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Monday, November 24, 2008

A Southern Baptist War on the Catholic Church "Cult"

Meet Jim Smyrl

Jim Smyrl is the "Executive-Pastor of Education" at the 28,000-member First Baptist Church of Jacksonville, Florida. FBC Jacksonville is the third-largest church in the Southern Baptist Convention and one of the largest megachurches in America. As Executive -Pastor of Education, Smyrl is no lowly staff member. He's been dubbed "Second in Command" at FBC as Pastor Mac Brunson's "right-hand man."

Over on the Official Blog of FBC Jacksonville, has announced a series of upcoming posts on the "Catholic Cult."

Here's the announcement:
This series will examine the cultish nature of Catholicism. The primary reasons we are unwilling to consider Catholicism as a cult include: we have good friends that are Catholics, the history of the Catholicism makes it difficult to perceive them as a cult since most people view cults as quick up starts with a charismatic leader, and the lack of understanding of the one true grid by which to measure the validity of a movement.
Today, Monday - November 24, Smyrl posted the first installment in this "Catholic Cult" series.

Here's a snippet:
Why even address the issue of Catholicism? Doesn’t such a critical view of a particular religious group bring greater division among moral people in a society? Won’t I have a difficult time witnessing to Catholics if we refer to them as a cult? All are questions that represent a myriad of interrogatives that will no doubt be leveled against this series. However, isn’t it the historical precedence of evangelicals, coming from a biblical mandate (I John 4:1-3), to examine the culture, even religious groups, under the light of Scripture? And how will you ever lead a Catholic out of his sin and into the only sufficient grace of Christ if you do not clearly point out his sin? Surely we do not believe that we can lead anyone to Christ by generalizing or minimizing his sin.
Smyrl concludes his post by laying the foundation for his definition of a cult, based on a four-criteria test cult test. Read the rest here.

This isn't the first time that Smyrl has referred to the Catholic Church as a Cult. On November 14, Smyrl described a Catholic Priest from South Carolina as a "Cult Leader."

Not really sure how a reasonable, educated person responds to kooks like Smyrl.

But, we'll keep an eye on his Catholic Cult blog series throughout the week.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Wake Forest To Host New Baptist Covenant Gathering

4 Regional Gatherings of the New Baptist Covenant have now been announced for 2009.

2009 marks the 400th Anniversary of Baptists.

Here they are:

1. Wake Forest University (April 24-25, Press Release, Southeast Region)
Wake Forest University School of Divinity will host the Southeast regional gathering of the New Baptist Covenant, April 24-25, 2009. Maya Angelou, Reynolds Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest, will deliver the opening address and President Jimmy Carter will present the closing address. The theme of the conference is “This is God’s Year to Act: Responding to a Society in Crisis.” The conference is free and open to the public....A Friday evening dinner sponsored by Baptists Today magazine will honor James Dunn, Resident Professor of Christianity and Public Policy at the School of Divinity, with a lifetime achievement award.

2. Norman, Oklahoma (August 6-7, Press Release, Midwest Region)
The Steering Committee for the New Baptist Covenant Midwest Region is pleased to announce that the New Convention Center in Norman, Oklahoma has been selected for the first ever meeting of the Midwest Region of the New Baptist Covenant. The meeting will be held on August 6-7, 2009. Former President Jimmy Carter has agreed to speak at our meeting. We will be celebrating the 400th anniversary of the founding of the Baptist denomination.
3. Kansas City, KS (April 2-4, Press Release, Midwest Region)
In June representatives from Kansas City area Baptist groups, including the National Baptist Convention USA, the National Baptist Convention of America, the Progressive National Baptist Convention, American Baptist Churches USA, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, the Southern Baptist Convention, the Baptist General Convention of Missouri, the General Baptist Convention, met for conversation about how to further the efforts begun by the New Baptist Covenant movement in Atlanta earlier this year. The New Baptist Covenant movement, initiated by former President Jimmy Carter, has encouraged regional groups to pursue similar efforts. As a result of the June conversation, the Baptist Border Crossing Network has been formed. A task force made up of representatives of the various Baptist groups is planning a Midwest regional gathering of the Baptist family. The Baptist Border Crossing event will be April 2-4, 2009, at Pleasant Valley Baptist Church in Liberty, Missouri. Participants from all Baptist groups in Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Illinois, Arkansas, and Nebraska are invited to participate in this historic event.

