"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

Southern Baptist Convention, James MacDonald, Spiritual Authority, and the "Kiddie Porn" Threat

James McDonald/Facebook
In 2014,  I wrote a lengthy article about the extreme authoritarianism of James MacDonald, an unchecked power that is based on MacDonald's unbiblical theology that he has been invested by God with "spiritual authority" over people.

Toward the end of the article, I posted a PDF paper on what the Scripture teaches about Christian authority. Anyone who assumes "spiritual authority" over people, the kind of authority that James MacDonald believes in, is actually assuming a Fraudulent Authority acting completely contrary to the teachings of Jesus Christ and the New Testament.

I have long pointed out that the problem in the Southern Baptist Convention is a prevalent view that pastors possess some kind of mystical "spiritual authority" over people.

I wrote in 2014 that MacDonald's belief in his "spiritual authority" over others led to serious damage in ministry and relationships in his church, the Harvest Bible Church.

One year after I wrote that article,  James MacDonald petitioned Harvest Bible Church for membership into the Southern Baptist Convention (Read about it here).

Since 2012, James MacDonald has been invited by leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention to speak at least 4 times at the Southern Baptist Convention's Pastor's Conference.

Ugh.

Yesterday, February 12, 2019, the elders of Harvest Bible Church fired Pastor (dare we use that title?) James MacDonald after a radio show host aired several vulgar and inflammatory audio clips made by James MacDonald (read the Harvest elders statement here).

You can read what Southern Baptist pastor James MacDonald said, or you can listen to the disgusting audio by clicking on Mancow's radio broadcast entitled "Elections, R. Kelly, and Church Scandals, Oh My!)). Below, courtesy of one of my heroes, Julie Roys, are the relevant points of the radio broadcast.
1:08:25 – James MacDonald discussed his desire to put "kiddie porn" on Harold Smith’s computer. (Harold Smith is President and CEO of Christianity Today). 
1:09:03 – James MacDonald speaks of “frickin’ Julie Roys "riding around on a tricycle with a midget on her shoulders," a statement designed to show how Roys is certifiably crazy. (Julie Roys deserves a medal for her tireless efforts to confront and correct the abusive behavior of James McDonald). 
1:09:20 – James MacDonald makes a slanderous reference to Mark Galli (Christianity Today) and Julie Roys having an affair, and vulgar reference to Ed Stetzer (Ex. Director of Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College). 
1:19:12 –  James MacDonald makes an additional vulgar reference to Harold Smith
1:20:25 – James MacDonald makes up a fabricated story (according to Julie, its fabricated, and I believe her) that Julie Roys is approaching the houses of people who were victims in an official investigation into McDonald's alleged misconduct.
1:21:45 –  James MacDonald calls Mark Galli by another vulgar name.
1:29:30 – There is a classic megalomaniac statement by MacDonald about Christianity Today (this statement alone is worth listening to the audio).
The root problem in the Southern Baptist Convention is a proliferation of pastors, church leaders, and denominational leaders who believe in their inherent spiritual authority. Males have a false belief that they have power over females, and pastors falsely believe they have divine "spiritual authority"  over church members because of their "ordination."

Abuse of any kind, whether it is sexual, physical, emotional, or mental, begins when the powerful intentional cross boundaries of the powerless for personal gratification and gain.

The problem in the Southern Baptist Convention is the problem of power.

It's called Fraudulent Authority.

In the coming weeks, I examine how "ordination" in the Southern Baptist Convention is built on false premises, sustained by wrong assumptions, and leads to the abuse we are seeing in SBC churches.

James MacDonald is a prime example of the problem we face as Southern Baptists.

And those who stood and applauded his entrance into the SBC are complicit in perpetuating the problem of fraudulent authority and the abuse of power in the Southern Baptist Convention.

Southern Baptists and Our Needed Transformation

The Houston Chronicle delivered a punch to the gut for anyone who claims affiliation with the Southern Baptist Convention.

In an article titled "Abuse of Faith," three investigative reporters uncovered over 700 documented cases of sexually predatory behavior by SBC pastors and leaders.

I'm a Southern Baptist pastor. Though the word "Baptist" is not in the title of the church I pastor, we affiliate with other Southern Baptist churches for the purpose of global missions, disaster relief worldwide (the SBC has the best disaster relief ministry in the world), and a host of other reasons that all revolve around evangelical cooperation and the concept "we get more done together than separate."

But this article is gut-wrenching.

I've spoken with Robert Downen and John Tedesco, two of the three investigative reporters for the Houston Chronicle, on multiple occasions during the past year. I've found them to be intelligent, thorough, and extremely fair.

Nobody can blame the media. This isn't "fake news."

It's maddingly, and sadly, all too real.

But I would like to offer some hope.

Don't give up on the SBC.

Keep staying involved. I know from experience that transformative change is slow. It requires patience. And, you can't be concerned with your personal reputation.

Think only of His Kingdom.

In 2005, the trustees of the Southern Baptist Convention's International Mission Board passed two doctrinal policies that exceeded the BFM 2000 and violated the Convention's constitution and spirit of cooperation.

In 2005, IMB leadership sought to remove me from the IMB trustee board because of my principled and respectful opposition to the board's leadership and their unwise decision to implement the new doctrinal requirements that exceeded the BFM 2000.

In 2006, the IMB leadership reversed their recommendation to remove me from the board when they realized that the entire Convention would have to vote on their recommendation and that I would be given the opportunity to speak to the Convention before the vote.

