMB inception, has ALWAYS been firm regarding believer's baptism.
However, the new baptism policy (adopted in November 2005) added the qualifier that the administrator of baptism was as important as the candidate being baptized. Baptism, according to the new policy, identified the candidate with a 'doctrine' (eternal security) or a denomination (Southern Baptists), rather than, as the New Testament teaches, identifying the convert as a follower of Jesus Christ. My dissent over baptism has been in this area only, though some seem to obfuscate the issue.
I am of the opinion that if my written posts had simply been ignored no controversy would have erupted. I am an irenic person by nature. I state my views, accept everyone who disagrees, and move on. When the time is appropriate I will voice my dissent again, always pleasantly, accept everyone who disagrees, and move on.
I am not the guy who wears the rainbow wig in the stands waving the John 3:16 sign. I preach in the same pulpits everyone else preaches. I attend the same conferences everyone else attends. I dress the same. I talk the same. I look the same. I am a Southern Baptist.
Why use a sledgehammer to squash a gnat?
In the 161 year old history of the Southern Baptist Convention no trustee has ever been recommended for removal from a trustee board. Yet, simply because I voiced dissent this drastic action was taken. Why?
It may be a little late, but if a similar thing happens again on an agency or board I would suggest the following plan.
(1). Ignore dissent, or at least, just politely disagree, particularly if you are in the majority - when you seek to squelch it, you validate it. For heaven's sake, when you attempt to remove the dissenter you make a hero of him.
(2). Make sure you know what you are doing before you do it. The day of proposing an action and then saying -- "We must do this. Trust us, we'll explain later" -- have been buried forever. Thank God.
(3). Keep the main thing the main thing. Agencies should not delve into areas beyond their scope of responsibility. No agency that depends upon cooperative support of the entire Southern Baptist Convention has the right, nor the perogative, to establish an arbitrary doctrinal standard that exceeds the Baptist Faith and Message.
There are those who say, "This fussing and fighting make me wish I weren't a Baptist."
Don't say that.
The truth is, we may seem to 'fuss and fight' but all we are really doing is establishing the fact that we are by nature Baptists --- nobody dictates, demands, or dominates our beliefs. The Word of God is our guide, and no human instrument will bind our conscience. The presence of free debate and dissent is a sign of a 'healthy Baptist denomination.'
Cults don't fight. They swallow the kool-aid and die.
Catholics don't fight the bishop. They leave the faith.
Congregations made up of Southern Baptists will often fight --- but it is in the friendly fight that the friction sparks and shapes the steel that forms the future backbone of our Baptist denomination.
I may be puzzled by it . . .
But I don't begrudge it.
In His Grace,