During the nineteen minute introductory video of the life of the former President, the narrator said that the Democratic handlers of President Franklin Deleanor Roosevelt chose Missouri Senator Harry Truman as the 1944 Vice-Presidential running mate because he was "a Southern Baptist, friendly with labor, and a well-liked politician."
That phrase stuck with me because I had already made a visit to the First Baptist Church of Independence, Missouri. Even though we arrived unannounced at First Baptist Church, Dr. Kevin Paine gave Ben Cole and I a tour of the historic church buildings. He showed us the old auditorium, and then the new auditorium - built in the 1970's - which has been recently remodeled under Dr. Paine's leadership.
During the tour Dr. Paine explained that President Truman visited FBC frequently, both during his time in office and the twenty years he lived in Independence after leaving the White House. However, like the politician he was, Truman never joined any particular church. Yet the President never hesitated calling himself a Southern Baptist. Traditional lore says that First Baptist Church, Independence, Missouri was the spiritual home of the late President.
Dr. Paine also explained to us the difference beteen the Reorganized Church of Latter Day Saints, whose headquarters is in Independence, Missouri, and the Church of Latter Day Saints (the Mormons), whose headquarters is in Salt Lake City, Utah. During his explanation, Dr. Paine revealed his own Christology (very conservative), his soteriology (salvation by grace through faith), his bibliology (the Bible is sufficient for all faith and practice of the Christian), and his ecclesiology (Christ is the head of His church).
Dr. Paine revealed to us that, shortly after he had become pastor of First Baptist Church, the Missouri Baptist Convention kicked his church and eighteen other Southern Baptist churches in Missouri out of the state convention for their 'dual alignment.' Dr. Payne said that his church had contributed to many Baptist organizations over the years, including the SBC and CBF.
I am a full supporter of all things SBC, and have never believed our convention should separate, divide or splinter. Many people already know that when the CBF formed in Oklahoma in 1992 I nailed on the door of the organizational meeting 95 Theses Against Participation in the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Oklahoma. This act led some in the CBF to label me a fundamentalist, while some who are are without controversy true fundamentalists call me moderate or liberal.
I was impressed with Dr. Paine's warm evangelism, his orthodox theology, and his attempts to keep his church focused on reaching the community for Christ. We commended Dr. Paine for his work at reviving the historic downtown church, had prayer with him over his life and ministry, and bid him a cordial farewell. Since meeting Dr. Paine and touring the historic First Baptist Church of Independence, Missouri, a question has continued to plague my understanding. Regardless of one's views on the politics at play within the SBC, I believe the same question must be confusing to anyone and everyone working in cooperating missions ministry . . .
"Why would any conservative agency of the Southern Baptist Convention, whether it be state or national, reject the mission dollars of a church or individual who desires to contribute to that agency's work in reaching the world for Christ through the proclamation of the gospel?"
What does it prove when that agency refuses mission dollars?
In His Grace,
Update: Don Wideman informs me that President Truman was a member of FBC Grandview in the years prior to his Presidency, and upon moving to Independence never changed his membership, but attended his mother-in-law's home church (Episcopal) and other churches in the area, including FBC.