Friday, October 20, 2006

Proposed Distinctives of the Southern Baptist Convention

Rob Pengra is a new church strategist with NAMB and a church planter in the Portland, OR. He sent me an email yesterday that gave me an idea.

Below is a proposed document that would help people understand the identity of the Southern Baptist Convention. It is borrowed on the whole from an evangelical denomination that I am leaving unidentified at this time in order to put the focus on what it might look like as a Southern Baptist document. Words and sentences have been changed to reflect our unique identity. This is for discussion purposes only.

Proposed Distinctives of The Southern Baptist Convention

"In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, charity. In all things, Jesus Christ." -- Chrysostom

1. The Southern Baptist Convention is inclusive not exclusive.

The great heritage of the Southern Baptist Convention churches includes the fact that fellowship and ministry opportunities with each other are are based solely on on our common faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, trusting in Him alone for the salvation of His people. Participation in the ministries of the Southern Baptist Convention by members of cooperating churches requires commitment to sound doctrine as expressed in our Baptist Faith and Message. However, a Southern Baptist church member is not excluded from participation because he or she does not agree on every fine point of doctrine. Within the Southern Baptist Convention, there is allowance for legitimate differences of understanding in some areas of doctrine.

2. The Southern Baptist Convention is evangelical but not isolationist.

The Southern Baptist Convention was birthed in 1845 out of a heritage of commitment to the authority and inerrancy of Scripture and a missionary zeal. Autonomous members churches have deep convictions based on the authority of God's Word, but we do not draw battle lines over minor points. Nor do we make minor issues of doctrine a test of fellowship within the convention. We intentionally seek to cooperate with every Southern Baptist church for the purpose of cooperative ministry, and refuse to isolate ourselves from one another over disagreements on minor points of doctrine.

3. The Southern Baptist Convention is ecumenical in spirit though not in structure.

We believe in the spiritual unity of all God's people, though not necessarily in structural union with them. We join with other Christians and other denominations of like precious faith in common goals and ministries to accomplish the Great Commission. But we believe that there is strength in diversity and that it is important to preserve our Baptist distinctives. Our foremost concern is unity of spirit with our Lord, with each other and with other Christians.

4. The Southern Baptist Convention believes in liberty with responsibility and accountability.

We believe in Christian liberty, but freedom always has its limitations. Responsible Christians do not abuse freedom. The Apostle Paul wrote forcefully about Christian liberty in the book of Galatians. He shattered the legalists with the doctrine of grace. But in First and Second Corinthians and Romans, the apostle also rebuked believers when liberty was abused. He declared boldly the principles of Christian liberty but spoke with equal forcefulness about Christian accountability. The Southern Baptist Conventionc desires to preserve our freedom in Christ and encourage our church leaders and people to be responsible, godly men, women and young people who desire to live under the control of the Holy Spirit, in obedience to the principles and precepts of God's Word and in harmony with God's will for life as revealed in the Scriptures.

5. The Southern Baptist Convention believes in both the rational and relational dimensions of Christianity.

We believe the Scriptures must be applied to our individual lives with warmth of heart, warmth of message and warmth of concern. We believe it is essential to have solid biblical content in our doctrinal understanding of faith, but it is equally important to have a dynamic, vital relationship with God the Father through Jesus Christ the Son and to live by the power of the Holy Spirit. Sound Christian doctrine must be coupled with dynamic Christian experience. Ours is a ministry of love and reconciliation.

6. The Southern Baptist Convention affirms the right of each local church to govern its own affairs.

The Southern Baptist Convention is committed to a the autononomy of the local church. We believe that Jesus Christ is Lord and Head of the Church and that every local church has the right, under Christ, to decide and govern its own affairs.

7. The Southern Baptist Convention recognizes that the highest authority is the local church.

The strength of our convention lies within the local church. We are a convention of churches who cooperate together with no ecclesiastical authority. Christ is the head of the church, and the churches that compose the Southern Baptist Convention give direction to our denominational leaders and agencies.

Do you think a statement similar to the one above would be helpful in the SBC?

Have a great weekend.

In His Grace,



Bryan Riley said...

Sounds like the EFCA to me. And what a great denomination they are. I believe they also always plant a new church when a given congregation gets to about 500 members. I think that's right. And it's a good idea.

Winning Truth w/Tim Guthrie said...

P.S. Number 7 is exactly what many of us are saying and yet you guys - no disrespect intended - keep saying this is not occuring. The majority of SBC people will overwhelmingly vote down any PPL support or neo whatever (in my humble 38 years of being a an SBC member opinion).

Rex Ray said...

As Jesus told the rich young ruler about one thing he lacked, number 7 should have ‘In keeping with our BFM statement of “Such statements have never been regarded as complete, infallible statements of faith, nor as official creeds carrying mandatory authority”; no one has to sign the BFM to keep their job.’
Rex Ray

Rex Ray said...

