Saturday, February 04, 2006

The Wisdom of the President of the SBC Executive Committee

Dr. Morris Chapman is a very wise man. He has led our Southern Baptists for over a dozen years as President of the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention. In 2004 Dr. Chapman gave an address that may go done in history as a turning point for the Southern Baptist Convention. I am reminded that when Abraham Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address no reporter on the scene thought it to be profound, but history has proven Lincoln's speech to be both a profound and prescient caution that ended up being heeded by our country years later. I am hopeful Dr. Chapman's address might have the same impact within our SBC.

Below is an excerpt of that address to the 2004 Southern Baptist Conveniton. The speech can be read in its entirety at The Fundamentals of Cooperating Conservatives.

"It is imperative that our Convention return to some sense of normalcy in the operation of the Convention. May I suggest one way to begin the process? Southern Baptists now agree that our trustees should be inerrantists. We believe they should embrace the Baptist Faith and Message (there is only one, you know… the last one). Most believe that trustees and their churches should be faithful in giving a significant amount through the Cooperative Program. We believe our trustees should have a heart for lost souls and be affiliated with churches that evangelize at home, and support missions around the globe. And finally, but most importantly, our trustees should be people who have a close daily walk with our Lord Jesus Christ.

Anyone with these characteristics of devotion to the Lord, His church, and our Convention qualifies to serve Southern Baptists in these positions. We should elect trustees who attend trustee meetings with the freedom of conscience to pray about decisions facing that board, and voting accordingly. We cannot let this Convention be driven by politics. It must be driven by passion for our Lord Jesus Christ and for the unsaved and compassion for those who are persecuted for Christ’s sake around the world. In a practiced democracy, politics, the art of influence, is always an ingredient. But the passion of a trustee should be born from deep within in an encounter with the Living Christ, and then he is free to enthusiastically persuade others of the burden God has laid upon his heart. This is how it should be in the church, the association, the state convention, and the Southern Baptist Convention. This Convention deserves to be led by trustees who listen to God’s Spirit on the way to making decisions, not trustees who are susceptible to political agendas. Politics for the sake of control by a few is not how our forefathers envisioned the operations of our Convention. But I must warn you. Politics do not die easily. Do you know why? It is because the death of politics in a spiritual environment only comes after we die to self.

Contemporary shibboleths are employed to exclude people. It is the sin of Pharisaism when good people, whose theology and ministry are above reproach, are slandered, discredited, or ostracized simply because they refuse to blindly follow particular political posturing. Innuendos, unfounded rumors, sly winks and nods are as deadly as an assassin’s bullet and usually as ungodly.

Could Southern Baptists fall into the error of Pharisaism? Could we ever, while priding ourselves on orthodox beliefs, be out of fellowship with the Living God and the true saints of God? The threat is real. I am concerned…now that we have affirmed by vigorous endeavor that Southern Baptists are people of the Book, that we will develop a censorious, exclusivistic, intolerant spirit. If this occurs, we will be the poorer for it. It will not only result in narrower participation in denominational life, a shallower pool of wisdom and giftedness in our enterprises, and a shrinking impact upon the world, but we will be in the unenviable position of being right on doctrine but wrong with God."

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