Monday, April 03, 2006

A Couple of Words: Profound and (Prescient?)

In Tampa Bay I met a young Southern Baptist couple, Rick and Christie Garrett, who really impressed me with their love for our convention and missions. They have a blog of their own called a couple of words that I believe you will enjoy immensely.

Following is a recent post from Rick and Christie where they make some observations regarding the beginning of our Southern Baptist Convention and their thoughts about the SBC now.

("a couple of words" from Rick and Christie, Sunday, April 2, 2006).

Some time, shortly after the colonies began to settle the New World, Baptists began settling their own colonies and formulating their own churches. They were a fairly independent lot – partially due to their skepticism of the state churches they had pulled away from and partly as a result the persecution these fledgling congregations received at the hands of those same churches. However, "in May of 1814 their missionary conviction led to the formation of a national denominational body which they called the General Missionary Convention of the Baptist Denomination in the United States for Foreign Missions.” A lengthy title, yes, but it is interesting that the first national denomination formed – not as a means of codifying their doctrine, not as a means of affecting the political scene of the relatively new nation, not even to as a way to properly train their pastors and missionaries – but rather, the unified body formed for the sole purpose of taking the Gospel to foreign lands.

Interesting. If Baptists are seen here uniting around the need for foreign missionaries. What could possibly cause the divide that would ultimately produce the formation of the Southern Baptist Convention? Yes, it is International Missions again. Let me quote directly from Fletcher – all emphasis mine:

“Organized as abolitionists, people holding these convictions mounted an unrelenting campaign against the South’s “peculiar institution.” After several unsuccessful tries, their leaders in 1845 persuaded the mission boards of the national Baptist body to refuse to appoint a slaveholder as a missionary. This set the stage for the southern churches, defensive and feeling discredited in organizations they had helped create and nurture, to demand their own denominational structure. The Southern Baptist Convention was the result.”

Fascinating how familiar this sounds. Despite the fact that we all agree with the evils of slavery and the need for the abolition of the “peculiar institution,” the bottom line remains: at the heart of the formation of our convention was one group refusing to appoint missionaries from another group - a move so offensive, it led our founding fathers to sever ties with the then current mission board and form their own denominational entity.

My fear is that one day we will again read a similar passage in our history books. Do not be confused, the current issues facing our convention are not matters of doctrinal purity, biblical inerrancy, or conservative versus liberal thought patterns. The issues are simply one group of conservatives, narrowing the parameters of cooperation and refusing to work with other conservatives – despite areas of doctrinal agreement and unity – who do not wish to be confined by extra-biblical guidelines, policies and parameters. If we allow this to continue, the convention will once again be fractured – if not fragmented – the Gospel will be hindered, and a small group of church’s led by landmark pastors will be left to shoulder the full weight of the convention. I pray we will see a conclusion to these matters before it comes to this. I believe it is time we all take a step back and revisit the history of our great convention in hopes of finding a perspective that advances the gospel, unifies the brethren, and allows Baptists to dissent without the fear of rejection and retaliation from the controlling majority.

A couple of words well said Rick and Christie.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson


Anonymous said...

Aren't we glad we didn't have a BF&M 1845 that defended slavery to live down? They didn't think they needed a confession of faith until 1925, and may not have needed it then.

Wade, you may want to only look toward the future, and I agree that all we can do anything about is the present, while trying to make the future better, but there is a saying with some truth to it that those who ignore lessons learned from the mistakes of the past are doomed to repeat them.

If we can agree on the fact that we need to do missions, can't we focus on what we agree on rather than trying to find new ways to disagree. It does not help reach those who need Jesus if we do things that make them wonder why they should bother. Parents may joke about acting like they don't know their children when they act up in public. But is it possible that Jesus may look at some things we do and want to act like He doesn't know us?


Anonymous said...

I've known Rick and Christie for years and they've always been well spoken and well thought out, this current comment about our uncanny ability to repeat history is particularly necessary at this time. I hope we not only recognize the value, and truthfulness, of their post, but I hope that we are moved to action because of it.

Let's remember that Greensboro will be the key to our effectiveness. Please be there!

