Doug Baker on the SBC’s Ominous Future

Doug Baker has written a very insightful editorial about what’s at stake for Southern Baptists in the current debates about the GCR and related issues:

“Were the moderates right?” The sheer posing of such a question sent a collective gasp across Alumni Chapel. During a recent panel discussion when Southern Seminary President R. Albert Mohler, Jr., uttered these words in a place where moderates once dominated one of the world’s largest seminaries, it was not as though such a theory was not without a plausible grounding. Some 20 years earlier Bill Leonard, a notable moderate who once served on the faculty of Southern Seminary, predicted that once the conservatives took control of the SBC’s massive infrastructure, they would soon turn on one another.

Russell D. Moore, the Dean of Southern Seminary’s faculty went a step further. As a young doctoral student, Moore observed the doctrinal deliberations of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. His conclusion? “You are wrong about the Bible. You are wrong about Jesus. You are right about us.” By being “right,” he meant the ferocious relational controversy that still (perhaps now more than ever) envelops the Southern Baptist Convention.

The mere mention of the words-Great Commission Resurgence-can send most every Southern Baptist gravitating one way or another. For some, the movement that began with a 95 percent vote by messengers to last year’s annual meeting in Louisville indicated a seismic shift was taking place within the denomination. They thought that the embrace of a comprehensive theological worldview would gladly result in an objective examination of the denomination’s agencies and entities resulting in a process for streamlining, focusing and targeting funding allocations toward areas where little or no Christian witness is present. . . .

You can read Baker’s full editorial at The Baptist Messenger, the news magazine of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.

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  1. Roger K. Simpson   •  

    Doug’s article is excellent.

    The extent to which the current “angst” with the GCR taskforce is an extension of latent “tension” left from the CR is hard for me to gauge. I do see some fault lines going on right now — but they are over issues other than key doctrinal issues.

    Right now I think the biggest problem with the GCR taskforce is that they need more transparency. I know they have come out and dispelled some rumors but the ones they dispelled either: (a) were in areas that were not at the crux of people’s potential concern with the task force and/or (b) were rumors that were not widely circulating.

    I believe the crux issue is the allocation of CP funds. I could be wrong on this, but this is how I see the looming debate.

    Rather than debunking myths about Calvinism/Arminianism, potential hookups with Acts 29, attempting to insinuate themselves into the selection process for agency heads, etc. I think the task force should issue a statement regarding “myths” regarding the CP.

    For example:

    (A) There is a myth that we want to do away with the CP. This is not true — instead we want to beef up CP receipts for the SBC-wide agencies. To do this are working now with the state conventions to work out a plan so that over an NN year period states will give XX% of CP funds received from the churches to the exec committee. [There might have to be several tiers of percentage breakouts such as “old line” states vs. “pioneer states”]

    OR

    (B) We are considering a recommendation to overhaul the definition of “CP giving” such that all funds spent by a local church on “missions” / “benevolance” [according to some definition] will be “equivalent to CP giving”.

    OR

    (C) The current situation with CP is fine as it is and rumors that we intend to take any action to redefine the mechanism for distributing CP funds by the exec committee and/or work with the states relative to how states distribute CP funds are not founded. We are not going to take any action to redefine CP giving and/or adjust the breakout of CP funds at either the state or national level.

    ===

    Another area of ambiguity people evidently have with the task force is the extent that the task force sees our problem as structural vs. spiritual. To the extent that our problems are not “structural” then it might be the case that the task force’s mission is more involved with using the bully pulpit as opposed to introducing motions to re-organize the agencies.

    I think if the task force made “myth busting” statements on these two areas [CP and structure] there would be more light and less heat going forward.

  2. Tim Rogers   •  

    Brothers,

    As I read this article and this sites posting it as a must read article, I cannot help but ask myself but one question. Are we to understand that if we disagree with the direction of the GCRTF and their openly placing themselves up for choice positions within the denominational structure that we are making Dr. Bill Leonard a prophetical voice of the Moderates? Also, does the Administrator (whoever that is) of this blog not realize that the Moderate state convention editors of the 1980’s and 90’s took the same position concerning the Moderate entity heads? It seems that we are being asked not to voice our differences because it will make others not want to go along with those heading up the GCRTF.

    Blessings,
    Tim

  3. administrator   •     Author

    Tim,

    You actually asked two questions, not “but one.”

    1. We are not claiming that Bill Leonard is a “prophetical” voice among the moderates. We are linking to an editorial.

    2. Nobody at BtT has asked you or anyone else “not to voice [your] differences” with the GCRTF or anyone else in the SBC. Fret not.

    The Administrator(s) of this blog has/have no idea what you are talking about with your reference to “Moderate state convention editors of the 1980’s and 90’s.” Perhaps this is (another) attempt on your part to paint BtT as somehow being sympathetic to moderates? If so, you are off-base, as with your previous attempts in this vein.

    This is what we are saying: “Doug Baker has written a very insightful editorial about what’s at stake for Southern Baptists in the current debates about the GCR and related issues. . . .” Nothing more. Nothing less.

    Best,
    The Administrator(s)
    Whomever he is (or we are)

  4. Tim Rogers   •  

    Brother Administrator(s)
    Whomever he is (or you all are):)

    First, please forgive me I did ask two questions instead of one. I am certain that Dr. Reid will verify that I did that often when I had his class in Evangelism.

