Sunday, January 21, 2007

Points of Perhaps-Surprising Agreement

Monday the semester begins, and with it my predicted lessening of blog activity (but I am not going away).

I thought it might be outside the norm for me to list some areas in which I would not entirely disagree with present-day dissenters. Some of these will be no surprise to those who read here frequently. Others perhaps would.

  1. I agree with Tom Ascol's call for biblical church discipline and regenerate church membership. Well...except that I don't really regard that idea as belonging to Tom Ascol. I'd just as soon call it Jesus' call for biblical church discipline and regenerate church membership. But Bro. Tom has certainly carried the ball on this one as much as anyone else, and I want to give credit where credit is due. I don't know him, but I have appreciated his labors from afar.
  2. I agree with Ben Cole's call for salaries to be public knowledge. I strongly suspect that Bro. Ben's request is motivated by something other than an objective desire for openness, and I do not share those motives. Nevertheless, I am a stalwart supporter of the authority of the churches. Furthermore, greater openness about these matters would defuse the very kind of thing that Ben Cole is doing right now. Let me say, a high salary for our agency heads would not scandalize me in the least. In deciding what we would pay agency heads, we ought to ask ourselves what caliber of leadership we want in those positions. If we want world-class leaders, we ought to pay world class salaries. I realize that some people might not see it that way, but I think in the long run the Southern Baptist people can be trusted to take care of their denominational employees. I guess the whole town knows what I make as pastor, but my church still takes care of me. I strongly suspect that, if I knew what our agency heads were earning, I would want to see the salaries raised.
  3. I, too, believe that there has been too much nepotism in past days in the SBC. Of course, I'll bet there's some nepotism and recirculation of leadership in your church—probably quite a bit—but I think there has been too much of it in the SBC. It doesn't make me want to lead a revolt; it makes me want to encourage people to be more active in submitting names and participating in the process. I think the grassroots are more to blame here than the leadership. Frankly, I don't want somebody serving on an SBC committee who hasn't bothered to attend the convention (or maybe hasn't bothered to attend until a good controversy started up), any more than I want somebody serving in a leadership position at my church who doesn't bother to come to Sunday School. So, I'm in favor of greater participation by people and then a greater distribution of responsibilities among those who do take an interest and participate.
  4. I agree that some leaders in the Conservative Resurgence have been shameful in their leadership in Cooperative Program giving. I am dead-set, 100%, DEFCON-1 opposed to any SBC motion, resolution, or action that dares presume to specify to an autonomous church what it ought to give, for polity reasons. But I do think it is a shameful contradiction to give to the CP in percentages that require decimal points to be significant, and then call yourself Southern Baptist.
I think every bit of this can be addressed without resorting to the kind of histrionics we've all endured this year (Indeed, in some cases I think the behavior of the reformers has damaged the chance of reform).I can hold all of these opinions without them lessening one iota my respect and gratitude to those who have led us well. I can hold all of these opinions and yet participate joyfully in the SBC if the majority of messengers do not share my views.

I have acknowledged before that the dissent movement is not monolithic. Guess what: Neither is the group of people who have not enlisted in the dissent movement. If someone has been trying to sell you on the idea that the SBC is a tyranny, that everyone who supports the SBC as it currently exists is some sort of an automaton who receives his orders from on high and carries them out, that the SBC is designed to keep the common people marginalized while an elite few run the show, then I believe that you are being sold a bill of goods.

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