Sunday, April 14, 2024

Statement regarding Iranian Attacks on Israel

Sunday, April 14, 2024

RE: Iranian Attacks on Israel

I had been taking some time to unplug. I don’t just mean stepping back from social media—I mean taking a big step away from all kinds of media, putting away the phone, and clearing out space to listen in stillness. When asked Saturday night if I wanted to make any sort of a statement about the events in the Middle East, I had to ask, “What events in the Middle East?”

I want not to think about war. I want not to know about a 66-year-old retired schoolteacher who was murdered in Kfar Aza on October 7. But unplugging the phone and ignoring the world doesn’t make the violence of our world any less real. War may be real and unavoidable, but Jesus gives a greater peace.

At our most recent meeting, the Southern Baptist Convention stopped to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. October 7 had not yet happened. Iran was at the time pursuing their aggression against Israel in more subtle ways than they did on this weekend’s sabbath. Southern Baptists stopped to pray for Israel just because Israel is in constant need of prayers for peace.

So, to those who suffer from Iranian violence and oppression through their proxy warriors in Hamas and Hezbollah, please understand this. Southern Baptists are praying for you. Southern Baptists are on your side. Southern Baptists support the defeat of these terrorists and the establishment of a just and lasting peace in Israel. If you are worried that we who live far away from the conflict have stopped paying attention and have forgotten about you, I can assure you that we have not.

The sacred writings we share in common with the Jewish people give us the words of a Jewish leader who lived through war and came out singing on the other side. I close with some of the words he wrote in Psalm 27.

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

When evildoers assail me to eat up my flesh,
My adversaries and foes, it is they who stumble and fall.

Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear;
Though war rise against me, yet I will be confident.

One thing I have asked of the Lord, that I will seek after:
That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
To gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.

For he will hide me in his shelter on the day of trouble;
He will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock.

And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me,
And I will offer in his tabernacle sacrifices with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make melody to the Lord.

Saturday, February 17, 2024

A Mistake I Made in New Orleans

I am writing to inform you of a mistake I made while presiding over the Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in New Orleans last year.

In the Tuesday morning session, at the first opportunity to introduce new motions, Keith Myer moved "that the Organization Manual of the Southern Baptist Convention be amended to add the ministry assignment for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission to assist churches and other Southern Baptist entities by promoting awareness of and resourcing the prevention of and response to abuse." In the Tuesday afternoon session, Spence Shelton from the Committee on Order of Business recommended to refer the motion. The Convention passed the motion to refer.

But something went awry. I made a mistake.

Spence moved that the motion "be referred to the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and the Executive Committee for consideration and report back to the 2024 Southern Baptist Convention." But when I stated the motion at its disposition, I declared that the motion was referred to the ERLC. I failed to hear that it was also being referred to the Executive Committee. I failed to state that the motion was being referred to the Executive Committee. I misheard, misunderstood, and misstated the motion.

Weeks later, when Phillip Robertson asked me about how the Executive Committee should prepare for the motion, I informed him that Keith's motion was referred to the ERLC, not to the Executive Committee. Just to make sure, I went online to Acts 2, scanned forward to the motion, and listened to what I had said. Yes. ERLC. No need for the Executive Committee to do anything.

Weeks later still, Recording Secretary Nathan Finn released the 2023 SBC Annual. Keith had reached out to Phillip to ask about addressing the appropriate EC subcommittee about his motion. Because the Annual had been printed, I told Phillip that he could show Keith in the SBC Annual that the motion had not been referred to the EC.

Then I looked at the Annual, myself.

Nathan had gone back to the recording and had listened to Spence's statement of the motion. He printed what Spence had said, which was what the Committee on Order of Business had voted to recommend.

The presiding officer's restatement of the motion IS the motion according to Parliamentary Procedure. But the SBC Annual is the official record of the Annual Meeting. These two sources say two conflicting things.

So, I have apologized to Keith, and I now apologize to all Southern Baptists for the mistake that I made. The mistake does not kill the motion at all. It was successfully referred to the ERLC. It will be reported back to the Convention's messengers in 2024 in Indianapolis. The Executive Committee, acting on my advice, has not including the motion in its agenda for next week, but the EC still meets again in June.

This is the part of the job I wanted to do so well. I'm very embarrassed to have made a mistake like this. I'm sorry.

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Letter to the Baptist Union of Great Britain


Rev. Tim Presswood
President, Baptist Union of Great Britain

Dear Rev. Presswood:

Congratulations upon your election as 2023-2024 President of the Baptist Union of Great Britain. To have the honor of leadership within one’s own family of local churches is, in my experience, greatly satisfactory. To have the responsibility of leadership within that family of local churches during seasons of controversy and change can also be burdensome. In my first year of service, I have been borne up by the faithful prayers of my fellow saints. I wish as much for you in your forthcoming year.