    Second, you tell us that you are not claiming that Bill Leonard is a “prophetical” voice among the moderates. However, you open this post with; “Doug Baker has written a very insightful editorial about what’s at stake for Southern Baptists in the current debates about the GCR…” Then post a portion of an article that states that Bill Leonard is a prophetical voice and is affirmed with a Doctoral Thesis by Dr. Moore where Moore states Bill Leonard was right.

    Third, you build a straw man by implying that I has positioned you as saying something you have not said. I said; “it seems”. You all took it to that point. I know that you will not come out and say that no one is to disagree with you. But, as a speaker at the SBC Pastors conference said concerning those who may have concern about the motives of the GCR Axioms; “who is against the Great Commission?” This implies that anyone that voices concerns is against the Great Commission.

    Fourth, the Baptist state paper editors would paint those that spoke out against some of the directions of the entity presidents as being negative toward moving forward. Their assessment would carry weight and even black ball some of the participants. Now, you have linked to an article that has stated Bill Leonard was right about the conservatives infighting. Thus, if we disagree all someone has to do to stop the disagreement is call Bill Leonard’s name and everyone stops discussing the situation because no one wants to make Bill Leonard’s prophecy be one of truth.

    Fifth, the 95% vote that you, Doug Baker, and others are espousing was a clear vote by those at the convention. No doubt about that. What was clear? We had people of varying theological positions concerning soteriology that needed to come together in order to bring about a Great Commission Resurgence. That is the only debate that ensued during this motion and that is the only 95% majority that came about. We all need to get along in order to see a Great Commission Resurgence.

    Blessings,
    Tim

  5. administrator   •     Author

    Tim,

    We reproduced the opening paragraphs of Doug Baker’s article, which happens to mention Bill Leonard. We would have posted the opening paragraphs if they had mentioned Lottie Moon, Cecil Sherman, Oprah Winfrey, or Babe Ruth. We weren’t thinking about the Leonard quote at all. We were simply reproducing the opening paragraphs (to peak our readers’ interests) and then linking to the remainder of the article.

    We did not build a straw man. We simply made it abundantly clear that nobody at BtT has asked you or anyone else to refrain from voicing dissent about the GCRTF. Whatever the SBC Pastors Conference speaker meant by his comment, he couldn’t have meant that no dissent is allowed concerning the GCRTF, since that group had not yet been created by Pres. Hunt.

    In light of the previous paragraph, it should be self-evident that we are not doing what moderate state paper editors did during the Conservative Resurgence. As for our relationship to the Leonard quote, see the first paragraph. Whether Leonard’s “prophecy” is true or not has in no way influenced our desire to link to what we think is a good editorial or to attempt to silence those who are uncomfortable with the GCR. Though we do think it interesting that you seem profoundly exercised at the mere mention of a moderate in a non-negative light in the Baker editorial. Curious.

    To clarify your final point, the 95% vote was not about the debate over differing soteriological positions. It was a 95% vote to authorize Pres. Hunt to create a task force to study how we could, as a denomination, make better use of our resources in an effort to pursue a GCR in the SBC. Since we’ve never claimed that vote was about anything else, we find it curious that you’ve brought it up. While we are all in favor of a GCR and have labored hard to help define what we think such a GCR should look like, we well know that the vote in Louisville was about nothing more or nothing less than forming a task force.

    A final point of clarification: we do not have “an administrator.” That is a term created by WordPress, not us. We use it whenever we are issuing a consensus statement, publishing an article by a guest contributor, or (sometimes) when we are publishing a link to another website. This post is a case of the latter. We do not have “an administrator,” and there are many of us who have published under that name in the situations cited above.

    It really was just a link to what we thought was a good article, Tim. No conspiracy. No tacit endorsement of any moderates who may or may not have been mentioned in the editorial. No secret agenda. We just like linking to stuff we find interesting, helpful, or both. If you have strong objections to portions of the editorial, we would recommend you dialog with Baker rather than worrying that we might have nefarious intentions by linking to his editorial.

    Blessings,

    The contributor who posted as “The Administrator” on behalf of all of the contributors

  6. Louis   •  

    Doug’s article is great. He is an excellent writer.

    I have no idea where the convention will go.

    I do think I know where the churches will go. They are autonomous. They will go where they believe God is leading them.

    I believe that the SBC is made up of many kinds of churches, in very different places, with different emphases – all trying to glorify God and spread the Gospel.

    In my opinion, given the nature of the churches and the direction of denominations and patters of giving that I believe we will continue to see more diversity and less conformity to a prescribed plan. The GCR can recommend what it will. But the churches will do what they feel called to do, just as they do now.

    The only question is whether the SBC will try to respond by 1) recommending no changes, 2) recommending more of a prescribed plan, or 3) recommending more options.

    Regardless of what the task force recommends and regardless of what the SBC adopts, in my opinion, the trend of history and our times points toward a greater diversity in giving.

    I doubt that the task force or the SBC will actually pioneer the course for giving into the future.

    I believe it is more likely that now or in the future the task force and the SBC probably have to play catch up to reflect what churches are actually doing.

    Louis

  7. Tim Rogers   •  

    Brother (The contributor who posted as “The Administrator” on behalf of all of the contributors)

    Thanks for clarifying your point. However, in your clarification you created another strawman. I have not implied, nor stated that there was a conspiracy. Neither have I stated that BtT has given a tacit endorsement of any moderates who may or may not have been mentioned in the editorial. And I certainly have not said you have a secret agenda. Those are your words.

    However, if you feel that I have implied the above, please forgive me. That was not my intention.

    Blessings,
    Tim

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