A Progressive Theo-Political Blog Bringing You The Best and Worst of Baptist Life.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Study Shows GOP & SBC Marriage Consummated

A recent study conducted in April by Lifeway Research found that a whopping 80% of Southern Baptist pastors plan to cast their vote for Republican nominee John McCain in November!

1% of Southern Baptist pastors prefer Obama


O%, yes ZERO percent, of Southern Baptist pastors support Hillary.

Back in 1998 during an interview with the New York Times, Richard Land - perhaps the most visible Southern Baptist leader over the past 20 years - said this about the relationship between the Religious Right and the Republican Party:
“No more engagement. We want a wedding ring, we want a ceremony, we want a consummation of the marriage.”
10 years later, it's clear that Dick got what he so desperately desired.

Lifeway Research has clearly revealed that the marriage has been consummated.

The Wedding Bells Done Rung. The Honeymoon is Over.

Apparently not many Southern Baptist pastors remember the wise words of the late Carl F. Henry, a hero to men like Al Mohler, who often declared that there exists "no direct route from the Bible to the Ballot Box."


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Speaking To But Not For - Though Not In N. Carolina

Baptists have always claimed that one Baptist can not speak for other Baptists.

Thus, Baptists engaged in public policy have always operated by the following motto:

Speaking To But Not For

Baptists like James Dunn and Brent Walker of the Baptist Joint Committee and Baptists like the late Phil Strickland and Suzii Paynter of the Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission have never presumed to be the official spokesmen of locally autonomous Baptist congregations. When testifying before legislative committees in Austin or Washington D.C., these Baptists have always been careful to point out that they speak only for themselves.

Hence, the motto "Speaking To But Not For"

No one Baptist speaks for another. The very distinctive that makes us Baptist is called ‘freedom of conscience,’ ‘soul freedom,’ ‘voluntarism’ or ‘the priesthood of the believer. Each of these expressions suggests that as individuals we stand free and therefore responsible before God for our own beliefs. Back in 1971, James Dunn summed up this baptistic idea:
No one group can be the conscience of Baptists. But because we care, we may stir the consciences of those who share a common calling in Jesus Christ. No one report can bring conviction concerning moral imperatives in a confused and confusing social order. Yet, God’s Holy Spirit can and does work through weak instruments to speak a prophetic word, to challenge injustice, to call for advance and to apply a biblical faith to all areas of life.
Unfortunately, the Council on Christian Life and Public Affairs of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina has decided to completely trash the historic Baptist belief that "No One Baptist Speaks For Another." Check out this story. A snippet below:
The Council on Christian Life and Public Affairs announced its intention to move from a committee that speaks "to" Baptists to a committee that engages policy makers in the public forum and speaks "for" Baptists.

Ron Varner, pastor of Falling Creek Baptist Church in Goldsboro, reported for the Council on Christian Life and Public Affairs and said he regretted that he is near the end of his term on the council, because "it's just starting to get good."

"We're talking about a shift from just talking 'to' North Carolina Baptists, to talking 'for' North Carolina Baptists in the public forum," he said.

Sadly, the Baptist ideal of The Unfettered Conscience is no more in North Carolina.

The state best known for its rich Genealogy of Dissent has indeed changed dramatically in recent decades.

Apparently the Council plans in the upcoming weeks to take various conservative political positions FOR North Carolina Baptists. The Council even plans to hold a public forum on "what Charles Spurgeon could teach 21st century Baptists on politics." I got $50 that says the forum will forget to mention that Charles Haddon Spurgeon was one of the most vocal and influential British Baptist peacemakers of the nineteenth century...

typed by Alexis


Thursday, May 22, 2008

BDW Out of Commission

Aaron would like his friends and readers to know that he will be taking a hiatus from blogging (as he can no longer type). Earlier this evening, a suburban driven by two Baylor students ran a stop sign and hit his car at high speed, totalling it.

After 5 hours at the ER, and numerous x-rays and CT scans, Aaron is now home with a broken left wrist, a strained back, bruises, and a concussion.

His greyhound, Rudy, the lone passenger in the car, is spending the night in the hospital, with minor injuries.

More later.


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

David Currie - One Rancher Who Makes Sense

David Currie, Executive Director of Texas Baptists Committed, has a punchy column that just came out.


In his Rancher's Rumblings column, Currie addresses a few criticisms of Texas Baptists Committed. Currie explains that TBC has worked closely with the BGCT in recent years to "encourage the election of officers who represent every facet of Baptist life." Looking at the list of recent elected officers of the BGCT, I'd say that Currie's TBC has been quite successful. In addition to white men, TBC has helped elect African-Americans, Hispanics and women.

Currie writes:
I do not believe that Texas Baptists could have had better leadership these past 5 years. TBC endorsed these people because we knew that they loved and supported the BGCT and, especially, because we knew that they opposed Fundamentalist control of the BGCT. Our endorsement never involved any consideration of whether they supported the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship or the Southern Baptist Convention with their national mission dollars. That was – and is – irrelevant. Instead, their support of the BGCT and their opposition to Fundamentalism were the keys to receiving TBC’s endorsement.

But I hear loudly the cry that TBC is “picking the officers” and that we need an “open” convention. Well, personally, an open convention is fine with me. However, I’ve never felt that the convention was “closed.” It’s just that candidates for any office of any organization rarely spring from “the floor.” They are usually put forward by some individual or group well before the meeting. In BGCT life, TBC has been uniquely positioned to recommend candidates for office, because TBC is made up of people who have taken the time and effort to become informed about, and involved in, BGCT life.

