Saturday, June 16, 2007

It's the Text, Stu...Wait, We Don't Use That Word

We didn't vote on the debate. We didn't vote on Morris Chapman's sermon. We voted solely upon the text of the EC statement, and that text is so vague that a dozen different interpretations of it are already floating around the SBC. Please note, before anyone alleges that I am spinning out of sour grapes, the indisputable fact that I endorsed the motion before it ever came to the floor for discussion, and at a time when the messengers had just minutes before (in the announced 1VP results) demonstrated plainly that this body of messengers was not sympathetic to Wade Burleson's movement. What possible reason can you give for me to have endorsed that motion at that particular moment other than the one I have expressed publicly—that I had honestly concluded that I agreed with the statement? Any statement on this topic with which I and Les Puryear both agree is, by definition, a vague statement. (Bro. Les is a great guy, but everyone must concede that he and I represent the two opposite poles on this particular question) David Rogers has an excellent and introspective post about the antipathy between political expediency and plain speech. David, to his credit, is much better at the latter than the former. David the denominational politician obviously wasn't my candidate. David the thinker and plain speaker is much more to my liking. I don't think that David ever gave up plain speaking, but in political life one is always surrounded by people who do much of your speaking for you, as obviously took place with David. Anyway, the post is here, and I highly recommend it. I think that the EC statement on the BF&M is a victim of precisely the phenomenon about which David writes. The statement was crafted for political effect, and somewhere in the process it ceased to say what its supporters wanted it to say. It belongs in the category of political expediency rather than open communication. This reason, I believe, explains why the statement is so vague. I propose that we do something entirely out of the ordinary—let us seek open communication about this contentious issue, and in so doing, let us seek peace rather than political advantage. Let us put up in 2008 a plainly written statement. Perhaps we just ought to take Dr. Chapman's statement in his sermon (lifted from Wade Burleson's site):

(1) Any practice instituted by an entity in the Southern Baptist Convention that has the force of doctrine should be in accord with the Baptist Faith and Message and not exceed its boundaries unless and until it has been approved by the Southern Baptist Convention and secondly, (2) If an entity of the Southern Baptist Convention adopts a confession of faith separate and distinct from the Baptist Faith and Message and it includes a doctrine unsupported by our confessional statement, the entity should request approval from the Convention prior to including the doctrine in its confession.
Now that sermon, my friends, says things plainly (but, unfortunately, we did not vote upon the plainspoken sermon, but upon the vague politically expedient text). Do you notice all the things Dr. Chapman's quote possesses that are not in the EC statement? It is specific and pointed. It spells out the procedures involved. Yes, there is a phrase or two that cries out for meaningful definition ("that has the force of doctrine"???), but Dr. Chapman's statement is leap-years beyond the text upon which we voted. The clear specificity of Dr. Chapman's sermon is precisely the attribute that causes Wade Burleson to want to quote it now, in the aftermath. It is also precisely the attribute of Dr. Chapman's words that made them precisely what our dissident brethren did not want to be contained in the motion. Dr. Chapman's sermon is the kind of plainspoken communication that clearly leaves everyone certain whether he stands in agreement or in disagreement. But, I remind you, we didn't vote upon Dr. Chapman's statements. But we should have. So, let us take a blunt, plainly worded statement like this and schedule time on the platform next year for an even-handed debate of the measure. Rather than give unrebutted time for the CEO to deliver a stump speech, let us have Dr. Chapman and an equally articulate spokesperson from another point of view speak to the concept. I think Dr. Al Mohler might be a great choice, although he may not appreciate an unsolicited nomination to an unanticipated task. Let's follow clear and careful rules of debate and do everything possible to produce more light than heat. Then, let us have a brief time of floor debate followed by a vote. And if the text of the statement actually says something clearly, then we'll all know where we stand, and we'll all need to move forward from there. Those who plot movements according to political expediency will object, but I am confident that there are more of us who are drawn to open communication. That fact is the hope of the SBC.


Clyde Key said...

