Generally impulsive blog posts would best be left for the cyber file #13. Many would prefer to know what someone they read thinks about a topic sooner than later. However, something invariably happens that offers a comparative window through which one may look and then write in hopes of fewer corrections, apologies and updates. Regret lasts longer than affirmation.
Last week more than 30 Southern Baptists gathered in Memphis to discuss the perceived direction of the Southern Baptist Convention. I write perceived because that seems to be at the heart of the issues stirred by â??Ã?ÃºYoung Leaders.â??Ã?Ã¹ For example, it was recently announced that Ronnie Floyd would be nominated to be President of the SBC in Greensboro, N.C. in June. Reading the comments following a couple of blog posts (here , here[see Johnny Hunt to Nominate Ronnie Floyd], and here) indicate some believe the SBC is headed in the right direction. Ask anyone associated with the current regime and you will hear great thankfulness for stemming the tide of â??Ã?Ãºliberalismâ??Ã?Ã¹ within the SBC. Listen to some who have become convinced the issue was control and the sense may be we have lost our direction.
Those who met in Memphis drafted a â??Ã?ÃºDeclaration.â??Ã?Ã¹ Some who have read through this â??Ã?ÃºDeclarationâ??Ã?Ã¹ considered the statement overreaching to repent for the denomination. Quickly, a few who participated suggested they were themselves repenting for their complicity in arrogance, triumphalism and narrowness. Great pains were taken to be sure readers understood these were personal confessions and in no way suggesting they could repent for others who may not consider themselves guilty of such attitudes and actions.
Many of the calls that this may be improper to â??Ã?Ãºrepentâ??Ã?Ã¹ for others may well play against the missional emphasis upon community. I read Joe Thorn yesterday morning and found his post â??Ã?ÃºWhat I Like.â??Ã?Ã¹ He lists the things he likes about the SBC. Elsewhere he notes the concerns he has for the SBC. To play up the value of the SBC in relational terms as he does signals the need to admit that while we may not have personally endorsed such activity stated in the â??Ã?ÃºDeclarationâ??Ã?Ã¹, we have been complicit by not heretofore speaking out against â??Ã?Ãºfallen powers.â??Ã?Ã¹ Many decry the loss of the prophetic and yet when the need for the prophetic voice is most needed silence has made many of us accomplices by our inaction and inattentiveness.
Whatâ??Ã?Ã´s more, to do as I have done and play into the issue of local church autonomy does not keep me from the â??Ã?Ãºcorporateâ??Ã?Ã¹ criticism that comes with belonging to a group who I believe has in many ways acted in just the manner for which the â??Ã?ÃºDeclarationâ??Ã?Ã¹ repents.
Donald Miller has been the whipping boy for many on the conservative side of the SBC as a â??Ã?Ãºliberal.â??Ã?Ã¹ One of the classic illustrations I found pertinent for this kind of discussion is his description of the â??Ã?Ãºconfession boothâ??Ã?Ã¹ on the campus of Reed College. They intended to confess for the excess, arrogance and sins of the Church. Miller himself had not participated in the Crusades, endorsed the Third Reich or racism. But, he knew well that to follow Jesus meant a relationship with the history of the Church – good and bad. Admitting to the â??Ã?Ãºsinsâ??Ã?Ã¹ of the past helped bridge the chasm created by those who stumbled to hear the voice of Jesus when the followers of Jesus had failed, and miserably, to live Kingdom lives.
My young life has been littered with times where my identification with the SBC as a denomination has been a stumbling block relationally (see upcoming part 2). Look, some of us did not participate in the racism that dominated the SBC in the South. Our denomination waited for thirty years after the Civil Rights Movement to issue a resolution admitting to the â??Ã?Ãºsins of the pastâ??Ã?Ã¹ with regard to racism. We needed to repent for our forbearsâ??Ã?Ã´ inconsistency because we belong to the community that is the SBC. To fail to do so denies the relationship.
Little doubt our Associate Pastor, Jason, has been highly critical of moves in the SBC over the past year or so. Over the past nearly four years we have discussed at length the issues that were addressed in the â??Ã?ÃºDeclaration.â??Ã?Ã¹ I am not sure Jason himself has participated in each of the sins repented of in the â??Ã?ÃºDeclaration.â??Ã?Ã¹ Yet, he knows too well what it means to those he hopes to minister to what kind of obstacle is created when those with whom we are in community with fail to live up to the expectations of the Kingdom way. I had to look again when I saw his name on the list of signers (insert surprised smiley). We both have been tossed into a group considered cynical. Yet, we seem to share some hopefulness in this move. That is not to say Jason did not need to repent of some things – and certainly not to imply I do not need to repent. But, I think we ought to rethink the notion that we have nothing for which to repent when it comes to the â??Ã?ÃºDeclaration.â??Ã?Ã¹ If we are going to maintain our relationship that is the â??Ã?Ãºcommunity of the SBCâ??Ã?Ã¹ then we must repent for the way in which the Kingdom way has not been lived out in our “community.”