There are those who desire to see Texas Baptists Committee refrain from endorsing candidates.
If this is to happen, Currie has a few thoughts:

There seem to be two very powerful fears in play here. Persons who have worked closely with TBC over the past 20 years – and given time, energy, prayers, money, and faithful attendance to the BGCT annual meeting each year – FEAR that, if TBC is not actively involved in endorsing officers for the convention, the convention might elect SBC supporters who would lead the BGCT down the path to Fundamentalist control. They FEAR, too, the election of those who – while not overtly supporting the SBC – might attempt to “work with” the SBC’s Fundamentalist leadership, blindly trusting them while ignoring the historic Fundamentalist commitment to control, not cooperation.

On the other hand, persons who have maintained a strong relationship with the BGCT, but – for historic or personal reasons – have continued to support SBC missions and ministries, FEAR that they are not fully accepted in BGCT life because they do not support CBF and are still funding many SBC ministries (and even institutions).

Well, I think I have come up with a simple, fair way to ease the fears of everyone concerned. Here is my solution.

I recommend that anyone who runs for office in the Baptist General Convention of Texas begin by making clear to Texas Baptists first, that he or she loves and supports the mission, ministry, and institutions of the BGCT; and second, that he or she opposes SBC-style Fundamentalist control. They can give their mission money where they want to give it, but they must publicly commit to firmly opposing Fundamentalism in any form. That is only fair and right. People have a right to know where these candidates stand on Fundamentalism.

The BGCT should be a “big tent” convention that offers a place at the table for churches that support CBF missions, SBC missions, or both. Support of CBF or SBC is not – and should not be – an issue in the BGCT. We have worked hard to protect local church autonomy and protect every local church’s right to give cooperatively as it chooses, in whatever percentage it chooses.

The reality is that there should be no Fundamentalists remaining in the BGCT. Frankly, if you are a Fundamentalist, there is a convention that was created just for you – the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. That is where you belong, and you should join it with our blessing. You can leave the BGCT, and there will be no hard feelings on our part.

Today’s BGCT should be made up of churches and people who oppose creedalism in any form or fashion, and support freedom for our institutions and ministries, and a shared vision of ministry and mission together as Texas Baptists.

So, if you feel led to run for office in the BGCT, and someone is willing to nominate and support you, I encourage you to run and let the people decide. However, I want to repeat that this encouragement comes with one qualifier attached. As you run, be sure to first clearly affirm to Texas Baptists that you love, support, and believe in the Baptist General Convention of Texas just as she is – a convention focused on including all who want to partner together to spread the Kingdom of God, free from Fundamentalist control.

We cannot afford to pretend that the past 30 years of division in Baptist life did not happen, and we must not revisit, or stumble blindly into, old battles that take our focus away from the work of the Kingdom. So we must know where our officers stand on support of the BGCT and opposition to Fundamentalism.

Supporting CBF or the SBC is not now and never has been the issue; supporting the BGCT as a free and faithful state convention is very much the issue.

Whosoever will serve, step forward.

Candidates who run for office in the BGCT must make clear that he or she opposes SBC-style Fundamentalist control. Candidates must oppose creedalism in any form or fashion. A litmus test for freedom is one litmus test that I can support.

Currie's Ramblings make more sense than any other BGCT-related blog post that I've read in the past year.

We're free and faithful Baptists for a reason. For us, it's Grace not Law, Christ not Creed. Cooperation not Control. And most importantly freedom not conformity.

David Currie is one Rancher who makes sense...

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Friday, May 09, 2008

BDW Quoted In Blogs Become Baptist Battleground

Blogs Become Baptist Battlegrounds by Rob Marus of ABP is the second of two articles published today that quote The Big Daddy Weave. Marus quotes Ben Cole and I throughout the article. Check out a few snippets below:
WASHINGTON (ABP)—One classic joke about Baptists is that wherever two or three are gathered, there are four opinions among them. The same can be said of bloggers, and Baptists seem to have taken to blogs with particular gusto, on both the institutional and individual levels. But as a democratically governed and notoriously fractious bunch, blogging Baptists also seem to have put a new virtual twist on the time-honored tradition of contentious business meetings.
And here's me:
“Historically, we Baptists have been dissenters,” said Aaron Weaver, a graduate student at Baylor University who operates the the Big Daddy Weave blog. “The blog is merely a new medium … Baptists use to dissent when dissent is necessary. In some ways, blogs are a form of congregationalism.”
And me again:

“The format of the blogosphere disallows coercion tactics that have been employed in the past by dictatorial church leaders,” he said. “The blog medium serves as a safe haven for those who feel that public dissent is their only option.”

Both Cole and Weaver agreed blogs can lend themselves to nastiness. But, they warned, don’t throw the baby out with the proverbial bath water.

The medium is neutral

“Blogs are not inherently bad,” Weaver said. “Negative and destructive blogs are a reflection of the blogger—not the blogosphere. I suppose anonymity can lead to people being dishonest. But if honesty is an issue, it is an issue of character and not the medium of blogging itself.”
Marus concludes his article with a most excellent quote from Ben Cole:

“Quite frankly, those who lament the ‘unhealthy’ and ‘un-Christian’ character of blogging must have been ridiculously blind or purposefully naïve for the last 400 years of Baptist bickering,” he said. “That some of the current SBC leadership weep and wail over blogging, and gather round like huddled martyrs, and yet they were the selfsame provocateurs of the fundamentalist juggernaut would be laughable if it wasn’t so pathetic.” Cole concluded: “Would Christ blog about the malfeasance run amok in Baptist life? Probably not. Neither would he sit quietly and cover the backsides of the worst denominational offenders, as some of our convention trustees seem content to do.”


