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

Sunday, August 31, 2008

2 Baptist Deacons Seek Alabama Seat in Congress

This is an interesting story.

Two deacons from First Baptist Church of Montgomery, Alabama are running against one another in a high-profile race for an open seat in the United States House of Representatives. Montgomery Mayor Bobby Bright is the nominee for the Democratic Party. Alabama State Representative Jay Love is the Republican nominee. The two deacons are duking it out to represent Alabama's 2nd Congressional District, a seat held by retiring Republican Congressman Terry Everrett. Here's a snippet:
On Sundays, both men and their families can be found in the pews at the 5,000-member First Baptist Church, just five blocks from the Capitol in downtown Montgomery. Both Bright, 56, and Love, 39, agree that being deacons means they are "brothers in Christ," a concept that doesn't always translate well in the political world.

While tight, closely watched races often turn negative, the ads run by Bright and Love so far have not been of the mud-slinging variety. "Certainly we're both brothers in Christ. We differ politically and about the direction the country needs to go in, but at the end of the day we have that in common. Just because he's a Democrat and I'm a Republican is no reason we can't worship and serve together," Love said.

"Both of us are deacons, brothers in the same church," Bright said.

According to the article, both deacons try their best to avoid politics at First Baptist:

"I don't solicit support or try to get someone to support me when I'm at church," Bright said.

As for Wolf (Pastor of FBC), he said he would offer spiritual support to both candidates, but they should not expect him to choose political sides.

"I'm voting for Jesus," Wolf said.

Unfortunately for Pastor Wolf, Jesus won't be on the ballot come November 4.

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Friday, August 29, 2008

The Faith of America's Hottest VP Candidate

As surely everyone now knows, John McCain has now tapped Sarah Palin, a former beauty queen turned Governor of Alaska, as his running mate. Several publications have referred to Palin as "America's Hottest Governor."

For weeks, the Southern Baptist Convention's "Ethics" guru Dick Land has been pushing hard for McCain to pick Palin. Land described Palin to a CBS reporter as a "person of strong faith."

So what exactly is Governor Sarah Palin's "faith" ?

A thorough search of the internets didn't turn up many specific results. However, several bloggers have reported that Palin is a "regular attendee" of Church on the Rock in Wasilla, Alaska where Palin grew up and served as Mayor. According to this newsletter (HT: Dallas Morning News), we know that has a history with the Assemblies of God denomination. The newsletter mentions Palin's junior high pastor and current Alaska State Superintendent, Ted Boatsman, who once pastored Wasilla Assembly of God (belief statement here). The newsletter also mentions that when in Juneau Palin attends Juneau Christian Center, a Pentecostal congregation.

Here's some info on Church on the Rock in Wasilla where Palin supposedly attends when not in Juneau.

Church on the Rock is a rather new congregation. It began in January, 2000 with seven families. The church quickly outgrew their sanctuary which held 200 people and now holds two services on Sunday mornings. Read the history of Church on the Rock here. Their doctrinal statement can be found here. No mention of the Bible as inerrant. Their doctrine statement describes the Bible as "inspired by God, the Bible is truth without any mixture of error."

The senior pastor of Church on the Rock is a guy named David Pepper. However, Church on the Rock lists a female on staff as a "Pastor." Laurie Miller and her husband Chris Miller serve as "Equipping Pastors" at Church on the Rock.

And here's a bit about Palin on a few social issues:

According to the Boston Globe, Palin believes that abortion should be banned for any reason other than saving the life of the mother. She opposes stem cell research (I assume that means she opposes EMBRYONIC stem cell research). She opposes physician-assisted suicide. She opposes giving state health benefits for same-sex partners. And she supports a constitutional amendment to bar such benefits.

Here's where she gets a little kooky.

