Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Tuesday Morning at the SBC in San Antonio

This morning at 8:40 a.m. three motions were presented to the Southern Baptist Convention. The first, by Messenger Rick Garner, former Vice-President at Criswell College, calls upon the messengers to adopt the Executive Committee statement regarding the BFM 2000 which reads:

"The Baptist Faith and Message is neither a creed, nor a complete statement of our faith, nor final and infallible; nevertheless, we further acknowledge that it is the only consensus statement of doctrinal beliefs approved by the Southern Baptist Convention and such is sufficient in its current form to guide trustees in their establishment of policies and practices of entities of the Convention."

His excellent motion should be debated sometime this evening, and if passed, will be an authoritative action of our convention that should be applied to each of our SBC entities.

My motion on preventing sexual abuse by ministers in the SBC was read into the record, as well as a motion from Les Puryear asking every entity to record the names and votes of trustees on each and every action taken by our SBC entities during the course of their business sessions. I am in favor of Les's recommendation, believing that trustees ought to be accountable to the convention as a whole.

Morris Chapman's Address

All I can say is -- get the tape.

I believe his message this morning will go down in SBC history as the greatest Executive Director address given to an assembly of convention messengers. I am serious when I say I have never been more proud of any leader in the SBC than I am of Morris Chapman today.

He led us this morning with courage, conviction and vision.

Dr. Frank Page's Leadership

The convention so far has been well run, with a great deal of leadership exhibited from the platform in our President, Dr. Frank Page. His annual message this morning was also a wonderful exhortation on Southern Baptists being a people of love and truth. One quality without the other leads to dysfunction - either legalism or liberalism.

I believe our convention will conduct business in a godly fashion because of Frank's leadership.

Other Morning Observations

The Southern Baptist Texan 'Special Edition' was being passed out by people outside the convention hall. The Texan is the newspaper of the Southern Baptist Convention of Texas, and I find it striking that the headlines of the articles seem to say the very opposite of what both the President and Executive Director have said in their addresses this morning.

One particular article in 'The Texan' caught my attention. It was written by 'journalist' and 'editor' of the Florida Baptist Witness, Jim Smith, but it was nowhere near the standards of reporting of professional journalism. It was not highlighted as a guest editorial, but presented as a news article. Several items in the article are misleading, but I would like to close out this morning's review of business at the SBC with just a couple of quotes from the pen of Jim Smith:

Critics of the baptism and tongues/private prayer language guidelines have insisted that it's wrong for the International Mission Board to establish doctrinal qualifications that are not explicitly addressed in Southern Baptist Covnention's confessional statement, the Baptist Faith and Message. But these critics - and I have interviewed the leading ones - have no answer for their own inconsistent application of this criticism. Although they claim that it is wrong to stipulate a doctrinal position on the matteer of private prayer langauge since the BF&M is silent on this matter, they have all told me that it's appropriate for the IMB to decline missionary candidates who bleieve in and practice public tongues. And yet, the BFM is also silent on that matter - as it is on many doctrinal issues raised by charismatic theology.

I hesitate to say Mr. Smith is intentionally misleading anyone, but the above statement is easily contradicted. I have given answers over and over again about Jim's alleged 'apparant inconsistencies.' Maybe he just chooses not to hear them.

Speaking publicly in tongues should be restricted only to the extent the Bible restricts it and no further -- and the Bible does restrict it severely, including statements that God's people should desire to speak publicly five words in a known language than ten thousand in an unknown tongue. Also, it is always to be done decently and in order, and with interpretation.

BUT THE MORE IMPORTANT ISSUE IS THIS: 'Why did this conflict arise? We are in this confict NOT BECAUSE anyone wanted to 'remove' an old policy --but because someone, somewhere decided to implement a brand new policy that is far more restrictive than the old policy.'

Jim is arguing for narrowing the BFM post de facto by new agency policies and guidelines by saying -- "Look, there are other things that are already guidelines -- what can't we go further? If you oppose our narrow interpretations we wish to add you are inconsistent."

That makes no sense. You are arguing for doing something we believe to be wrong (narrowing the parameters of cooperating in missions and evangelism ministry by demanding conformity and acceptance on the interpretation of tertiary doctrines) by saying, "We've done it in the past, and we will continue to do it in the future!"

I've got a sneaking suspicion the narrowing will be stopped by this convention.



Stay tuned.

In His Grace,



Greg Welty said...


I'm still scratching my head over your endorsement of the Executive Committee statement.

In an earlier post, you implied that disagreement with alleged 'tertiary' doctrines in the BFM "should not be a reason to cease cooperation in SBC missions, or exclude from SBC missionary service or leadership." By way of contrast, the Executive Committee statement says that the BFM "is sufficient in its current form to guide trustees in their establishment of policies and practices of entities of the Convention."