BDW Quoted In Blogging Baptists by John Hall

Blogging Baptists by John Hall is the first of two articles published today that quoted yours truly.

Hall writes,

For some people, blogs are like a family reunion where people barely know each other. There’s a lot of talking going on, but there’s little agreement on much of anything. But for many of the increasing number of Baptist bloggers, that’s the beauty of it....

The blogosphere is the world’s online dinner table, where people from all perspectives can share their thoughts and opinions on what is going on in their lives and the world around them.

And here's me:

Aaron Weaver, a Baylor graduate student who blogs at www.thebigdaddyweave.com, uses his blog to stay informed of Baptist issues related to politics, but he also advocates what he calls Baptist distinctives. He believes blogging is a way to connect with younger generations.

“For the most part, the young Baptists that I know don’t read Baptist publications. They don’t read denominational newspapers. But they do read blogs; they like blogs. Many even have blogs of their own. They are exchanging ideas with each other, and they are willing to read blogs from other Baptists of all ages,” Weaver said.

“Their blogging is definitely not limited to Baptist or even religious subjects, but some young Baptists are thinking and writing about topics of interest to other Baptists. It is my hope that more younger Baptists will discover the Baptist blogosphere and become more interested in our distinctives, history and the future of Baptists.

“In our increasingly pluralistic, post-modern, post-denominational world, what is the future of Baptists? That is a question which Baptists—young and old—should be dialoging about. The Baptist blogosphere is the perfect place in which to have that much-needed conversation.”

I enjoyed the article and appreciate being asked for input. However, I do differ a little with Professor Amanda Sturgill of Baylor University who is also quoted in Hall's article.

Amanda Sturgill, a journalism professor at Baylor University, blogs on media and religious issues at aejrmig.blogspot.com. She believes Baptists, in particular, blog for two reasons—they are family-oriented, creating a desire to share their family lives with others, and as evangelicals, they believe they have something important to add to the global conversation.

Baptists may be supplying information and perspectives that Internet surfers are wanting, Sturgill noted. Research indicates 25 percent of web users have looked for religious information on the Internet.

“People from evangelical faiths have classically seen new media technologies as being a great witnessing tool—allowing believers to reach all the world in an expeditious manner. This has been true for everything from print to the World Wide Web. It’s no accident that Gutenberg’s first product was a Bible. But usually it doesn’t live up to hopes. There is Christian broadcasting, but mostly existing Christians watch and listen, for example,” Sturgill said.

I think it's safe to say that Dr. Sturgill is a newbie to the Baptist Blogosphere. The Baptist blogs that I've read for the past 2 years are focused on Baptist-related issues - theology and politics - not family. And while there are Baptist blogs that serve as a sort of "witnessing tool" - most do not. This article points to reasons why Baptists blog.


Thursday, May 08, 2008

Danny Aikin: Terrified That Bill Leonard Is A Prophet

Here's a snippet from the article written by Norman James in the Biblical Recorder:

While the BFM 2000 is sufficient to him, "for some of us, it isn't," he said. "We have some inner family squabbles that are distracting us from focusing on the real enemy, which is satan, sin, hell and evil. Instead we're fighting among ourselves. I'm terrified that we're going to make Bill Leonard a prophet."

Leonard, dean and professor at Wake Forest University Divinity School and a former professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., famously predicted two decades ago that while the "fundamentalists" now have control of the Convention, "let's see if they can run it. " He predicted they could not because it is the nature of fundamentalism to fight, if not with outside enemies, then within their own family.

Back in 1993, Bill Leonard wrote:
Bringing Reformed theology back into mainstream SBC life may be a battle which will make the fundamentalist-moderate confrontation seem like a minor skirmish. A great many very conservative Southern Baptists are shocked when they learn that the founders believed that only an elect group of sinners, chosen before the foundation of the world will be saved.
Given Southern Baptist's love of a good Throw Down, I'd say that Leonard's words from '93 may still prove to be prophetic as well. See the upcoming John 3:16 Conference.

As a side note, you'll notice in the Biblical Recorder article that Danny Aikin had this to say about the CBF:

He said the "conservative resurgence" has kept the SBC from "being worse off than we are," and that evidence is found in tracking the record of churches affiliated with the moderate Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, which, he said, "is horrible."

"Ours is bad," he said. "Theirs is horrible."

While Akin expressed appreciation for current CBF leadership he is wary that the next generation has a different agenda that will lead CBF away from its current commitments.

Why is it that the Head Honchos in the Southern Baptist Convention consistently demonstrate a rather peculiar obsession with the CBF? Insecurity? Must be something in the DNA of a fundamentalist...

The Emerging Evangelical Center, Part 2

Here is a link to the Introduction of my paper entitled "Evangelical Centrists and Moderate Baptists: The Case For Incompatibility." You can read the entire paper here.

Tomorrow, I will post a section on Substantive Neutrality and Saturday I will post sections on the Baptist Joint Committee and the Texas Christian Life Commission.