Palin believes that creationism should be discussed in public schools. Here's Palin from a couple of years ago:
Growing up with being so privileged and blessed to be given a lot of information on, on both sides of the subject -- creationism and evolution. It's been a healthy foundation for me. But don't be afraid of information and let kids debate both sides."
On Church-State issues:

When asked during a debate how she would feel if she walked into a church and heard a minister or pastor endorse a candidate for governor, Palin responded:
“A pastor, a priest, a rabbi, certainly they have the freedom to say whatever they want to say. And you know, thank the lord that we do have that freedom of speech....Faith is very important to so many of us here in America, and I would never support any government effort to stifle our freedom of religion or freedom of expression or freedom of speech...You know, I would just caution maybe a pastor to be very careful if they’re in front of a congregation and they decide to endorse one candidate over another. You know, there may be some frustration with that candidacy endorsement being made manifest by a few, fewer dollars in the offering plate, so I would just offer that bit of caution. (laughing.)...But, no, I’ll tell you, freedom of speech is so precious and it’s worth defending and of course freedom of religion and freedom of expression will be things that I will fight for.”
Religious Right leaders are already gushing over McCain's VP choice.

Here's Dick Land:
"Governor Palin is a vice-presidential selection which shows that John McCain at the age of 72 today is still able to think outside the box. Governor Palin will delight the Republican base. She is pro-life. It appears that Senator Obama played it safe in picking Senator Biden and Senator McCain made the bold and unconventional choice in picking Governor Palin."
I'm not an expert on the Presidency. But would Sarah Palin's selection as VP make her the first Pentecostal on a major party ticket?

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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Obama Channeling My Favorite Aaron

That would be Aaron Sorkin.

From Obama's historic speech:

A nation of whiners? Tell that to the proud auto workers at a Michigan plant who, after they found out it was closing, kept showing up every day and working as hard as ever, because they knew there were people who counted on the brakes that they made. Tell that to the military families who shoulder their burdens silently as they watch their loved ones leave for their third or fourth or fifth tour of duty. These are not whiners. They work hard and give back and keep going without complaint. These are the Americans that I know.

It’s not because John McCain doesn’t care, it’s because John McCain doesn’t get it.
- Sen. Barak Obama

Battle of the *Baptist* Universities: Baylor vs. Wake Forest

So here's a short, somewhat shaky clip that I took with my digital camera from tonight's season opener at Floyd-Casey Stadium in Waco, Texas between Baylor University and Wake Forest University. The clip shows Baylor scoring their second and final touchdown of the evening. The Bears went on to lose to the Demon Deacons by a final score of 41-13.

Watch below and enjoy experiencing the losing tradition that is Baylor football.

Go Dawgs!


Sunday, August 24, 2008

James Dunn as Neglected Theologian

Michael Westmoreland-White of Levellers is hosting a blog series on Neglected Theologians.

The Neglected Theologians that have been recovered in this series include:

The Venerable Bede (post authored by Tim Furry, Ph.D. student, University of Dayton)

The Blumhardts (post authored by Dr. Christian T. Collins Winn, Associate Prof of Historical and Systematic Theology, Bethel University)

Johann Baptist Metz (post authored by D.W. Horstkoetter, recent M.A. (Theology & Ethics) from Union Theological Seminary and soon-to-be Ph.D. student at Marquette University)

My post on James Milton Dunn is the fourth installment in this Neglected Theologians blog series. Though I'm a tad biased, I'd say it's a pretty decent contribution. James Dunn is not your traditional theologian but he is a theologian nonetheless - an activist theologian for religious liberty.

Check it out here.


Thursday, August 21, 2008

Baptist Perspectives On Saddleback Civil Forum

Mark McEntire is an Associate Professor of Religion at Belmont University in Nashville. In his recent column for EthicsDaily.com titled How Fast Can Rick Warren Spin?, McEntire argues that last Saturday's Civil Forum on the Presidency held at Saddleback Church and hosted by the Saddleback Civil Forum (not Saddleback Church) violates the separation of church and state.