Brother Bart,

I read the BF&M resolution several times before I finally voted for it because I thought the resolution might have been loaded to come out wrong no matter how it was voted. However, after listening to seminary presidents’ reports, I don’t think it changed anything about how the convention or the various entities work. In this case, glossilalia was the issue. But if you look hard enough, there are surely other areas where BF&M does not specifically mention a particular belief but we still expect our trustees and leadership to take positions that most of us consider right. Perhaps future resolutions will more clearly state what someone wants to accomplish. For instance, if someone wishes to cause a change in hiring practices in the institutions, being more clearly specific about what they wish to accomplish would make it much easier for messengers to decide which way to vote. And it would make it more difficult for someone to claim the vote was a victory that was not intended by the convention.


Colin said...

I am allowed to post, here, right? Ok, good...

I do believe the clearest message we could send, coupled with the greatest thing for the SBC in these times, is to watch Dr. Mohler ascend to the presidency of the SBC. THEN, let him speak to the motion.

Tim Rogers said...

Brother Bart,

I remember as you and I discussed this statement you were adamant that it said what it said and you could agree with what the statement said. What you would not agree to was what people wanted the statement to say.

Great insight! Have a Blessed Lord's day

Here is the poem I am closing with today. It was written and put to music by Harry Chapin:

My child arrived just the other day
He came to the world in the usual way
But there were planes to catch and bills to pay
He learned to walk while I was away
And he was talkin' 'fore I knew it, and as he grew
He'd say "I'm gonna be like you dad
You know I'm gonna be like you"

My son turned ten just the other day
He said, "Thanks for the ball, Dad, come on let's play
Can you teach me to throw", I said "Not today
I got a lot to do", he said, "That's ok"
And he walked away but his smile never dimmed
And said, "I'm gonna be like him, yeah
You know I'm gonna be like him"
And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man on the moon
When you comin' home dad?
I don't know when, but we'll get together then son
You know we'll have a good time then

Well, he came home from college just the other day
So much like a man I just had to say
"Son, I'm proud of you, can you sit for a while?"
He shook his head and said with a smile
"What I'd really like, Dad, is to borrow the car keys
See you later, can I have them please?"

I've long since retired, my son's moved away
I called him up just the other day
I said, "I'd like to see you if you don't mind"
He said, "I'd love to, Dad, if I can find the time
You see my new job's a hassle and kids have the flu
But it's sure nice talking to you, Dad
It's been sure nice talking to you"

And as I hung up the phone it occurred to me
He'd grown up just like me
My boy was just like me

And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man on the moon
When you comin' home son?
I don't know when, but we'll get together then son
You know we'll have a good time then


CB Scott said...

Colin and all Others,

Everyone has an opinion. Here is mine. I believe it is very wrong for agency heads of SBC institutions to run for or nominate others for offices within the convention.

I am, in no way, saying that Dr. Mohler would not be a good president. I am not saying he would do a wrong thing. I am saying it is a conflict of interest and it should not be done.

It greatly hurt a seminary president in the past in ways we are only now beginning to understand. I hope Dr. Mohler does not run. I hope he, along with all the other agency heads, cease to run themselves or nominate others to positions in the SBC. To do so is just not a good thing.


volfan007 said...


i agree with you. i really wish that denominational servants would stay out of the election process.

you still owe me a cup of coffee.


Colin said...


Tom Nettles points out in Ready for Reformation the intoxicating effect of power, even among the dissenters of the power structures. I think your words are wise. However, I believe we are in a situation now that calls for a presence Mohler brings to the table, along with his undaunted convictional stance in the face of opposition. CB, are you limiting it to agency heads, or all denominational servants in the seminarues, etc?

Bart, does Baptist history shed light on a negative trend on the type of conflict of interest CB refers to?

sbc pastor said...


In regard to your comment: "I think Dr. Al Mohler might be a great choice, although he may not appreciate an unsolicited nomination to an unanticipated task."

