Categories
Gender Reform SBC Author Scripture

The Egalitarian Shift in the Committee on Committees

 

It’s totally a Baptist thing to have a committee on committees, isn’t it? But for those who do not know, this committee is one of the most important (if not the most important) committees that exists within the Southern Baptist Convention. Baptist Press correctly articulates the situation:  

“The Committee on Committees, with two members from each of the 34 states and regions qualified for representation, has the responsibility to appoint the Committee on Nominations. The Committee on Nominations has far-reaching influence on Southern Baptist life. They recommend the trustees of our 11 convention entities and our Executive Committee to the Southern Baptist Convention.”

A key to a healthy convention is God fearing trustees since they are responsible to watch over our entities on behalf of the 47,000 churches of the SBC. These trustees receive their appointment through the Committee on Nominations. Therefore, you want to have a solid Committee on Nominations in order to ensure solid trustee nominations. This brings us back to the Committee on Committees – this committee needs to be strong since it is charged with appointing who will sit on the Committee on Nominations.

The 2021 Situation

In mid-April of 2021 SBC President, J.D. Greear, named the 68 members of the Committee on Committees. By the way, this is one of the reasons electing a strong conservative SBC President in 2021 is so important since they are the ones who name the persons on the Committee on Committees.

What is the makeup of Greear’s Committee on Committees? Well, there’s quite a bit of makeup actually. It is chaired by Meredith Cook, a member of Neartown Church in Houston, Texas. Along with Mrs. Cook there are an additional 38 women sitting on the committee bringing the total to 39 out of 68 members (57%) being female (source).

Thus, out of the 34 states/regions that comprise the Committee on Committees there were multiple areas that J.D. decided needed no male leadership at all.  

What’s the Problem?

In a Q&A session (that was definitely not sponsored by SWBTS and NAMB) with Dr. Ed Litton on April 29, 2021 I had the opportunity to ask if he thought there was any issue with this committee being a majority (57%) female committee. Several pastors in the room laughed at me and shouted “No!” Dr. Litton smiled at the support in the room and answered (though in a kinder way) along with them, “No.”

As you have probably already figured out, the point of this post is to show why a majority women Committee on Committees in the Southern Baptist Convention is an issue. Here are a few reasons why:

  1.       It Reeks of Tokenism

My wife is the one who brought this point to my attention. She said that she finds it offensive that so many women are on the Committee on Committees simply because they are women. It seems as though J.D. wanted to make a point and it certainly has been made!

  1.       It’s Catering to the Culture

This move seems to be another example of the Southern Baptist Convention seeking to make peace with a godless culture. It is extremely countercultural in our day to preach and live out strong biblical complementarianism in our homes and churches. This seems to be another move whereby we can shout at the culture to look how non-complementarian we are.

Let me quickly mention in response to these first two points that I’ve grown quite weary of leadership in the SBC not exalting the roles of women that we have in Scripture as important and meaningful to our convention. That is, why are women only seen as “empowered” if they serve on a certain committee? Why do we not value the role of a wife and mother in the home, submitting to her husband, nurturing her children, and being a godly member of her local church? Why are we so bent on making women preach or serve in this or that area of leadership as the only real meaningful contributions they can give? 

  1.       It is an Egalitarian Slide

Here is where I will spend most of the blog post. Egalitarianism “holds that women and men properly have equal and interchangeable roles in the home, church, and wider society.”[1] That is, an egalitarian would hold that it doesn’t matter who preaches, pastors, leads the home, etc. in terms of gender. Both men and women are qualified to hold whatever position in the home, church, or society.

Complementarianism, on the other hand, says “that God created man and woman equal in value and personhood, and equal in bearing His image, but that both creation and redemption indicate some distinct roles for men and women in marriage and in the church.”[2]

Unequivocally, the Southern Baptist Convention is a complementarian convention of churches – at least on paper. What paper? Well, the Baptist Faith and Message says this, for example,

“The husband and wife are of equal worth before God, since both are created in God’s image. The marriage relationship models the way God relates to His people. A husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church. He has the God-given responsibility to provide for, to protect, and to lead his family. A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ. She, being in the image of God as is her husband and thus equal to him, has the God-given responsibility to respect her husband and to serve as his helper in managing the household and nurturing the next generation” (BFM 2000, XVIII).