I write as something of an anglophile as it pertains to our common heritage as Baptists. Although I wrote my dissertation in Church History about an episode in Southern Baptist life and have given greater attention to writing about Baptist life on this side of the Atlantic since my graduation, one cannot competently read, write, or teach about Baptist life in America without paying full attention to the Baptists of England, Scotland, and Wales. Dr. Karen Bullock led us in a year-long study of British Baptists. I fell in love with Smyth and Helwys for their courage, with Dan Taylor for his zeal in planting churches, with Andrew Fuller and William Carey for their missionary industry, and for Spurgeon’s pulpit skills. I chose to preside over our meeting with a gavel made from Bunyan’s bed. I could go on to speak of Keach, Grantham, Crosby, Kiffin, Ryland, Gill, and a whole host of others all the way down to George R Beasley-Murray. If we are not siblings, we are cousins at least. My heart yearns for the health and effectiveness of the Baptist Union of Great Britain.

These sentiments provoked me to lead my church into a partnership with Abbey Road Baptist Church in Westminster several years ago. Facing challenges related to their meeting house, the church welcomed our support in terms of finances, encouragement, and volunteer labor in a few ministry endeavors. My interests, you see, are not limited to the past history of British Baptists. I am cheering for your work in the present as well.

The relationship between Baptists in America and those in the British Commonwealth has featured both commonality and controversy. It is easy to write with gratitude for our seasons of fruitful and agreeable partnership, but I wish to do the harder thing today—I write to thank the Baptist Union of Great Britain for an episode in which British Baptists found in their hearts enough love for us to disagree with us and to do so publicly.

In the 1830s, Thomas Waters served as the secretary of the historic Midland Association. Rev. Waters had participated enthusiastically in the efforts to create a general union of Particular Baptists in 1813. As you know, his work in this regard was an important precursor to the formation of the Baptist Union of Great Britain. 

During the 1830s, Waters and many other British Baptists were endeavoring to rid the British colonies of the scourge of slavery. The United States of America was no longer a British colony as a matter of international law and politics, but on the basis of shared heritage, Waters led the Association to publish a resolution aimed at the Baptist churches in America.

In the text of that resolution, the Midland Association firmly called upon Baptist Churches in America to labor for the overthrow of slavery in their land. The association made their plea upon several grounds. They noted their past joy over the progress of the gospel in the United States of America. They lamented the necessary attenuation of that joy upon their contemplation that “many of the ministers, deacons, and private members of Baptist churches, participate equally with others in [the] hateful abomination [of slaveholding].” They expressed their conviction that slaveholding was contrary to the teachings of the Christian scriptures. They worried that their profound differences on the question of slavery threatened the possibility of any future cooperation between British Baptists and American Baptists. This line of thinking culminated in these words:

…[we] solemnly warn, and earnestly entreat, our American brethren faithfully to exert themselves to put from them the accursed thing.

The Midland association was not alone in these efforts. Indeed, so widespread was the adoption of resolutions such as this that a contemporary Congregationalist envied Baptist labors, saying, “the movements which have taken place in England are almost entirely confined to the Baptist body.” Resolutions from Kent and Sussex and Birmingham exemplified this genre. London Baptists recognized that American Baptists were being carried along in our support of slavery by “commercial and political bearings of the question” and requested that we instead regard slaveholding “as a palpable violation of the law of God.”

American Baptists, especially in the South, did not receive these words kindly. Even American Baptists like Francis Wayland, who did not personally approve of slavery but who was trying to keep the peace at a fraught moment, wished that the British Baptists would desist from exacerbating tensions that threatened to rupture the fellowship of American Baptists. British Baptists were nevertheless undeterred in their condemnation of slaveholding among Baptists in America.

Thank you, British brothers, for the faithful wounds of a friend that these historic resolutions represent. At a moment when you might easily have yielded to the impulse to “mind your own business,” instead you spoke. You loved us too much to leave us to ourselves. You loved God’s word too much to leave it undeclared among brothers and sisters in Christ. You loved the name of Christ too much to ignore what we were doing in His name and without His consent. You had too great a hope for our future to remain silent while we damaged that future.

Inspired by what you did, I cautiously bring up the upcoming deliberations of the Baptist Union of Great Britain on the subject of removing your restrictions that disqualify gay and lesbian members of your churches from serving as ministers within the Baptist Union of Great Britain. I do so in my personal capacity and without any formal authorization from the Southern Baptist Convention, although I believe that the preponderance of our churches would agree with what I wish to say. Knowing that our own house as Southern Baptists is not perfectly in order, that whatever I write may be received as intrusive and unwelcomed, that the very thought that an American has found for himself any standing whatsoever to speak to an internal decision contemplated by an autonomous body of churches—knowing all of these things, I am inspired by your example in years past to write, nonetheless.

I will make my case upon the same lines as those that abolitionist Baptists in England chose two centuries ago.

