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.

Baptist Messenger Launches Insight Podcast Ministry

One of the more helpful ministries that the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina used to provide was podcast interviews with various Southern Baptist pastors, denominational servants, and other leaders. (In the interest of full disclosure, me and my fellow BtT contributors were periodic contributors to those podcasts, which are still available at this website.) I’m pleased that Doug Baker will be doing similar podcasts now that he is working with the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. The Baptist Messenger has launched a new podcast ministry called Insight. Check out the snazzy new website. The first two podcasts are already up: an interview with Chuck Colson and Timothy George on The Faith: What It Is and Is Not and an interview with several theologians and younger pastors titled “Emerging” Southern Baptists: The ECM Comes to Nashville.

Does Baptist Journalism Have a Future?

I have long been interested in the role that state Baptist papers have played in our denomination’s history. A couple of years ago I had the opportunity to present a conference paper titled “Baptist State Papers: One Source of Piety Among 19th Century Baptists in the South.” I have also written a couple of short articles for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina on Thomas Meredith, the founding editor of the Biblical Recorder (see here and here) and have worked periodically on some research related to Jesse Mercer’s editorship of the Christian Index. I hope to one day write something of substance related to the history of state papers.

Baptist state papers have changed much since the antebellum era. All of them are now officially tied to their respective conventions (early on they were automous, typically owned by the editor). For the last century of so most of their pages have been dedicated to public relations rather than true journalism (though state paper coverage of the GCR and the Clark Logan situation has shown that journalism has not totally disappeared). With a few happy exceptions (kudos to the Southern Baptist Texan), theological engagement is virtually absent, and when it does crop up, it tends to be almost exclusively focused on current debates like women in ministry and Calvinism. Rare indeed is the article or editorial defending and/or offering instruction regarding sound doctrine just ’cause.

Despite these changes, state papers continue to play an important role in Baptist life. It has long been my hope that more state periodicals would combine the emphases of the 19th century with the technology of the 21st century. Perhaps that would lead to the type of loyalty grassroots Baptists directed toward their papers for most of the 20th century. I’ve already seen this beginning to happen, both among some of the papers I named above and among a handful of other state papers as well.

By now most of our readers know that Doug Baker has been named the new executive editor of the Baptist Messenger, the state paper serving the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. The Messenger enjoys one of the widest subscription lists among the state papers and continues to instill a fierce loyalty among many Oklahoma Baptists, despite the fact that the BGCO is not among our largest state conventions. Doug’s first editorial has just been published, and it’s a good one. The title is “Baptist Journalism, Is There a Future?” Count me as one Baptist who certainly hopes there is, and I trust that if the Messenger (and her sister papers) embrace the vision that Doug articulates in his inaugural editorial, that future will be bright indeed.