Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Can Anyone Enlighten Me?

Here we read the story of Xu Shuangfu being executed in China. Here we read that the charge against him had to do with murders committed by one Chinese Christian group against another. Allegedly, the "competition" for Christian converts in China led to murder. The second link in this story is from a web site decidedly biased against Christian groups. The allegations were made originally by the Communist Chinese government. But, here is a Christian site that seems to regard the claim as at least plausible.

So, if the allegations against Xu Shuangfu and the "Three Grades of Servant" church are true, then I guess our SBC internecine squabbles are comparatively healthy and civil.

On the other hand, if this is all an execution based upon trumped up charges, then another martyr has joined the already rather large group beneath the altar.

Does any of our rather astute readership have any idea which is the case?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Marriage, the Ten Commandments, and Roger Williams

Mormon polygamist Warren Jeffs claims that the proceedings against him for forcing a fourteen-year-old girl into marriage with her first cousin amount to a violation of his freedom to practice his chosen religion (see here).

I believe in religious liberty for everyone, including Warren Jeffs, atheists, Satanist, Branch Davidians, and whomever else you might stipulate. But I think that Jeffs's religious liberty defense is bogus. The underlying principle by which I make that distinction is an important one: It is called "The Two Tables of the Law" and I'll give credit for the principle to Roger Williams.

The Two Tables of the Law

Here's the principle: Government has no right to govern the vertical relationship between people and God, but it does have the right to govern the horizontal relationship among people. The two categories are not perfectly discrete (for example, see here), but the overlap does not prevent these two categories from being very helpful in determining the rightful disposition of cases like that of Warren Jeffs.

Williams used the idea of the Ten Commandments to teach this distinctive principle. The first four commandments treat the vertical relationship. The last six treat the horizontal relationship. So, according to Williams and to me the first four commandments illustrate the kind of thing that the government ought to leave alone, while the last six illustrate the kind of thing that government may regulate as it sees fit.

This test has nothing to do with the source of ideas. Rather, it deals with the subject matter of laws and the scope of governmental authority. On the one hand, it is inappropriate for government to regulate someone's prayer, praise, beliefs, or confessions no matter what the reason. Even if the source of the concern is, for example, national security, the government may not properly condemn or commend a particular approach to man's relationship with God. On the other hand, as it pertains to interhuman conduct, I believe that a law can draw upon any source of wisdom it likes—legal precedent, religious doctrine, public opinion...whatever thinking is relevant and persuasive—so long as effect of the law does not extend governmental regulation beyond the bounds of its authority.

The Principle Applied

The argument against gay marriage is a religious argument. The argument against polygamy is a religious argument. The argument against bestiality is a religious argument. The argument against pedophilia has religious components. If "a wall of separation between church and state" means (as many seem to believe) that religious ideas may not appropriately influence law, then gay marriage ought to be legal, Warren Jeffs ought to go free, and we owe a grave national apology to David Koresh. On the other hand, if Williams's principle is a valid one, then the government has every right to regulate marriage as a part of the second table, whether those regulations conflict with Mr. Jeffs's sincerely held religious beliefs or not. Furthermore, if this principle is a valid one, then the government has every right to outlaw gay marriage and to regulate a broad array of issues that are not strictly matters of conscience.

Friday, November 17, 2006

The Best Thing About the SBTC…

…was that I had to come home to find out what had happened at the BGCT annual meeting.

Our church knew several years ago that we were very unhappy with the BGCT. But we were very slow about joining the SBTC for several reasons.

  1. We wanted to be careful of the whole "rebound relationship" phenomenon. Being unhappy with BGCT is different from being happy with SBTC. You know, you can be a strong, healthy Baptist church without being affiliated at all. We prefer to be in cooperative relationship, but although this is needful, it is not a necessity. So, we resolved that we would consider a relationship with the SBTC to be a separate issue from our deteriorating relationship with the BGCT.
  2. My interaction with one prominent member of the "opposition party" in the BGCT (before the SBTC organized) had left me with an unfavorable impression of the whole thing.
  3. We had no intention of joining a "government in exile." If the purpose of the SBTC was nothing more than to snipe at the BGCT, rebuild a shadow copy of the BGCT, etc., then we weren't interested.
After dipping our collective toes into the water a few times, the only eventual question that we had left was, "Why didn't we do this [join the SBTC] a long time ago?"