First, I have already offered evidence of my love and admiration for the history of Baptist work in the British Isles. We are children of the same spiritual parents! I desire with all of my heart to love you and to celebrate your health and success as churches.

Second, I call to your attention one salient difference between the movement calling for the abolition of slavery and the movement to normalize same-sex romantic relationships. Support for slaveholding among American Baptists in the 1700s and 1800s was a temporary anomaly; support for the Christian sexual ethic is an ancient and ever-present force in Christian history.

The advance of Christianity was the driving force behind the ultimate rejection of Greco-Roman slavery in the Pre-Constantinian era. Even early Baptist work in the American colonial period produced mixed-race churches that were not pro-slavery. The freeing of slaves has been a Christian tradition from the Patristic era down through today.

In contrast, there simply is no tradition of Christian support for normalizing and approving same-sex romantic relationships that pre-dates the birth of the oldest people alive today. The tradition of faith and practice for which I advocate today is the position of the apostles and their generation, of Polycarp and Perpetua and of their generation, of Augustine and Anselm and Aquinas, of Luther and Calvin and Zwingli and Smyth and Helwys—of every Christian denomination in every corner of the world until what, in the grand scheme of things, is but a few ticks of the clock of Christian history.

Third, I observe that the biblical case against these modern sexual innovations is solid. Jesus Himself, asked about the nature of marriage and divorce, affirmed in Matthew 19:1-12 that (a) people are created as a dioecious species of male and female, (b) marriage arises out of and is built upon this difference in sex, (c) divorce is contrary to God’s created order except in the most extreme of circumstances, and (d) these things are true even if some people consider them so burdensome that they are unwilling to “accept this statement” and are uncertain that they can ever find fulfillment within the sexual ethic that Christ declared. The Christian sexual ethic is Christian (that is, articulated by Christ Himself), is clear, and is important. When the apostles and the Jerusalem church were choosing only a handful of top imperatives to impose upon Gentile believers, abstinence from sexual impurity ranked alongside abstinence from idolatry.

Fourth, I echo the concerns of abolitionist British Baptists from yesteryear when I note the deleterious effects that your actions may have upon the prospect of future cooperation among global Baptists. Subsequent to my election as President of the Southern Baptist Convention last summer, I have consistently heard from Southern Baptists asking me to explore a renewed relationship between the Southern Baptist Convention and the Baptist World Alliance. Such a prospect faces, in my estimation, at least two hurdles that it would have to clear. A post-institutionalist sentiment among some of our Southern Baptist people struggles to see the value in partnerships like the BWA, although I cannot join them in that way of thinking. The second hurdle is the reminiscence of major doctrinal differences that led to the SBC’s departure from the BWA in the first place. The BUGB is free to make its own choices about homosexuality and ministry (or even membership) in her churches, but choices like this one, if the BUGB should make this change, will sound a death-knell for any hope of renewed partnership between our families of churches.

This danger would likely be of little consequence if Southern Baptists were alone in our sentiments. We both know, however, that this is not the case. The strongest opposition to the change within your ranks, from what I hear, arises out of those quarters of the Baptist Union that are the least British and the least white. What damage will be done by this action, not only to your relationship with Southern Baptists in America but also to your relationship with Baptists in Africa, Asia, South America, and the Middle East? When these global churches can no longer partner with you in good conscience, will they and we be forced to create a separate partnership of our own? I hope not.

Fifth, I wish to encourage and stand with those among your number who hold these concerns. They deserve to know that they do not stand alone.

And so, with all of these things in mind, I appeal to you and to the churches that you lead. Just as was true in the 1830s with regard to slavery, I know that there are political bearings to the question that you face. We feel the same pressures here. There are economic factors that threaten you. A vast societal movement in the Euro-American milieu insists upon your submission to the spirit of the age. There is, however, the clear and consistent testimony of the Christian scriptures and of Christian history from which you may draw strength in your convictions. I request that you not modify the Ministerial Recognition Rules in Appendix 3.

Yours in Christ,

Bart Barber

Monday, October 30, 2023

Statement Regarding the Convention's Amicus Brief

 Good morning:

Last week a reporter published a story about an amicus curia brief that the Southern Baptist Convention joined in a Kentucky sexual abuse case. Many of you have wanted me to make a statement about this brief. I should have said something long before today. I am so glad that I didn’t.

You see, if I had given you a hot take…if I had commented immediately, I would have said, “What are you talking about? I don’t know anything about any amicus brief.” But over the weekend I found the email where I approved the SBC’s participation in this brief. 

This is my doing. I approved it. I take full responsibility for the SBC’s having joined this brief, and this lengthy statement will help to explain the mistakes I think I have made.

In saying that, I know that a lot of people are disappointed with me and angry. I’m talking about friends I’ve had for two decades. I’m talking about survivors of sexual abuse for whom I have wanted to be an advocate. I’m talking about people I myself appointed to carry forward the SBC’s response to the Guidepost Investigation. A lot of people—a lot of friends and allies—are really disappointed with me today. I don’t have words to express how I feel about that.