The second section is below:

I. The Emerging Evangelical Center

A. David Gushee and the Emerging Evangelical Center

In his newly released book, The Future of Faith in American Politics: The Public Witness of the Evangelical Center, Baptist ethicist David Gushee identifies what he calls an “emerging evangelical center” that is neither left nor right.[1] While the “evangelical right” has long been represented by world renown fundamentalists such as James Dobson and the late Jerry Falwell, the “evangelical left” has in recent years come to be symbolized by lesser known but well respected religious leaders such as Jim Wallis and Tony Campolo.[2] But today, according to Gushee, there is “emerging a visible and increasingly powerful evangelical center”[3] that is “increasingly vibrant and promises to play an increasingly significant role within evangelical Christianity and the United States.”[4]

Throughout The Future of Faith in American Politics, Gushee attempts to “stake a claim” to this emerging evangelical center by contrasting it with the evangelical right and evangelical left.[5] Gushee offers strong criticisms of the evangelical right. He claims that the evangelical right has “given up its fundamental allegiance to Jesus Christ in aligning itself so tightly with the Republican Party.”[6] Gushee also laments the narrowness of the evangelical right’s political agenda. However, he stresses that there are a number of issues where the evangelical center is generally in full agreement with the evangelical right. These include opposition to gay marriage, Roe v. Wade, euthanasia, sex outside of heterosexual marriage, the creation-for-destruction of embryos and the harvesting of stem cells from existing embryos.[7]

Gushee also directs several criticisms towards the evangelical left and its leaders. He claims that leaders of the evangelical left such as Tony Campolo, Jim Wallis, and Brian McLaren tend to downplay issues central to the agenda of the evangelical right including abortion and homosexuality. Gushee chides the evangelical left for not addressing these issues as much as he would like.[8] However, Gushee notes that the evangelical center also shares many common characteristics with the evangelical left. Some of these include an emphasis on the plight of the poor as central to a biblical moral agenda, opposition to the routine resort to war, high priority given to the environment and climate change, a commitment to human rights which includes opposition to torture and a “constrained, critical patriotism rather than a nationalist ‘God and country’ stance.”[9]

Unlike the evangelical right and the evangelical left, Gushee explains that the evangelical center is more carefully committed to political independence and aims to avoid partisan entanglements. Where the evangelical left speaks of racial justice, the evangelical center prefers racial reconciliation. According to Gushee, the evangelical center rejects the “working pacifism” of the evangelical left and instead is willing to support wars that “meet a careful rendering of the just-war theory.” Gushee explains that the evangelical center does not resonate with the evangelical left’s tilt toward the Palestinians in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. While mostly silent on issues of gender and public education, the evangelical center speaks more openly and extensively than the evangelical left on abortion and gay marriage.[10]

B. Moderate Baptists and the Emerging Evangelical Center

Greg Warner, editor of the Associated Baptist Press, asked in a recent article, “If the Religious Right is losing its influence, as many pundits predict, will it be replaced by the ‘other’ evangelicals – a center and left coalition with a broader social agenda and a kinder, gentler brand of cultural engagement?”[11] One month later, Warner came back to his readers with another interesting question. He asked, “If an ‘evangelical center’ emerges from the current shake-up in American politics, will moderate Baptists[12] be part of it?”[13]

In his opinion pieces as a guest columnist for Associated Baptist Press, David Gushee has repeatedly answered Warner’s two questions in the affirmative.[14] He believes that most moderate Baptists are also evangelical centrists.[15] “Most moderate Baptists are center or center-left evangelicals, they just don’t know it,” says Gushee.[16] He notes that “if you define ‘evangelicalism’ as core doctrinal beliefs, there’s no reason why Baptists would not be evangelicals.” Dating the roots of the evangelical movement to the Protestant renewal movements of the sixteenth century, Gushee defines an “evangelical” as one who holds that the final, ultimate authority is the Bible, believes that Jesus Christ died for the salvation of all, believes in the importance of evangelism and in “engaged orthodoxy” or applying faith to bear on culture.[17] Gushee believes that by this definition over ninety percent of white Baptists in the South and ninety-five percent of African-American Baptists are evangelical Christians.[18] According to Gushee, one of his goals is to help moderate Baptists “reclaim the term ‘evangelical’ and reassociate with other evangelicals who are kindred spirits, if they only knew it.”[19]

Gushee is correct to note that moderate Baptists share much in common with those whom he dubs “evangelical centrists.”[20] The recent New Baptist Covenant Celebration held in Atlanta, Georgia proves this true. Organized by mostly moderate Baptist leaders, including former United States President Jimmy Carter, President Bill Underwood of Mercer University and Jimmy Allen, the last moderate President of the Southern Baptist Convention, the New Baptist Covenant is an informal alliance of thirty Baptist organizations representing over twenty million Baptists in North America.[21] This informal alliance hosted an historic three-day celebration in January, 2008 which focused on many of the same issues that Gushee asserts “evangelical centrists” are concerned with. The special sessions of this celebration which attracted more than 15,000 Baptists addressed issues such as: poverty, criminal justice reform, respecting religious diversity, peacemaking, immigration reform, the intersection of faith and public policy, sex trafficking, race and racism, HIV/AIDS pandemic, and religious liberty.[22]

Indeed, evangelical centrists share much in common with moderate Baptists. However, most moderate Baptists and their organizations would differ strongly with evangelical centrists on issues pertaining to the separation of church and state. In his book, Gushee emphasizes that the evangelical center as a whole is committed to a “substantive neutrality” reading of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause rather than a “strict separationist” reading of that same clause.[23] He notes that this “substantive neutrality” interpretation of the Establishment Clause is a “consensus position” among evangelical centrists.[24]