McEntire writes:
Let me confess that I believed from the beginning that the so-called "Faith Forum" held on Aug. 16 at the Saddleback Church in California and hosted by its pastor, Rick Warren, was a bad idea.

First, the idea that the two major candidates for president can be summoned to the church of a prominent pastor to kiss his ring and receive his blessing violates both my commitment to the separation of church and state and the kind of communal humility the church ought to demonstrate.

Second, the whole idea of a "faith forum" is a violation of at least the spirit of Article VI of the United States Constitution, which says that "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States." We have now reached a place in American society where it would be simply impossible for a person who is not a practicing Christian to make a serious run for president, or for lesser offices in most places in our country. Not only must a candidate be a practicing Christian, but he or she must be willing to talk about religious faith endlessly.
Other Baptists were skeptical of the Saddleback forum as well. On his blog, Southern Seminary President Al Mohler wrote:
Suffice it to say that I was not very hopeful about the Saddleback Civil Forum on the Presidency held at the California megachurch last Saturday night. In the first place, I am not really comfortable with the idea of hosting such a politically charged event in a church. No matter how the event is planned and projected, once the event starts it can turn into something far more politically volatile than planned. That is a truth I have learned by hard experience.
Welton Gaddy, another Baptist minister and Executive Director of The Interfaith Alliance, expressed sentiments similar to those of McEntire and Mohler. Gaddy writes:
I approached Rick Warren's Saddleback Civil Forum with much anticipation, but without a clear idea of how he would handle the sensitive issues at the intersection of religion and politics. I believe Pastor Warren set an example of civility that I hope others will follow, but at the same time some of his questions crossed a line that makes this election seem as if we are electing a pastor-in-chief rather than a commander-in-chief.
Meanwhile, Brent Walker - the Executive Director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty - offers a different perspective over at Newsweek's ON FAITH religion blog. Walker, an ordained Baptist minister and lawyer writes:
It is good to hear a prominent, evangelical pastor profess his belief in the separation of church and state. I also applaud Rev. Rick Warren's suggestion that separation of church and state does not require a separation of faith and politics. Clearly, there was nothing wrong, as some have suggested, with holding the forum in a church.

Separation of church and state is simply a shorthand expression for the rights guaranteed by Article VI of the Constitution (no religious test for public office) and the First Amendment (no establishment of religion, and no prohibition on the free exercise of religion). What the separation of church and state does not mean is that Americans must - or even should - segregate faith from politics. Nothing in the Constitution or our political culture compels Americans to divorce the moral values born of their religious faith from their decision on which political candidates and policies to support. Answers to questions about a candidate's faith should always be followed up by questions about how that faith will influence governance. Rev. Warren did a pretty good job of doing this throughout the evening.

Southern Baptist layman Charles "Chuck" Colson of the Prison Fellowship ministry seems to concur with Walker. Colson declares that Warren "got Church-State Balance Right." Here is Colson:
Warren stated it exactly right: There's an institutional separation between church and state. But faith and politics deal with the same questions--how we organize our common lives together. And faith's job is to bring moral truth to the exercise of politics.

The forum was a spectacular success. Most believers gained a much better understanding of where the two candidates stand on issues vital to their faith
I absolutely agree with Brent Walker and Rick Warren. Keeping church and state separate does not mean that we need keep faith and politics separate. In our pluralistic democracy, we must understand that religion and politics will mix, must mix and should mix. But we should remember the wise words of Baptist activists for religious liberty like James Dunn who often declared that "mixing politics and religion is inevitable but merging church an state is inexcusable." We should be aware that there exists "A Proper Mix" between religion and politics. Fortunately, that "proper mix" does not require us to "segregate faith from politics" as Walker notes.