And I know that a lot of you would pose this question: “Bart, what were you thinking?” I’m going to try to answer that as best I can, although I’m having to piece it together myself, since I did not even remember that I had done this. Maybe I can explain why I did not remember it.

It happened on August 9, 2022, nearly fifteen months ago. The day before, on August 8, 2022, I announced the appointment of the Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force. That night I released a video responding to heated criticism I had received for appointing Todd Benkert to that committee. I made that video from a hotel room in Nashville.

Why was I in Nashville? The day we are talking about, August 9, was the day when I attended orientation with all of the new members of the SBC Executive Committee. We were in meetings all morning and into the afternoon. As soon as that day-long orientation was over, I had to go to another meeting. I had called the Great Commission Council together to reveal to them something they did not yet know—that the Department of Justice had opened an investigation of the Southern Baptist Convention and that we were determined to cooperate fully.

In the middle of that day, I now know that I received an email from the SBC’s legal team making me aware of this brief and recommending that we join it. It came at 1:30 PM, which was during the EC trustee orientation and a little more than two hours before I needed to lead that other meeting. The filing deadline was that day, the email said, so I had a little more than three hours to reply one way or the other. 

And so, maybe you can imagine what I was doing. I was sitting in an orientation meeting, trying to pay attention. At the same time, I was fielding questions about my ARITF appointments, some of which were pretty insistent. Also, I was preparing for what I expected to be a tense and difficult meeting. In between all of that, as the other things allowed time, I was sneaking looks at this brief, reading it to see whether I could approve of our participation in it. And the clock was ticking. The whole thing was an email conversation, and a brief one at that. I became aware that the SBC Executive Committee was joining the brief. I approved our joining the brief. I hadn’t heard anything about it or thought anything about it since then until last Wednesday.

Legal work has not been my favorite part of the SBC presidency, although I have tried to discharge my duties in this area with appropriate diligence. There is one aspect of courtrooms and affidavits and depositions, however, that I have welcomed. In legal matters, the only oath I have had to take is to tell the truth. Not what side it favors. Not what outcome it engineers. When I am asked to sign an affidavit, I read it from start to finish and simply ask myself, “Do I know all of these things to be true?” If so, I sign it. If not, I ask for it to be corrected. Our legal counsel have told me on more than one occasion, “Bart, just tell the truth.”

I do not recall my exact thoughts in reading the brief. I did not know the circumstances of the underlying legal case. I do, however, know what has been my consistent practice in addressing these legal matters, so I am very confident that I was reading that brief asking myself the question, “Is this an honest, true legal question for which the Southern Baptist Convention can take this position in good faith?” What was I thinking? I was thinking about THAT question. I did what I did because of the answer to that question.

There’s another important question to consider. The Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention, not the Convention President, is empowered to act as the Convention ad interim. The consent that I gave on August 9, 2002, was consent that I gave in coordination with the decision made by the Interim CEO of the SBC Executive Committee to join this brief. The messengers have not voted on any of this. Does it even lie within the power of the SBC President to make decisions about amici curiae unilaterally on behalf of the Convention? I think probably not. When the SBC Executive Committee exercises its ad interim authority on matter like this, I think that the President of the SBC is as obligated to execute those decisions as he is if the messengers had voted on the matter themselves.

Those are interesting questions, to be sure. The more important question is this one: What about Samantha Killary? Knowing what I know now about what she has endured, I can’t stop thinking about her. What have I communicated to her and to other survivors by taking this action? Those questions can give clarity when legal questions are difficult to sort out. And some of the legal questions in play certainly are difficult to sort out.

I am not sure exactly what I think about statutes of limitation. I think they are a mixed bag. I agree with our 2019 resolution that statutes of limitation can get in the way of true justice. I also think that sometimes they are an important part of justice. The SBC gets sued sometimes by abusers alleging defamation when we take stands against clergy sexual abuse, and that’s only going to increase as we move forward with abuse reform. Protections like statutes of limitation enable us to have a Ministry Check Website. I am uncomfortable with the harm statutes of limitations can do, but I also think that they play a valid role in the law sometimes.

I may not know for sure what I think about statutes of limitations, but I know for sure what I believe about preventing clergy sexual abuse. I know for sure what I believe about reporting suspected sexual abuse every time, right away. I know exactly what I believe about how sexual misconduct disqualifies people from pastoral ministry.

Also, among all of those other things that I can say with certainty, I can say this: I did not give this decision to file this brief the level of consideration that it deserved. Some of the most important information affecting my decision was information I failed to seek. Knowing what I know now, I know that I should have asked more questions. I should have taken the opportunity to request a meeting between the Interim CEO, myself, and our legal counsel to gather more information. I did not have the power to decide then, but I did have the opportunity to advise. I failed to use that opportunity wisely, and I regret that. Our future decisions likewise lie with the SBC Executive Committee. I hope to do a better job of using my voice to influence those decisions going forward.