So the BFM is *sufficient* to guide trustee policies and entity practices, but disagreement with the BFM should *not* be a reason to exclude any from SBC leadership?!

Help me out here. It looks to me like you *don't* believe the BFM is a sufficient guide after all. In addition, we need someone to distinguish levels of doctrine *within* the BFM, such that disagreement over these alleged 'non-essentials' within the BFM is acceptable for trustee policies and entity practices. And, of course, since the BFM itself doesn't distinguish these levels of doctrine, we've got to flesh out the particulars here in some other way. So the BFM is insufficient as a guide after all.

What am I missing here?

Let's say a body of trustees is considering a policy that would exclude someone from leadership if he disagrees with the BFM on closed communion. This body of trustees looks to the BFM as a "sufficient" guide to this doctrinal question, and therefore decides to exclude said people. You're saying you would *agree* with this, per the Executive Committee statement?!

You have stated, again in the post linked above, that "I can't sign the BFM 2000 without expressing my disagreement to this article, and if there are people who believe that I should not serve as a trustee because of my disagreement with closed communion, then we have lost our moorings." But what *else* are these poor "people" supposed to do, especially if the Executive Committee statement has told them that the BFM is a sufficient guide here?

I realize that you have two concerns here: the BFM as a minimal theological standard, and as a maximal theological standard. Your focus here has been on the latter. But if the Executive Committee statement endorses the former (as it appears to do), where does that leave *you*?

irreverend fox said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
irreverend fox said...


I think the Executive Committee statement is a good start...but as I am sure you are not surprised...I don't think it goes far enough.

I wish it came out and flat out forbade any of our institutions to discriminate beyond the BF&M2000 or tolerate less than the primary issues dealt with in the BF&M2000...

I guess this is a good start...

Anonymous said...

If the motion is accepted--either as is or as ammended--it still only be one favored by a majority of the elected messengers voting and not necessarily one representing a majority of Southern Baptists. Not trying to pick a fight or to split hairs--and I understand that all SBC congregations have had their chance to send their full number of messengers this year; I'm just pointing out that the BF&M 2000 (or 1963--and maybe even 1925) and this motion cannot knowingly be said to represent all SBCers.

Again: any year's version of the Baptist Faith & Message will do--everyone, just let everyone else pick his version and take two steps forward together.

Have fun in SA!

David Troublefield
Wichita Falls, TX

Debbie Kaufman said...

Dr. Welty: IF you have been following all Wade has said and IF you realize that the trustees went above and beyond the BFM 2000 in their policies of late, then I believe you would get it. If not then you are missing the most important thing that this motion would stop. It won't put Wade where you think it will put him. :) I think what you are "missing here" is the forest for the trees Dr. Welty. Cut back that forest.

Greg Welty said...

Hi Debbie,

I don't think I'm missing the forest for the trees, because not only am I well aware of Wade's passion for passing a unified, maximal theological standard for the convention, *I explicitly drew attention to this in my comment above*. It's quite clear to me that, as I said, Wade's "focus" has been on this issue.

But none of this makes coherent Wade's position on another issue, namely, the BFM as a minimal theological standard that is "sufficient" as a guide for trustees and entities. I just don't see how one reconciles his endorsement of the Executive Committee statement with his position on tertiary, negotiable doctrines within the BFM.

Greg Welty said...

BTW, the inconsistency I am alleging here has, as a matter of fact, massive implications for the issue Wade *is* passionate about. If the "sufficiency" of the BFM as a theological guide is compatible with ditching the BFM when you think you have a good argument otherwise, then obviously it's compatible with *going beyond* the BFM when you think you have a good argument otherwise. Sauce, goose, gander, etc.

Blackhaw said...

Dr. Welty.

I have been thinking the same thing but you beat me to it. his endorsement seems to be in disagreement with other statements he has made.

Anonymous said...

Greg...you do have an excellent point.

Looking forward to see what Wade says in response.

Anonymous said...

I only went to a public high school, but I see Wade's ideas as being ever so consistent. Wade holds that we need to agree to disagree on when babies come under condemnation, whether open communion must be followed,and the two disqualifiers the IMB has begun implementing - PPL and the baptising agency issue. His reactions vary - his written explanation with what the BF&M 2K
says on my first 2 issues, and the two boards' "further narrowing" on
my last two issues; they vary because of where these issues come from. Now, where'd I fall off the turnip truck?

In my confused state, perhaps, it seems Dr. Welty is tripping on where Wade's two varied reactions come from. The source of these narrowed parameters is indeed bifurcated, but Wade's approach of dealing with tertiary doctrinal issues appears quite consistent.

