Thursday, February 28, 2019

The Heritage of SWBTS Continues

Yesterday the Board of Trustees of SWBTS elected Dr. Adam W. Greenway as the ninth president of the seminary (See coverage in Baptist Press here).

The reception of the news has been overwhelmingly positive both across the campus and across the convention. There have, however, been a few expressions of concern. I write today to address them briefly. Although worded in different ways (Southern takeover, Mohler takeover, Calvinistic takeover, etc.), the expressions of concern yield themselves, I believe to analysis that distills them into two basic loci of angst: First, does Greenway's election at SWBTS represent a departure from the historic character of SWBTS in regard to the school's mission and theology. Second, does Greenway's election serve anyone else's interests more than it serves the interests of SWBTS.

Let me say first of all that I went into this process with a clear procedure in mind for myself: Before I even knew who our candidate would be, I resolved that ANY candidate would be a no-vote from me until he earned my yes-vote. I can say with a clear conscience that Dr. Greenway and our new Provost, Dr. Randy Stinson, received at my hand the most thorough vetting I knew how to give. I asked all of the questions: the polite ones and the rude ones, the sophisticated ones and the blunt ones. If I did not offend them at any point in the past two weeks, it is because they are gracious, not because I didn't try. :-)

Who Is Served by Adam Greenway's Election

Although none of us as of yet can know (less than 24 hours into his administration!), I am hopeful that his election will serve the Kingdom of God, the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention, and the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. I believe that he will be successful in attracting new students. I believe that he will be successful in raising funds. I believe that he and Dr. Stinson will successfully build the faculty—and by "build the faculty" I mean build faculty morale, congeniality, effectiveness, and spiritual maturity.

I have served for a decade on the board of our seminary, and nobody there is serving anyone's interests other than those of Southwestern. We would not have risked what we have risked and we would not have subjected ourselves to what we have endured for any other reason. That this board has given such overwhelming and enthusiastic support of Dr. Greenway is evidence that he has convinced us that his election serves the interests of SWBTS above all others.

Whither the SWBTS Heritage?

Dr. Greenway's remarks at the post-election press conference should answer this question far better than I can. He spoke of the heritage of Southwestern in terms that should resonate clearly with all true Southwesterners. He spoke of Carroll and Scarborough, Conner and Garrett, Baker and Estep, Fish and McDowell, Naylor and Vaughan and Tolar. He spoke of a national seminary located in Fort Worth, Texas, that spans the globe and leads the convention.

If he can mobilize the ideas of these men and vector it toward that vision, then I think we can safely say that the future of SWBTS will align well with her heritage.

For my part, I am excited to watch and see what happens.

Conclusion

So, brothers and sisters in the SBC, if you have wondered whether those concerns that I mentioned at the top of this article are valid, permit me to address two groups of us who sometimes harbor such concerns:

There are those of us who leap to such conclusions because, deep down inside, we enjoy doing so. If that is the nature of your heart, then I cannot help you.

There are those of us who fret over such possibilities because our love for SWBTS and our gratitude for what the Lord did for us there is so profoundly deep and has tendrils that reach so inextricably into all that we are and all that we do. We feel a solemn duty and precious calling to protect her from harm. If that is the nature of your heart, then I can honestly say before God that I feel exactly the same way. I can say that I left no question unasked and no possibility unexplored. I can say that I am hopeful today that God has good things in store for SWBTS under the leadership of Dr. Adam W. Greenway.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