I can tell you for sure what was NOT my line of thinking.

I was not thinking, “How can I harm survivors of sexual abuse today?” I spent that day appointing people like Marshall Blalock and Todd Benkert, both of whom have publicly expressed disapproval of this brief. I wasn’t appointing Todd or Marshall out of one hand while trying to thwart their efforts out of the other. I know that for sure. I spent that day trying to support everyone on the Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force and to carry forward our work. August 9, 2022, was not a day I spent trying to hurt survivors.

That’s what makes it hurt so much, and that’s what makes me so disappointed in myself: I did, in fact, wind up hurting survivors by what I did. My determination for us to advance abuse reform in the SBC is no less than it was when I began, but I know that my credibility with you is harmed by this, perhaps irreparably.

Throughout the last year and a half, so many of you have told me that you are praying for me. I can tell by the looks on your faces that some of you think I am joking when I reply, “Please keep praying for me, because every day I make decisions for you that I do not know how to make.” I am counting on your prayers and I am counting on wisdom from above. I hope that I learn a little with every mistake that I make, and I hope that those of you who are angry with me today can find it in your hearts to forgive me.

Thursday, March 9, 2023

Satan, Victimhood, Culpability, and Abortion

I'm at Big Bend National Park this week, but finally today I have a free 90 minutes in the vicinity of Wi-Fi. It seems a good time to rebut (again) misconstruals (again) and bad theology (again) demonstrated in the Twitter feeds of various people affiliated with the "Abortion Abolition" movement (in quotes because all Pro-Life Southern Baptists are in favor of the abolition of abortion and are working toward that end).

You may find it helpful throughout this essay to have a working knowledge of this essay, "Working Toward the End of Abortion," which is the fullest statement of my beliefs as a Pro-Life Southern Baptist (contrasted with those who are a part of the self-styled "abortion abolition" movement."

Why I Interact with the "Abortion Abolition" movement

Generally speaking, everything I've written or said about the "abortion abolition" movement fits into three buckets. In bucket one, there are occasions when I've just tried to articulate Southern Baptist Pro-Life theology. The Pro-Life view of the SBC has been consistently held and expressed in more than 20 resolutions over the course of 40 years. I believe what Southern Baptists have believed for all of my adult life. When I write Pro-Life articles, some abortion abolitionists will get angry and interact online, whether I mention that movement or not.

In bucket two, occasionally those affiliated with that movement will bring resolutions or other business items to Baptist meetings or to state legislatures. If the occasion arises when it will be helpful for me to do so, I tend to find a microphone and speak.

It doesn't take much to draw the ire of some of the Twitter personalities I have mentioned. For example, at the 2022 meeting of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, I went to a microphone and asked, essentially, this question (I don't have a verbatim transcript): "You're seeking to amend this resolution to add language about 'equal protection under the law.' Sometimes online I've seen people use that phrase to mean that they want laws adopted to prosecute criminally any women who seek an abortion. Is that what you mean by this amendment?" So, all I did was ask a question for clarification, so that the messengers would know what they were voting on. That was taken as an inappropriate opposition against the resolution and their movement. Once the messengers knew what was the real agenda of the amendment, by the way, it failed.

Simple efforts to help you to see the whole story can make some of the folks in this group really angry.

In bucket three, sometimes I see "abortion abolition" Twitter accounts harrassing other people, and I've found that if I engage those accounts, they pick on me and leave everyone else alone. Occasionally, I like to give others the gift of a day or two of peace from these gadflies.

To be sure, they're very strategic about whom they tag with their Twitter broadsides. They never mention Richard Land, for example, although he is a Pro-Life Southern Baptist who opposes their movement. Why? Richard Land was a soldier in the Convervative Resurgence, and it's really difficult for them to argue dishonestly that Richard Land is a liberal. No one will believe them.

They never tag Ronnie Rogers, although he has labored in opposition to their movement in Oklahoma since it first began in Oklahoma. Why? Ronnie Rogers is a member of the Conservative Baptist Network. It's really difficult for them to argue dishonestly that Ronnie Rogers is a liberal.

In fact, the vast preponderance of Southern Baptists are Pro-Life and not a member of their group, but they are very selective about the targets that they choose. Dishonestly suggesting that someone is a liberal is the modus operandi here, and they select people for whom they think they have some chance of success.

So, they pick on Brent Leatherwood and the ERLC. Why? Because they think that they CAN get away with convincing you (falsely) that Brent is a liberal. They think Brent is the slow gazelle in the back of the herd (he isn't). It's just cyber-bullying, because they don't have the courage to engage the harder targets online that I've mentioned above. Cyber-bullying ticks me off, and since I know that by engaging I can totally capture their attention away from everyone else, sometimes I engage them. I never bother to interact when they only tag me.

