The Memphis Declaration alleges that Southern Baptists have forsaken opportunities to reason with other orthodox Christian groups. I really wish I knew what this means. When I read "reason together" I guess I imagine my Methodist brother down the road and me sitting down over cookies and discussing our differing views over sprinkling babies. I'm willing to do that, and I have done it (without the cookies and with this pastor's immediate predecessor), but I've got to tell you, not much new came out of that. I already knew the unscriptural Methodist error at this point, and he already knew what I believed. Personally, I think that Southern Baptists have pretty much plumbed the depths of our theological interactions with other denominations. Are we under some obligation to rehash the same old thing on some sort of a regular schedule? Count me out of that. If there is some sort of a change and an opportunity to convince other denominations of biblical truth, then we certainly ought to seize those kind of chances. But why don't I think that's the kind of dialogue that this document has in mind? But maybe the declaration is barking up a different tree. The commitment part that follows the repentance here speaks not of reasoning together, but of "building bridges", "listening more and talking less", and "extending the hand of fellowship." Trying to think this through, I can come up with four broad categories that this point may be trying to address:
We publicly repent of having forsaken opportunities to reason together with those who share our commitment to gospel proclamation yet differ with us on articles of the faith that are not essential to Christian orthodoxy.
- Maybe the Memphis 30 think that we aren't friendly enough to non-Southern-Baptists.
- Maybe the Memphis 30 think that some of our doctrinal convictions are offensive to non-Southern-Baptists.
- Maybe the Memphis 30 think that we are too organizationally aloof from non-Southern-Baptists.
- Maybe this point is not about our relationship with non-Southern-Baptists, but with Southern Baptists whose views diverge from that of the majority.