Perhaps I am mistaken, but when he spoke to this issue during the SBTS report at the convention... I was under the strong impression that he would, indeed, like the opportunity to debate Dr. Chapman on this particular issue. :0)

Furthermore, if Chapman's statement was voted on by the convention, after he and Mohler debated the issue, the vote wouldn't even be close. I don't believe that there are very many Southern Baptists that would share Chapman's vision for the SBC. In fact, his statement would certainly be a major step in the wrong direction.

One more thing, if that statement is brought before the convention for a vote, and it fails miserably… then perhaps we should start looking for a new EC President. What good does it do if the EC President has a vision for the SBC that the overwhelming majority of Southern Baptists strongly disagree with due to Biblical principles?

God bless!!!

In Christ,

Anonymous said...

I for one cant wait for the Jeremy L Green "blog" on why Dr Chapman is a theological moderate!

Jim champion

CB Scott said...


I think I am correct in saying that some positions are already off limits for preple that draw salaries from the convention.

I would think that agency heads, at least Pres.'& V.P.'s, should not run. After that it should be up to the agency heads as to whether any other employees are allowed to run. Again, that is simply my opinion. If Dr. Mohler ran and was elected I would pray for and support him in his position as President of the SBC and as President of SBTS.

In fairness, some people can probably serve as Pres. of the SBC and it cause no problems. It is a fact, though, that some cannot or, rather, could not.



Bart Barber said...

Colin & CB,

The SBC has a long history of periodically electing entity heads as SBC president. I know of no documentation of this ever causing a problem in the past.

Anonymous said...


You said:
"So, let us take a blunt, plainly worded statement like this and schedule time on the platform next year for an even-handed debate of the measure...followed by a vote."

AMEN! AMEN! That is all we have to do. Will completely clear up the confusion and we can then move on. I pray this will happen.

And AMEN also to Colin who recommends Dr. Mohler for President. We need his leadership. If he would agree to be nominated, there is no doubt in my mind he would EASILY be elected.

This worries the Burleson coalition. That is why they will spend a year coming up with every excuse in the book why Dr. Mohler should not be nominated.

I pray though that Mohler is nominated or at least someone who stands with Mohler regarding these issues.

CB Scott said...


If Dr. Mohler does run and if by some stranger than life reason he lost the election, I want you to know it will not be because of the work of any real or imagined "coalition" of bloggers that I personally know.

You can take that to the bank.


Les Puryear said...


As you occasionally are, you are right about us. You and I represent the opposite ends of the BFM motion spectrum.

But I still love you as a brother in Christ. :)

Enjoyed our time together.


Pastor Mike said...

It was great seeing you at the SBC. I had to leave early on Wednesday afternoon, did the EC's statement get revisited? It sounds like this will be one of the great debates next year. Can't wait to see how God uses this for His honor and glory.
Serving Him,

Alan Cross said...


You and I have debated this issue many times over the past several months. The EC report came out FOUR MONTHS ago. You had no objections to it. We had a lengthy debate on this topic on Les Puryear's blog when he referred to the EC report in his resolution. I do not recall you saying that the report was vague. On Les Puryear's blog on April 19th, you said,

"It seems to me that another way to handle it is this: If the SBC disagrees with policies set by trustees, it can vote to express its disagreement. The trustees then know for certain that they have passed a policy for which they do not have the blessing of the convention. Although theirs is the job of governance, they now face a choice: Tailor the policies to meet the expressed will of the messengers, or face the consequences. If they do not yield to the will of the convention, then I myself will personally make the motion to de-fund any rogue institution until it complies with the will of the convention.

It seems to me that, with the two policies in question, we are on a trajectory that will lead to precisely that process."

Yet, you say we do not know what we are doing?

Are you really being honest here, Bart? It does not seem so to me.

Bart Barber said...


I am glad to have the opportunity to defend my honesty against your allegations.

First, if you impugn my honesty, I guess you also have to impugn the honesty of Clyde Key, who in this very thread claims to have voted precisely how and why I did.

