Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Reason #47 that the Southern Baptist Convention Is Shrinking

Earlier this year, I was somewhat dismayed by the decision of LifeWay Christian Resources to pull Gospel Today from the shelves of their stores nationwide because its cover story featured five women pastors. Today, the AJC ran a story entitled "Georgia Baptists take aim at women-led churches" that had a similar theme but a much more ridiculous storyline. 

Apparently, the Georgia Baptist Convention (GBC)--the state convention of the SBC in Georgia--approved a policy this week, which gives them the ability to refuse funds from Georgia Baptist churches who have women for pastors. While the policy is broadly written, it is clearly aimed at the one and only church which falls under its guidelines--First Baptist Decatur, a church that has given the GBC millions of dollars since 1862. 

"I kept waiting for someone from the Georgia Baptist Convention to call us or come visit with me and other leaders of our church to inform us that these matter were being discussed," said FBD's pastor, Julie Pennington-Russell, who was not present when the policy was been discussed. "I assumed that a 146-year relationship was worth, at very least, a personal conversation."

I haven't totally made up my mind on women in ministry, and I know many sound theologians on both sides of the issue. But regardless of whether women should be pastors or not, this is disturbing. When the Southern Baptist Convention was formed in 1845, the founders issued the following statement: "We have constructed for our basis no new creed; acting in this manner upon a Baptist aversion for all creeds, but the Bible." In other words, what historically binds Southern Baptists is not specifically-outlined doctrines, but rather a commitment to the word of God. 

Presbyterians, Methodists, Anglicans, Catholics--they are all, to varying degrees, bound by theological doctrine. But Baptists have never been. That is what makes being a Baptist so great, in my opinion. Unfortunately, the bureaucratic echelons in our denomination seem to swell daily and the list of requirements to actively participate seems to get longer and longer. The message we send is, "either step in line or get out!" When Southern Baptists make non-essentials a prerequisite for participation, we promote unnecessary division and actually cease to be Baptist. 

If anyone is taking a count, chalk this one up as reason #47 that the SBC is shrinking: Making non-essentials a prerequisite for denominational participation.

Dare I ask ... Anyone disagree with me on this?


Christine said...

This is a hard one for me, as I have wonderful friends on both sides - the conservative resurgance and the moderates ... or is that the fundamentalist take-overer's and the liberals?

It all depends on who is talking.

Love them. Love all on both sides. I see and understand the concern and passion and love for Christ from all of them.

Yet the division and the nit-picking is ... ugh. Where do we go from here? I really don't have a clue.

Not a clue.

Jonathan Merritt said...


Coming from one on the conservative resurgance side ... I'll second that "Ugh."


Tim J. said...

Not growing up in the SBC, I've been curious about all the divisions that arise. In the EFCA of my youth, their were a lot of things that were open to interpretation... everything from Calvinism to alcohol to eschatology... and to my knowledge, there were never denominational politics involved in those discussions.
btw, I look forward to hearing where you come down on women in ministry...



Albert G said...

This does make for interesting dinner conversation.

Adam Lancaster said...

Good words man. Baptists have strayed from their heritage. thats why so few people our age ever define themselves as such. baptists care more now about being right than doing right.

Anonymous said...

I just want to restate my comments on an earlier post of yours.

Jesus was a radical revolutionary who quietly went about reigning in the influence and power of God's Kingdom. He was very politically incorrect, and ‘culturally insensitive’ while being sensitive to the reality of the culture. Unlike much of modern western Christendom.

However, regarding women in ministry, I say a resounding YES!

There are quite a number of highly influential women mentioned in the Bible. For example: Deborah, Rebecca, Rachel, Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Esther, Miriam, Mary Magdalene, Mary The mother of Jesus, Elizabeth, Anna, and plenty of others. All of these women are rigorously profiled and influential within scripture and equally important today.

The influence of women in the Kingdom of God amidst the time of the writing of the Word does not suggest, by any means, that women today would be of less value or influence in God's Kingdom.

Katie Corbett said...

As a woman, I may be alone in my viewpoint, but I do not see the error in a denomination speaking out against women as being pastor's. I believe God has equipped women to serve God in a great number of roles. He welcomes our acts of service, but I feel that the Bible is quite clear on a woman's role as the head of the church or more specifically not. I think as modern women we are taught from a very early age that we can do anything and in most circumstances I would agree. I feel that in America, we women (myself included) are taught to feel this power and take it to an extreme and to often feel that our abilities trump male abilities. This is very far from the truth. Why can't we as women serve in submission and let godly men rise up and serve the Lord as pastors. Who are we to take that role away from them? I think too often we exercise our "women can do anything" attitude and do not allow men to shine as God has called them. In the case that men refuse to rise up and take on their calling, then I believe it becomes necessary for women to assume that role so as not to forsake the spreading of the gospel. I say as women we need to learn to be satisfied and relish the wonderful jobs that God has given us.

Feel free to disagree.

Anonymous said...

BTW Jonathan...really like the picture for this post... :)

Dean I. said...

What people simply don't get is that a "great commission resurgence" (which baptists are required to mention every 5 seconds) doesn't work if nobody is listening.

To me this is less about theology and more about being jerks.