Plenary speakers for the Baptist Border Crossing event include Tony Campolo, David Coffey, David Goatley, and Carolyn Ann Knight. The task force is pleased to announce that President Jimmy Carter will also participate in the event. Breakout Sessions will be led by facilitators from the various Baptist groups and will deal with issues such as poverty, peacemaking, religious liberty, and diversity.
4. Birmingham, Alabama (January 31, Press Release)
BIRMINGHAM - Birmingham will host a regional gathering of the New Baptist Covenant on Saturday, January 31st, 2009. The event will be held at 16th Street Baptist Church and the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. Former President Jimmy Carter will be present to teach a Bible study and provide a keynote address in the sanctuary of 16th Street Baptist Church.
See also Brian Kaylor, "Regional New Baptist Covenant Meetings Planned," EthicsDaily.com.


Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Third Baptist State Convention In Texas?

The Baptist General Convention of Texas traces its roots back to the Baptist State Convention of Texas which was formed in 1848.

150 years later, a group of disgruntled fundamentalists separated from the BGCT and formed the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention in 1998.

Now, apparently, there is talk of a Third Baptist State Convention here in Texas.

Blogger Rick Davis, pastor of FBC Brownwood and former BGCT employee, writes in a blog post titled BGCT: A Third Convention? A New Way?:
There is some talk around the state about a third state convention.

I am not making this up. A few of us have heard.

Let me say, I can make an argument for pooling and dispensing funds in a different way. It is almost impossible for me to make an argument for a new convention. My mind cannot wrap around another denomininational apparatus.
Ken Coffee, retired Associate Director of the BGCT State Missions Commission, recently was defeated by Carolyn Strickland, 728-668, in an election for First Vice-President of the Baptist General Convention of Texas.  Responding on Davis's blog to a question regarding the source of these rumors, Coffee writes:
I can tell you it is not Baptist princes that talked to me about it, nor anyone who wanted a cushy job. It was people who are tired of being manipulated by those who have an agenda to take the BGCT to national status, inviting disenfranchised moderates from everywhere to join us. I talk to a lot of good lay people out here in West Texas, where large sums of C.P. money come from. Lots of these folks are tired of the fighting and the unchristian rhetoric that has arisen between some in the BGCT and the SBC. You may think it is hilarious, but these folks had a serious concern prior to this year's BGCT meeting.
Guess we'll have to wait and see how this all plays out.  Three state conventions would be, um, historic.  It is Texas, though.


D.C. Pastor Extends Invitation to The Obamas

Amy Butler, the pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Washington D.C., has written Michelle Obama a blog letter inviting The First Family to visit Calvary on a Sunday morning.

You can read her Dear Michelle letter here.

If The Obamas were to make Calvary their new church home, they would not be the first First Family to do so.  Warren G. Harding, the 29th President of the United States, regularly attended Calvary Baptist Church from 1921 until his death in 1923.  Harding attended every Sunday except when the Lord's Supper was served.  Though quite devout, Harding explained that he felt "unworthy to receive communion."  

On Sunday mornings, Calvary Baptist was the place to be in D.C..  Folks from all over came to Calvary in order to gawk at the President and the First Lady.  The sanctuary was so packed that tickets had to be issued to Calvary members.  After ticketed members were seated, the general public was allowed to in.  

Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes was also a faithful member of Calvary for nearly 40 years.  Before becoming Chief Justice, Hughes served as Harding's Secretary of State.  While the Governor of New York (1907-1910), Hughes served as the first President of the Northern Baptist Convention.  I recently wrote a paper on Hughes's contributions to the religious liberty arena - a man whose thought was rooted deep in the Baptist tradition.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Demonization of Moderates: NC Baptists Oust CBF

Messengers to the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina decided today that Churches will no longer be allowed to support the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship through the BSCNC beginning in 2010. Check the Biblical Recorder for the story later today.

One NC Baptist fundamentalist had this to say about the decision over on his blog, Southern Baptists in NC:

The reason this amendment passed is that NC Baptist are Southern Baptist they are not CBF Baptist.  (This statement is something the Baptist General Convention of Texas would do well to heed.) NC Baptist are trying their best to say that we do not want anything to do with CBF.  If there are churches that desire to be CBF then have at it.  However, do not try to tell the world that you are Southern Baptist and be part of an organization that was organized as a result of being disgruntled with doctrines Southern Baptist believed and held dear. What does this mean for BSCNC?  It means that the churches that were bypassing the convention are now going to need to stop.  It means that we are in this together and thus we need to support the budget together. 

