Friday, June 2, 2006

Southern Baptist Uniformity Rather Than Unity?

Memphis Declaration

We publicly repent of having disrespected the sovereign grace of our Lord Jesus Christ by falsely presuming that our strength as a people of God is found in uniformity rather than unity within the parameters of Scriptural authority.

The Memphis Declaration alleges that Southern Baptists have required uniformity. Are we united or are we uniform? I contend that the Southern Baptist Convention has come nowhere close to trying to achieve absolute uniformity. There is today, as there has always been, bewildering diversity in the Southern Baptist Convention: people who think Jesus didn't die for everybody, people who won't read anything but the KJV, people who won't sing anything but a Fanny Crosby hymn, people who won't sing anything but a Charles Wesley anthem, people who won't sing anything but a Maranatha praise chorus, people who won't sing anything at all, people who wear suits, people who wear leisure clothes, people who still wear leisure suits...I could go on, but I won't. OK...OK...I will go on one further: We even still have a pretty large number of liberals still in the SBC whom the masses do not trust as leaders or teachers, but whom we still admit as brothers and sisters. We're pretty doggone diverse. On the other hand, although we have not achieved absolute uniformity, we have accomplished some level of uniformity. EVERY organization enforces some level of uniformity. Without focus, you have no organization. There is such a thing as "strength in diversity" (e.g., Carey translates; Ward prints; Marshman preaches) but diversity certainly does not guarrantee strength. Diversity has a much greater history of tearing organizations apart than of empowering them to achieve great things. So, the question is not this contrived, intellectually vacant choice between "unity" and "uniformity" (which really just amounts to a propaganda soundbyte), but rather "how much uniformity do we really need in order to be unified." To that question, a lot of people will supply different answers. Personally, I'll be glad to abide by the way that thousands of messengers define it at our annual meetings.

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