The Latest Pattern of Posts

In recent days, one common category of these "abortion abolition" posts goes like this: They find an egregiously pro-abortion woman—part of the "Shout Your Abortion" crowd—they link to an image, video, or post from her, and then they say, "Brent Leatherwood, Bart Barber, and the ERLC think this woman is a victim." What they are implying, of course, is more than this. The implied message is, "They think she is a victim, which is ridiculous, and therefore they think that she is not culpable for her abortion, and that's the reason why they don't promote our efforts to change anti-abortion laws so that they put women in prison for seeking abortions."

It doesn't take much research to see that they aren't telling you the whole story.

The position I outlined in the article I mentioned above is that women who seek abortions are BOTH victims AND culpable. They never tell you the last part, but it's right there in the article in black-and-white. I have never denied a woman's culpability in seeking an abortion if she is seeking one.

An Orthodox Theology of Satan

I replied to one such post recently. Here's how that interaction unfolded.

  1. They posted: "Leatherwood, Barber, et al, think that this woman is a victim."
  2. I replied simply by asking a question: "Are you saying that you don't think she is a victim in any sense?"
  3. They replied saying that, as it pertains to her getting an abortion, no, they don't think that she is a victim in any sense. The "in any sense" part is important.
  4. I replied by citing 2 Corinthians 4:4 ("In their case, the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.")
  5. The entire "abolitionist" Twitter horde responded by suggesting that I was saying that 2 Corinthians 4:4 means that women who seek abortions are not culpable for their abortions. In fact (see above again), I wasn't denying that they were culpable; I was simply affirming that they are victims. Remember, my position is that women BOTH are victims AND are culpable.

2 Corinthians 4:4 teaches us about the activity of Satan vis-à-vis lost people. He blinds them. Is that an adversarial act? Of course it is. Are they victims of that adversarial action? Of course they are. They are victims.

Are they culpable for that? Of course they are. They'll be condemned to eternal torment in Hell for it. Yes, they are culpable.

People are victims of Satan and of satanic schemes that are at work in the world. They are also culpable for what they do in response to those schemes.

A similar idea is also true of believers, although in a different way. Satan lays "snares" for believers, which pastors must help believers to avoid (2 Timothy 2:24-26). This is of great importance because Satan is like a lion stalking prey when he is at work tempting believers, who must resist him (1 Peter 5:8-9). Christians can be victims of Satan's snares and prowling. We are nonetheless culpable for how we respond.

We are all victims of Satan and his schemes. We are all responsible for how we respond to those schemes—culpable for any failures to respond righteously. This combination of victim-yet-culpable is an indispensible part of any biblical theology of Satan, demons, and their work. Satan can tempt us. Satan cannot force us to sin. We are victims of his efforst to trip us up. We are culpable for any choices we may make to sin.

We see this play out in Genesis 3. Eve is held responsible for her sin—she is culpable. But she was also deceived (1 Timothy 2:14)—she is a victim.

Perhaps you also have been deceived? Have you seen things on Twitter suggesting that I was denying the culpability of women who seek abortions? Now that you've read the article I linked above and have learned that I am 100% affirming the culpability of women who seek abortions, do you feel like the aim of those tweets was to give you a full understanding of my view?

One thing some people missed in that article that I linked above is this: When I spoke of women who seek abortions as victims, I quoted a very prominent Southern Baptist "abortion abolitionist." My statements about the victimhood of women in that article lined up very closely with those of Bill Ascol. Why? Because Bill is a good enough theologian to understand what Jesus taught us about the role of Satan in trying to deceive, ensnare, and destroy people. To be sure, Bill was affirming culpability while he was affirming victimhood. So am I.

So, the very beliefs that "abolitionists" lampoon in me are beliefs shared by their own leadership. As those beliefs should be shared by anyone who believes the Bible.

Note: It is perhaps not surprising that this is an area of misunderstanding and confusion. Polling suggests that we may not be preaching and teaching enough on this subject matter to help our church members understand what Jesus taught us about Satan.

Modern Abuses of "Victimhood"

Intriguingly, these tweets from the "abortion abolition" movement seem to have imbibed deeply from the modern progressive use of the idea of victimhood rather than from the biblical idea. In the Bible (as demonstrated above), being a victim does not automatically remove one's culpability for bad actions. In the eyes of many people in our society, if they can claim the status of a victim, that makes them innocent of any bad things that they may have done and ipso facto transfers culpability to whoever oppressed them.

But these people on Twitter assume (contrary to what I have written and what they have read) that I am absolving women of all culpability in abortion when I call them victims. That assumption lines up with this Progressive idea of victimhood-means-no-culpability, not the biblical ideal of victimhood-with-culpability. I find that ironic.

What about Criminal Prosecution?

So, the actual disagreement here should not be whether these women are victims (good, biblical theology will lead anyone to affirm that they are victims of Satan's schemes), nor should it be whether these women are culpable for their sin in seeking an abortion (good, biblical theology will lead anyone to affirm that they are indeed culpable). The difference is over the question of whether we should be pushing for the enactment of anti-abortion laws that explicitly provide for the imprisonment (execution?) of women who seek abortions.