It is the third point in particular that I have in view with this post. I just never hear much about the BGCT at SBTC events. I can count on one hand the number of times I have heard any reference to the BGCT at an SBTC event. I'm not just talking about from the platform—I'm talking about in the hallways and parking lots and in restaurants and hotel lobbies. The only reference to the BGCT that I heard this year was from a non-SBTC speaker.

The SBTC has moved on. FBC Farmersville is moving on, too. I have stopped reading the Baptist Standard. I almost never employ the words "Charles Wade" in a sentence any more. It's delightful. I enjoy state convention meetings again. Ten years ago, who could have thought that was possible?

Someone wise once told me, "Don't spend all of your time worrying about what people think of you; they don't think of you as much as you suspect!" I can honestly say that is my experience of the SBTC's relationship with the BGCT. The past is behind us. The future is before us. May God enable both conventions to do something worthwhile for the Lord in the future.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

"Traditional" Baptists ???

I have stated that I would not use "Valleygate" as "an occasion to slap at one another." (see here)

I have stated my personal reservations about Daniel David Montoya, including my own doubts about some of his farther-flung allegations. (see all the way back here)

But after reading this, I must side with Montoya and vehemently protest what was done at this year's BGCT annual meeting. To suggest that these matters are beyond the scope of the messengers' authority is tyranny, pure and simple. There is nothing Baptist about this. The self-adopted label of "traditional Baptists" has never rung true, but it has never rung more untrue than now.

SBTC's Glossolalia Resolution

Art Rogers has taken notice (see here) of the SBTC's resolution "On Glossolalia and Private Prayer Languages" that passed overwhelmingly last night. I would like to offer a few thoughts about the resolution:

  1. The article over at Twelve Witnesses suggests that "we should not divide ourselves on such an issue" and the comment stream goes on to mention that "Ken Hemphill has come out against making PPL an issue to divide over." Perhaps those involved will be glad to add to the names of those who do not regard this as an issue to divide over—jot down Bart Barber, Malcolm Yarnell, and the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention:
    RESOLVED, That we encourage all Southern Baptists to be patient, kind, and loving toward one another (1 Cor. 13:4-8) regarding this ancillary theological issue, which ought not to constitute a test of fellowship...
  2. Note: Art has revised his article to remove the verbage that led to this second rebuttal. Thank you, Art. The article also suggested that this was "a resoution opposing 'toungues' [sic] in any form." That's odd...the resolution I remember said:
    WHEREAS, Some conservative Texas Southern Baptists affirm that certain spiritual gifts have ceased to be necessary, because the apostolic witness is now canonized in the New Testament (Heb. 2:3-4); and

    WHEREAS, Other conservative Texas Southern Baptists are cautiously open to the continuation of spiritual gifts, but are extremely wary of sanctioning modern practices as biblical; now, therefore, be it

    RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention meeting in Austin, Texas, November 13-14, 2006, declare that Southern Baptists in Texas typically believe that the modern practice of private prayer languages lacks a tangible foundation in Scripture; and be it further

    RESOLVED, That we are opposed to unscriptural teaching relating to speaking in tongues, whether such speech be done in private or public...(emphasis mine)
    Obviously, this resolution acknowledges both the cessationist and the "open but cautious" positions and opposes only "unscriptural teaching" relating to speaking in tongues. The resolution also specifies that the typical Southern Baptist in Texas believes that "the modern practice of private prayer languages lacks a tangible foundation in Scripture." Thus, the resolution opposes any teaching regarding these practices that is unscriptural, and it further proffers the opinion that private prayer languages fall within that category. This is far different from "a resolution opposing tongues in any form."
  3. This is a resolution, not a motion. A motion sets policy or takes an action for the convention. Because this was not a motion, it did not set any SBTC policy or take any sort of action. I have no reason to believe that anyone on the Resolutions Committee or in the messenger body at large had any desire to add this topic to our confession of faith or to be a "PPL exclusionist." Every SBTC messenger surely knows that we have at least one church within the SBTC that holds a different view, yet no action was even attempted against that church. Resolutions cannot do that sort of thing, anyway.

    Nevertheless, resolutions are important. They exist to answer questions regarding what the churches of our convention believe or would opine on some topic or another. Some have posed the question as to whether the majority of Southern Baptists are not actually (contrary to all indicators for the past hundred years) harboring some furtive endorsement of Pentecostalism/the Charismatic movement/the Third Wave. When we are uncertain what Southern Baptists believe about something-or-other, resolutions are a great way to get the pulse of the churches. They are not perfectly representative, but certainly they are more representative than my blog or anyone else's.
So, why pass a resoution on glossolalia? To run people out of town on a rail? No. To give SBTC churches an opportunity to clear up any misunderstanding about what the majority of us believe.