So, what does all of this have to do with the Committee on Committees? Quite a lot actually. But first let me say this: I am not arguing for or against in this post whether a woman ought to serve on a committee. That’s not the purpose of this writing. The purpose of this writing is to ask whether or not the most important committee in the Southern Baptist Convention ought to have a majority of its seats held by women.

We have already affirmed in the BFM 2000 that we believe that men ought to lead in the home. We also state that men ought to lead in the church as the office of pastor is only for qualified men (see BFM 2000, VI.). Yet, when it comes to this committee, Southern Baptists are affirming an egalitarian position – that is, the role of leadership here is interchangeable.

A Moment of Crisis

No matter which “side” someone is on in the current SBC debates I think most would agree we are in a moment of crisis. Some might say the “crisis” is people saying there is a crisis! But that would still be a form of crisis.

And here is the point I am making: How can we think it is a good idea – a God ordained idea – that in a moment of crisis in the Southern Baptist Convention, we ought to have our most important committee led by women? Shouldn’t men be leading in all times, but especially during a moment of crisis?

Yes, before you ask, I have read the book of Judges and am familiar with Deborah. I am also familiar with the context of the book and that we do not want to get to a point in Southern Baptist life whereby we are in need of a Deborah to lead us.

The Value of Godly Women

I don’t think this point needs to be made but I’m going to make it anyway. Women in the Southern Baptist Convention are unquestionably valuable. Our churches and our convention would not be where they are today without godly women. This is incontrovertible.

Why then am I saying it’s not a good idea for our most important committee to be led by women? Because God’s very good and holy design in the home, church, and society at large is for men to take up the mantle of leadership. This is not to wonder whether or not a woman is able to select a good candidate for the Committee on Nominations. It’s rather to say that God has not created men to put their wives in that situation.

And I’ll close with this: The Committee on Committees situation is another example where we are losing the battle for the sufficiency of Scripture in the SBC. If we believe the Bible is sufficient to teach us gender roles, then why are we not making proper application on the Committee on Committees? Why do we believe, as the BFM states, that men are designed for leadership in the home and the church, but that the Committee on Committees is an exception?

Some have stated this is about “power” or “control.” The reality is this is true. This is about power. It is about the power and sufficiency of God’s Word. And it is about control. Will we allow this authoritative and sufficient Word to control our convention or will the cultural winds change our course? Do we trust God’s very good design or not?

 

 

 

 

[1] Major Contributors and Editors, “Egalitarianism,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016).

[2] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, p. 16.

Categories
Uncategorized

Dr. Owen Strachan leaving Midwestern for Grace Bible Theological Seminary

One of the leading young theologians in the Southern Baptist Convention, Dr. Owen Strachan, is leaving Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary to serve as Provost and Research Professor of Theology at Grace Bible Theological Seminary (GBTS) in Conway, AR.

Read the release from Dr. Jeffrey Johnson, president of GBTS, here.

As both a Southern Baptist and soon-to-be GBTS graduate (M.Div, May 16, 2021), I am both excited and sad. Sad only to see such a God-honoring professor, unashamed to fight against wokeness and CRT, leave an SBC institution. Personally, though, I am more excited for the Lord’s work right here in central Arkansas at GBTS. I look forward to seeing all that the Lord has in store for Dr. Strachan and GBTS!

Read more here (and see video).

Read Dr. Strachan’s announcement here.

Categories
Controversy Ecclesiology Methodology

Upcoming SBC Presidential Candidate Interviews

It’s been a while since we released an episode of our podcast so I thought I would drop in to tell you about some upcoming episodes we hope you find helpful.

The CR:V site is SBC-facing and as you likely know the Southern Baptist Convention’s Annual Meeting is coming up.  This year we have four people currently running for the office of President which, in and of itself is an indication of what most people are expecting to be a wilder version of the annual meeting.

We thought it would be helpful to give our audience an interview with each of the candidates running for office and began putting a series of short interviews together.  We have Randy Adams and Mike Stone recorded.  We initially had Ed Litton committed but his secretary reached out and said he no longer had time in his schedule to do the interview.  We also reached out to Dr. Mohler’s office but have yet to hear back from him.

Like me, you have probably read or heard people predicting a strange and contentious Annual Meeting is upon us for Nashville. Remember, too, that there is still a bit of time before the annual meeting and we are likely to see more strangeness.  We have already seen at least one seminary promoting a presidential candidate (and no, it wasn’t Southern and Dr. Mohler).  There are rumors that some kind of belittling caricature of Mike Stone is going to be released on Social Media in the days before the annual meeting.  Some are saying Dr. Mohler will drop out of the race altogether.

