Soon I will leave behind the kangaroo-festooned campus of First Baptist Church of Farmersville and embark upon the twelve-hour journey to Louisville, Kentucky, for the 2009 Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention. What will this particular meeting hold for us all? Here's a brief preview from my perspective:
The Great Commission Resurgence: Our President has made this item the centerpiece of his presidency. I have blogged before (see here) about my areas of agreement and disagreement regarding the Great Commission Resurgence. Although there are a great many names affixed to the document (including an impressive contingent related to Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, which is evidence of Dr. Akin's skilled leadership of that school), there are also a great many conspicuous absentees.
The great blunder in the document, of course, was and is Axiom IX on reorganization. The concept simply is not critical to our renewed fulfillment of the Great Commission, and it singlehandedly has prevented Southern Baptists from achieving real unity around this important effort. If a GCR resolution fails next week, it will be because of Axiom IX, and if it passes, it will be in spite of Axiom IX. Rather than "Simple Convention," the parallel to "Simple Church" that we should have pursued was "Simple Resolution."
The thing about it is, there are specific reorganizational ideas that the Southern Baptist people would no doubt receive well and consider prayerfully. They don't have beans to do with experiencing a resurgence in our faithfulness to the Great Commission, but they can be useful nonetheless. If people have specific plans for reorganization, let them bring them forward and let's consider them on the merits. But what we have in Axiom IX is the Southern Baptist equivalent of the federal funding for a local dog park being attached onto the military spending bill in Congress. The dog park might be a good idea. The federal funding might be better spent there than on any other number of things. But it has little conceivable connection with military spending. It is a parasitic item—someone's pet project attached to something else important enough and popular enough to carry along a passenger as it steamrolls its way to approval. The GCR is our Southern Baptist stimulus package.
So, I've struggled and struggled with what to do. The GCR contains things that I know to be good, intermingled with things that none of us really know what they mean. Those things might be good or might be bad. Known good things, unknown things, and no known and confirmed bad things.
So, how will I vote?
I don't know, because none of us have seen what we'll actually be voting on yet at this point. As things sit right now, I regard the thing mostly as "Encouraging Kingdom Growth, the Sequel" and I cannot really get excited about it either way. I'm very excited about the Great Commission (I just received the "we're here safely" text from our advance team for our two consecutive mission trips to an unnamed country which you could likely reach by digging for a long time), but I'm just not very excited about the GCR. I'm excited about the SBTC resolution on the Great Commission Resurgence, which I consider to be far superior to the GCR document that we'll be discussing in Louisville, but I'm not excited about the GCR.
What do I generally do at our annual meeting with regard to things I'm not very excited about? After all, that's a pretty well populated category. I'm never very excited about the resolution of appreciation for the host city, for example. It's a nice, meaningless formality. Usually, I lift up my ballot like a good little sheep and vote in the things that don't stir me very much. To vote against something—actually to oppose it—requires some level of contravening passion to keep me from extending my right arm with my ballot in the affirmative. That passion being absent, I just might do precisely that (viz., vote in the affirmative) next week with regard to the GCR document. Probably will, if for no other reason than the fact that Bro. Johnny won, elections matter, and he deserves some latitude to lead the convention. We'll see what I do when that moment comes.
If I do vote for the GCR document while yawning, I suspect that I will not be alone. I know a lot of people who have affirmed the GCR document; I only know of a few who are giddy about it and regard it as the panacea it purports to be (and most of them share the same ZIP code). A lot of people have the wisdom not to be the nail standing up. Some of us were not so blessed.
Broadway Baptist Church of Fort Worth, TX: The Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention is scheduled to let us know next week whether Broadway Baptist Church of Fort Worth will or will not be considered to be in friendly cooperation with the Southern Baptist Convention. Broadway Baptist, a church in good standing and prominent leadership in the BGCT, made the news in our area last year with regard to their welcoming stance toward homosexuality.
Article III of the SBC Constitution states plainly "Among churches not in cooperation with the Convention are churches which act to affirm, approve, or endorse homosexual behavior." Broadway Baptist Church has members in good standing who are known, open, ongoing participants in cohabitating homosexual relationships. Broadway was in the news because they couldn't decide whether to acknowledge homosexual "families" in their church directory or not. The church's final resolution was not to picture families of any kind at all. The cohabitating homosexual households in the church include individuals who serve in the lay leadership structure of the church.
Keep in mind, unlike any other sin that we might discuss, these are not people who have merely "fallen" into an indiscretion. These are people who do not acknowledge that homosexuality is a sin in the first place and who are making no effort whatsoever to be anything other than homosexuals. There is no repentance, no contrition, and no attempt at holiness in this part of their lives.
The Executive Committee faces three choices:
The Executive Committee can strain credulity and argue that it somehow is not an affirmation, approval, or endorsement of homosexual behavior to admit openly, unrepentant homosexual couples to membership and to approve them repeatedly for lay leadership positions within the church. They can then seek to let Broadway off the hook by a technicality. If this happens, then I predict that someone will oppose the EC's decision from the floor.
The Executive Committee can ask for more time and attempt to put Broadway into some sort of a probationary status. The national media will take this for what it is—the first signs of an institutional erosion of Southern Baptist opposition to homosexuality. This could be construed, I suppose, as a heeding to the call of Jonathan Merritt.
The Executive Committee can summarily exclude Broadway Baptist Church from the Southern Baptist Convention. This will be the right thing to do. We should do it mournfully. We should do it with an open invitation to them that they are welcome back into this convention as soon as they have gotten right with the Lord. We should do it without the slightest regard for how it will play on CNN. But this is what we Southern Baptists must do this year in Louisville.
Frankly, I'm very hopeful that I will have the opportunity to cast my ballot for the third option. I will be surprised and very disappointed if anything else comes out of the Executive Committee meeting. They have asked all of the right questions. They have all of the information that they need. And they are good, God-fearing men and women with the backbone to do what is right.
And then, it will be interesting to see if the Tarrant Baptist Association or the Baptist General Convention of Texas are prompted to any sort of action by the example of the SBC.
It is an off year for the elections. Next year will probably not be as exciting as last year was, but it will be much more exciting than this year will be.
But I may make up a nomination speech BINGO card for the entertainment of the convention-goers. I don't know if I'll have the creative juices after VBS to get that done or not. We'll see.
One highlight of the week will be our opportunity as Southern Baptists to be hosted by Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Those are some great folks. I recommend the armored cavalry museum down at Fort Knox (but do not recommend the Gold Repository—looking at a bunker from behind a razor-wire fence 300 yards away just isn't very entertaining). I'm looking forward to learning about Louisville Sluggers and to doing a bit of historical research in the area. We may very well drive up to the Creation Evidence Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky, just to have a look-see and let the kids pet the camel. I'm going to stand at the water fountain in Boyce Centennial Library, take a really long drink, and see if I start to think that there are people for whom Christ did not die.
I'm going to think of four men who resolved that the seminary may die, but they would die first. And with the voices of Boyce and Broadus and Manley and Williams ringing in my ears, I'm going to pray that in spite of this anti-denominational Zeit we might find enough people with their antiquated but needed Geist to dream the dream of Southern Baptists united to plant New Testament churches throughout a lost and needy world, or die trying.