The Best Resolution from SBTC

On the Sufficiency of the Word of God for the Entire Christian Life

WHEREAS, the Word of God is the divinely inspired revelation of God (2 Tim. 3:16), holy men having been moved by the Holy Spirit to speak the Word of God and write the Bible (2 Pet. 1:19-21); and

WHEREAS, the Word of God accomplishes the purposes for which the all-wise God sends it (Isa. 55:8-11), being a living, active, searching, and judging instrument of God (Heb. 4:11-13); and

WHEREAS, the Word of God converts souls, makes wise, rejoices hearts, and enlightens eyes (Ps. 19:7-8); moreover, it endures forever, is altogether true and righteous, and is to be desired above all things (Ps. 19:9-10); and

WHEREAS, the Word of God brings warning against human sin and reveals eternal reward (Ps. 19:11-12), having the ability to make one wise unto salvation (2 Tim. 3:15), through the instrument of preaching and its reception by faith (Rom. 10:14, 17); and the Word approaches the human heart and mouth through preaching and must itself be internally believed and externally confessed for human salvation (Rom. 10:8-10); and

WHEREAS, the Word of God is the only source of wisdom and knowledge that is eternal (Isa. 40:6-8), that is profitable for teaching, reproving, correcting, and instructing in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16), and that is able to bring completion to pious people, thoroughly equipping them for every work that is good (2 Tim. 3:17); and

WHEREAS, all human forms of wisdom and knowledge are temporary and thus ultimately lack relevance (Isa. 40:6-7), are corrupted by sin and thus utterly lack righteousness (Isa. 55:6-7), and are severely limited and thus are unable to redeem (Isa.55:8-9); now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention meeting in Austin, Texas, November 13-14, 2006, call upon Southern Baptists to remember that the Word of God alone is relevant, and that the Word of God establishes the standards by which all forms of human wisdom and knowledge and all aspects of human culture and activity must be judged; and be it further

RESOLVED, That the we call upon Southern Baptists to remember that the Word of God alone is righteous, and that fallen human beings lack righteousness; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we encourage Southern Baptists to remember that the Word of God alone is able to redeem sinful human beings, and that they may look nowhere else than to the Bible for the source of redemption; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we encourage every Christian home to place the Word of God at the center of its life through daily family worship, private devotions, and personal memorization; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we encourage every church, every pastor, every Sunday School teacher, and other church leaders to keep the Word of God central in worship, proclamation, discipleship, evangelism, and in any and all methodologies adopted for these ends; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we encourage every missionary and every missionary board to keep the Word of God central in worship, proclamation, discipleship, and evangelism, and in any and all methodologies adopted for these ends; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we encourage every Southern Baptist educational institution, including home schools, schools, colleges, universities, and seminaries, to make the Word of God central to their educational goals, entire educational curriculum, and every course’s content; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we encourage every Southern Baptist engaged in secular education, including public elementary schools, high schools, technical schools, colleges, and universities to present the Word of God constantly, consistently, and compellingly to the lost people with whom they are engaged; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we encourage every Southern Baptist engaged in secular commerce, whether as an employer or employee or as a seller or buyer of goods or as a provider or recipient of services, to present the Word of God constantly, consistently, and compellingly to the lost people with whom they are engaged; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we encourage every Christian voter and every Christian magistrate to make their decisions with regard to the making, execution, and judgment of laws based upon and under the authority of the Word of God, and therefore with the highest regard for universal religious liberty; and be it finally

RESOLVED, In summary, that the totality of the Christian life, corporately and individually, in the family, in the church, and in the broader society, must be based upon, focused upon, and have as its goal the proclamation of, the Word of God.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

On the Road Again, SBTC Annual Meeting

Starting today, Tracy and I are in Austin at the 2007 2006 Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. If you're going, too, I look forward to seeing you.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

The Progressive Metanarrative

Progressive
Gradually advancing in extent. Moving toward a goal
Metanarrative
A grand overarching account, or all-encompassing story, which is thought to give order to the historical record.
From the bare lexicography of it all, the term "Progressive Metanarrative" could simply mean any concept of history moving toward a goal. In such a case, I would be a "progressive" because I certainly believe that God is moving history toward a defnite goal.