In 2007, SBC leadership rejected my proposal at the Southern Baptist Convention to implement a database to track sexual predators in the Southern Baptist Convention, a database that would be designed to prevent predators moving from one church to the next without being identified as sexual predators. After the motion was denied, I continued to write about the importance of any effort to hold accountable criminals in our midst and those who wish to cover for them.

In 2015, the (new) trustees of the SBC International Mission Board reversed the 2005 doctrinal policies.

In 2018, Southern Baptist Convention leadership received (again) my proposal to establish - or facilitate the establishment of - a database to track sexual predators in the SBC. This time, SBC leadership funded an investigation committee (a committee that is still working).

In 2019, the Houston Chronicle, in a broad, months-long investigation and report, documented at least 700 victims of sexual abuse perpetrated by Southern Baptist pastors, workers, and leaders since 2007.

Moral of the Story: Transformative change in any organization takes patience, time, and a willingness to do the right thing regardless of what others say about you or threaten to do to you.

Never give up.

In 2020, the SBC may indeed realize that "hindsight is 2020."

Transformative change is coming.

Churches that Meet Needs or a Social Government?

Building a Women's Shelter and Community Center in Enid
"Imagine," wrote John Lennon, "no need for greed or hunger, a brotherhood of man."

Imagine. 

What a world that would be.

Unfortunately, Lennon wrote in the first verse of his hit song, "Imagine...no religion, too." 

Sorry, John. You can't have it both ways. 

It's either God or government; His people or a nation's politics; voluntary charity or mandated socialism. The only way your imaginative dream turns into inspirational reality is through God's plan or the government's plan. 

What's the difference between the two?

God empowers His people internally to voluntarily and sacrificially give of our resources to meet the social needs (food, shelter, income) of people around us, impacting the cities and communities where we live. 
"I was once young but now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread" (Psalm 37:25). 
On the other hand, the government demands outwardly that its people forcibly and personally pay taxes to meet the social needs (food, shelter, income) of all citizens, impacting cities and community where citizens live.

The government is indeed needed for the common good of all citizens (building roads and bridges, the nation's defense, etc...), for as Abraham Lincoln once wrote:
"The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people, whatever they need to have done, but can not do, at all, or can not, so well do, for themselves — in their separate, and individual capacities."
However, the dream of  "no greed or hunger" pertains to an individual and his or her social needs (food, shelter, income).

In God's plan, God's people are at the forefront of providing for the poor, giving shelter to the homeless, and assisting people to work, providing a minimum standard of living. 

Unfortunately, institutional churches who profess to have members that have been captivated by the love of God have abdicated our missional purpose.

American churches have turned to the government to meet the needs of broken individuals. 

The rise of social government in America parallels the level of self-absorption in the churches of America. 

When we who lead churches are more interested in pot-luck dinners to feed ourselves than we are shelters to feed the homeless, we abdicate our missional purpose. When we who are members of institutional churches care more about musical performances that we do unwed mothers, we abdicate our missional purpose. When we who cite membership in a local church aren't actively involved in building, staffing, and funding shelters for the abused and abandoned;  when we aren't pursuing improvements in the societal conditions of the overlooked and underprivileged; and when we aren't visiting those in prison and providing jobs for them when they get out; we are abdicating our God-given missional purpose. 

Members of conservative evangelical churches have no right to complain about the spread of socialism in our government unless we're doing something about the social needs in our country.

The problem with politics is that liberals want the government to do what their churches are supposed to be doing and conservatives don't want the government to do what their churches refuse to be doing. 

So, what's the solution? 

I suggest that there's coming a day, sooner rather than later, when churches will have to separate from the government. There will be no "incorporation" status. There will be tax deductions for donors to churches. The government will be unable to dictate what churches believe, and churches will have not any tax advantages typically enjoyed by non-profit organizations certified by the state.

Then we'll see churches motivated by the love of God to go about the business of their Master, refusing to play politics or complain about the government. It seems to me churches are confused about who really rules them. Jesus said: 
"I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you took Me in, I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you looked after Me, I was in prison and you visited Me.’
And they said, "When did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? When did we see You seck or in prison and visit you?
And the King replied, "Whatever you did for one of the least of these...you did for Me." (Matthew 25:31-35)
Jesus is King.

He's sent us on a mission independent of any government.

I recently heard from a country where our church is heavily involved in all kinds of missional work, including drilling for water, establishing hospitals, providing education for the impoverished, farming clinics for the men, as well as shelters for the disabled and poor, etc... It was said to me by church members who have gone to work in that foreign field that "mosques are being built all over the country, especially in those places where our church is making an impact. The government funding the construction. But the government mosques aren't seeing converts. People are coming to faith in Christ all over the country because they Christian people caring for the sick, educating the underprivileged, providing career opportunities (small business and career training) for the citizens, and drilling for water to quench the thirst of entire villages. Mosques not on mission mean nothing."

Agreed.

Christian churches not on a mission also mean nothing.

What are you as a follower of Jesus Christ doing for your city, in cooperation with other Christians (that's the definition of 'The Church') to feed the hungry, house the homeless, providing instruction and training for the impoverished, and visiting prisoners in their time of need?

If we spent more time on our missional purpose as Christian people we'd have less time to complain about the government that we created by the abdication of those responsibilities that our King gave to us.