Another “consensus position” among evangelical centrists deals with the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause. Gushee explains that the evangelical center supports the free exercise rights of evangelical churches and schools to “hire/admit according to religious and moral conviction tests appropriate to our faith tradition.”[25] According to Gushee, the evangelical center also supports the “equal access of faith-based organizations to government funds if their programs are effective in meeting social needs.” Gushee points out that evangelical centrists have been supportive of President Bush’s Faith-Based Initiative because they believe such programs “reflects a proper understanding of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause.”[26] He notes that these religious liberty views are “rooted in the broad embrace of the ‘substantive neutrality’ interpretation of the First Amendment.”[27]

It appears that Gushee’s treatment of church-state issues has created a false dichotomy between substantive neutrality and strict separationism. Gushee does not have to limit the perspectives toward the interpretation of the Establishment Clause to two options. As renowned church-state expert Carl Esbeck points out in his widely read article entitled "Five Views of Church-State Relations in Contemporary American Thought," that there are more than two ways to interpret the Establishment Clause. Further, in his book, Gushee neglects to explicitly define what the term strict separationism actually means. Carl Esbeck's widely accepted definition of strict separationism asserts that a strict separationist desires an asbolute separation between civil affairs and religon even though they know that such is not presently possible in America.[28] Does Gushee accept this common definition of strict separationism? If the answer is yes, then surely Gushee knows that not all separationists are strict separationists. Or is Gushee really using "strict separationist" as a pejorative term to describe the average run of the mill separationist who opposes school vouchers and President Bush's Faith-Based Initiative?

[1] David Gushee, The Future of Faith in American Politics: The Public Witness of the Evangelical Center (Waco: Baylor University Press, 2008), xviii. In an opinion piece written after the publication of his book, Gushee explained that polling data led him to argue that “non-white evangelicals and younger evangelicals definitely skewed in a centrist or more liberal direction overall than did older white evangelicals.” This data led Gushee to project that generational change and increasing demographic diversity among evangelicals in America “would lead to the emergence of a strong and visible evangelical center, a more muscular evangelical left, and in some cases a center-left coalition representing half or more of American evangelicals.” See David Gushee, “Emerging evangelical center may decide 200 election,” Associated Baptist Press, February 19, 2008, under “Opinion,” http://www.abpnews.com/3037.article [accessed April 4, 2008].

[2] David Gushee, “Emerging evangelical center may decide 2008 election,” Associated Baptist Press, February 19, 2008, under “Opinion,” http://www.abpnews.com/3037.article [accessed April 4, 2008].

[3] Ibid.

[4] Gushee, The Future of Faith in American Politics, 3.

[5] Gushee defines the “evangelical right” as the “conservative evangelical activist community” which includes organizations such as the American Family Association, Christian Coalition, Concerned Women for America, Eagle Forum, Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, High Impact Leadership Coalition, Moral Majority Coalition, Southern Baptist Convention Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and the Traditional Values Coalition. See Gushee, The Future of Faith in American Politics, 23-55. Gushee notes that the “evangelical left” like most evangelicals roots their faith in the authority of the Bible. However, Gushee says the evangelical left is left because “it reads Scripture and interprets the demands of Christian discipleship to require what in our contemporary American and Christian contexts are considered left-leaning moral commitments.” See Gushee, The Future of Faith in American Politics, 58.

[6] Gushee, The Future of Faith in American Politics, 49.

[7] Gushee notes that only majority opposition exists among centrist evangelicals to the harvesting of stem cells from existing embryos. Gushee, The Future of Faith in American Politics, 88.

[8] Ibid, 88-89.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid, 90-91

[11] Greg Warner, “Will ‘evangelical center’ emerge to rival waning Christian Right?” Associated Baptist Press, February 21, 2008, http://www.abpnews.com/3044.article [April 15, 2008].

[12] Moderate Baptists trace their Baptist lineage through the Southern Baptist Convention. Most moderate Baptists are actually former Southern Baptists. Historically, moderate Baptists have repeatedly affirmed the centrality of biblical authority but they resisted inerrancy as dogmatism. To this day, moderates continue in their attempt to affirm what they consider the heart of the Baptist heritage: the authority of the Bible for religious faith and practice, soul competency, personal religious experience, the priesthood of all believers, religious liberty and the separation of church and state, local church autonomy, anti-creedalism, and unity in missions and evangelism amidst some theological diversity. Moderate Baptists cooperate together at the national level primarily through the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and to a much lesser extent the Mainstream Baptist Network. Some moderate Baptists in certain geographic areas have aligned themselves with the American Baptist Churches USA. At the state level, large numbers of moderate Baptists can be found participating in the Baptist General Convention of Texas, Baptist General Association of Virginia and the Baptist General Convention of Missouri. Moderate Baptists are also deeply supportive of the work of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty and the Baptist World Alliance. In Texas, moderate Baptists turn to the Christian Life Commission to represent their social concerns at the Capitol in Austin. Though some “moderate Baptists” do not prefer being called “moderate,” this is the one adjective that has been used the most over the past thirty years to describe this particular group of Baptists. As a moderate Baptist myself, I hope the day will come when “Baptist” is no longer synonymous with “Southern Baptist” in American culture and the “moderate” qualifier will no longer be necessary.

[13] Greg Warner, “Will Baptists be counted among those in the ‘evangelical center’?,” Associated Baptist Press, March 13, 2008, http://www.abpnews.com/3081.article [accessed April 4, 2008].

