Tuesday night at the 2009 Southern Baptist Convention, the messengers overwhelmingly voted to adopt a motion from Al Mohler to "authorize the President of the Southern Baptist Convention to appoint a Great Commission Taskforce charged to bring a report and any recommendations to the SBC meeting in Orlando, Florida June 15-16, 2010 concerning how Southern Baptists can work together more faithfully and effectively in serving Christ through the Great Commission."
The Convention in Orlando next year is setting up to be a doozy. Not only will there be a new President elected, but the report of this Great Commission Taskforce will be as controversial as the Peace Committee Report of the mid-1990's.
There are three reasons why this Great Commission vote Tuesday night launches a year of controversy:
(1). Baptist State Convention Executive-Directors and Dr. Morris Chapman are united in their belief that certain agency heads, particularly Jerry Rankin, Al Mohler and Danny Akin are looking for churches to give more money directly to their institutions rather than through the Cooperative Program where state conventions and the Executive Committee would receive a cut of what is given. Whether this is true or not is not really the issue - it is the perception.
(2). Some Southern Baptists, particularly Paige Patterson, Malcolm Yarnell and others affiliated with Southwestern Theological Seminary believe the Great Commission Resurgence Declaration does not go far enough doctrinally. Wanting a much firmer and official "Baptist Identity" spelled out in the Great Commission Declaration, Baptist Identity adherents have signed the document with "caveats" or not signed it at all. Many who argued against the Great Commission Recommendation Tuesday night said the growing influence of Calvinism in the SBC is the reason for the decline in baptisms, and no Great Commission Declaration would ever weed out what really needs to go in the SBC - Calvinists.
(3). Dr. Morris Chapman made, in my opinion, a very strategic mistake during his Executive-Director's address Tuesday morning. As stated above, Dr. Chapman is adamantly opposed to the Great Commission Declaration because of a feeling those in support of it will work to "cut out" traditional Cooperative Program accounting. In essence, Dr. Chapman believes Danny Aiken and other agency heads have long sought the Convention to label any DIRECT gifts to any specific SBC agency as "Cooperative Program" giving. Dr. Chapman takes the position regarding the Cooperative Program budget that most local SBC pastors take regarding their local church budgets. Once people begin to "designate" gifts then the idea of a unified and cooperative budget goes out the window.
However, rather than addressing the practical and financial concerns associated with GCRD Article 9 (i.e. the restucturing of SBC agencies and ministries) during his address, Dr. Chapman delivered a rather polemical strike against Calvinism. Dr. Chapman, in essence, blamed Calvinism for the decline of baptisms, giving and missions in the SBC. Several who opposed the Great Commission Recommendation Tuesday night picked up on Dr. Chapman's attack against Calvinism. Dr. Chapman's strike against Calvinists in the SBC was a mistake.
In an extraordinary luncheon meeting at Sojourn Church after Dr. Morris Chapman's address, Dr. Danny Aiken publicly apologized to all his "Calvinist" friends present at the luncheon (Dr. Mohler was seated to his left on the platform) for the "shameful" misrepresentations of Calvinism by Executive-Director Morris Chapman. I don't know when I've seen agency heads at such odds with each other as they seem to now be.
My Vote on the Great Commission Resurgence
In the end, I voted for the Great Commission Recommendation Tuesday night. Honestly, after the Baptist21 luncheon today at Sojourn where national agency leaders seemed to either advocate or condone bypassing state conventions in order to give directly seminaries, the IMB, or other national entities of the SBC, I was withdrawing my support for the Great Commission Resurgence Declaration.
However, after hearing the floor debate on Tuesday night and realizing that those voting AGAINST the Great Commisison recommendation were either slamming Calvinists, or opposing evangelical cooperation, or were strong advocates of Baptist Identity - I voted FOR the Great Commission Motion.
I admire Dr. Chapman, but I think it was a very strategic mistake to oppose the Great Commission Resurgence on the basis of blaming Calvinists for the problems in the SBC. Others heard his address and picked up the mantra Tuesday night during the debate on the Great Commission recommendation. In the end, the diatribe against Calvinists by those opposing the GCRD Task Force is precisely why I voted FOR for the GCRD Task Force.
Otherwise, I probably would have voted against it. It is not my desire, nor will it ever by my desire, to defund state missions ministry. I can't speak for other Baptist state conventions, but I can guarantee you that the work done in Oklahoma is extraordinary. Frankly, I am far more comfortable with the accountability of how our STATE Cooperative Program funds are being spent than I am with the accountability of hour our NATIONAL Cooperative Program funds are being spent - particularly when our national convention refuses to adopt GAAP or FASB conflict of interest guidelines - something our state Baptist Conention did years ago.
Needless to say, things are getting very confusing in the SBC. I told my wife three years ago that the reason I was taking a stand against excluding charismatics from the IMB and the SBC is because if you don't draw the line there, then those who hold to the doctrines of grace would be the next ones targeted.
Well, it sure seems that some very signficant people are now taking direct aim at Calvinists in the SBC.
Hold on tight. It could get really rocky.
In His Grace,