Some might believe the ballot cast Wednesday for any number of resolutions that will be presented to the SBC tomorrow could be the most important vote at the 2007 Southern Baptist Convention. Though there are several worthy resolutions, no vote for a resolution will be the most signficant vote cast by messengers at this 2007 convention.
I believe the most important vote of the Southern Baptist Convention this year, not to mention the last ten years, will take place sometime Tuesday night, during the previously scheduled business portion of the agenda, when the seated messengers of the 2007 Southern Baptist Convention in San Antonio will debate, and then ultimately vote for, or against, the adoption of the Executive Committee statement regarding the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 which reads:
"The Baptist Faith and Message is neither a creed, nor a complete statement of our faith, nor final and infallible; nevertheless, we further acknowledge that it is the only consensus statement of doctrinal beliefs approved by the Southern Baptist Convention and such is sufficient in its current form to guide trustees in their establishment of policies and practices of entities of the Convention."
The above statement was adopted by the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention this past year in response to a motion made at the 2006 Greensboro Southern Baptist Convention by Dr. Boyd Luter, former Dean at Criswell College.
If the Convention herself adopts this statement, it will send a strong and irrefutable message to the trustees of Southern Baptist boards and agencies that the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message is the only consensus statement of doctrinal belief approved by the SBC, and to establish doctrinal guidelines or policies that exceed the BFM 2000 is an act contrary to the wishes of the Convention herself.
Again, in my mind, this recommendation to adopt the Executive Committee's statement on the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message is the most important vote to come before the SBC in many years. I pray that the adoption of the statement passes at the Convention, as it did in the Executive Committee of the SBC, WITHOUT opposition.
Why Should The Executive Committee Statement on the BFM 2000 Be Adopted by the SBC?
(1). It will give trustees the authority to lead out in the prevention of any SBC agency from demanding absolute conformity on interpretations of tertiary doctrines, doctrines that are not addressed by the BFM 2000, before there can be participation in SBC missions and ministry.
(2). It will communicate to men who pray in tongues like Dwight McKissic and Jerry Rankin, and men who believe in Calvinism like Al Mohler and Tom Ascol, and men who believe in cessationism like Paige Patterson and Russ Moore, and men who believe in Arminianism like _________ (fill in the blank), and pastors who hold to Landmarkism in their local church, and pastors who don't hold to Landmarkism in their local church, that there is plenty of room in the SBC for both interpretations of these tertiary doctrines, and that not one side, or the other, is free to demand that others take their position in order to cooperate in missions and ministry in the SBC.
(3). It will help us focus on the main thing - sharing the gospel - and will stop cold the continuing narrowing of the parameters of cooperation by insisting we Southern Baptists unite around the essentials and cease making tertiary doctrinal interpretations issues over which we divide.
Probably the more significant question one might ought ponder is this: "What does it mean if people speak out against - or vote against - this Executive Committee statement on the BFM 2000?"
It would seem to me that opposition to this statement would represent a belief by some that the BFM 2000 IS NOT sufficient, and there is definitely a movement afoot by some in the SBC to narrow the doctrinal standards of cooperation by doctrinally adding to the BFM 'post de facto' by changing agency doctrinal policies and guidelines without Convention approval --- a charge that I have consistently made over the past two years.
We'll see how right I may have been by watching carefully the debate. Notice closely 'who' opposes the Executive Committee statement. Listen to the reasons 'why' a person opposes it. You will learn a great deal by just listening. You can watch (and listen) to the convention LIVE by clicking here.
Other Items of Business On Tuesday at the SBC
There will be several interesting reports from our agencies, not the least of which are the Lifeway Report, where I have already heard some are attempting to question the President of Lifeway on the tongues survey released a week before the convention. As most of you know, the Lifeway survey found that over 50% of Southern Baptist pastors believed that tongues was a legitimate gift of the Spirit.
The International Mission Board report will be offered Tuesday night, and the Southwestern Theological Seminary report will be given Tuesday afternoon at 4:45 p.m. There will be other interesting items presented to the convention in the form of recommendations and resolutions. I will update everyone Tuesday night.
The Election of First Vice-President
Tuesday afternoon, right before the supper break the election for First Vice-President will be held. There is a clear choice this year between ideologies of conservative cooperation vs. fundamentalist separation. David Rogers, IMB missionary to Spain and son of legendary Southern Baptist Adrian Rogers represents the fresh wind of cooperation among conservatives around the essentials of the gospel, and freedom to dissent on the non-essentials. Jim Richards represents the ideology that there are no tertiary doctrines in the Bible, and you must agree with me on every issue or you cannot be considered a true Southern Baptist.
Jim Richards is in his home state of Texas and he is expected to win because of the huge number SBCT messengers in San Antonio -- but don't rule out David Rogers pulling off what would be the biggest upset in recent memory.
A Review of the Events at the SBC on Monday, June 11, 2007
Due to the lateness of the hour, I only wish to highlight a couple of events that occurred today at the SBC. Though the Convention officially begins tomorrow, many thousands of Southern Baptists are already here enjoying the Pastor's Conference and the fellowship with other Southern Baptist people.
First, Dwight McKissic did a phenomenal job in debating Dr. Russ Moore of Southern Seminary on the issue of tongues. In the portion of the debate where the two positions were defended from Scripture, Dwight was the hands down clear winner. Someone told me later that Dwight reminded them of Luther at the Diet of Worms where the Catholic bishops excoriated Luther on his lack of knowledge of Catholic history, only to be handed their own heads on the proverbial platter when Luther expertly defended his views on justificaton from Scripture.
I also listened to the talk given by Dr. Patterson on KCBI Radio as he was asked questions by Jerry Johnston, President of Criswell College, about his 'concerns' over the SBC. I couldn't help but smile as Paige articulated his belief that the new enemy in the SBC (again)is the 'liberals.' I was around during the early eighties when Pressler and Patterson made stump speeches about how to 'rescue' the SBC (I was Pressler's driver in Oklahoma), and I really believe if you were to take today's tape and play it against one made by Dr. Patterson 25 years ago, the two would have sounded the same.
Of course, a great deal has changed in the SBC over the past quarter century, not the least of which is the fact that all the liberals are gone.
People are beginning to wake up to the fact that the old mantras don't work anymore.
Finally, it was my pleasure to eat dinner with all the messengers from my church, three of which are attending their first ever Southern Baptist Convention. One of those three, Dr. Cyril Kumar, heads up our orphanage and school in Bangalore, India. I have never seen a man work harder than Cyril, and literally thousands of lives and families have been saved through his ministry called 'Touch India.'
Sometimes I get concerned that Cyril might get jaded by what he sees. However, today, I was thankful to learn that he was excited to be at the SBC and he learned a great deal about Southern Baptists, including that there is propensity in all Southern Baptists to say, "Have a good day" even when it has gotten dark, is night, and the 'day' is almost over.
I pray that tomorrow is 'a good day.'
In His Grace,