[14] David Gushee, “Toward a truly evangelical Baptist future,” Associated Baptist Press, November 6, 2007, http://www.abpnews.com/2839.article [accessed April 4, 2008]; also, Greg Warner, “Will ‘evangelical center’ emerge to rival waning Christian Right?” and Greg Warner, “Will Baptists be counted among those in the ‘evangelical center’?”

[15] Gushee, “Toward a truly evangelical Baptist future.”

[16] Warner, “Will ‘evangelical center’ emerge to rival waning Christian Right?”

[17] For several decades, there has been debate as to whether Southern Baptists (and those Baptists with Southern Baptist roots) are actually evangelicals. In a 1976 Newsweek story, the late Foy Valentine who was then the Executive Director of the Christian Life Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention proclaimed “We are not evangelicals. That's a Yankee word." See Foy Valentine, quoted by Kenneth L. Woodward in “Born Again! The Year of the Evangelicals,” Newsweek, October 25, 1976, 76. Consequently, this issue of whether Southern Baptists are evangelicals was classically discussed in a book edited by James Leo Garrett, Jr., E. Glenn Hinson and James E. Tull entitled Are Southern Baptists "Evangelicals”? See James Leo Garrett, Jr., E. Glenn Hinson, and James E. Tull, eds., Are Southern Baptists “Evangelicals”? (Macon: Mercer University Press, 1983). Ten years later in 1993 this conversation was continued in a book edited by David Dockery (including contributions from Garrett and Hinson) entitled, Southern Baptists and American Evangelicals: The Conversation Continues. See David Dockery, ed., Southern Baptists and American Evangelicals: The Conversation Continues (Nashville: Broadman and Holman Press, 1993).

[18] Gushee, “Toward a truly evangelical Baptist future.”

[19] Warner, “Will ‘evangelical center’ emerge to rival waning Christian Right?” According to Gushee, Baptists in the South “remain extraordinarily fixated on Baptist identity rather than…international ecumenism.” He asks, “When will we (Baptists) discover the rest of the global Christian family?”

[20] Warner, “Will ‘evangelical center’ emerge to rival waning Christian Right?” Unlike Gushee and many evangelical centrists, moderate Baptists have been relatively silent on gay marriage and other issues relating to homosexuality. Moderate Baptists have also not articulated one view on abortion. Moderate Baptists generally have not been involved in the pro-life movement and few, if any, moderate leaders (unlike Gushee) have advocated for the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade. My experience growing up in Baptist life has taught me that most moderate Baptists would agree with fellow Baptist Jimmy Carter who is personally opposed to abortion and the Texas Christian Life Commission which has argued that abortion may be permissible in certain circumstances. This nuanced position would put most moderate Baptists at odds with many in the pro-life movement.

[21] Of the thirty participating organizations, seventeen can be described as “moderate Baptist” organizations or as organizations run by “moderate Baptists.”

[22] See the Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant website at http://www.newbaptistcelebration.com.

[23] Gushee, The Future of Faith in American Politics, 90-91.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Ibid. Referencing “substantive neutrality” proponent Stephen Monsma, Gushee also notes that while the evangelical center has been supportive of programs such as the Faith-Based Initiative, some are not happy with the motivations or implementations on the part of President Bush’s Administration.

[27] Ibid. Throughout The Future of Faith in American Politics, Gushee points to the centrist statement published in 2004 by the National Association of Evangelicals entitled “For The Health Of The Nations: An Evangelical Call to Civic Responsibility,” which he describes as the most “careful, thorough, and balanced corporate statement of evangelical public witness that has yet to be offered.” According to Gushee, this centrist statement which characterizes the convictions of the evangelical center defends a substantive neutrality interpretation of the First Amendment. It reads, “when government assists nongovernmental organizations as part of an evenhanded educational, social service, or health care program, religious organizations receiving such aid do not become ‘state actors’ with constitutional duties.”

[28] Carl Esbeck, “Five Views of Church-State Relations in Contemporary American Thought,” Brigham Young University Law Review, no. 2 (1986): 379-385.

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EthicsDaily On An Evangelical Manifesto

Check out the latest from EthicsDaily.com on the recently released Evangelical Manifesto.

This article is Robert Parham and Bob Allen at their finest.

Here's the concluding line:
"Until evangelicals muster up the courage to address their own most egregious sins and shortcomings, the message they want to share about the good news of the gospel will fall on deaf ears."

"It's hard to take seriously generic confessions about vague wrongdoings," Parham added. "Surely evangelicals can do better than that."

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

An Evangelical Manifesto Released

Earlier today, the much talked about "Evangelical Manifesto" was released. It is entitled:

An Evangelical Manifesto: A Declaration of Evangelical Identity and Public Commitment

The Baptists who signed this document include Timothy George (steering committee), Ergun Caner (author) and David Gushee.

Other notable names include: Joel Hunter, Max Lucado, Mark Knoll, Ron Sider, Miroslav Volf, and Jim Wallis.

Folks who have signed their name since its release include Brian Kaylor, Joe Carter (Evangelical Outpost), David Rogers (son of Adrian Rogers), Rick Thompson (Baptist Blogger).

We confess that we Evangelicals have betrayed our beliefs by our behavior.

All too often we have trumpeted the gospel of Jesus, but we have replaced biblical truths with therapeutic techniques, worship with entertainment, discipleship with growth in human potential, church growth with business entrepreneurialism, concern for the church and for the local congregation with expressions of the faith that are churchless and little better than a vapid spirituality, meeting real needs with pandering to felt needs, and mission principles with marketing precepts. In the process we have become known for commercial, diluted, and feel-good gospels of health, wealth, human potential, and religious happy talk, each of which is indistinguishable from the passing fashions of the surrounding world.