Tim Guthri,
If times have not changed, you are correct in saying, “The majority of SBC people will overwhelmingly vote down any PPL support.”
Many years ago, two young men in my SS class seldom came. Then one day they came every time the doors were open. They were so enthusiastic and on fire, they were appointed directors of small children’s church. But word ‘got around’ they had gotten the gift of tongues. They were told they could remain as directors if they promised never to speak in tongues. They replied they had no intention of ever speaking in tongues in public, but they would not say no to God if he ever told them to. They were kicked out of the church with only two dissenting votes. Broke my heart.
Rex Ray

Bob Cleveland said...


Bad idea. I ask myself if this is a more cogent document than the BF&M. It's not.

We either stick to the BF&M and resist attempts to put another layer of arguing points over it, or we admit that the SBC has produced a generation of people incapable of carrying out the commands of Jesus without self-destructing.

irreverend fox said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
irreverend fox said...

Nope. It would be about as helpful as the BF&M2000.

If our convention would put our foot down and forbide any agency or seminary to discriminate beyond the BF&M2000 (and tolerat no less) then all this will be taken care of.

Does anybody know "how" that can happen? A written resolution passed by the SBC at its annual meeting perhaps?

Tim Rogers said...

Brother Wade,

I just want to get this straight. You are now advocating the SBC go the way of the EFCA? As a Trustee for the IMB that has over 5000 Missionaries, you are advocating adopting a statement that defines a movement that has 550 Missionaries. Also, are you advocating that our Missionaries now have to raise their own support before going to the Mission Field?

These "distictives", while very articulate are ripe with holes for every wind of doctrine to invade.

Tim said...

My word Tim.

Get a grip.

Blogs are for discussion only.

Good ideas fly. Poor ideas are shot down.

Just ask the Foundation at SWBTS.

This may be a poor idea, but that is all it is, and idea, not an official proposal, not a recommendation, nothing.

Just an idea.

From ideas come dialogue.

From dialogue comes change, always for the better. said...


I'll post the information for you later today.

RKSOKC66 said...


I have followed your carefully reasoned position on PPL for many months. I agree with your reasoning and tentatively agree with your conclusion.

However, I think more information is needed on the "universe" of PPL use / misuse IN THE SBC before anyone, including me, can do a cost/benefit analysis of adopting "rules" which regulate its practice.

Just because some doctrine is third tier and just because it is not in the BF&M is not prima-facie evidence that the practice is beneficial or "correct".

To pick up what a commentor said on this BLOG a month or so ago, just because the BF&M does not forbid "handling snakes" does not necessarily mean that SBC agencies should hire people who tolerate "snake handling" or tacitly endorse it.

I think what is needed are a number of documented case studies of various situations regarding PPL.

For example, it would be helpful to have:

A case study of a dozen real people who grew up in SBC life and due to some type of "event" spontaneously started practicing PPL. These narratives should include the "outcome" such as the good or bad effect their adoption of a PPL had on others in the church.

This whole thread is getting bogged down with people arguing about the interpretation of a "few" versus in I Corinthians.

Personally, I know nothing about PPL. I don't even really know what PPL is. I don't (at least to my knowledge) know of anyone who practices PPL.

However, even though I agree intellectually with all your cogent points, I still might be swayed to the "anti PPL" position for the IMB if someone could document a dozen real-life scenarios where someone practicing PPL caused chaos. Alternatively, it would be instructive to know of a dozen real-life stories of people practicing PPL where such practice has had either no effect or a positive effect in the IMB.

The domain of both of the above samplings would have to be limited to those who are/were "nurtured" in SBC churches and are in the IMB. After all, the problem space for our discussion is IMB of the SBC -- not A. A. Allen or Benny Hinn style stuff.

If I knew of say a dozen well documented case studies of abuse of PPL in the IMB and/or elsewhere in SBC life I would probably be in favor of a formal regulation against it in the IMB -- regardless of what the BF&M says or doesn't say.

I think actual experience trumps exegisis of I Corinthians in this case for me since I am not a Bible scholar and "equally" competent exegites WITHIN THE SBC come down on opposite sides relative to PPL.
So case studies would be my tie-breaker. The fact that PPL is not mentioned in the BF&M doesn't help me to gain any insight.

My bottom line is that there needs to be some OBJECTIVE way to argue this based upon extrapolating outcomes as a result of past history.

Wade, one last thought. My gut feel is that your position is correct. So I think 51% of the onus is for the anti-PPL side to come forward and show -- using real life stories -- how PPL use has been misused in SBC life.

So far on both sides this has been a high minded academic argument by pastors and theologians detached from on-the-ground reality.

Rex Ray said...

Roger Simpson,
Don’t believe I’ve ever responded to you before, but in the past I’ve enjoyed your comments. I specially like what you said today, “It would be instructive to know of a dozen real-life stories of people practicing PPL where such practice has had either no effect or a positive effect in the IMB.”

It would be easy to find stories IF anyone is abusing their PPL, but how do you find a story if their PPL is exactly what it says? I mean, God may be the only one that knows.

