Michael Ruffin, Pastor of Fitsgerald, Georgia, and owner of the blog On the Jericho Road, recently brought my attention to a constitutional amendment being brought before Georgia Baptists for vote during November's Georgia Baptist Convention (GBC) at First Baptist Church, Woodstock, Georgia. The proposed amendment (bold) reads as follows:
Article II. Membership.
Section 1. This body shall be composed of messengers from cooperating Baptist Churches. A cooperating church is one that gives evidence of its belief in Holy Scripture as its authority in matters of faith and practice and is in harmony and cooperation with the work and purpose of this Convention. A cooperating church does not include a church which knowingly takes, or has taken, any action to affirm, approve, or endorse homosexual behavior.
Pastor Ruffin wrote a letter to the Georgia Baptist Convention expressing his concerns over the proposed amendment. Pastor Ruffin asks ten questions.
(1). What is the nature of the "evidence" that is going to be required?
(2). Will it be good enough for a church to say, "Why yes, we believe in Holy Scripture as our authority in matters of faith and practice"?
(3). Will each local Georgia Baptist church that desires to continue as a cooperating GBC church be required by the GBC to adopt a confessional statement that affirms its commitment to biblical authority?
(4). If such an adoption is to be required, will a church be expected or allowed to compose its own statement or will it be permitted--or maybe even required--to adopt the Baptist Faith & Message Statement (rev. 2000) article on Scripture--or perhaps the entire statement--in order to be seen as providing sufficient "evidence"?
(5). If the forced adoption of a confession is not to be required, then who is going to determine what constitutes "evidence" of a local Georgia Baptist church's "belief in Holy Scripture as its authority in matters of faith and practice"?
(6). Is the GBC going to set up an "evidence of belief in Scripture" watchdog committee that will examine each GBC church?
(7). Perhaps the intention is only to deal with churches that present the GBC with some kind of "problem" in the kind of "evidence" it presents in its "faith and practice." The problem still remains--who is going to be "Big Brother"; who is going to decide which churches are and are not "in cooperation" with the GBC under the terms of this proposed amendment?
(8). If each local GBC church is not going to be required to adopt an acceptable statement regarding its fidelity to Scripture as its way of providing "evidence," then what are the standards going to be by which the adequacy of a church's "evidence" is evaluated?
(9). Is the GBC going to investigate each local church's "faith and practice" to see if it offers "evidence of its belief in Holy Scripture as its authority"?
(10). Will the Christian Index publish a list of standards to which each church must live up if it is to be welcomed as a "cooperating" church?
Pastor Ruffin has done all Baptists a service with his letter. Let's hope the powers that be in Georgia publish the letter and answer his questions for all to read.
We are all in trouble when those in denominational office and those few who hold convention power are handed the authority to determine who is--and who isn't--a true and faithful Southern Baptist.
All men have an inherent temptation to demand everyone else look like them.
In His Grace,