2016 Proposed Resolution on Sexual Predation in the Southern Baptist Family


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In 2016 I offered this resolution at the Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention. It did not make it out of the committee. It seems highly relevant today. Nothing in here violates our polity or any other aspect of our ecclesiology whatsoever. The resolution respects local church autonomy while recognizing that autonomous churches have the right not to be affiliated with wrongdoing churches.
On Sexual Predation in the Southern Baptist Family
May 17, 2016
Whereas any act of sexual predation is a sin and an abomination, and many acts of sexual predation constitute crimes; and,
Whereas all fifty states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the U. S. Virgin Islands have laws requiring certain professionals to report suspected sexual abuse of children, and twenty-seven states specifically require clergy to report suspected sexual abuse of children; and,
Whereas Article XVII of The Baptist Faith & Message expresses our common belief that “it is the duty of Christians to render loyal obedience [to our civil government] in all things not contrary to the revealed will of God”; and,
Whereas God has commanded us to “submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right” (1 Peter 2:13-14, NASB); and,
Whereas Article XV of The Baptist Faith & Message expresses our common desire to “oppose…all forms of sexual immorality”; and,
Whereas God has commanded us to address sin on the part of elders, when sufficiently corroborated, with public rebuke and to do so without bias or partiality (1 Timothy 5:19-21); and,
Whereas Article VI of The Baptist Faith & Message affirms our common belief that pastors must be those “qualified by Scripture,” which reminds us that pastors must be “above reproach” and “the husband of one wife” (1 Timothy 3:2, HCSB); and,
Whereas anecdotal reports of predatory sexual behavior toward both minor and adult members of churches by clergy or church staff are widespread; and,
Whereas woefully common are anecdotal reports of efforts by churches to prevent the reporting of predatory sexual behavior to legal authorities, to hide sexual misconduct from the members of churches, or to forestall the public release of information regarding sexual misconduct on the part of church leaders; and,
Whereas such reports, when they involve churches in friendly cooperation with the Southern Baptist Convention, damage the Convention’s credibility in its efforts to call to salvation a world full of people who are enslaved to sin and are often involved in destructive sexual practices; and,
Whereas failure to mourn over and take appropriate disciplinary action toward persistent, unrepentant sin is evidence of spiritual arrogance (1 Corinthians 5:2); and,
Whereas the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention has reported to the Convention in 2008 that “The governing documents [of the Convention] in their present form already permit messengers attending any annual meeting to move to withdraw fellowship from any affiliated church for any reason,” and that, “declaring a church not to be in ‘friendly cooperation’ with the Convention would certainly be justified in any specific case where a church intentionally employed a known sexual offender or knowingly placed one in a position of leadership over children or other vulnerable participants in its ministries”; now, therefore, be it
Resolved that we, the messengers of the 2016 Southern Baptist Convention meeting in St. Louis, Missouri, regard any pastor’s involvement in any extramarital sexual relationship to be disqualifying for the office of pastor, and that we further regard any pastor’s involvement in any sexual relationship with any member of his church other than his wife to constitute an abuse of his pastoral authority over the congregant, a betrayal of his pastoral relationship with the entire congregation, and a reproach upon his service in the office of pastor; and be it further
Resolved that we regard such misconduct to be so severe as to warrant action by churches to terminate the employment of pastors who behave thusly and to revoke their ordinations; and be it further
Resolved that churches who knowingly ordain or hire into pastoral office those who behave thusly are churches whose faith and practice do not identify closely with The Baptist Faith & Message as it pertains to pastoral qualifications; and be it further
Resolved that churches who knowingly prevent people from reporting cases of sexual misconduct are churches whose faith and practice do not identify closely with The Baptist Faith & Message as it pertains to the role of God-ordained civil government; and be it further
Resolved that we encourage fellow believers to consider whether churches and parachurch ministries that have demonstrated a pattern of placing sexual predators into positions of influence or intimidating or otherwise silencing victims of sexual predation are unworthy of support or patronage unless they repent; and be it further
Resolved that we humbly call to the attention of the various boards of trustees, state conventions, local associations, and local churches within the Southern Baptist family the degree to which churches and parachurch ministries who willfully enable, tolerate, or cover up sexual misconduct are corrosive to the collective Southern Baptist witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ; and be it further
Resolved that we affirm a consideration of the highest standard of ethics regarding the prevention and reporting of sexual predation as relevant information when considering “all questions of cooperation among the different entities of the Convention, and among the entities of the Convention and those of other conventions, whether state or national”; and be it further
Resolved that we would benefit greatly from hearing the stories of churches and institutions who have handled well the discovery of sexual misconduct in their congregations; and be it further
Resolved that, recognizing that false accusations of sexual predation do sometimes occur, we affirm thorough investigation by trained investigators working for the proper authorities rather than avoidance or suppression of accusations as the most reliable means to discover both false accusations and valid accusations for what they are; and be it further
Resolved that we commend to those who have acted as sexual predators the way of regeneration for those who are lost, and for all, repentance, spiritual growth, and vigorous accountability in a church family as the only hope for victory over the pernicious snare of sexual temptation; and be it finally
Resolved that we humbly and gently commend the way of apology and repentance to our sister churches and to various parachurch institutions who have failed to handle appropriately the discovery of sexual misconduct in their congregations or institutions.