In the article I linked above, I do make a case against seeking criminal prosecution against women who seek abortions. Eliminate the supply and you'll protect the lives of just as many babies as if you fill our prisons (or our death chambers) with tens of thousands of women.

In that article, you'll find a series of numbered questions that I answer. Under questions 4 and 5 appears an explanation of why I do not favor the criminal prosecution of these women. You're welcome to read the whole thing, but for our present purposes, that is not necessary. Instead, I just ask you to do this: see whether that case is dependent upon whether the woman seeking an abortion is or is not a victim? That's just not the case that I have laid out. I offer other reasons why I believe that the laws being promoted by this small group are unjust, unnecessary, and unwise. I point out the abortionists role as the person killing the baby (in a surgical abortion). I point out that in some cases the woman may be neither the one who kills the baby nor the one paying for the abortion nor even always the person who sought out the abortion. She may not even reasonably have consented to it. I also make the case that it is fiscally irresponsible to fill our prisons with tens of thousands of women when abortion can be halted just as effectively by prosecuting abortionists (or people who manufacture, distribute, prescribe, or sell abortifacient pharmaceuticals). I make a lot of arguments against prosecution. "These women aren't culpable because they are victims" just isn't found anywhere among them. I affirm their culpability.

In a quick tweet, they just want to imply that I'm turning a blind eye to the culpability of these women, and that's the only reason why I'm not a gung-ho "abolitionist." But they're not telling you the whole story (nor even a true story) about why I do not support their legal efforts.


Remember the implied message I stated above? "[Leatherwood, Barber, et al] think [the woman seeking an abortion] is a victim, which is ridiculous, and therefore they think that she is not culpable for her abortion, and that's the reason why they don't promote our efforts to change anti-abortion laws so that they put women in prison for seeking abortions."

"They think she is a victim…"


"…which is ridiculous…"

False. Actually, it's biblical.

"…and therefore they think that she is not culpable for her abortion…"

False. Actually, I do believe that she is culpable for her abortion…

"…and that's the reason why they don't promote our efforts to change anti-abortion laws so that they put women in prison for seeking abortions.

False. Actually, I have made a different case against prosecuting these women, and that case does not rise or fall on the culpability of the women. Indeed, it is made by someone who assumes that they are culpable.

And THAT'S the whole story.

Saturday, February 25, 2023

About Your Criminal Background Check Provider

A Few Questions About Your Church's Criminal Background Check Provider

Read the whole thing, please, or you may wind up being confused. FBC Farmersville uses criminal background checks and encourages your church to do so, too.
  1. Does your church order a criminal background check on people hired to work on the church staff?
  2. Does your church order a criminal background check on people who volunteer to work with minors?
  3. Does your church ever pay for those criminal background checks?
  4. Does the company who sells criminal background checks to you obtain from the government the information they give to you?
  5. Did you know that some portion of your church's money goes to the government for every criminal background check that you run?
  6. Are the criminal investigations that result in arrests and convictions—entries on those criminal background checks—conducted by the government?
  7. What is your state government's official position on LGBTQ issues?
  8. Does your state government license same-sex marriages?
  9. Does your state government prosecute people who discriminate against LGBTQ people in employment, housing, etc.?
  10. Does your state permit LGBTQ people to serve on juries?
  11. Do you believe that your state government's support of the LGBTQ movement renders useless or unreliable their investigatory information that appears on the criminal background checks that your church uses?
  12. Do you believe that your state government's support of the LGBTQ movement makes it sinful for money from your church to go to your state government to pay fees related to obtaining a criminal background check for your church?
  13. Does the "sword" of Romans 13 empower the government to tell your church who you can hire as a pastor or use as a volunteer in student ministry or children's ministry?
  14. If you do not believe the "sword" given by God to the government gives them any authority at all to direct your church's hiring or recruitment practices, do you still use the information from a governmental criminal background check to aid your church in making your own decisions about hiring church staff or using volunteers?
  15. When reviewing criminal background checks run on potential church employees or volunteers, do you only consider convictions related to sexual abuse, or would you also take into consideration convictions for murder, embezzlement, burglary, DUI etc. (maybe for hiring someone to work with finances or recruiting someone to drive a church van or to serve on a safety team, for example)?
  16. Do you believe that the government has ever wrongfully convicted anyone for murder, embezzlement, burglary, DUI, etc?
  17. Do you nonetheless, even if you think governmental investigations and verdicts are not perfect, use the information from governmental criminal background checks to aid your church in making your own decisions about hiring staff or using volunteers?
  18. Are there any individuals elected to or employed by your state government who say that they are LGBTQ?
  19. Are there any individuals elected to or employed by your state government who give money to  LGBTQ causes or who pledge their support to the LGBTQ movement?
  20. If yes to either of the preceding questions, do you nonetheless plan to continue using criminal background checks obtained from the government when your church hires staff or recruits volunteers?
  21. What is your personal opinion about using investigatory material from the state government to make decisions about hiring staff or recruiting volunteers for your church?
  22. What is your personal opinion about using investigatory material from Guidepost Solutions to make decisions about hiring staff or recruiting volunteers for your church?
  23. If the two are different, why are they different (especially considering questions 1-20)?

