Friday, June 2, 2006

Southern Baptist Messengers Asleep at the Wheel?

Memphis Declaration

We publicly repent of our inattentiveness to convention governance by not seeking to hold trustees accountable to the body which elects them to preserve our sacred trust and direct our entities with the guidance, counsel, and correction necessary to maintain the integrity of those entities.

The Memphis Declaration alleges that Southern Baptists are not holding trustees accountable. This has been a recurring problem in Southern Baptist life. Historically, Southern Baptists are a people with a pretty severe case of corporate Attention Deficit Disorder. We have so many agencies doing so many things at so many levels that it is difficult to keep up with what they all are doing. Think about it: I'm the pastor of First Baptist Church of Farmersville, TX. Rewind a few years to when our state convention affiliation was with the Baptist General Convention of Texas. I was supposed to keep up with the actions of the trustees/executive committees of:
  1. The Baptist General Convention of Texas
  2. Buckner Baptist Benevolences
  3. South Texas Children's Home
  4. Baylor University
  5. Hardin-Simmons Baptist University
  6. Howard Payne Baptist University
  7. Dallas Baptist University
  8. The University of Mary Hardin Baylor
  9. East Texas Baptist University
  10. Houston Baptist University
  11. Wayland Baptist University
  12. The Texas Christian Life Commission
  13. Collin Baptist Association
  14. The Southern Baptist Convention
  15. The International Mission Board
  16. The North American Mission Board
  17. Lifeway
  18. Guidestone
  19. Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
  20. Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
  21. New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary
  22. Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary
  23. Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
  24. Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
  25. The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission
  26. The Baptist World Alliance
  27. And this, my friends, is not a complete list!
Since we have joined the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, that list has slimmed down considerably at the state level, and for that I am thankful. Nevertheless, it remains a daunting challenge. I, for one, think the trustee system is great for the very reason that I cannot and will not commit to keeping up with everything that is happening at that gargantuan list of institutions. I will rely upon the denominational press to keep me up to date on major happenings, and if I have some personal displeasure, I will vent it at the various annual meetings. On rare occasions, I have written letters calling for some action or another to institutional trustees. I think that is fine to for extraordinary circumstances. Here's the difference between me and the text of the Declaration: I really don't see that this system is broken. I submit to you that the trustees of the various entities of the Southern Baptist Convention have done precisely what the majority of the messengers actually present and voting at the annual meetings have instructed them to do. Maybe they've overstepped their bounds in a very few, very recent actions, but we really won't know until Greensboro, will we? If they have, the present system will work fine, and the grievance will be redressed. Since 1979, I really don't think that anybody has been asleep at the wheel. Maybe trustees have had occasions when they really didn't know what to do. If so, maybe we ought to covenant to pray for them rather than to threaten them.

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