Page is quoted as saying,
"I will not be a part of any smokescreen leftwing liberal agenda that seeks to deny the greatest need in our world, that being that the lost be shown the way to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."
It should go without saying that if the participants of the NBC deny the greatest need in our world is to be shown the way to eternal life through Jesus Christ, then all of us should be troubled. However, when our church financed and dug a water well in the slums of Bangalore for the 10,000 outcasts last November, it was the Hindu mayor that helped us. He denies the need for the gospel, but we continue to share the good news with our Hindu friend, something he has not yet accepted or believed. But his denial of the gospel has not hindered us in building a relationship with the mayor, nor partnering with him to relieve some suffering in the slums of Bangalore.
I should soon have the opportunity to ask Frank about the NBC's alleged denial that the greatest need in our world is the gospel of Jesus Christ. I have not personally heard Mr. Carter or Mr. Underwood say this, and from my understanding, more than a few of the African-American pastors on the program are some great gospel preachers, but if I were to attend the Atlanta convocation, I will definitely be on the alert regarding any denial that the world needs the gospel. I make it a practice not to take someone's word about another, but wait until I hear it for myself, and if I were to learn that a Baptist brother denies the world's need of Jesus Christ, I would be greatly grieved. But I'm not sure I couldn't partner with them to relieve some suffering in the world, just like we've partnered with the Hindu -- and of course, I would try to convert my Baptist brother to true Christianity. Heaven knows that my concern for the past two years is that the Southern Baptist Convention may be on the verge of putting tradition and religion above knowing Christ and believing His authoritative and sufficient Word.
That being said, it does seem to me that Dr. Page's comments, as delivered by Baptist Press, sound like they may have been written by someone other than Frank. They are not quite as irenic as his usual words. Those of us who have been in such positions as Frank know that, on occasion, denominational or state officials prepare statements and have the President sign it. That may or may not be what has happened here. Regardless, Frank probably saw the document and signed off on it. The language and timing sure sound like someone high up may be a little afraid that the the SBC may be perceived by the secular press as becoming soft on liberalism - someone who was deeply involved in the conflicts of decades past.
I really think that there may be some in established denominational positions that carry so much emotional baggage over past conflict in the SBC that it is difficult for them to even think in terms of a new paradigm. Sometimes the softness of denominational luxury causes one to lose sight of the rampant poverty, disease, and sickness in third world countries. Of course, that happens to those of us who are pastors as well, and that's one of the reasons I enjoy going to third world countries with our people -- it helps me keep perspective.
Finally, the Baptist Press article today reminds me that Southern Baptists should always be champions of freedom - including a free press. We must always be on guard against any SBC Executive Committee offical or employee using Baptist Press as a public relations tool. Baptist Press must be free and employees of Baptist Press should not take their orders from denominational executives. As it stands, the headline on the Baptist Press article with Page's remarks within the first hour of posting from Page Rebukes New Covenant to Page Responds to Carter. I'm wondering who put the first title up, and who called and requested the second?
Not that it makes much difference. We are all Baptists. And as I said in my earlier post, we should respect one another's opinion, and love each other, even when we disagree. I'm not sure where I stand on the New Baptist Covenant - it may end up being a smokescreen for liberal politics - but I'm not sure how much different that would be from a convention attaching herself to right wing politics.
Both bother me.
In His Grace,
P.S. PC in the title is 'Political Correctness.' EC in the title is the 'Executive Committee' of the SBC.