All too often we have set out high, clear statements of the authority of the Bible, but flouted them with lives and lifestyles that are shaped more by our own sinful preferences and by modern fashions and convenience.

All too often we have prided ourselves on our orthodoxy, but grown our churches through methods and techniques as worldly as the worldliest of Christian adaptations to passing expressions of the spirit of the age....

All too often we have abandoned our Lord’s concern for those in the shadows, the twilight, and the deep darkness of the world, and become cheerleaders for those in power and the naïve sycophants of the powerful and the rich.

All too often we have tried to be relevant, but instead of creating “new wineskins for the new wine,” we have succumbed to the passing fashions of the moment and made noisy attacks on yesterday’s errors, such as modernism, while capitulating tamely to today’s, such as postmodernism......

We call for an expansion of our concern beyond single-issue politics, such as abortion and marriage, and a fuller recognition of the comprehensive causes and concerns of the Gospel, and of all the human issues that must be engaged in public life. Although we cannot back away from our biblically rooted commitment to the sanctity of every human life, including those unborn, nor can we deny the holiness of marriage as instituted by God between one man and one woman, we must follow the model of Jesus, the Prince of Peace, engaging the global giants of conflict, racism, corruption, poverty, pandemic diseases, illiteracy, ignorance, and spiritual emptiness, by promoting reconciliation, encouraging ethical servant leadership, assisting the poor, caring for the sick, and educating the next generation. We believe it is our calling to be good stewards of all God has entrusted to our care so that it may be passed on to generations yet to be born.....

We repudiate on the other side the partisans of a naked public square, those who would make all religious expression inviolably private and keep the public square inviolably secular. Often advocated by a loose coalition of secularists, liberals, and supporters of the strict separation of church and state, this position is even less just and workable because it excludes the overwhelming majority of citizens who are still profoundly religious. Nothing is more illiberal than to invite people into the public square but insist that they be stripped of the faith that makes them who they are and shapes the way they see the world.

Patterson Speaks; Attacks Frank Page & "Liberals"

Unlike Al Mohler, Paige Patterson does not publish his opinions very often. Nor does he grant many interview requests. However, today PP has released an 1800 word diatribe via SBC's propaganda-arm, Baptist Press. A few interesting snippets are below:

Just over a week ago, Lifeway released a study which showed that the number of people baptized in Southern Baptist churches had fallen for the third straight year in 2007 and this number of folks baptized is the SBC's lowest since 1987. In response to this study, SBC President Frank Page blamed the decline in part on a perception that Southern Baptists are "mean-spirited, hurtful and angry."

In his op-ed, Patterson comes back swinging at Frank Page with this:
Who are these "mean-spirited" among us? Is it also "mean-spirited" to make broad imprecise allegations of "mean-spiritedness"? Are some who make these charges guilty themselves?
And Patterson continues with a few swipes at "moderates and liberals." He writes:
Thrashing the Conservative Renaissance as though it were somehow responsible for this decline is irresponsible. One need only ask for the evangelistic and missionary statistics for the moderate churches whose leaders provided the opposition to conservatives in order to debunk this allegation. The present state cannot please our Lord, but it is a safe bet that He is more pleased about what we are attempting globally than about the social and environmentally based programs of moderate and liberal churches. If the Conservative Renaissance had not happened, our evangelism would look exactly like moderate churches, which are in decline.
Patterson is one classy fundamentalist.

When the going gets tough, deny deny deny and then blame the "liberals"

And since when did the so-called "Conservative Resurgence" become the "Conservative Renaissance" ?

What's that all about?

Monday, May 05, 2008

Two Rivers Baptist Fails To Oust Members

Back in early October, Rev. Jerry Sutton - a former SBC Presidential candidate - survived an "ouster" vote by the margin of 1,101-286 at Two Rivers Baptist Church in Nashville. Why the vote? Here's a snippet from ABP:
[Sutton] has been at the center of a controversy over his leadership since the summer. In September, a group of 54 church members sued Sutton and other church officials for alleged financial improprieties. The suit charged Sutton with refusing to release church records to members and with using church funds on his daughter’s wedding reception and other questionable expenses. Sutton has repeatedly denied the allegations.
The Associated Press reported last August on allegations of a former Administrative Assistant of Rev. Sutton who claimed that he looked at pornography on his church computer and had an affair with a church staff member. According to Two River's Executive Pastor, these charges were investigated by "human resource officials" who found no evidence of porn or the affair.

After the lawsuit was dismissed, Sutton called on the plaintiff members to "repent for their sins" or risk expulsion from the congregation. The members were accused of harming the health of Two Rivers by filing the lawsuit. According to a letter from Sutton, in order to avoid church discipline, the members must apologize in writing, drop all lawsuits against the church and stop meeting together.

In the middle of January 2008, a second similar lawsuit was filed by members of Two Rivers.

On April 23, 2008, Sutton announced in a letter to the congregation that a vote would be held to oust the 71 plaintiff members.

Meanwhile, the members continued to push forward and announced their plans to ask a Court for access to more detailed financial records. The Tennessean reported that a Two Rivers staff member tipped off the members that financial records had been tossed in a church Dumpster. From The Tennessean:
"Inside, we found counseling records, credit card receipts, and even staff Social Security numbers," said Dennis Shipp, one of the leaders of the plaintiffs. "Those should never have been put in the trash. Apparently, the church can't even afford a shredder."

Shipp and other plaintiffs also say they found what appear to be more personal expenses on church credit cards.