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the Garretts' comments UNDERSTATE the severity? Perhaps rather than splitting, we are in danger of "splintering" into a number of differing groups, all trying to "fish from the same pond" in search of funds by simultaneously creating suspicion about "the others" and prattering on about the superiority of "ours"?

Galatians 5:19-21 describes the works of the flesh...interesting that FACTIONS are listed as being JUST AS EVIL as sexual sin, idloatry, etc.

Isn't it interesting that we NOW have the phenomenons of dual state conventions,(Texas, Virginia, Missiouri) dually aligned churches resulting in state conventions deciphering how to send mission funds, multiple-mission sending agencies (Texas, Virginia, Missions ConneXion & others) that have arisen in our midst?

I can't stress strongly enough my sense for the NEED of a sin-killing, power-distributing work of the Holy Spirit upon us corporately! If not, we run the risk of seeing a modern expression of Galatians 5:15 that warns "But if you bite and devour one another,take care that you are not consumed by one another." NASB

I am not without hope because I am living proof of the Lord's ability to change are all authentic Christians...but I am also not without a sense of the degree to which our corporate shenanigans are an affront to the HOLINESS and MAJESTY of the TRIUNE GOD WHO expresses the ultimate of unity in HIS own essence.

It is MISSION-CRITICAL that we corporately understand that organizational reconfigurations occur AFTER spiritual renewals, that they are the RESULTS of renewal, NOT a substitute for renewal, which, if lacking, leaves ALL the policies and procedures laying as lifeless as the cry bones in Ezekiel 37.

Will we repent corporately or we will continue blindly on, trying to "fix ourselves" by replacing operational manuals? Will we continue the "group think" that because we are involved in global evangelization, we are exempted from the clear commands of Jesus to love, respect and serve one another? There was another group that thought they had an exemption also...their motto was "the Temple of the Lord, the Temple of the Lord"...Jeremiah 7.

Judgment BEGINS in the house of God...I Peter 4:17...we better wake up and smell the coffee!!!!

Anonymous said...

Over the course of the history of my state, several Baptist conventions have existed as a result of splits. I can't tell that the splits ever occurred as a result of godly action. When the splintered conventions came back together, I can't tell that that happened for godly reasons either.

What's the matter with us (all of us)?!

Anonymous said...

Remember that the issue for the Southern Churches was that, though they had agreed to cooperate, the Northern churches would take their money but not send their missionaries.

Now I agree that slavery was wrong, and that the Northern churches were right according to that principle.

But they were also dishonest in saying that they would cooperate, in spite of differing beliefs, when they wouldn't.

I can empathize with those who felt that they were expected to support the mission efforts, but were not represented in those efforts - either in leadership, beliefs or workers.

The results this time could be a splintering, as mix suggested.

Villa Rica said...

Brother Art,

Well said--as usual.

Brother Mix,

Sin-killing! That is a good way to state our present need in the SBC. I will join with you in praying that the Holy Spirit work a sin-killing in our hearts. When this is all over maybe we can have you to preach at the Pastors' Conference. A fresh sermon from a fresh face might be good for all of us to hear

Villa Rica

Anonymous said...

This statement is outstanding from your blog: “The issues are simply one group of conservatives, narrowing the parameters of cooperation and refusing to work with other conservatives – despite areas of doctrinal agreement and unity – who do not wish to be confined by extra-biblical guidelines, policies and parameters.”

What if Paul had convinced enough Christians to do away with “EXTRA-BIBLICAL GUIDELINES’ and incorporated Peter’s statement of all Christians are saved the same way by the grace of the Lord Jesus into their BFM to the Gentiles? As much as Paul preached and wrote, he couldn’t do it.
Are we in the same boat as Paul? Do we give up and say what’s done is done? I believe it is never too late to right a wrong. I underatand you are between a rock and a hard place with your hands tied when you wrote Suzie on April 2, “I realize you and others wonder about the past. You will not hear anything from me regarding the past. I am only focusing on the future.”
The rock is truth and the hard place is you will be fired if you fight against the BFM 2000. You are concerned about God called missionaries being rejected by the latest ruling of the IMB, but how many would be missionaries have been rejected by the new BFM?
Truth of the future can never be built upon the untruth of the past.
Rex Ray

Anonymous said...