But in common parlance, THE Progressive Metanarrative imagines that the world (or at least the United States) is moving inexorably toward the specific goals of secularism, social libertarianism, pacifism, and socialism (or at least radical redistribution of wealth). According to the Progressive Metanarrative, arrival at the goal is inevitable. It may be delayed or temporarily sidetracked, but it cannot be derailed. Sort of like a doctrine of Perseverance of the Sinners.

Here's the odd thing: You don't have to be a progressive to buy into the Progressive Metanarrative. Progressives may believe that progressivism will inevitably win at which time they will be delighted. Conservatives may believe that progressivism will inevitably win at which time they will be defeated.

Progressives who buy into the metanarrative are often patient regarding delays of the coming of the ideal, but they go bananas when anyone tries to overturn any of their "progress" and restore past conditions. Delays are compatible with the metanarrative, but movement "backwards" is not.

But all that I've written so far is really just prelude.

What fascinates me is the phenomenon of conservatives who buy into the Progressive Metanarrative. Such people think that the best we can do is temporarily to forestall things. They believe, deep down inside, in the inevitability of their grandchildren living in a nation that recognizes gay marriage. They believe that next year's movies must always be raunchier than last year's movies. They believe that today's conservative educational institutions must necessarily slide into liberalism within a few generations. They don't like these ideas, but they don't think that they have any choice. For example, according to this view the 1960s must necessarily be a permanent lamentable slide into moral oblivion, while the 1980s must necessarily be a temporary Dunkirk for conservative morality.

Often, conservatives just don't know how to be winners. They only know how to dominate and live in fear of the day when they will dominate no longer. Winners confidently persuade others to agree with them and thereby build a future. They do so by sharing their own "metanarrative" and giving people a vision. Many conservatives do a great job at this—unlike some I do not believe that defeatism and defensiveness are inherent to conservatism. I only think they are inherent to conservatives who have succumbed to the Progressive Metanarrative.

Sometimes it seems to me that some conservatives almost want to believe in the Progressive Metanarrative.

Some of it comes, perhaps, from the fact that it is much easier to preach about how horrible things are and how horrible they are becoming than it is to kindle in people's hearts a vision for working towards a better future. One of those "curse the darkness" / "light a candle" kind of situations.

Some of it comes, perhaps, from a certain conviction that these are the days of great apostasy leading into a premillennial vision of the eschaton. I would point out that a great many people have thought so in the past, only to see things make a turn and get better. Morality was horrible in the Roman Empire, but Christians turned things around and saw real progress in the direction of Christ. Colonial morality before the First Great Awakening was deplorable, but Whitefield and Edwards and Tennent and Frelinghuysen were used by God to turn things around. I will be the first to echo, "Lord Jesus, come quickly," but I will point out that the Apostle John didn't manage to hurry up the schedule by wishing that and I have no reason to suspect that I will either. Christ will come when He gets ready.

And in the meantime, He has pleased Himself on many past occasions to bring spiritual awakening and to frustrate the grand schemes of sinners. There is a Christan Metanarrative. I opt for it. And I pray that it will embolden us all in our vision for homes, communities, nations, and a world moving closer to God rather than farther away.

Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Election Day Wrapup

Republicans have taken it on the chin. The national telephone system has apparently had trouble overnight accommodating all of the Republican candidates who have had to make concession telephone calls. Insider reports from Washington suggest that President Bush has not yet called to offer his congratulations to Osama bin Laden.

Do you know when I first held grave concerns about the outcome of this year's elections? When Bobby Welch announced the results of the 2006 SBC presidential election. It is my thesis that the Southern Baptist Convention is a powerful indicator of the national mood. The Conservative Resurgence began in 1979, at the same time as the Reagan Revolution was emerging in the US. My dissertation regards the same phenomenon in the age of William Jennings Bryan and Arkansas Governor Jeff Davis (not to be confused with Confederate President Jefferson Davis).

The Southern Baptist Convention elected as president a man with a previous public track record of sympathies with liberal views and personalities juxtaposed against a recent retraction of those views and the cultivation of a more conservative public persona. The election of a spate of conservative (for Democrats) Democrats seems to evince a similar thought process. It is almost as though people are yearning for conservatism without conservatives.

I think that such a yearning is doomed for failure. For example, the election of a couple of pro-life Democrats has, by tipping the balance of power to the Democratic Party, done more to set back the pro-life cause in one day than Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and other radical pro-abortionists could accomplish in a decade. What does conservatism without conservatives look like? Liberalism.

