Those who wish to use the BFM 2000 as a "tool" of accountablity to keep others "in line," use it as a "club" (their favorite kind of tool) to create conformity. Rather than autonomous churches cooperating in missions and evangelism, and rather than competent, Bible-believing Southern Baptists being granted the freedom to voice dissent on tertiary matters of the faith, these faux Baptists who advocate uniformity and conformity have no qualms of publicly humiliating Southern Baptists who disagree with them. They have now chosen to use their club against First Baptist Church, Decatur, Georgia, accusing that church of not being a true "Southern Baptist" church. They are moving to "disfellowship" from FBC Decatur for the church's refusal to abide by the BFM 2000 in just one single tenet. FBC Decatur is not being accused of denying the gospel. FBC Decatur is not being accused of denying the deity of Christ. FBC Decatur is not being accused of refusing denying believers baptism by immersion. FBC Decatur is being hammered for calling a pastor who is female.
This kind of "clubbing" (disfellowship) is absolutely absurd. It violates every major Baptist principle, not to mention the Word of Christ Himself who said, "By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another." Where is our love for FBC Decatur? Where is our love for Julie Penninton-Russell. What, in heaven's name, is being done to our brothers and sisters in Christ at FBC Decatur?
I propose that if this act of "disfellowship" is allowed to occur, it will be very dangerous to the health of the Southern Baptist Convention. Why? If a Southern Baptist church is not granted the freedom to point out that she believes the BFM 2000 is in contradiction with Scripture, then all of us who claim to be Southern Baptists will have prostituted our heritage as Baptists. If our churches are not free to express their biblical dissent to the BFM 2000, we have ceased being a legitimate Baptist Convention. As Baptists, we have historically confessed our affirmation of Scripture alone. But think about what is happening in the Southern Baptist Convention in 2009 - The "clubbers" are calling other Southern Baptists "liberal" because their consciences are bound to the Word of God and not to the BFM 2000! Let me repeat the preceding incredulous fact using different words. Those who are using the BFM 2000 as a "club" have elevated a creed above the Bible! Who would ever thought this is where we Southern Baptists would end up as a Convention? I sure didn't.
The FORCED acceptance of the BFM 2000, by threatening to "disfellowship" from those churches who don't agree with every single one of its tenets, is patently absurd. Those who push "disfellowship" from churches that disagree with a portion of the BFM 2000 will destroy our convention if they are allowed to succeed. The SBC will have to eventually disfellowship from over 25,000 Southern Baptist churches. That is the number of SBC churches, at least according to one seminary professor, that have expressed disagreement with the BFM 2000 in either church practice or church doctrine in areas other than women pastors. Let me give three examples of such church disagreements with the BFM 2000, all of which have nothing to do with women pastors.
(Example 1). Dr. Nathan Finn, a professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, writes on his blog that most Southern Baptist churches and pastors disagree with the BFM 2000 and the doctrine of "closed communion." He writes:
"Over the course of the last generation a closed membership coupled with an open communion has become increasingly popular in the SBC. I suspect it is even the majority practice in many areas. It seems at least possible that communion is one doctrine where the Baptist Faith and Message takes a position that is not affirmed by many—maybe even most—of our churches. What this means for the Convention’s future remains to be seen" (Baptist, The Lord's Supper and Southern Baptists, p.5,6).
Well, Dr. Finn, if some would have their way, it means that those churches who do not affirm closed communion ought to be "disfellowshipped." Let them try. My church, the Emmanuel Baptist Church of Enid, Oklahoma has given over one million dollars to the Cooperative Program since 2000, and we practice open communion. We strongly DO NOT affirm the BFM 2000 in this area of closed communion, and I have made my objections to closed communion known verbally and in writing - but I remain a fully cooperating Southern Baptist. Let the closed communionist try to disfellowship us.
(Example 2) I have previously pointed out that the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message takes the semi-Pelagian view of original sin in Article III by teaching humans come under God's judgment "as soon as they are capable of moral action . . ." and asserts that only when there is personal and actual sin do sinners "become transgressors and are (placed) under condemnation." This peculiar doctrinal error, though not fatal to the Christian faith, is absolutely contrary to clear teaching of Scripture that "all" are condemned for the sin of Adam. In fact, the 2000 BFM's position on original sin is an altered version of what Southern Baptists have historically confessed we believe about this doctrine. I cannot, and will not, affirm the 2000 BFM in this doctrinal tenet, and have made my opposition known to it at every possible turn, verbally and in writing - but I remain a fully cooperating Southern Baptist.
