Saturday, August 19, 2006

Let's Go Forward, Not Back to the Past

Some substantive response to Wade Burleson's most controversial post to date is in order at this time. Many will, of course, undertake this task, as blogger extraodinaire Nathan Finn has already done for us. He has done an excellent job, as will others. But that doesn't mean that I won't respond, too.

First, it is important to note that Winfred Moore, Daniel Vestal, Richard Jackson, Charles Wade, Clyde Glazener, et al, have never been excluded from the Southern Baptist Convention. Their churches have not been voted out of the convention. If they are not within the Southern Baptist Convention, it is only because they have left by their own free choices. Whoever among them has not made that choice still has every privilege accorded to member churches of the Southern Baptist Convention, including the right to select any of these men to serve as messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention.

So, what has happened to these men? They have vocally, stridently, virulently, caustically advocated a plan for the organization and operation of the Southern Baptist Convention and related entities. Their plan has not gained the support of the broader membership of the Southern Baptist Convention. They have lost several votes. The Southern Baptist Convention has repeatedly refused to implement their vision for the SBC.

And what is that vision? It is not hard to know, because when these men did not get their way, they implemented their vision in other organizations. We can look at their organizations and see precisely what was their plan.

First, they have gutted the Cooperative Program. The Baptist General Convention of Texas keeps almost 80% of Cooperative Program funds entrusted to them. 80% for the Baptist Building in Dallas; 20% for the rest of the world.

Second, they have abolished accountability for the recipients of Cooperative Program funding. In 1991 Baylor University changed its charter to prevent Texas Baptist churches from ever being able to hold the university accountable. Baylor still receives CP funding from the BGCT. A whole suite of universities followed suit. They still receive funding from the CBF crowd. Many of the affiliated educational institutions connected with the CBF are mere departments within schools that are not even Baptist. The plan of these men is to send money with no strings attached. Apparently, their view of religious liberty includes the notion that certain people have an absolute right to a paycheck, and those donating the money have the liberty to continue to pay them. You may complain about heresy taught at schools, so long as a "there, there" from some denominational bureaucrat will silence long as you don't actually dare to try to do anything about it.

Third, they have established a system that is as narrow and discriminatory as any in the world. They weep for Russell Dilday while they chase Robert Sloan out of town. A recent gathering of Baptist colleges and universities included a discussion along the lines of "Since we know that we will not under any circumstances be hiring graduates of the six Southern Baptist seminaries, where are we going to find our religion professors now?" A friend, a recent SWBTS graduate who would not be theologically out of place in the BGCT, was present and greatly disheartened by the event. The SBC welcomes these institutions to set up displays in the exhibit hall at the SBC annual meeting, but these men will not allow SWBTS to set up a display at the BGCT annual meeting. Open theists we welcome with open arms; inerrantists need not apply. [The portion of this statement now struck through has been shown to be incorrect in the ensuing comments. I apologize for the inaccuracy. The remainder of the paragraph (and the article) stands unrefuted.]

The men Burleson listed, every last one of them, are not only supporters of this system; they are the architects of it.

What has happened to these men in the past twenty-seven years is as simple as this: The Southern Baptist Convention has said "No" to their misshapen vision for the future of the SBC. They have not been kicked out; they merely haven't been put in charge. Their vision is not our vision. Their vision is entirely, 100% incompatible with our vision.

Now, it is their right, upon discovering this incompatibility, to leave and start their own institution. They faced the same choice that we all face when we find we are in the minority in our churches, associations, or conventions. You can choose to go along with the majority, or you can choose to leave and do your own thing. I've personally been on the losing side of several questions in Southern Baptist life down through the years. This year's presidential election was among them. I lost. But it was a fair election. And I'm not leaving the Southern Baptist Convention over it. And if I did, my leaving would be my decision, and nobody anywhere would have forced me out by voting their conscience in Greensboro.

In fact, my church is still (for the fleeting moment) a member of the BGCT. I think it extremely likely that we're leaving. Soon. But as we go, let me make it clear that nobody is forcing me out. My views are entirely unwelcome in the BGCT and will enjoy no more success than Charles Wade's views have enjoyed in the SBC, but God has not endowed me with an inalienable right to win votes in the BGCT. The votes in the BGCT have been fair votes. I lost. And we've lost on enough things of enough importance for long enough that we're going elsewhere. But we're going of our own free will, and nobody has forced us out of anything.

In the same way, the list of people that Wade Burleson has iterated is a list of people who have chosen to go a different direction than the Southern Baptist Convention has freely and fairly chosen. I refuse to feel guilty for voting my conscience. I refuse to be made responsible for their free choices.

Therefore, in honoring what these men themselves have freely, publicly, vehemently, and with unkind and inflammatory words for others chosen for their own futures:

May God bless these men in their ministries...


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