I Stand Corrected About the Southern Baptist Convention

My post yesterday, about Mark Driscoll and the Southern Baptist convention, had several inaccurate statements in it. I acknowledged one of these by saying that I incorrectly stated that Mark Driscoll preached at the SBC. (See the comments following the blog of yesterday.) This statement came about because I did not read the story in Christianity Today carefully enough. It was not intentional I can assure you. I simply messed up.

The second point, made by two gracious men who commented from their own personal experience, gives them far more credibility than me. It was noted that the SBC did not pass the five resolutions presented on the floor regarding Driscoll. I actually should have known better since such resolutions are made by various messengers in almost every such convention. This is a unique part of Southern Baptist polity, one that I do not like. But it must be understood for what it is and I failed to do that. For this mistake I humbly apologize to those who were misled by my original comments. I try to carefully check my facts and sometimes I mess up. In this case I clearly did.

I went back to the Christianity Today news item (August, 2009, page 14-15) last evening and read the report again, this time more carefully. I think it is fair to quote the entire section that is apropos to my original concerns. I am perfectly willing to accept Mark and Tom's excellently written words and thus I too shall pray the SBC will move forward in the way they both clearly desire. I am a friend to such missional engagement, not an opponent.

Here is the way Christianity Today reported the news:

There were five motions made against Driscoll at the convention, including a motion to have all Southern Baptist entities report any contact with Driscoll or the Acts 29 church planting network of which he is a part. That motion was sent to Southern Baptist agencies for review over the next year, along with a separate motion to ban any speaker who swears or drinks.

What this means, and I am willing to be corrected once again, is that agencies will look at these resolutions and offer some response. Will they be required to report any contact with Driscoll? Not at the moment, since this is in process and not approved. I would suggest that we stay tuned. I would also suggest that this does put some pressure on SBC agencies and employees to stay clear of Driscoll knowing full well that this is now a convention controversy, albeit a small one perhaps.

My concern, even though I obviously messed up some facts, still remains. I hope the two good brothers who corrected me are right in every thing they report. I hope the SBC is being positioned to move in a decidedly missional direction, one that sees the burgeoning mission we have in North America much more clearly. I see some signs of this locally. I know one SBC church planter near me who is doing some of the most amazing and creative stuff anywhere in America. He is supported by the North American Mission Board so he is not an outsider.

Having said this, and I could say a lot more that is very, very positive, I have to also say that my original blog of yesterday cited leaders in the SBC who do not share zeal for the Great Commission Resurgence (GCR). I shared a few of these names and quotes from the Christianity Today report. I am aware that there is an ongoing battle between Morris Chapman, president of the executive committee of the SBC, and other SBC conservatives. I am also aware that these battles are very important, having read a number of blogs on both sides of this present debate. I can guess where my friends are in this disagreement and I am quite likely on their side. But my point remains. The SBC is still struggling and dealing with missional concerns in a context of a Baptist political controversy, a context that I see as harmful to the gospel in so many ways.

All of this underscores a point that I made here several years ago. The SBC has been torn asunder by major battles over the last thirty years. These battles have resulted in some very good changes. But they have also left some scorched earth in their path. I am persuaded that most such battles leave a church, or denomination, weaker in ways not readily seen. Outwardly some agencies of the SBC are better for the past decades but overall I do see the impact in a more sanguine way than many of my conservative friends.

Could I be wrong about this? Of course I could be and likely I am in some ways. Could I be right? Of course I could be and likely I am in some ways. The point is not to pontificate but to encourage thought and to promote missional-ecumenism, the core of my vision and commitment to the whole church. Do Southern Baptists embrace this vision? Some do I am sure. I just do not believe the agencies and leaders are quite ready for this kind of thinking yet. I hope I am wrong. If I am right I pray for a new wind to blow through the SBC and cause it to become a movement of churches that are far less concerned about their culture than the kingdom of God and the good of all of Christ's church in America and beyond. The day of sectarianism in mission should have ended a hundred years ago. Might the SBC become a leader in bring this to an end? It is possible. I pray it will happen. Humanly, I have my doubts.

By the way, forgive me if I was unduly offensive. I am not striving to create controversy but rather to promote a different what of thinking and doing Christ's mission.

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