The mere replacement of one set of bureaucrats with another doth not a reformation make!
A new group of Baptist Identity adherents have formed The Association of Convictional Baptists, and will be presenting a Resolution on Regenerate Church Membership, written by Dr. Malcolm Yarnell, at the 2008 Southern Baptist Convention in Indianoplois, Indiana. The resolution is good in what it says, but very revealing in what it does not say.
Dr. Tom Ascol has for years proposed that our convention adopt his own Resolution on Church Membership; a request our convention has denied on several occasions. According to former SWBTS adjunct professor Bart Barber, the organizer for the push to adopt the new resolution, Dr. Ascol intends to offer his resolution again at the 2008 Indianopolis Southern Baptist Convention. In essence, we will have TWO resolutions submitted on Regenerate Church Membership. Bart Barber writes of the two resolutions:
The similarities between the two resolutions outweigh the differences, although I prefer our resolution..
What Are The Differences?
A brief reading of both proposed resolutions reveals that Dr. Malcolm Yarnell's resolution, endorsed by The Association of Convictional Baptists, removes any reference to the years of our denomination reporting to the secular press inflated denominational membership statistics through the Annual Church Profile, and also removes any call for repentance by denominational and church leaders for boasting about the number of members within the Southern Baptist Convention - numbers that we Southern Baptists have known for years are deceptive.
I would hope that one of the convictions of the new Association of Convictional Baptists is a conviction to tell the truth. It is hard to understand the reasoning for not including repentance for any deception that has occurred. Unless changes are made and the two resolutions can be blended into one, we have the very real possibility of a debate over two regenerate church membership resolutions revolving around whether or not we wish to admit our sins of the past - or cover them up. A rather interesting debate considering we confess to believe the Bible and it clearly says, "Whosoever covereth his sin shall not prosper" (Proverbs 28:13).
Interestingly, the email debate between fifty of the initial sponsors of the Association of Convictional Baptists included suggestions that the statements calling upon Ascol's statements regarding denominational accountability be included, and thus, there could be a wide bipartisian support of a single resolution, with Dr. Ascol not needing to offer his.
Both Danny Akin and Mark Dever expressed their support for these additions, and Nathan Finn of Southeastern Seminary was particularly articulate in his argument for the inclusion of Ascol's statements that called for denominational accountability and repentance. Dr. Paige Patterson, President of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, took Nathan Finn to task for advocating these additions, and with the two proponents of the new resolution - Malcolm Yarnell and Bart Barber - possessing fiduciary and personal loyalty to Southwestern Seminary and Paige Patterson, one can now understand why there are now TWO regenerate church membership resolutions - instead of one.
Repeating the Mistakes of the 1970's and 1980's
During the 1970's those in control of the Southern Baptist Convention and her agencies did not like information that caused the convention to be perceived in a negative light. Some were justifiably upset at the lack of transparency and accountability on the denominational level, including the illustration Dr. George gives in his article, regarding the support of abortion rights by the Southern Baptist Convention's Christian Life Commission in the 1970's.
We who serve in the 21st Century as Southern Baptist pastors and employees need to learn from our past mistakes. We must resist acting in our own self-interest or self-preservation by seeking favor through flattering influential people, and we must be Christian men and women who do the right thing because of principle.
Here's hoping that The Associational of Convictional Baptists will see the error of not addressing the language proposed by Dr. Tom Ascol before it is too late and there is an embarrassing debate, reported on by the secular press, over the reasons for the exclusions of denominational accountability.
In His Grace,