(Example 3) Theologian Sam Storms has pointed out that the writers of the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message have made a theological error, based upon their interpretation of a poor English translation of the Greek text, when in Article II C, on God the Holy Spirit, the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 states, "At the moment of regeneration He [i.e., the Holy Spirit] baptizes every believer into the Body of Christ.
Southern Baptist Dr. Storms writes about this error quite forcefully:
This BFM statement asserts that the Holy Spirit baptizes every believer into the Body of Christ. The problem is that there isn't a single, solitary biblical text which says that the Spirit baptizes anyone into anything. It is always and in every text Jesus Christ who baptizes believers in the Holy Spirit, the result of which is that we are incorporated into the Body of Christ . . . (Again), in no text is the Holy Spirit ever said to be the agent by which one is baptized. Jesus is the baptizer. The Holy Spirit is he in whom we are engulfed or the "element" with which we are saturated and deluged, resulting in our participation in the spiritual organism of the church, the body of Christ. I can only conclude that those responsible for writing the BFM 2000 were misled by a mistranslation of 1 Cor. 12:13. I encourage all to read again the prophecy of John the Baptist that Jesus "will baptize you with [lit., "in", the Gk. Preposition en] the Holy Spirit and with fire" (Mt. 3:11; Mk. 1:8; Lk. 3:16; Jn. 1:33; Acts 1:5; 11:16).
I could go on with other contradictions with Scripture in the BFM 2000, including the Landmark emphasis of the local church to the neglect of the biblical empahsis on the universal church (the bride of Christ), but the three above examples should suffice. You can't go disfellowshipping churches who disagree with the BFM 2000 or we will no longer be a true Baptist Convention.
The Point That We Southern Baptists Must Never Forget
Why is it that First Baptist Church, Decatur, Georgia, is now being "disfellowshipped" from the Georgia Baptist Convention? Why is it that the same people in Georgia who are pushing this ungodly action may very well try something similar at the Southern Baptist Convention in Louisville, Kentucky? What is it that is being said by such actions? Are they really exalting the BFM 2000 above the Bible and the soul's conscience to adhere to the Scriptures?
It is evident that some wish First Baptist Church, Decatur to be disfellowshipped because the church has called a pastor who is female, in violation of the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message. So what. There are thousands of churches that violate the BFM 2000, including mine, in other areas. Why are you singling out FBC, Decatur?
Why don't these alleged SBC leaders disfellowship from someone who is not afraid to call them out?
There are thousands of SBC churches that don't practice closed communion. Is the Southern Baptist Convention going to disfellowship each church? There are dozens and dozens of professors, hundreds of pastors and churches, who do not believe in the semi-pelagian view of original sin. Is the SBC going to disfellowship all of them? There are several who understand that the 2000 BFM is outright contradicts the Bible itself when it says that the "Holy Spirit" baptizes us. Is the SBC going to disfellowship those of us who believe the Bible over the BFM?
No, those leaders will not even begin to attempt to disfellowship us. They can't because the people would be in an uproar.
But the Georgia Baptist Convention, and possibly people in the SBC, may very well be planning to disfellowship from First Baptist Church, Decatur. I wonder if they are proceeding because they think Southern Baptsits won't object. Those pushing "disfellowship" from FBC Decatur claim "doctrinal accountability," but Southern Baptists better wisen up. There are thousands upon thousands of Bible believing, Christ-loving, evangelical men and women who believe the Bible teaches women are gifted in all areas of ministry, including pastoring and teaching. Some may not like that interpretation of the Bible, but the SBC is a cooperating Convention, not a creedalistic club of conforming churches that club dissenters. Just because the BFM 2000 prohibits "women" Senior Pastors, does not mean that a church who disagrees with the BFM 2000 and calls a woman pastor cannot be considered a cooperating Southern Baptist Church. Again, thousands and thousands of SBC churches disagree with the BFM 2000. Why pick on FBC Decatur?
I learned a long time ago that bullies on the playground must be confronted, or they will keep bullying. This move toward creedalism in the SBC must stop. It ain't Baptist. Not even close. It's time we Southern Baptists realized the absolute absurdity of "disfellowshipping" a church for not "affirming" the 2000 BFM. By God's grace the Georgia Baptist Convention will come to her senses and see the stupidity of her actions before the Southern Baptist Convention pulls a similar ungodly, unbaptistic and ridiculous action.
In His Grace,
P.S. If some object to this post by saying, "But if we have no doctrinal basis of agreement, then we can have no fellowship!" I respond, "You are absolutely correct! That is why nearly two and one half years ago I offered A Southern Baptist Statement of Cooperation that focuses solely on the essentials of the gospel of Jesus Christ and leaves out all those tertiary issues that evangelical, Bible-believing Christians disagree over.