"We have questions that need to be answered," said Shipp, a former bank examiner for the state.
Yesterday - May 5, 2008 - Two Rivers held a vote to expel the 71 plaintiff members.

Jerry Sutton lost...by four votes.
A total of 1000 votes were cast by TRBC members. 663 members voted to support the motion to dismiss the plaintiffs from TRBC membership. 337 members voted not to support the motion to dismiss the plaintiffs from TRBC membership. The percentage of votes to dismiss was 66.3%. The percentage needed to dismiss is 66.6%. Therefore the motion failed by 4 votes.

Though Robert’s Rules of Order states that those being disciplined are not entitled to vote, the deacon chairman made a decision before the beginning of the counting process to include the votes of the 71 plaintiffs. Mark Freeman, attorney for the plaintiffs was present to observe the vote count.
There is some irony in all of this. If my older readers will think back to 1988 - exactly 20 years ago in San Antonio. At the 1988 annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, The Rev. Jerry Sutton brought to the floor of the convention Resolution #5 entitled "On The Priesthood of the Believer." Here's a snippet:
WHEREAS, The doctrine of the priesthood of the believer can be used to justify the undermining of pastoral authority in the local church.
...Be it further RESOLVED, That the doctrine of the priesthood of the believer in no way contradicts the biblical understanding of the role, responsibility, and authority of the pastor which is seen in the command to the local church in Hebrews 13:17, "Obey your leaders, and submit to them; for they keep watch over your souls, as those who will give an account;"
I have to wonder whether Jerry Sutton blames the historical Baptist distinctive known as "The Priesthood of ALL Believers" for his troubles at Two Rivers?

Sutton and others might do themselves a favor and remember the words of Stewart Newman, a former distinguished professor theology at Southeastern Seminary, who often described pastors and other church leaders as "FIRST AMONG EQUALS."

First Among Equals = The Baptist Way

Friday, May 02, 2008

Evangelical Centrists and Moderate Baptists

Like last week, this upcoming week will be a light blogging period for me. I've got a paper to write and my last thesis chapter to finish. So, in light of that - I'm going to post a paper that I recently wrote. It's divided up into 5 parts with today being the Introduction. After I've posted all of the 5 parts, I'll link to the entire PDF.

The paper is entitled:




Over the last two years, evangelical authors and activists have begun to argue that a coalition of irenic evangelicals has emerged as a bona fide constituency in American politics. These centrist evangelicals have embraced a broadened social agenda that according to a recent Beliefnet.com poll ranks poverty, the environment, health care, education, the economy, and ending torture and the Iraq war as more important issues than abortion and gay marriage, the two pet issues of the Religious Right's sex-and-abortion agenda.[1] Richard Cizik, Vice President for Governmental Affairs of the National Association of Evangelicals and one of the most prominent evangelical lobbyists in the United States, claims that "a historic shift is occurring." Cizik says this shift is the "equivalent to an earthquake in slow motion - people aren't sensing it."[2] Long time progressive Christian activist Jim Wallis describes this slow-motion earthquake as a new Great Awakening - "a revival of faith that is directly leading to new calls and commitments for social justice."[3]

Baptist ethicist and evangelical activist David Gushee sees hints of this new Great Awakening and can also feel the seismic waves. In his new book, The Future of Faith in American Politics: The Public Witness of the Evangelical Center, Gushee argues that an "evangelical center" is emerging onto the political scene which represents as many as one-third of America's evangelical community. According to Gushee, this "emerging evangelical center" may decide the 2008 Presidential Election in November.[4]

Meanwhile, another group of centrist Christians has re-emerged in recent months on the national scene. In January 2008, Atlanta played host to over 15,000 Baptists affiliated with organizations representing over a combined twenty million Baptists located in North America. This event, called the Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant, focused on many of the same social issues that the "evangelical center" is concerned with such as poverty, HIV/AIDs and immigration reform.[5]

Many of the organizers and participating organizations involved in the historic celebration are former Southern Baptists whom I describe in this paper as "moderate Baptists." In light of the emergence of an "evangelical center" in American politics, some have asked whether moderate Baptists will join up with this centrist coalition. Thus, the purpose of this paper is to analyze this important question and the possible ramifications for moderate Baptists if this important question is answered in the affirmative.

This paper is divided into four parts. Part I will examine David Gushee's argument for an "Emerging Evangelical Center." Part I will address the characteristics of this "Emerging Evangelical Center" with an emphasis on the church-state views of this coalition. Attention will also be given to the relationship between moderate Baptists and this new evangelical center. Part II will focus exclusively on the legal theory of "substantive neutrality” which Gushee emphasizes is the theory that evangelical centrists use to interpret the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause. Part III focuses on two moderate Baptist supported organizations, the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty and the Texas Christian Life Commission, which have consistently opposed all efforts to fund religious education and finance pervasively religious organizations. Part IV will offer a few concluding thoughts on any potential relationship between the evangelical center and moderate Baptists.

[1] Greg Warner, “Will ‘evangelical center’ emerge to rival waning Christian Right?,” Associated Baptist Press, February 21, 2008, http://www.abpnews.com/3044.article [accessed April 4, 2008].

[2] Ibid.

[3] Jim Wallis, The Great Awakening: Reviving Faith & Politics in a Post-Religious Right America (New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 2008), 3-4.

[4] Warner, “Will ‘evangelical center’ emerge to rival waning Christian Right?”

[5] See the Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant website at http://www.newbaptistcelebration.com.

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