Well said, Rick & Christie.

Bravo! Mix.

I've been thinking about a comment posted yesterday which stated, basically, "Why can't we all just get along?"

One thing we all do need to keep in perspective is that "we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers". Our enemies are not each other. Now, I know I said some strong things yesterday, (and they came out stronger than intended in print) but I want ya'll to know that I'm talking about error and sin. I don't know any of the folks involved in this, but I see their fruits. I take it for granted that all are wonderful people, but all people are susceptible to sin. Fellowship dies when sin enters. Sin is the enemy, as Mix so elequently put it.

Why is it necessary to continue to punish Wade, when the motion to expell him was overturned, and no due process has been placed into operation?

Why is it necessary for Jerry to keep harping on "gossip and slander" in his own blog? Drop it, Jerry. Forgive as Christ commanded. He did not place a prerequisite that one has to be punished before you can "build a relationship". You are ordered to forgive, or else you will not be forgiven. Your own definitions of "gossip" and "slander" begin with "Any communication UNJUSTLY ..." Is anything in Wade's blog a lie? Show me, show all of us, and maybe perceptions will change. Otherwise, drop it.

Why is it necessary to build a cover story about this policy change which was "two years in the making" which obviously was rushed in to cover Wade's "transgressions"? Surely there is a typist at IMB that can type faster than four pages in two years. ;)

Why was it necessary for the BOT chairman to make disparaging comments about Wade to the secular media, a violation of the new policy, of the 'sanctity' of the Executive Session, and just plain good manners?

All of the above are sin if my perceptions are accurate. All violate direct commands of the Lord. For crying out loud, take the board out of your own eye before you criticize Wade for the splinter in his.

Fellowship dies when sin enters. We all need to repent...for harsh words spoken (or written) in anger...for short tempers...for letting our egos get in the way of a forgiving spirit...for quenching the Spirit...for doing anything without asking the Holy Spirit about it first.

God forgive us all. There is a King to obey, and a lost world to reach...


Bob Cleveland said...

I am not a "traditionalist", if there is any such thing. I feel that the value of tradition is the same as the value of "precedent" in law. It merely states that, in earlier times, people felt certain ways and made certain decisions and took certain actions. It doesn't say those things cannot be changed.

My dad always said to use all the brains I had, and all I could borrow. So there's surely nothing wrong with giving due consideration to the decisions and actions of others, now or in the past.

Giving too much weight to that is dangerous, though. And it can discount the fact that the Word of God is a living thing ... that the Author is still alive and eager to explain what things in it say to us, today.

Despite my previous comments about Baptists giving a fair amount of credence to tradition and history, the issues now are the issues now.

In that sense, I don't care what Lottie Moon did a century ago. She was a hero, but that doesn't mean that's what God wants us to do, today.

I've been reading other blogs, too. I have to ask where is the openness, the accountability, the "King's way" of handling things? Those are the things that matter to me. The absolutes, the objectives.

Paul said to the Corinthians that they were to judge those within the Church. That sounds like holding people accountable. And unless I am mistaken, Paul said that to the Church .. the people .. not just to the elders.

For that to happen, really, I think the issues you've raised all along must be dealt with. What was the gossip? What was the slander (really libel)? What was done about it? If there were mis-statements about that, what was done about them?

I cannot see any answers to that. Hence I cannot see any accountability.

Our pastor is fond of saying "Trust the Lord and tell the people".

Passing "extra-biblical" .. if not unbilical ... rules to "preserve the purity of the doctrine" tells me there's at least a good chance someone does not trust God to do that. That HE needs OUR rules.

I've not heard how the accusations of "gossip and slander" were handled, other than the withdrawal of the motion. That doesn't get it, for me. If the folks were right about what they said, why did they do that? For political reasons?

If they were wrong, then "Whoops" doen't get it, for me.

I think our pastor needs to say it louder and more often.

Trust the Lord and tell the people.

Wade, if you don't publish this, I'll understand.

Anonymous said...

Some of the BoT obviously wanted full restitution for Wade. But ultimately, the only thing the BoT really accomplished by rescinding the motion to recommend Wade's dismissal was to take the matter back from the hands of the convention.