Also, there needs to be a call now to the head offices in Cary that NC Baptist have clearly stated we are not CBF. Thus, an employee at the convention offices should be a member of a NC Baptist church not one that is dually aligning themselves with the CBF and the BSCNC.  We had the clarion call today during the budget vote that we will not even give you an opportunity to send funds through us to the CBF.  We certainly should be able to say we want you attending a BSCNC church.
And here is a response to the BSCNC's decision from a moderate North Carolina Baptist. The blog post is appropriately titled Demons.

I am sitting in my office after spending the last day and a half at the Baptist State Convention of NC.  I witnessed a historical moment, and it breaks my heart.

The Baptist State Convention has, for about 18 years, provided 4 giving plan options for churches to contribute their missions giving through the state convention.  One of those plans, plan C, provided for 10% of our total giving to the state to go to CBF national.  For years now, the multiple giving plans have been under attack, with the primary focus being on plan C.  In the last couple of years, the state had determined that the 10% apportioned to CBF would not count as NC Cooperative Program giving.  Last year, the state formed a committee to investigate a single giving plan that would preserve multiple options.  That committee brought its recommendation today.  There would be a single giving plan, and churches could check a box on their giving form if they desired a portion of their proceeds to go to CBF.  An amendment was brought from the floor to remove this check box.  After a secret ballot vote, the amendment passed.  After years of efforts, plan C was officially dead.

This isn’t what broke my heart.  Anybody with a brain has been able to see this handwriting on the wall for years.  There are going to be those who argue, as there were today, that churches can just send their money directly to CBF and negatively designate the SBC out of their missions giving.  CBF churches are still welcome in the Baptist State Convention of NC, they will say.

They are lying.

Those who spoke in favor of the amendment based their arguments on 2 points:  CBF doesn’t affirm the inerrancy of Scripture, and CBF isn’t true Baptist.  There were calls for the convention to “take a stand”.  And so they did.  They thought they were taking a stand against some faceless organization.  Instead, they took a stand against Christian men and women I serve and work with every day.  They called me, my church members, and my peers in ministry enemies.  They demonized us.

That is what breaks my heart.  They made people I love and respect into demons in order to get what they wanted.  I could have lived with a decision that said, “We are SBC, and we want a plan that says we are SBC only.”  I would not have agreed with it, but I could have respected it.  I can’t respect this.  Especially when I know it is going to be followed by somebody saying, “We aren’t kicking you out.  You can still send your money to us.” 

When the announcement of the vote was made, there was no comment or response.  A couple of folks clapped, though not as many as I honestly expected.  The President just moved on to the next item of business.  The convention moved on and left behind Christ-loving, Christ-serving people who had just been accused of not being true Baptist or even true Christians, people and churches who have been a part of the state convention for decades.  I’m sure some will say it was just an example of the convention saying, “Get behind me, Satan.”

Funny, Jesus said those words to Peter, the rock upon which he would build his church. 
To those CBF pastors, laypeople, and churches who winced at being made to feel like demons, my heart hurts with you and for you.  My prayer for all of us is that we will be able to put aside the hurt and anger that rises in our belly at being called a demon so that we might fully concentrate on being the rocks upon which Christ will build His kingdom.
 Texas Baptists should pay attention to the fundamentalist from North Carolina cited above and the actions taken today by the fundamentalists in the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.  What happened today in North Carolina is just one of MANY examples which demonstrate that Cooperation with Fundamentalists is not possible.  It just ain't.  

Fundamentalism by definition seeks power and control.  First, the state convention cuts the CBF option off.  Second, the state convention decides to tell its employees which Baptist churches are OK to attend and join.  Power and Control. 

We can be nice and drop the fundamentalist tag and just call 'em Southern Baptists - as if a good many of those Southern Baptists are not fundamentalists.  That what some folks here in Texas are doing.  They pretend that somehow moderates and fundamentalists can work together under the same roof.  They pretend that somehow a Baptist organization can be supportive of both Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and George W. Truett Theological Seminary.  They pretend that a Baptist organization can support programs which affirm Women In Ministry while also accommodating an institution that wants to keep women out the pulpit and in the home; baking cookies, cleaning, and birthing babies, Quiverfull style. 