I also tend to agree with Welton Gaddy when he notes that some of Rick Warren's questions "crossed a line." The "what does it mean to trust in Christ" question was probably inappropriate for a Presidential forum. However, as Baptist church-state expert Melissa Rogers has noted, "Warren's questions were generally much better than the ones journalists asked at previous candidate forums that were sponsored by religious groups....Generally speaking, those journalists focused on abstract theological questions and rather sensationalistic questions about the candidates' personal religious practices or sins. "

I'll conclude with a great snippet from an op-ed written by Baptist journalist Ruth Ann Dailey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Her op-ed can serve as a response to McEntire's claims. Here is Dailey:
One distraught caller to C-Span after the Saturday night forum objected to its entirety, citing Article VI of the Constitution: "No religious test shall ever be required as qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."

Her objection is illogical. Rick Warren is not the government, and he invited, rather than forced, the candidates to appear at his church....There's a considerable distance between a religious test for public office and a voter's inspection of a candidate. As the Rev. Warren said weeks before the event, "I believe in the separation of church and state, but I do not believe in the separation of faith and politics, because faith is simply a worldview, and everybody's got a worldview."

Anguished by the bitter church-state battles of my lifetime, I am grateful for Rick Warren's achievement. From the wall of separation's creation more than 350 years ago to its careful tending Saturday night, the Baptist tradition of the inviolability of the individual conscience has served the nation imperfectly, but well.

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Baylor Taps David Garland As Interim President

From the Baylor University Press Release:

WACO, Texas – Dr. Howard K. Batson, chairman of the Baylor University Board of Regents, announced today the appointment of Dr. David E. Garland as interim president of Baylor University. Garland will succeed Harold R. Cunningham, who has been acting president since July 2008.

Garland is dean of Baylor’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary, a position he has held since June 1, 2007. He joined the seminary faculty in 1997 as professor of Christian scriptures. He was appointed Truett’s associate dean for academic affairs in 2001, and was named The William M. Hinson Professor of Christian Scriptures in 2005. Garland, who will assume the duties of Baylor’s interim president immediately, will serve until a permanent president is named. He also will continue in his role as dean of the seminary.

The appointment comes after consultations with various university groups that focused on the characteristics desired in the individual selected and possible candidates to fill the position of interim president.

“We sought broad participation in this decision and consulted with members of the executive council, deans, executive committee members of the Faculty Senate, alumni, luminaries in Texas Baptist life and members of Baylor’s Board of Regents,” Batson said. “David was a consensus choice who was recognized as an outstanding scholar and able administrator.

“During his tenure as dean, Truett Seminary has recruited remarkably talented faculty and seen its enrollment grow to record levels. With a profound commitment to the integration of both the faith and scholarship elements of Baylor’s mission, Dean Garland embodies the best of vision 2012. He is not seeking this position on a permanent basis but has expressed a willingness to serve Baylor as interim while we move forward with a national search to fill the presidency,” Batson said.

“I am grateful for and humbled by this demonstration of trust by so many within the Baylor family. Our goals are significant and it will take all of us working together to continue our forward momentum. I ask your prayers, encourage your patience, and invite your active participation as we lead Baylor during the months ahead,” Garland said.

Before joining the Truett Seminary faculty in 1997, David Garland served as The Ernest and Mildred Hogan Professor of New Testament and chair of the Biblical Division at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he taught for 21 years.

A magna cum laude graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University and U.S. Navy veteran, Garland received his master of divinity and doctoral degrees from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and also completed postgraduate work at Eberhardt-Karls Universität in Tübingen, Germany, and Macquarrie University in Sydney, Australia. He is an elected member of the prestigious Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas.

Garland is the author of 13 books (including commentaries on Matthew, Mark, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Philippians, and Colossians and Philemon) and more than 50 academic journal articles. His most recent commentary on 1 Corinthians was given an Award of Merit by Christianity Today and was a finalist for the Gold Medallion presented by the Christian Booksellers Association. Two of his other books were awarded a Silver and Gold Medallion respectively. He has also edited four books and currently is the New Testament editor for the revision of the Expositor’s Bible Commentary.