Back to my SBC-national politics thesis: The huge, gaping hole, of course, is Bill Clinton. Did anything in SBC life foreshadow the dominance of Bill Clinton?

Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Public Enemy #2 ??

Will any of you believe me if I say that I am sincerely praying for the folks over at the Baptist General Convention of Texas in these dark days for them? There are more than enough lost people in Texas to go around, and for as long as the BGCT continues to proclaim the gospel, I sincerely hope that they will be a robust agent in that cause. I have profound theological and methodological differences with them, but that does not prevent me from wanting to feel sympathy with them in their current plight. Especially since I am so happy in the SBTC, to the degree that we are not in conflict over national SBC issues I am content to let the past remain in the past and to enjoy some (hopefully mutual) magnanimity with folks over in the BGCT.

But sometimes it is difficult to do so. When Marv Knox (see here) can't write a simple editorial calling for a rebuilding of trust after "Valleygate" without invoking the obligatory "evil fundamentalists" mantra right in the opening paragraphs, I recognize that he is slapping my sympathy in the face. Now really, Marv, what do fundamentalists have to do with this? Or is it just that, whenever the BGCT is having problems, they have to drag out the specter of "evil fundamentalists" to rally the base?

Perhaps it is encouraging to learn, at long last, that my belief in inerrancy, in accountability to the churches, and in our return from the brink of liberalism (aka "fundamentalism" to Marv) "is no longer the BGCT's gravest threat." Does this mean that I have to return my Darth Vader outfit? Am I no longer a part of the evil empire? I guess I'll have to learn to be content with only being public enemy #2.

So, all this makes it more difficult to be sympathetic. But I resolve to be sympathetic anyway. I will not pile on. Unlike Bro. Marv, I will not use this sad set of events as an occasion to slap at one another and pursue other agendas. The BGCT's leadership didn't ask for these problems. None of us are immune to embezzlers and charlatans. Especially, I have to feel sympathy for the thousands of faithful Texas Baptists whose contributions were misappropriated. Ultimately, although I cannot give a good text for it, my heart wants to believe that there is some special treatment that God reserves for those who defraud His church. Certainly the members churches of the BGCT, but even much of the leadership, are definitely the victims of all of this.

Hopefully, at such a dark hour, even the sympathy of public enemy #2 will be welcome down in Dallas.

After all, surely we all know who the real enemy is.

Election Day Feelings

If every Republican wins today at the polls, but South Dakota Referred Law 6 fails, then I consider the day a loss.

This is not disinterested intellectual analysis. As an adoptive father twice-over my feelings about such things are far more powerful than my thoughts.

Sunday, November 5, 2006

Making It Hard to Go to Hell from Our Pulpits

The Ted Haggard story is tragic. Even more tragic is the lack of novelty in it all. Can anyone, anywhere really say that this is their first—even only their twenty-first—exposure to a scenario like this?

I think we need a present-day Gilbert Tennent preaching on "The Danger of an Unconverted Ministry." At graduation rehearsal in May, Dr. Patterson's last words to the SWBTS class of 2005 were something along the lines of, "If you have not already resolved in your hearts your determination not to fall to sexual sin, please come here tomorrow, receive your degree, walk across the stage, then walk out of this church and go find a career in some other line of work. Please do not do any more damage to the cause of Christ." Prophetic words, and true. I think we need a lot more of that.

But more than anything else, I think we need churches that start focusing more on what a pastor ought to be than on what a pastor ought to accomplish.

Thursday, November 2, 2006

Way to Go, Arkansas!

No, I'm not talking about the Razorbacks (I was raised an ASU Indians fan, myself). I'm talking about the Arkansas Baptist State Convention.

This post marks my second time to write about an ABSC annual meeting. My dissertation dealt primarily with the disastrous 1902 meeting of the ABSC at which turbulent socio-political issues rent the state's largest Baptist group in two. I'm really glad to balance that first assignment by writing about a stellar year for Arkansas Baptists rather than a notorious one.

Much about the meeting could deserve comment, but I am most excited about the ABSC's commitment to raise its percentage of CP funds forwarded to national and international causes. Arkansas Baptists are moving incrementally, and the current plan does not take the state's budget allocation quite as far as would most please me (I would be delighted with a 50/50 split), but I have no desire to dwell upon these minor differences.