Naive?  You Bet'cha.  That's putting it charitably.  Why any person who eschews fundamentalism would want a better relationship with a Baptist group completely controlled by fundamentalists is beyond my comprehension.  Some Texas Baptists need to pay attention to what happened in North Carolina and Georgia this week.  They need to read a book or two.  A primer on fundamentalism is apparently needed.  Or, just keep that head in the sand.  

The ONLY Way to Cooperate With a Fundamentalist Is To Obey Him.

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Georgia Baptists To Oust Women Pastors, FBC Decatur

Here's the story from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
Georgia Baptists take aim at women-led churches

Georgia Southern Baptists approved a policy Tuesday aimed at diminishing the role of churches led by women pastors.

The policy is a broad one and provides the Georgia Baptist Convention the ability to refuse donations from entities out of sync with Southern Baptist beliefs. There is only one church that currently falls into that category: the 2,700-member Decatur First Baptist headed by the Rev. Julie Pennington-Russell.

Only men can hold the position as head pastor, but individual churches are independent and can call whom they wish as pastor, according to a Southern Baptist statement of faith. Decatur called Pennington-Russell in 2007.

Last year, there was talk of breaking ties with Decatur First Baptist over Pennington-Russell, said J. Robert White, executive director of the convention.

He and other leaders believed the new policy would be a more prudent move. If convention executives take action, that would allow Decatur First to remain associated with Southern Baptists, but would not accept donations from it. Churches whose gifts are not accepted lose their organization voting privileges and the ability to give to Southern Baptist missions and help programs.

Churches with women in lesser roles, such as deacons or youth ministers, would not be affected, White said. Church conference leaders also could turn down gifts from questionable sources, such as alcohol distributors.

Pennington-Russell was out of town and did not attend the convention.

“I kept waiting for someone from the Georgia Baptist Convention to call us or come visit with me and other leaders of our church to inform us that these matters were being discussed,” she said in an e-mail.

Decatur First Baptist has been in the convention since 1862 and provided leadership and millions of dollars in support over the decades.

“I assumed that a 146-year relationship was worth, at very least, a personal conversation,” she said.

“To me, the saddest ripple effect will be that some members of our church who have faithfully supported Southern Baptist ministries and missionaries through the years, often with money given from their monthly Social Security checks, will have to be told that the [convention] doesn’t welcome their support any longer.”
The headquarters for the GBC is in Norcross.  Robert White didn't have the decency to drive over to Decatur, from one Atlanta suburb to another.  No phone call.  No e-mail.  

Robert White has no shame.  Some of us have known that for years now.  

Not surprising that this has happened in Georgia.  Once you go fundamentalist, you don't go back.  The Georgia Baptist Convention became a thoroughly fundamentalist convention more than a few years ago.  

John Pierce of the Georgia-based Baptists Today has a post titled Isolation and Irrelevancy on this same subject.  Pierce writes:
In another deliberate and continuous move toward isolation and irrelevancy, the Georgia Baptist Convention (GBC) approved a policy yesterday that gives leadership the right to reject cooperation with congregations deemed to be out of line with Southern Baptists' ever-narrowing doctrine.

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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Baylor U. Students Hang A Noose, Light a Fire

The Baylor Lariat has produced this statement from Baylor University Interim President David Garland. Read below or click here.

Baylor police reported today on three disturbing incidents that occurred on our campus yesterday.

Late Tuesday afternoon we were notified of a single clothesline rope that had been seen in a tree on campus. The individuals who discovered it believed it had the appearance of a noose. Baylor police are now in possession of the rope and continue to speak with students who observed the rope in the tree and are gathering additional information about the origin of the rope.

Last evening, police investigated a small fire in a barbecue pit adjacent to Brooks Flats in which it was alleged several Obama/Biden campaign signs had been burned.

Finally, police were called late last evening to a disturbance outside Penland Hall, where a shouting match had occurred between two small groups of white and African-American students.

These events are deeply disturbing to us and are antithetical to the mission of Baylor University. We categorically denounce and will not tolerate racist acts of any kind on our campus.

Further, we are committed to maintaining the safety and unity of our campus community. We wish to celebrate and strengthen inclusiveness, understanding and acceptance of all members of the Baylor family.

As they have thus far, Baylor police will respond quickly and decisively to any additional situations of this nature. Faculty, staff and students with information pertaining to any of the incidents we've described are urged to contact Baylor police at 710-2222.