Garland and his wife, Diana, dean of Baylor’s School of Social Work, published Flawed Families of the Bible: How God’s Grace Works through Imperfect Relationships, which was recently translated into Korean. Garland also is working on a commentary on the Gospel of Luke for the Zondervan Exegetical Commentary series for which he is a consulting editor.

In addition to his research, teaching and administrative duties, Garland directed both of Truett Seminary’s self-studies for accreditation by the Association of Theological Schools, from 2000-02 and 2005-07.

“Dr. Garland has many years of experience as a faculty member, both as a dedicated teacher and a respected scholar,” said Dr. Georgia Green, associate dean of the Baylor School of Music and chair of the Faculty Senate. “These faculty credentials combined with his experience as an academic administrator make him an excellent choice for this appointment.”

“I have every confidence David Garland will do an excellent job as interim president,” said Dr. Donald D. Schmeltekopf, Provost Emeritus at Baylor. “At one level, he embodies the very best of Baylor’s tradition of the scholar-teacher. At another level, David understands fully Baylor’s unique challenge to be the top Protestant research university in the country. I know those who care about Baylor will rally to his support.”

“It is encouraging that we have such a fine person in David Garland to serve in this role,’ said Jeff Kilgore, executive vice president and CEO of the Baylor Alumni Association. “As he has done at Truett, I think David should do a fine job continuing to build consensus through a process of inclusion on campus. I look forward to working with him and hope that this appointment is indicative of what’s more to come for the Baylor family.”

In the coming months, Baylor regents will study best practices in presidential searches in anticipation of a national effort to identify Baylor’s next permanent president. The interim president will not be considered a candidate in a broader search for a permanent president.

Here's a link to the Waco Trib story.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Southern Baptist Pastor Caught Plagiarizing

A Southern Baptist pastor named Dr. Samuel Krouse from California has been caught plagiarizing excerpts from Al Mohler's new book titled Atheism Remix in an op-ed published by the Colusa County Sun Herald.  It appears the Southern Baptist pastor must be a reader of Mohler's blog!  Large portions of the pastor's op-ed appear to have been lifted directly from Mohler's August 8 entry.

Check that out here at the blog, Friendly Atheist.

A few bloggers have pointed out this rather ironic plagiarized line from Krouse's op-ed:
Then, as now, the task is to articulate, communicate, and defend the Christian faith with intellectual integrity and evangelistic urgency.


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Otto Arango v. Baptist General Convention of Texas

Remember the Valley-Gate scandal which has dominated Texas Baptist life for the past two years? If you don't, here's a brief summary from a May, 2007 Baptist Standard article:
Last year, a five-month independent investigation uncovered evidence that 98 percent of the 258 new churches reported by three church planters in the Rio Grande Valley between 1999 and 2005 no longer exist, and some never existed—except on paper. Those churches received more than $1.3 million from the BGCT. The investigative team faulted the BGCT Executive Board staff for poor oversight, uneven management, failure to abide by internal guidelines and misplaced trust.
Otto Arango was one of the three church planters at the center of this independent investigation.

This week, Otto Arango filed a lawsuit against the Baptist General Convention of Texas. Other defendants listed in this lawsuit include David Montoya (aka Spiritual Samurai); Calvary Baptist Church of Mineral Wells, Texas; Palo Pinto Association; David Tamez; Dexton Shores; The River Ministry; Roberto Rodriguez; Primera Iglesia Bautista; Eloy Hernandez; and The Baptist Standard. The suit was filed by Arango's attorney, David Garcia, in Hidalgo County, Texas.

Otto Arango lists libel and slander as his causes of action.

In the 12-page complaint, Arango questions the legitimacy and accuracy of the data and conclusions reached by the attorney conducting the independent investigation on behalf of the BGCT.

