Baptists Inherently Fractured? Noll Thinks So

I have Baptists on the brain. Three current events form the nexus for my current state of mind. First, my friend The Ex-Reverend sent me a link to Mark Noll’s piece in Books & Culture, “So You’re a Baptist – What might that mean?” Second, I am attending the Annual Meeting of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (last night and today). Third, I will be attending the New Baptist Covenant 2 Regional meeting at St. John’s Missionary Baptist Church on Thursday and Friday. I am speaking at a session in the afternoon on Friday. Major Jemison is the pastor and what a preacher he is.

So there you have it, Baptist on the brain. The three reasons come together in an interesting way. Yesterday during a panel discussion at the annual BGCO Pastor’s Conference, panelists responded to a question wondering if there was need to evaluate ecclesial methods. Now, for those of you not Baptist, and maybe not even interested in things sectarian and Christian, we Baptists tend to chapter and verse our methodologies. Don’t believe me? Many use the Bible in support of multi-site congregations. Others fail to read the text the same way. It is certainly not a prescription. If I find it questionable for its consequences for community, that is my opinion. I won’t tell J.D. Greear he is wrong on the subject. And, I expect he will not tell me I am wrong. Though . . . . Read More

Andrew, You Can’t Do That!

A friend called the other day. He was a bit amped up. Though many miles away, it was clear he had some energy to unload. “Why have we not heard anything from [I will write more about this group he questioned somewhere down the line] in the aftermath of the Penn State Affair?” The issue in this context flares up over the ongoing internecine, inner-tribal, intramural squabbles over Gospel and Justice. Or, in the way some are framing it, “What is the Gospel? vs. What are the implications of the Gospel?” We are such good moderns when it comes to our linearity.

Getting a few things done this morning before a week of Baptist meetings – Annual Meeting of the BGCO and a the New Baptist Covenant 2 Regional Meeting. Sandwiched between those two meetings will be our weekly Wednesdays Are for Others at Snow Hill. I ran across a post by Andrew Jones, a.k.a. Tallskinnykiwi.(Love the new banner!) He dares write about a school in a garbage city. I could not help but think of the scuffles over Gospel and Justice reading this and guessing some would as soon shout, “Andrew, You Can’t Do That!” Read More

Declaring We Are for Others Means Better Resolutions

maningardenEarlier this week a friend came by the office. He informed me he may have to stop attending this Baptist church. I had been gone over the weekend and wondered what calamity had struck that would provoke my weekly prayer partner to utter such a notion. Naturally I asked, “What happened??

He had read with interest the recent goings on at the Annual Meeting of the BGCO (Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma). I attended the meeting. For we Baptists, it was a relative non-event. Any time a group of Baptists get together and there is no controversy, at least on a grand scale, it is a non-event. Even still resolutions were passed expressing the conviction of the majority of those present. This was what my friend found troubling. I pressed for more.

“What about the resolution ‘On Opposition to Gambling?'” People in our community are not naive to the ways in which gaming has devastated families. From time to time we are asked to help in the aftermath of very poor decisions. What became the source of my friend’s apparent consternation was the lack of any statement that Southern Baptist Churches in Oklahoma would be a haven, a place for those ravaged by the ill effects of these decisions and lovingly help them both overcome the addictive habits destroying their livelihood and walk with them to healing and hope. What a great insight!

Many of we younger pastors think the exercise of writing and passing resolutions representing Southern Baptists on any scale to be a bit of an overstatement. How so? Well, for example, this year’s BGCO meeting it was announced there were less than 1000 messengers. There are some 1900 cooperating churches and missions counted by the BGCO. Each is provisioned with generally more than one “messenger.” A messenger is a representative from the cooperating church with opportunity to express the will of the represented church. Our church could have sent 10 messengers – the maximum. It does not take much to underscore the “will of the BGCO” expressed in the passing of resolutions does not represent Oklahoma Baptists. Instead only those present expressed an opinion. Considering the number of alleged Southern Baptists in Oklahoma the overwhelming majority did not speak, only the overwhelming majority of those present. Why the fuss?

For my friend it is a matter of the kind of message sent. It is not that he does not think it important to “acknowledge the harsh realities of gambling … as destructive to the family and society.” There is no opposition to “opposing any expansion of” and even working toward the revocation of gambling.  No objection to “teaching responsible stewardship.” What he really found telling was no statement resolving to reach out to help heal alongside energy to teach stewardship and oppose gambling. It was much like reading Bob Hyatt‘s tweet yesterday which read,

Old school church idea: picketing adult businesses.  Missional church idea: women befriending/loving/serving the women working there.

Maybe we could re-write the tweet in light of my friend’s thoughts.

Old school denominational idea: resolving against a given vice. Missional denominational idea: resolving to befriend/love/serve those trapped in the given vice.

Let me quickly say, many churches in Oklahoma offer missional engagement with those trapped in any number of crippling vices. The point is not what churches are or are not doing at this point. My friend thought that if we are going to make public statements, let’s not forget to add the ways in which we resolve to love others. It would mean better resolutions if we must offer them at all.

Let’s Get the Race Issue Right This Time

I feel like Michelle Obama. During her husband’s participation in the race to win the Democratic nomination she made the statement that for the first time in her adult life she was proud to be an American. Hyperbole we all hope(d). Tonight I sit in my hotel room still ruminating on the message Alton Fannin, the President of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, gave earlier this evening. I feel like saying something similar to our soon to be first lady. It would be something like, “For the first time in a great while, I am proud to be a Southern Baptist.” Hyperbole, not so much. Read More