Wednesday, February 26, 2014

My Beliefs about the Extent of Communion

I believe that you should encourage to participate in the Lord's Supper any and everyone who, if he or she were a member of your church, you would not discipline out. That states my understanding of the extent of the Lord's Supper in its entirety.

A few corollary thoughts:

  1. This presumes that your church has the framework in place to exercise church discipline and the guts to do it.

  2. Our church is a Baptist church. That means that if one of our Sunday School classes started sprinkling infants and refused to stop, they would be subject to church discipline simply because they were sprinkling infants. Believer's baptism is not just our preference, it is the clear and indisputable teaching of God's word. Thus, any pedobaptist member of our church is necessarily someone against whom we would start discipline proceedings.

  3. The reason why I never make statements about the extent of communion using language like "Like Faith and Order" is because too much of a focus on baptism erroneously and dangerously conveys the impression that so long as you are saved and have been dunked subsequently, you need not consider the matter further. But truly every Christian ought to examine his or her own heart and ask the question, "If my fellow brothers and sisters knew about all of the attitudes in my heart and all of the things that I've done this week, and if I persisted in them unrepentantly, would I be a legitimate candidate for church discipline?" If the answer to that question is "Yes," then I need to spend some time getting my heart straight with the Lord before participating in the Lord's Supper. I tell people that only those who are believers and who have repented of their known sin should participate in the Supper. I further clarify that having refused scriptural baptism is a sin.

  4. It surprises me not at all that a sizable number of SBC churches are probably basically Stoddardian in their approach to the Lord's Supper since church discipline is all but lost among us.

    In my opinion, it is far more important (and is prerequisite) to recover a meaningful idea of church membership before trying to repair what has happened to our theology of the ordinances. It is difficult to make lasting and meaningful repair to the crack over the doorway before addressing the problems in the foundation.

  5. I am actually optimistic in the long term. More is being written and preached about ecclesiology today than has been the case for at least a couple of generations preceding us. Biblical preaching always bears fruit. I think that this problem will solve itself with time and with the help of the Holy Spirit.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Why I'm Glad Ronnie Floyd Will Be Nominated for SBC President

Today Baptist Press announced that Albert Mohler will nominate Pastor Ronnie Floyd for the presidency of the Southern Baptist Convention this year in Baltimore. In my judgment, it would be inappropriate for me as a sitting officer of the SBC to make any sort of an endorsement in the upcoming elections. I suppose it is possible that I might even be moderating the meeting during the election itself, in which case my impartiality would be of some small measure of importance. So, let me make it clear that I am not endorsing Ronnie Floyd by this post. We don't even know whether anyone else will run, and if someone does, we don't even know who that would be, so even before considering my scruples regarding the impartiality of officers, it's a bit early to make a choice anyway.

After all, if Chuck Norris should run, I'm backing him.

And yet, having said all of that, I don't mind saying that I'm glad that Ronnie Floyd will be nominated. The following reasons make me happy about this nomination:

  1. Ronnie Floyd has shown leadership in the SBC apart from holding any office in the convention. He gave leadership to the GCR program. He has given leadership this year to a series of prayer meetings for SBC pastors. You don't have to have attended all of the prayer meeting and you don't have to have agreed with every plank of the eventual GCR platform to recognize that Ronnie Floyd cares deeply about the SBC and wants to give leadership to our convention. Even if other people run and even if someone else is elected, the president of the Southern Baptist Convention ought to be someone who has already demonstrated some love for the SBC and some willingness to be active in convention work.

  2. Ronnie Floyd understands the perspective from both sides of the convention experience. Ronnie Floyd has been on the platform. In Orlando during the GCR presentation, he was working hard to achieve the passage of that set of proposals. The events in Orlando involved the unconventional disposition of an amendment to the main GCR motion.

    But in 2013 in Houston, Ronnie Floyd found himself on the other side of the great gulf fixed between the platform and the messenger microphones at the SBC Annual Meeting as he argued from the floor for Southern Baptists to reach out in some compassionate and helpful way toward those struggling with mental illness. He got a taste of the difficulty a messenger faces when trying to speak coherently into a microphone while a 5-second delay disconcertingly confounds you with your own greatly amplified words. He experienced firsthand the way that the labyrinth of SBC procedures and rules of order can make it difficult for anyone—even a well-respected and seasoned SBC pastor—to propose something new from the floor and see it through to a successful end.

    I think every SBC President ought to be someone who has tried at least once to make a motion at the Annual Meeting. I think the memory of his 2013 experience will strengthen Ronnie Floyd's determination to be respectful, compassionate, and evenhanded in his wielding of the Broadus Gavel, should he be elected.

  3. Ronnie Floyd has given careful thought to the actual constitutional duties of the SBC Presidency. Namely, I am confident that he will make good appointments and I know that he will pay careful attention to the content of the Annual Meeting. After the 2013 Annual Meeting in Houston, Floyd offered a series of tweets considering how to make the Annual Meeting a more effective, more popular event. Some of the ideas that I offered in my own post "Belonging and Giving" over at SBC Voices—the ideas about how to cultivate a sense of belonging in the convention—are ideas that I had already discussed with Floyd in private conversation. That conversation took place because Ronnie Floyd reached out to me and asked me about my thoughts for improving the Annual Meeting.

    Now, let me make this clear: I don't know that Ronnie Floyd agrees with all of what I wrote. I don't know that he agrees with ANY of what I wrote. Certainly my post is nothing that should be considered "campaign material" for Ronnie Floyd and I don't have any reason to think that any of my ideas would have any influence upon the way that he would conduct himself if he were to be elected. I'm just saying that it is encouraging to me that Ronnie Floyd would want to have the conversation in the first place. This is someone who has been thinking about our Annual Meeting for a long time and has been asking other people to think about it and to give him input.

    It would be a plus for any SBC president to be someone who has done just that.

  4. Just the circumstances of his nomination are encouraging. Albert Mohler, the putative Calvinistic Don Corleone of the SBC, is nominating a pastor who is ostensibly a Traditionalist with regard to his soteriology. Floyd isn't a Southern grad, either. The whole affair just oozes the kind of cooperative spirit that last year's Calvinism report commended to us all and that our convention greatly needs. No matter who else runs, no matter what outcome the election brings forth, the mere fact of the nomination makes me happy.

So, hopeful that I have stayed within the bounds of decorum and optimistic about the future of our convention, I give you the official announcement and wait with you to see what will unfold in the ensuing months.