Here are a few snippets from the complaint:
Rumors, insinuations and innuendos quickly spread throughout the Baptist community that Plaintiff Arango had allegedly misappropriated funds and had allegedly lied about the number of new churches he had started.

Defendants resorted to actual publication of some of the rumors and insinuations about Plaintiff through its various publications. The Defendant BGCT, through its Baptist Standard publication, printed some of the information about the investigation it had commissioned without confirming the truth of the information, even though the final report indicated that the information provided to the investigative team by the Defendants was unreliable.

The Defendant's knew or in all reasonable probability should have known that because their publication, the Baptist Standard is distributed throughout Texas, the libelous articles about Plaintiff could easily be picked up by secular newspapers. In fact, this is exactly what happened and the Plaintiff's name and the investigation into his alleged misappropriation of church funds soon found its way into the San Antonio Express, the Monitor of McAllen, the Dallas Morning News and other papers...
Defendants by and through its agents, servants and employees, made certain statements of purported fact that the Plaintiff had stolen and/or improperly used the Defendant BGCT funds, that he had allegedly lied about the number of churches he had formed, and that he had allegedly stolen money from the Defendants. These false and malicious statements have been and continue to be detrimental to Plaintiff's reputation, credibility and integrity as Plaintiff had a history of being an honest individual. Further, these statements were published to the Plaintiff and others in Defendants' publicatiosn such as the Baptist Standard and in its world wie website. These publications were made with malice and a lack of good faith. These defamatory statements have injured the Plaintiff in his business, trade, occupation and/or profession and in his ability to obtain future employment.

The Defendants, by and through its agents servants and employees communicated to others that Plaintiff had stolen funds, had improperly used church funds and had lied about the number of new Hispanic Baptist churches he had started. As a direct and proximate resolut of the publication of the defamatory statements, as stated above, Plaintiff has suffered damages including damages to his reputation as well as to his business, trade, occupation and/or profession which are in excess of the minimum jurisdictional limits of this court. As a result of the wrongful conduct and the acts described herein, Plaintiff has suffered damages as further alleged in this Petition.
And the Damages that Otto Arango is claiming:

Damages that Otto Arango is claiming:
  • Lost Earnings and Special Damages
  • "loss of earnings and loss of earning capacity will continue long into future, if not for the balance of Plaintiff's natural life. "
  • -Past and Future Mental Anguish
  • -Exemplary (Punitive) Damages
  • -Attorney's Fees and all other related suit costs
More to come. Just wanted to throw text from the suit online.

For complete coverage of the "Valley Funds Scandal" - see the Baptist Standard archive.

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Maintaining Moral Integrity & SBC Bashing

A week or so ago, Baptist ethicist David Gushee penned an op-ed for Associated Baptist Press titled Reflections from BWA: Missing and forgiving, Southern Baptists. In his column, Gushee called on "the Southern Baptist Convention to rejoin the world Baptist family, on humbler terms." Gushee also "called on" us former Southern Baptists to "renounce SBC bashing, and seek the spirit's power to forgive." Here's a snippet from Gushee's lecture to "ex-Southern Baptists":
I hope it is clear that I am sad rather than angry about the SBC split from the BWA, and -- for that matter -- the split between the conservatives who now firmly control the SBC and the moderates and progressives who have largely left it. Most of the time (but not always) I heard sadness rather than anger when the SBC was mentioned in Prague. There were a few presentations still characterized by what felt to me like active hostility toward the SBC.

These all came from Americans, mainly aggrieved former Southern Baptists. I wonder when the anger, hurt, and grief that so many still feel about the SBC will finally run its course. My sad fear is that a generation of wounded “exes” will never get there, and that only their retirement will end their public airing of the hurt and anger that resulted from the SBC controversy. It would be nice if Baptists could (re)learn a radical commitment to Christian forgiveness -- which would mean not that some of us weren’t hurt, but that all of us know that Jesus demands that we forgive.
Bruce Prescott, Executive-Director of Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists, responded to Gushee's column with a post titled Unity or Integrity. Here's Prescott:
What David Gushee doesn't realize is that forgiving Southern Baptists for leaving the Baptist World Alliance is relatively easy for many of us. We are constantly praying "father forgive them, they know not what they do." We don't seek the Spirit's power to forgive them, we seek it to forgive the myopia of those, like Gushee, who insist that unity is more important to Baptists than moral integrity.