Second, I did not object to the EC statement at any time—not then, not now. I don't have to object to it because I agree with it. I just don't agree with all the added stuff you attach to it that isn't in the text itself (and thankfully, we never voted on that added stuff). The fact that I have never objected to the EC statement is evidence that I have not flip-flopped. The statement itself never has posed a problem for my position.

On April 19 we were discussing Les Puryear's resolution, not the EC statement.

My prediction of an upcoming conflict reflected my presumption that somebody from your side would pursue this matter honorably and challenge the actual IMB guidelines. But nobody wanted to have that vote (I wonder why?). Instead, we voted on this vague text.

R. L. Vaughn said...

Thanks for mentioning this, Bart. I had forgotten about it and looked back to find Les' Resolution for San Antonio. What happened with it?

Alan Cross said...


Morris Chapman seemed to understand what the EC statement meant when he spoke to it. Les' resolution has the EC statement at it's heart. Danny Akin seemed to understand it quite well. You are wanting to have it both ways. I will accept that you are being honest. That leaves me only in the position of pointing out that you are dead wrong. Your parsing of the statement is ridiculous. Your attempt to reinterpret it to suit your political goals is beyond my comprehension. Dr. Mohler seemed to perfectly understand what the statement meant when he said that he was for it, and then proceeded to vociferously denounce any idea that Southern would be bound to the BF&M as a doctrinal guide. I think that he was speaking out of both sides of his mouth. I don't think that he was being honest with us.

Look, this is a waste of time. I have lost respect for people that I used to respect, even though I disagreed with them on some things. There is no reason for me to continue to talk with you about this. You will spin this until everyone believes that you are right. If your assessment of the intelligence of the messengers of the SBC is correct, it will not be a very hard task to accomplish.

Bart Barber said...


Before you leave, I wish you would show me where I have questioned the intelligence of the messengers. I have questioned the specificity of the statement, not the intelligence of the messengers.

BTW, Ben Cole just offered his opinion that Dr. Chapman's comments were unrelated to the EC statement. Maybe the confusion is not (only) on my side of the question?

R. L. Vaughn said...

Alan, I hear folks saying that those who opposed the motion are questioning the intelligence of Southern Baptist messengers and saying they are not smart enough to know what's going on.

At best this is a misunderstanding of what they are saying. Who has said that Southern Baptist messengers are stupid? Where is the evidence? If the evidence is reference to confusion, I guess some folks have called themselves stupid, since some have admitted to having been confused!

Anonymous said...

Alan Cross said:

"If your assessment of the intelligence of the messengers of the SBC is correct, it will not be a very hard task to accomplish."

The more I hear this, the more I just shake my head and wonder what some people are thinking.

As r.l. pointed out, NO ONE is questioning the intelligence of the messengers. That is a political spin that was started by Wade Burleson...and since he said that, those who support him sound like broken records repeating it.

All I see Bart and others doing is pointing out that messengers were confused...because messengers are saying they were confused.

It is very simple to understand, when you remove the political spin.

Anonymous said...

I thought that the meaning of the resolution was clear, but so very politely Southern. It is clear that Dr. Chapman and the ExComm are concerned about agencies, especially non-seminaries, tightening the rules beyond anything we had all agreed to in the BF&M.

The resolution could have come FROM the ExComm (I suppose) and it could have been very specific, perhaps telling the IMB to accept PPL users as an example. That would have been clear enough for even Drs. Patterson and Kelley, although I have quit guessing on anybody living in Louisville.

Perhaps a two-hour discussion period would have helped; or, maybe this points out the need for an officially-sanctioned discussion period of some weeks for SBC messengers who then could vote from their home churches or associations. (Y'know, people use computers for all sorts of things.) Then, folks could really say that this is what the SBC says.

Oh, and I think it would be a big mistake for a seminary or agency head to run for SBC President, unless it was Dr. Patterson, since he apparently is already telling other agency boards and presidents how to perform their jobs anyway.

Steve Austin, layman
Hoptown, Ky.