Naow, effen t'was me, I'da be fixin' to ask the ExComm or Dr. Page to call up another committee to write a new BF&M which allows fundamental treatment of our core values, and built-in room for allowance on such tertiary issues as we've been hashing out. For a referee on what is a second-tier issue, etc., I'd be happy choosing Albert Mohler, since he has written on this issue brilliantly (and the BF&M 2K appears to be his brainchild.)

Steve Austin
Hoptown, Ky.

wadeburleson.org said...

Mr. Welty,

I would absolutely love to see an entity try to remove an employee, trustee, or administrator of a convention agency for believing in (or practicing) modified open communion, or for believing that infants are guilty for the sin of Adam (instead of 'becoming' guilty when they personally sin), or for believing that Christ baptizes us in the Spirit (rather than the Spirit baptizing us into Christ). These are the issues which I have expressed small disagreement -- and these issues are minor instead of essential doctrines.

Many, many conservative Southern Baptists agree with me, but if you or others feel so strongly that a person in the SBC should be removed from service because of his views on the issues above -- then go ahead and try. I think I have a good sense of the pulse of most Southern Baptists on these issues.

My position is we ought to cooperate around the essentials, give freedom in the non-essentials, and display charity in all things.

In His Grace,


wadeburleson.org said...

Steve Austin,

High school education or not, I could not have said it any better.

Anonymous said...

Wow...Richards won 1st Vice by a large majority.

Does this say anything about the direction of the Convention?

Rob Ayers said...

Dr Welty,

Having been silent for a while on this board, I could not help myself on this point. I have determined long ago on this site to "live and let live," knowing that Wade never bends on any issue he is doggedly determined to follow, despite being beat down to fallibility - which is both a strength and a weakness.

I have noticed that you wish to play "gotcha" with Wade over various issues, many of which I agree with you.

On this point, your "gotcha" evades the main point. The point of the EB statement (and then by connection the message today by Dr. Chapman) is thus: The BF&M is the statement of doctrinal suitability for Convention employees. It is not required that the churches to conform to the current version - and then by connection, it is not required by individual church members, nor upon individual church messengers, nor upon the trustees from the churches (unless required) to be signatories to affirm the document. The convention is the final arbiter of the doctrinal suitability of Convention employees -finis. Any agency who attempts to modify, expand, or overtly interpret the BF&M (the statement of doctrinal suitability) beyond that agreed to by the Convention for the purpose of hiring and firing of Convention employees should be approved by the Convention first. The purpose for the existence of the Convention is to serve the churches, not the other way around. We are Congregationalist polity, not a presbytery despite the protestations of trustee infallibility notwithstanding.

The IMB changes towards employees vis a vis the famous policies (now guidelines) should go before the Convention and get an up or down vote. Baptists have believed for centuries that God's will could be found, not in a ecclesiastical hierarchy, nor in a small group oligarchy. For good or ill, Baptists have believed in that pesky doctrine "Priesthood of all Believers" whose source is the Spirit in every believer. These policies are the very thing which gave voice to Wade and many like him. The dispute would disappear forever if this policies were merely voted upon by the convention. That is the point. Do you get it?


gmay said...

I am having a little trouble following some of your logic.

How can you continue to claim that there are nonessentials in the BF&M2K and support it to be a guide for doctrinal accountability?It seems to me your support of this motion makes sure all issues in the BF&M are now 1st tier issues. You have stated that you believe the BF&M to support closed communion. If your interpretaion is correct, which I do not believe it is, then closed communion would now be a 1st tier doctrine because the BF&M says it is.

Anonymous said...

Simply stated, the 2000BF&M is not a creed. No Southern Baptist is bound to believe every tenet expressed in it. The motion affirming the Executive Committee's position (which looks to have passed 55%-60%, according to the BP blog) restricts SBC entities (agencies) from imposing additional doctrinal prerequisites on employees, such as seminary professors, or missionary candidates that go beyond the 2000BF&M. . . such as, "You can't teach a Bible language to (men)preachers, if you are a woman. However, you may teach home economics." and, "You can't have a private prayer language and be a missionary.", and "You have to be baptized exclusively by persons and under the auspices of churches WE authorize as a prerequisite to being considered to be a missionary supported by the IMB."

In His Grace and Peace,

T. D. Webb

Greg Welty said...


I continue to be confused by your replies. You emphasize points that I have not disputed. Meanwhile, you pass over the very points I have disputed.

Yes, I get it. You see the BFM as a *maximal* doctrinal standard for convention entities. On your view, the entities should not require a theological standard for service that goes *beyond* the BFM. Precise points of doctrinal dispute which the BFM does not address ought not to be adjudicated by entity trustees, nor be enforced by way of the policies they enact.

None of this is in dispute. I know that the above is your view.