Rather, I accord full praise to the Southern Baptists in Arkansas for moving in the right direction in an epoch in which there is so much temptation to move in the wrong direction. I give thanks that my home convention—the convention in which I came to Christ and first heard my call to ministry—is not following the horrible example of some conventions in neighboring states.

Now the time has come for Arkansas Baptist churches to respond appropriately. The ABSC is leading by example; let Arkansas Baptist churches follow that example. Let them increase their CP giving by allocating a percentage to the CP in their next budget cycle that is higher than the current percentage. Wouldn't now be a great time for Dr. Floyd to lead the way with some small incremental step to forward more from Springdale through the CP?

[By the way, that is not a slap at Dr. Floyd...just a friendly suggestion. Positive moves ought to be responded to positively]

Wednesday, November 1, 2006

Why Ecclesiology Matters

Although debate certainly is ongoing in Southern Baptist circles about the content of biblical ecclesiology (what does the Bible say about the nature of the church?), the debate also extends to the importance of biblical ecclesiology (whatever the Bible says, is ecclesiology really important enough to "divide us" or "distract us from the gospel"?). I think that the Bible does teach some things about ecclesiology (some things that we might dare to call Baptist ecclesiology although few Baptist churches actually practice such ecclesiology), and furthermore I believe that those teachings are ultimately vital to the health of the church.

I offer this as a case study.

Katherine Jefferts-Schori has denied not only the exclusivity but also the deity of Jesus Christ (see here). She's about to be confirmed as the presiding bishop of all American Episcopalians (although some Episcopalians are trying to get assigned to another bishop). Here's the highlight reel:

"If we insist that we know the one way to God, we've put God in a very small box." and "[regarding Jesus Jefferts-Schori doesn't believe that] one person can have the fullness of truth in him or herself...." because ".... Truth is, like God, more than any one person can encompass."
Poor Episcopalians. But that's their problem, not ours...right?

Right.

Next question: Why? Why is it their problem and not ours? Somebody will say, "Becuase of the Conservative Resurgence!" (in fact, I think someone already did say something much like that, although you'll have to scroll down through the article to find the "were it not for the Conservative Resurgence" quote).

But this answer only begs the question. It is a circular argument:
Why are we more conservative than the rest? Because we got more conservative in our resurgence, by golly!
Let me ask it this way. Why don't the Episcopalians just hold their own Conservative Resurgence? And the answer is that they can't have a Conservative Resurgence and remain Episcopalian. And the reason for that is ecclesiology. To lead an armed revolt and throw out the heretical scoundrels at the top is a very congregational thing to do. Congregationalism matters.

Look, friends: There are Southern Baptist versions of Katherine Jefferts-Schori walking around. Don't believe me? Read this. The difference between the Episcopalians and the SBC is not that they have folks like Jefferts-Schori while we don't; the difference is that a person like Jefferts-Schori can wind up in charge of the Episcopalians but would have no chance of being elected to anything at next year's SBC Annual Meeting. The women mentioned in the article I hyperlinked at the beginning of this paragraph were doctoral graduates of one of our premier educational institutions—they were impressive to professors and denominational leaders. In the Episcopal world, that is enough to propel you to the top. In Southern Baptist life, it is not enough.

Ultimately, everything in Southern Baptist life has to pass muster with the common layperson in the pews of our churches. Impress all the professors and literati that you wish, but if you can't pass muster with the people in Southern Baptist life, then you wind up unemployed. Craziness and heresy such as that which is taking over the Episcopalian church cannot be jammed down the throats of Southern Baptists. Not so long as we cling to congregationalism and local-church autonomy.

Some of the more naïve ideas afloat in Southern Baptist life (IMHO) fail to acknowledge the terrible sin and corruption that has infested the church. The problems of the Reformation did not go away in the Reformation. The Reformation did not solve problems; it merely distanced some portions of Christianity from some of the problems. Furthermore, different thinkers in the Reformation saw different solutions to the problems addressed by the Reformation. To the question "How do you fix the church?" some answered "Fix its theology." Others answered "Fix its leadership." Baptists answered "Fix its membership." I think that is the right answer (Baptist sectarian that I am).

And I am convinced that, given a regenerate congregation with the authority to defend themselves from ecclesiastical autocrats, a heretic like Katherine Jefferts-Schori could never inflict her own lostness (yes, I'm saying she is not a Christian) upon a church practicing true Baptist ecclesiology.