One of my brother-in-laws would never have known his father prayed in tongues if he had not accidentally heard him praying once in his life. He was a man that waved at everyone on the road. Having 12 children, he road in the hay wagon being pulled to town. Passing a car; his hand froze in mid-air when he finally recognized his own family. After the crash, he changed his mind about there not being room for him in the car.
I believe I’ll recognize him the first time we meet without any introductions, and maybe I’ll hear his side of the story when we shake hands in heaven.

Oh, that we could get along with each other. Maybe the only thing our BFM should say is we love Jesus and we love each other. I think that would end our quarreling, and we could concentrate more on what the devil doesn’t want us to do.
Rex Ray

SigPres said...

Actually, I think those are already distinctives of the SBC. They've never really been written down, but they are there.

This question isn't meant to ruffle any feathers, it is an honest question. If we are built around cooperative ministry, and as a denomination our existence involves the support of those things upon which we have agreed to work together, mainly mission boards and theological education, yet half of the people who come from Southern Baptist churches, and maybe even more than that, are seeking their theological education at seminaries not supported by the SBC, and an increasing number of Southern Baptists are involved in mission endeavors not related to the convention, why are we in business?

I'd make a couple of other practical suggestions:

1. Single term presidents. One term and you move on.
2. No more than one trustee on an SBC board from a single church. For example, Wade is from Emmanuel Baptist Enid and is on the IMB. No other Emmanuel members can serve on an SBC board or committee until Wade rotates off.
3. Once you serve on a board, for your two customary terms, that's it. You are not eligible to serve on any other SBC trustee board or committee.
4. Former officers cannot serve as board members.

If we really do want to broaden the tent, and include more people, we're going to have to cut out having multiple members from the same church serving constantly.

Just a suggestion. said...


Your request is not unreasonable.

I, however, have no fear of viewing experience based upon Scripture, rather than checking with experience to understand Scripture.

Just a thought.

I always like your comments and study them carefully.

RKSOKC66 said...


I agree that I am on a slippery slope tword pragmatism over text.

My delimma is that here we have what I think by common consent is a "third tier" doctrine and people are trying to use whatever scant scripture bears on the subject using quite nuanced arguments to support interpretations on one or the other side.

I totally agree that the hierarchy of input on doctrines needs to be based upon scripture over experience. The problem is that sometimes we don't have much to go on in scripture for a given topic.

If PPL does in fact cause disruption in the work of proclaiming the Gospel in the IMB (a charge that has been reported by Dr. Hatley in your reference to his comments in your BLOG for Friday) then I think it is incumbant upon those making the charges to cite specific examples (maybe changing names and venues as appropriate where they may be security concerns). To my knowledge no such examples are out there -- just vague hearsay buzz from second-hand or third-hand accounts.

If next Sunday four missionaries visited my SS class and one or more of them mentioned PPL abuse as their key distraction right now on their respective fields then I would sit up and take notice. As it stands I don't have any information to contridict the null hypothesis that this "anti PPL regulation" in the IMB is a solution looking for a problem.

The Bible text has been frozen for a couple of thousand years. I think a breakthrough for me on this issue is going to have to be "first person" credible information from the field.

Tim Wade said...


I don't wish to add anything to this week old conversation. I do want to pass along something to you. There is a book called "John A. Broadus: Baptist Confessions, Covenants, and Catechisms" that I think you might want to read, if you are not already familiar with it.

What you are suggesting in this post has probably already been done at some point in time within Baptist history. The solution therefore to whatever problem you are trying to address most likely isn't going to be found in adding more layers to history, but rather peeling back the ones that already exist.

Tim Wade

Rex Ray said...

Let’s see—you said on Monday, October 30, “I have received probably 100 comments favorable for a statement of cooperation…there have been 4 that could be considered critical of it including the 2 that focused on Ron’s comment—for the sake of keeping the focus on the issue at hand I am closing the comment section.”

Well, well, well—what kind of truth and grace is that? Should Ron’s comment be deleted because two people didn’t like it? He wrote what he thought was the truth. Let’s hear what these two guys say. I thought discussion was the basis for your blog. To shut the post down is what Hitler did to newspapers.

Wade, a few times you have disappointed me, but this is the first time I’m angry. You say you want to change the SBC, but you’re not going to do it with your tail between your legs.
Rex Ray

P. Beard said...

What a beautiful dream, kind of...

Points 1-4 are a wishdream. Point 5 is needed because points 1-4 are a wishdream. Points 6 and 7 are the only points that I currently see in action, but should the local church really be the "highest authority"? Maybe that is the problem?

I love the quote from Chrysostom, but In a convention that has an alarming ignorance of the Word of God, I am affraid that most don't know the difference between essentials and non-essentials. I have even heard a Baptist deacon (pseudo elder) say, "That might be in the Bible, but that aie'nt Baptist!"

Maybe we have been so concerned about "winning" souls and making statements, instead of making disciples that we have reaped a whirlwind.