But that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about whether the BFM should be a *minimal* doctrinal standard for convention entities. You clearly seem to reject this view, given your rejection of certain claims in the BFM. As you have stated it, you believe that certain things in the BFM are "contrary to Scripture" (e.g., that the Holy Spirit baptizes believers, or that baptism is a prerequisite to communion). You think there are different "levels" of doctrine in the BFM.

So here's the question: what document enables trustees to figure out *which* doctrines in the BFM are negotiable? Whatever that document is, it's not the BFM! So how can you say that the BFM is sufficient to guide trustees?

Can you answer this question? Notice that it doesn't have anything to do with your conviction about the BFM-as-maximal-doctrinal-standard. That's not even what I'm talking about. So your doomsday scenarios simply aren't relevant here. I'm wondering how someone who rejects the BFM-as-minimal-doctrinal-standard can say that it's sufficient to guide trustees.

Again, if the "sufficiency" of the BFM as a theological guide is compatible with ditching the BFM when you think you have a good argument otherwise, then obviously that "sufficiency" is compatible with *going beyond* the BFM when you think you have a good argument otherwise. That's why your position strikes me as inconsistent.

If you reply to this by repeating *yet again* your commitment to the BFM as a maximal doctrinal standard, I shall have to conclude that you just don't want to deal with this point. That's fine; it's your choice.

T.D. Webb, I'm not disputing the point you're making. That's not what I'm talking about.

Rob Ayers, I'm not disputing the point you're making. But neither am I "evading the main point." You say that "the dispute would disappear forever if this policy [the Executive Committee policy] were merely voted upon by the convention." No, not if those who endorse it -- and who proclaim it as the most important decision we've made in ten years -- think that a "sufficient" standard of doctrine somehow enables you to pick and choose which part of that "sufficient" standard to accept. That stance simply makes no sense. It introduces confusion precisely where we need clarity.

Steve Austin, you say that we need to draw up a new BFM that makes built-in allowance for tertiary issues. That is the most consistent position I've seen in this post so far. You're virtually admitting that the BFM *isn't* sufficient to guide trustees. I'm not sure I agree, but you don't appear to be in two minds on this issue of sufficiency.

Rob Ayers said...

Dr. Welty,

In respect, you still do not get it. And to the point, I have never stated if I believe the BF&M was "sufficient" or not. I believe take the work as a "guideline" for the churches, and the statement of doctrinal suitability for Convention employees. My church has "affirmed" it as it's general guideline (see our website at www.cbbaptist.org), yet maintains a couple of variations apart from the text of the document - one of those being a departure from closed communion. But hey - our messengers did vote for BF&M2000, and yet our church maintains a distinct autonomy. Are you arguing against that here?

The BF&M is "sufficient" in unless modified or interpreted by the consensus of the churches and their messengers, it is complete and therefore the only guideline in which the trustees and entities have to maintain doctrinal suitability for employees. I believe that point was echoed loud and clear by Dr. Morris, and affirmed by the Convention yesterday.

The point is Wade and myself can digress in a couple of points from the BF&M yet maintain a positive relationship with it. I also maintain that Convention employees could affirm the document with a couple of variations (as long as the variations are not a significant deviation from the rule). Irregardless, I am not an employee of the Convention. I hope you see that distinction.

I also do not believe you hold to the vitality and strength of the Congregationalist system of polity. While certainly argument and fussing will proceed after a contentious vote, whatever the issue is has been decided. Those who lose have to then make a decision to stay, to continue to persuade the body to a different light. or in conscious sake leave (quietly or not so quietly). The sound of contention without properly dealing with the problem before the assembly is much more rancorous without a vote, than with a vote. How long have you worked with Baptists again?


Greg Welty said...


As I understood it, the statement passed yesterday was about the BFM as a sufficient guide for trustee policy and practice. As such, it has no relevance for local churches and their policies and practices. So I'm not sure why your material about your local church is to the point.

Here's the question. The statement said that the BFM is sufficient to guide trustees in their policy and practice. You say that means trustees can opt out of various doctrines in the BFM, as long as they "maintain a positive relationship with it." But that just doesn't rise to the level of the statement's language about sufficient guidance. As far as I can tell, you're saying its guidance is *insufficient* when it comes to trustee policy and practice. It needs to be supplemented by a distinction between negotiable and non-negotiable doctrines. That doesn't look like a coherent position to me.

As for your final comment, *of course* I "hold to the vitality and strength of the Congregationalist system of polity." I have been a member of Baptist churches for more than *twenty years*, on two different continents. And yes, that includes churches in which the church votes on church discipline cases, and the appointment of church officers. Indeed, I belong to such a church at present, and gladly so.

You don't even know me, nor have we ever met. How can you make outlandish claims like this?

I haven't even said I *disagree* with the statement passed yesterday! I have offered no opinion on it.