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

A Statement on Johnny Hunt's "Restoration"

For Immediate Release

In 2021, the messengers of the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting adopted a resolution “On Abuse and Pastoral Qualifications.” I was a member of that committee. I contributed significantly to the content of this resolution. It reads, in part, “any person who has committed sexual abuse is permanently disqualified from holding the office of pastor.” This is the sentiment of the Southern Baptist Convention.

At that same meeting, the messengers overwhelmingly insisted that an independent investigation should be conducted about the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee’s response to allegations of sexual abuse. The result of that investigation was the publication of a report in May of this year by Guidepost Solutions. That report disclosed the details of a pastor’s wife’s account of an incident in which Johnny Hunt aggressively approached her for a sexual encounter, including his pulling down her pants, pinning her down, pulling up her shirt, and sexually assaulting her with his hands and his mouth. In relation to this episode, Guidepost Solutions stated in their report, “our investigators found the pastor and his wife to be credible; their report was corroborated in part by a counseling minister and three other credible witnesses; and our investigators did not find Dr. Hunt’s statements related to the sexual assault allegation to be credible.” Guidepost identified and interviewed multiple witnesses who had first-hand knowledge of Hunt’s involvement in events that ensued after the assault.

In response to the investigation and report, Hunt told a succession of contradicting accounts. Guidepost Solutions reported that Hunt denied ever being in the location where the assault took place and denied ever having had any contact with her. After the report was published, Hunt at first “vigorously den[ied]” that he “had abused anyone,” and then later admitted “I chose to enter her condo” and he had a “brief but improper” relationship with her.

The North American Mission Board ended their employment relationship with Johnny Hunt. Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary announced their intention to remove Johnny Hunt’s name from an academic chair at the school. Pastor Jeremy Morton, who succeeded Hunt at FBC Woodstock, GA, said, “One incident of abuse in any place or any church is a tragedy and it cannot be ignored.”

In 2022, the messengers of the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting adopted a resolution “On Lament and Repentance for Sexual Abuse.” In the text of that resolution, the Convention said, “we…unreservedly apologize to survivors mentioned in the report…for our not heeding their collective warnings and taking swift action to address clergy sexual abuse sooner.” The survivor in the Johnny Hunt account is one of the “survivors mentioned in the report,” although I do not know her name or any other aspect of her identity.

Recently a panel of four pastors—Mark Hoover of NewSpring Church in Wichita, KS; Mike Whitson of First Baptist Church, Indian Trail, NC; Steven Kyle of Hiland Park Baptist Church in Panama City, FL; and Benny Tate of Rock Springs Church in Milner, GA—declared that Johnny Hunt has completed a restoration program and is ready to embark again upon professional ministry.

I would permanently “defrock” Johnny Hunt if I had the authority to do so. In a fellowship of autonomous churches, I do not have the authority to do so. Yet it must be said that neither do these four pastors have the authority to declare Johnny Hunt to be “restored.” They do not speak for the Southern Baptist Convention. Indeed, it is not clear that they even speak for their own churches. For those Southern Baptist churches who practice ordination to ministry, the authority to ordain is generally considered to arise from the congregation, but no indication has been given that any of these four congregations have consented to or given their authority to this process. Also, Jeremy Morton and FBC Woodstock have explicitly stated that they had nothing to do with this process. Although Johnny Hunt’s church membership has apparently been at Hiland for several months now, FBC Woodstock is the church at which the offensive actions took place. The idea that a council of pastors, assembled with the consent of the abusive pastor, possesses some authority to declare a pastor fit for resumed ministry is a conceit that is altogether absent from Baptist polity and from the witness of the New Testament. Indeed, it is repugnant to all that those sources extol and represent.

It is best for people just to regard this pronouncement as the individual opinions of four of Johnny Hunt’s loyal friends. These four pastors do not speak for the Southern Baptist Convention. The voice of the Southern Baptist Convention is best found in the text of the resolutions adopted by the messengers and referenced above.

Pastor Tate, his voice breaking with emotion, cited Jesus’ Parable of the Good Samaritan, saying that he didn’t want to be guilty of leaving Johnny Hunt wounded on the side of the road. The wounded person on the side of the road is the abuse survivor, not Johnny Hunt, and she received no mention at all by this panel—she was passed by, in a way, by this quintet. I do not know her, but I don’t want to be guilty of leaving her on the side of the road. I am praying for her, I have heard her, and I believe her.