Baylor has specific policies regarding expectations of civility and respect on our campus. Those policies, which we endorse and enforce, can be found at http://www.baylor.edu/content/services/document.php?id=39242.

Faculty, staff and students also participate in on-going weekly meetings hosted by our department of multicultural activities called "Frankly Speaking" in which issues of the day are discussed in a respectful and civil manner. The goal of "Frankly Speaking" is for participants to feel comfortable expressing their opinions and beliefs within a safe environment. The meetings are held in the Bill Daniel Student Center each Tuesday from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m., and members of the Baylor community are invited to participate.

We believe that the incidents on our campus yesterday were irresponsible acts committed by a few individuals. As a community we condemn these terribly unfortunate events that do not represent the values we share as members of the Baylor family.

Not sure what to make of this statement from Baylor's Interim President. When racists go public with their racism, I prefer to hear a little tough talk - maybe the author of the statement should have mentioned somewhere along the way that Baylor's mission is a distinctly Christian mission. And Baylor University is a distinctly Christian University, an historically Baptist University. There are plenty of reasons why our Christian faith demands that such racist acts must be denounced. Such religious reasons were unfortunately noticeably absent from the statement above.

No surprise that racism is alive and well on the campus of Baylor University. Racism is alive and well on the campuses of both Christian Universities and state Universities like my alma mater, University of Georgia. One need only stroll down Greek Row in Athens on Game-Day and see all the Confederate Flags to know that deep racial divisions still exist on college campuses. Every school has their hardcore racists and every school has a larger group of racists who express their racism in much more subtle ways.

Although, in light of these three incidents, I'd say that Baylor might need to get-in-the-game and address these problems that clearly exist within the community. Not sure that a one-hour voluntary, multi-cultural roundtable discussion that most students have probably never heard of is getting the job done.


Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Live Commenting w/ Map

Monday, November 03, 2008

The Southern Baptist Blogosphere On Obama

In recent days, more than a few Southern Baptist pastors in the blogosphere have made it clear that true Christians can not cast their ballot for "Barack Hussein Obama." These Southern Baptist pastors are not alone in their pronouncements. Recently, Danny Akin - President of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary - penned a blog post entitled Why Faithful Evangelicals Cannot Vote For Barack Obama.

So, here's a collection of quotes from Southern Baptist pastors/bloggers. No further analysis needed.
Is it any wonder that America is in the trouble we find ourselves in? How could any Pastor support Obama? How could any Christian support Obama?....IF YOU DONT WANT SOCIALISM GET OUT AND VOTE!!!! Tim Guthrie of SBC Today blog
Southern Baptist pastor C.B. Scott offers three reasons to Guthrie's question on how a Christian could support Obama:
1. They are lost.
2. They are backslidden.
3. They have a low view of Scripture and are unsound theologically.
On a different blog, C.B. Scott opines:
Obama is the most dangerous man in America. He is a greater threat to this nation than is Bin Laden....Obama will kill this country as we have lived free in it like no other before....Go get all your family no matter how distant, far removed or the nature of the feud and get them to go vote McCain-Palin. We must defeat the Obamas, Carters, Clintons and Big Daddy Weaves or they will destroy this nation.
On the same blog, a Southern Baptist named Jake Barker writes:
Popular SBC blogger Bart Barber, pastor of FBC Farmersville, Texas writes in a recent post entitled If Barack Hussein Obama Wins:
I don't believe that Barack Obama is a whit closer to God than Nebuchadnezzar was...The United States of America may very well deserve precisely Barack Hussein Obama. This may be the election where God lets us have just that....So, God might have lots of good reasons to hand this election to Obama. I would still be sinning to vote for him, but God can simultaneously expect me to vote for McCain and plan for an Obama victory.
And from another SBC pastor on Obama's Christian faith:
His life testimony says he is not a biblical Christian. And since there is not other kind of Christian to be, the great evidence is he is not one.
And this Southern Baptist woman believes the election of Barack Obama will cause her family to lose, well everything. She writes:
The pittance of 500 or 600 dollars a year that ol' Obama the Wealth Spreader plans to rip-off from all of the small-business owners in America will most likely cause my husband to lose his little part-time job and put us into the market of relying solely on my husband's disability Social Security of $ 15,850. Then it would take away our home because the tax increases on my daughter's and husband's small construction business.
And finally, these wise words from a Southern Baptist pastor from Tennessee:
Barack Hussein Obama
Barack Hussein Obama
Barack Hussein Obama.

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