...Unity on Southern Baptist terms, and those are the only terms by which unity can be achieved, is the last thing that the world needs today. Southern Baptists have completely undermined the integrity of the Baptist witness in the eyes of the world. More than anything else, the world needs to hear that all Baptists are not like Southern Baptists....Today, there is no way to maintain moral integrity as a Baptist without distinguishing yourself from Southern Baptists. That may look like "SBC bashing" to some. To others, it looks like an apology to the world on behalf of Baptists and a call for all Christians to repent.
And today, Robert Parham, Executive-Director of the Baptist Center for Ethics, has weighed in on his discussion.
When the Southern Baptist Convention began the process of defunding the Baptist World Alliance and bore false witness against it, some Southern Baptists, who claimed to support the BWA, were publicly silent. They dared not challenge openly, if at all, the fundamentalist leadership. They engaged in collusion with wrongdoing, and that helped the SBC's abandonment of the Baptist global commons. Some of those same folk now express grief that the SBC isn't part of the BWA. Wanting the SBC to rejoin the BWA, they have the gall to blame the so-called angry, former Southern Baptist moderates, who are near retirement, for being a stumbling block to a reunited Baptist family. They have apparently forgotten what happened only four short years ago.

Moral amnesia is never a virtue. It's always a prerequisite to a weak view of human sinfulness and a wrongful social analysis, which cripples constructive reformation. Moral forgetfulness enables one to erase one's own complicity in the failure to show courage and do the right thing.
And Parham's conclusion:
...Even so, some finger the aging SBC moderates as those who should repent for alleged SBC bashing, which apparently in the minds of some is what keeps the SBC from rejoining the BWA. That is moral rubbish. Free from domineering fundamentalism, the BWA is a stronger, healthier organization today than it has been in years, one that can engage in constructive dialogue and interface with the 21st century realities. This year in Prague global Baptists spoke openly about more inclusive leadership, dialogue with Muslims, the status of Baptists in the West Bank, the situation of the Roma people, global climate change and a host of other timely and touchy topics. That would not have been possible with the SBC in the room
First, it is worth noting that David Gushee has objected to Bruce Prescott's analysis. In the comment thread, Gushee states that he is "not calling for unity at the price of integrity." I usually like Gushee's ABP op-ed's especially his most recent writings on homosexuality. I enjoyed reading his book, The Future of Faith in American Politics. But rarely, if ever, do I find myself in total agreement with Gushee on the subject of the Southern Baptist Convention. Maybe our differences can be most easily explained by the fact that up until making the trek to Mercer University a year or so ago, Gushee was still a self-described "Southern Baptist ethicist." Honestly, I can't really recall the last time that I used the words "Southern Baptist" to describe myself. I suspect I was last a self-described "Southern Baptist" around 1992 when I was baptized, shortly before being shown the door by fundamentalists at First Baptist Soperton, Georgia. Another difference: Gushee describes the events of the 1980s as a "conservative resurgence" while I recognize the Southern Baptist Controversy for what it really was...a fundamentalist takeover - "fundamentalist" being a word that Gushee oddly refuses to use in this context.

I am, however, in complete agreement with Bruce Prescott when he says that "there is no way to maintain moral integrity as a Baptist without distinguishing yourself from Southern Baptists." If doing so qualifies as SBC Bashing, so be it. When having political/theological discussions at the University of Georgia, I ALWAYS had to explain myself to others. Folks I encountered just couldn't understand how I could vote Democrat and be a Baptist. Surely Gushee understands this reality. So, as long as "Baptist" is still synonymous with "Southern Baptist" in the minds of most Christians and non-Christians, I will continue to explain why I don't share Richard Land's politics and Al Mohler's theology. Doing so in positive terms might be a little difficult at times. But my integrity demands explaining to the uninformed what "Being Baptist" means to me and millions like me.

