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Sunday, September 17, 2006

Burleson's 'Big Tent' meets Molly's 'Large Room'

Wade Burleson has often declared that the Southern Baptist Convention is a BIG TENT. Time and time again, Burleson has expressed his desire to see this BIG TENT kept wide open and not zipped shut.

In a May 19th post, Burleson wrote...

We must broaden the base of service in the SBC to include more than just a few who are recycled in their appointments. This broadening of the tent of service will insure that the SBC will remain broad in cooperation, grasssroots in the authority structure, and viable for the next generation of Southern Baptists.

However, Burleson is not the first person to argue for a more inclusive Southern Baptist Convention. He's just the last.

14 years ago, Rev. Dr. Molly Marshall, Associate Professor of Theology at SBTS, contributed a chapter to Robison B. James & David Dockery's book, Beyond The Impasse? Scripture, Interpretation & Theology in Baptist Life. The title of Dr. Marshall's chapter was - "Setting Our Feet in a Large Room." A few excerpts follow...

Psalm 31:8 offers this assurance of God's covenantal faithfulness: "you have set my feet in a broad place" (NRSV). The psalmist is speaking not only of God's enduring care, but of the spacious freedom the faithful people of God enjoy. Perhaps the image of a "large room" can help us in these days of heightened animosity among competing parties in our denomination, each attempting to lay claim to the true Baptist "room." Moving beyond the impasse may be possible only through a renewed acknowledgment and commitment to the anchor of our faith, the love of God expressed to us through Jesus Christ. This common confession provides our entrance into the broad place which, we might discover, is more expansive than our current climate might suggest. It matters greatly that we attempt to strengthen our bonds as Christians in the one body of Christ during this time of rapid fragmentation. (p. 169)
"Entering a Large Room"

More than a few among us are concerned that Southern Baptists have been captured more by the "theology of glory" than by the "theology of the cross." Our denominational successes have contributed to an imperious attitude toward other Christian traditions, toward Christian brother and sisters within our denomination and, we confess, toward the scandalous cross on which our faith depends. Because the denominational "product" sold so well for so long, we have had little patience with those for whom faith was a "dimly burning wick" (Isa. 42:3). Weakness and hiddenness, the garb of the cross and the means of God's disclosure, were expendable parts of the commodious gospel regnant among us. (p. 179) We must "return to the image of the 'large room' as the place all can enter through the common confession of the crucified, buried, and risen Saviour."

We must "first of all, examine the cross of Christ which allows us to enter our true 'home" through our reconciliation with God; second, examine how Scripture bears witness to this chief disclosure of God and thereby points the way for us; and third, examine the manner in which gospel and Scripture enable us to extend the glad welcome into God's spacious salvation." (p. 179)

Getting beyond our present impasse will require humility, repentance, and the will for "convictional cooperation," as Mohler winsomely calls it. Only the providential grace of our God can bring about a new spirit of cooperation only the wisdom borne of God's Spirit can instruct a way forward together." (p. 188)

Ironically, Burleson's image of a "Big Tent" is a wee-bit-bigger than Dr. Marshall's "Large Room."

Though Wade has been accused of being a liberal, he remains a SBC International Mission Board trustee. Also falsely accused of being a liberal (i.e. universalist), Dr. Molly Marshall was forced to resign by SBTS President Al Mohler in 1994 - merely two years after advocating for a "Large Room."


Blogger PBill said...

BDW, have you read enough of Marshall to know if she deserves the inclusivist label that she has acquired?

Should the SBC tent be large enough for inclusivists?

6:12 AM

Blogger tim rogers said...

Brother Big Daddy Weave,

I like that name! I do pray you are recovering well from your accident.

I have been accused of something you falsely stated and I am sure you were only stating what someone else stated. However, if you will check I believe you will find that I am not guilty implicitly or explicitly of calling Wade Burleson a liberal. Your reference to my statement on Marty Duren's blog is exactly what Wade Burleson said was me referring to him as a Moderate. The basis for his charge came from a comment I made on another comment string at another blog. In that blog the question was why Wade Burleson was asking for Daniel Vestal, Winfred Moore, and others to be allowed back into the SBC to serve on Trustee Boards. My comment was one given to express my disagreement with his desire to invite others that left the SBC to form the CBF back into the "Tent" called SBC.

I do not know you and do enjoy tracking your different posts. However, I do ask that you rectify this mis-information you have placed in the blogosphere world. This is erroneous and mis-leading as I have not called Wade Burleson a liberal, or a moderate. I look forward to your update.


12:22 PM

Blogger Big Daddy Weave said...


The purpose of my post was not to rehash the Universalist charges (which had no substance). But yes theoretically the SBC tent should be large enough for inclusivists (such as myself).

Mr. Rogers,

I have updated the post in two places - you should find it sufficient.

The discussion threads at SBCOutpost have been quite enjoyable lately. I'd love to see a rematch of Green&Reynolds vs. CB Scott, Part Deux. Think it will happen??

1:25 PM

Blogger Michael Westmoreland-White said...

I think it bears mentioning that Dr. Marshall did not go down to ruin as Mohler intended. She is now President of Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, KS. Est. in 1901, this American Baptist seminary educated both American and Southern Baptists until the SBC decided it couldn't be ecumenical even with other Baptists and built the completely redundant Midwestern BTS (1950?) less than 5 miles away in Kansas City, MO.

Dr. Marshall is a growing influence in the American Baptist churches as the centrist she always was. Today, she is the first woman in North America to head a Baptist seminary. She has now written 3 monographs and uncountable book chapters, dictionary and encyclopedia articles, and journal articles.

A former missionary to Israel (as well as a former youth minister, pastor, and college chaplain), she was NEVER a universalist. Her inclusivism stood in a long tradition of Baptists, including W.O. Carver.

1:48 PM

Blogger foxofbama said...

I went up to Southern with a friend whose family owned the Southend of Trade Day in Collinsville, Alabama in 94, the North End owned by active members of Judge Roy Moore's base church in Gadsden Alabama.
I interviewed Molly in her office. She knew who I was from some things I had written for Baps Today. I did a story from my interview for Baps Today.
Big Daddy, you need to search out Becky Kennedy there in the music halls of Baylor. She was a fan of Molly at Southern and needs to let her home church know it in explicit terms now in this teachable moment while they are doing a sunday night study on Baptist ID

1:52 PM

Blogger Big Daddy Weave said...


Thanks for your comment. Many professors who are forced out NEVER recover. Molly Marshall is the exception. I'm impressed most by how she handled herself. She could have sued the pants off of Mohler's SBTS but she didn't. Meanwhile Mohler takes pot-shots at Marshall every chance he gets. You won't hear Molly Marshall bashing Mohler. She's obviously a very very strong person.

I hope my readers clicked on the link to her name and read her full bio as well.

3:20 PM

Blogger Michael Westmoreland-White said...

There are 2 reasons Molly didn't sue SBTS for wrongful termination. 1) She takes seriously Paul's injunction in 1 Cor. against Christians taking each other to court. 2)By agreeing to leave quietly, she was allowed to finish supervising her remaining Ph.D. students--who otherwise might never have been able to finish their degrees.

You are correct that she never mentions Mohler or badmouths anyone at the SBC. Meanwhile, even after she has gone, Mohler and others have to continue to slander her.

2:06 AM


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