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Monday, August 04, 2008

NYC's Riverside Church Selects New Pastor

According to The New York Times, the search committee of Riverside Church in New York City has unanimously selected the Rev. Dr. Brad R. Braxton to succeed Dr. James Forbes.

Here's a snippet (HT: Melissa Rogers):

Members of the church, which is affiliated with the American Baptist Churches and the United Church of Christ, provided the search committee — which interviewed 65 candidates — with guidance on how to find a new senior minister. But they knew nothing of who would be nominated when they arrived for the 10:45 a.m. service on Sunday. . . .

Cheryle Wills, the chairwoman of the search committee, told the congregation that committee members who saw Dr. Braxton in action described him as “powerful” and “a genius.”

“All of us know that this young man has a vision much larger than ours,” Ms. Wills said after the service. “We want to be on the forefront of change. And not change for the sake of change. But change for the betterment and inclusion of all people.” . . .

Should he be confirmed by the congregation next month, Dr. Braxton, a religious scholar and son of a Baptist pastor from Salem, Va., could be expected to follow the tradition of the five earlier senior ministers of the church in becoming an influential voice in city and national affairs.

Dr. Braxton was not present on Sunday. Reached by telephone, he said he was “honored” by the prospect of becoming part of the church’s “noble legacy.” He said he views his role as both nurturing the spiritual journey of his congregants and speaking to “moral goodness and justice and peace for the diverse peoples of the world and the planet on which we live.”

“Part of what religious communities do in their best moments is to seek after the truth with a sense of humility and a sense of openness for the sake of the common good,” he said. “So I certainly would hope to continue in that marvelous legacy of congregational care internally, and bold, courageous, prophetic action externally, for which the Riverside Church has been known now for so many years.”

Dr. Braxton, who studied as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University, earned a Ph.D. in New Testament studies from Emory University while serving as senior minister for the Douglas Memorial Community Church in Baltimore, according to a biography released by the church. He has most recently been an associate professor at the Vanderbilt University Divinity School in Nashville.

Michael Westmoreland-White of Levellers offers a few thoughts on this announcement. Here's a snippet from his blog:

Now the search committee has unanimously recommended Rev. Dr. Brad Braxton as the next Senior Pastor. The congregation has yet to confirm the selection. Braxton currently teaches New Testament and Homiletics at Vanderbilt University Divinity School (and Vanderbilt’s Graduate Department of Religion) and previously taught at Wake Forest University Divinity School. The son of a Baptist minister and an ordained National Baptist minister, Braxton had been Senior Pastor at Douglas Memorial Community Church in Baltimore, MD while finishing his Ph.D. in NT at Emory University. He had also studied at Oxford University on a Rhodes Scholarship. He is the author of three books and is on the editorial board of The African American Pulpit.

Married to the former Lazetta Rainey, the Braxtons are the proud parents of Karis, a 2 year old daughter.

If elected by the congregation, Braxton, who is 39, is young enough to follow in the tradition of long-serving Senior Ministers at Riverside. (There have only been 5 Senior Ministers to date in Riverside’s history: Harry Emerson Fosdick, Robert McCracken (a Scottish Baptist who had taught theology in Canada), Ernest T. Campbell, William Sloan Coffin, Jr. (a United Church of Christ minister and former chaplain of Yale University), and James Forbes, Jr.) He would be the 2nd African-American Senior Minister in a row and would complement Forbes’ excellence in preaching with a more exegetical style as a biblical scholar. His experience in ecumenical ministry and his Baptist roots would keep Riverside connected to both parts of its history.


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