To help navigate the strangeness as best we can we are going to release our interviews with Randy Adams and Mike Stone in the coming weeks.  If you know or can reach Ed Litton and Al Mohler to encourage them to participate we would appreciate that greatly.  We want a healthy Southern Baptist Convention making disciples of the nations both domestically and internationally.  A healthy Annual Meeting is a vital step in that process. Healthy leadership is also vital.  Toward that end we want to help you get to know the candidates as best we can.

Finally, if you are listening to this I cannot stress how important it is that you attend the annual meeting as a messenger, bring as many people as you can with you as messengers, and encourage your sister churches to do the same.  We have heard reports of people on social media actually discouraging attendance to the annual meeting.  That is an indication of shenanigans and is antithetical to the cooperative work of the Southern Baptist Convention.

So give our interviews a listen, prayerfully consider how you should vote, show up at the annual meeting, attend ever session of business and reporting.  That’s the job now.  And if you think “I would go but I can’t afford a place to stay or dining or whatever else” please reach out; we’ll try to help connect you with people who can alleviate those burdens.

You can find the CR:V Podcast feed here.

Thanks for tuning in and we’ll look forward to giving you those interviews starting next week.

Categories
Christology

Happy Easter!

Via Reftoons:

Categories
Complementarianism Ecclesiology Methodology Missions

NAMB Document Clarifies Complementarian Commitments

CR:V has received the following document from Danny De Armas, current Chairman of our North American Mission Board (NAMB) Trustees.  As you will see, the document articulates NAMB’s approach to planting churches, complementarianism, and women pastors.

We are thankful for the work of NAMB planting healthy churches as well as their commitment to the clear teaching of Scripture as affirmed in the doctrinal framework that forms the core of Southern Baptist Cooperation, the Baptist Faith and Message 2000.  We are also thankful for the way this document represents the kind of meaningful communication between SBC entities and SBC members that is so central to the cooperative work of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Background on NAMB and Church Plant Endorsements

As part of NAMB’s endorsement process, we require each planter to affirm the Baptist Faith & Message 2000, sign a NAMB code of conduct and commit to dedicating at least six percent of their church budget to the Cooperative Program. NAMB will continue to emphasize these commitments in planter assessment, orientation, training and coaching.

NAMB does believe, as the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 says, that “both men and women are gifted for service in the church.” NAMB is grateful for the many ministerial roles women play in the local church, at home, in workplaces and in fulfilling the Great Commission.

NAMB has always and will always only endorse Biblically qualified men as pastors. NAMB is committed to the Baptist Faith & Message 2000, is complementarian by conviction and does not endorse women as pastors.

NAMB is directed to work with all of the SBC’s autonomous churches in fulfilling its mission and ministry assignments, which include assisting all SBC churches, associations, and state conventions to plant new SBC churches. If a sending church, local association or state convention finds a church not to be in cooperation, NAMB has and will continue to respond appropriately.

In a recent review NAMB conducted of its nearly 1,200 currently endorsed church planters, only six listed a woman with a title of pastor in a staff role. Those have been addressed. We individually and appropriately address these situations as they come to our attention. Our goal is always to lovingly help these churches and pastors model sound ecclesiology, in accordance with Southern Baptist’s understanding of Biblical teaching. We want to coach them. We want to correct them. And we want to keep them.

If an occasion occurred in which a church planter insisted on maintaining a woman in a pastor role or title on staff, NAMB will remove its endorsement and funding. The use of such titles and roles can be confusing to the constituencies with whom we partner and who fund our work. But, rather than publicly shame pastors, we find it better to come alongside our brothers and sisters in Christ and lovingly work with them as we pursue together our Great Commission ministry.

Questions about a specific church plant can be emailed to NAMB at fyi@NAMB.net.

A copy of the PDF CR:V received can be downloaded here:

NAMBChurchPlantEndorsements

Categories
Ecclesiology

A Historical Basis for Baptist Cooperation – The Philadelphia Association

In a previous post, I talked about the 17th Century Baptists of England. Switching both centuries and continents, we now consider the 18th century Baptists of America. It is important to remember that these Baptists did not invent associations and cooperation among independent churches, so much as they built upon the conclusions their Baptist forefathers had already arrived at. They stood, as it were, on the shoulders of the 17th Century Baptists from England. One helpful example to turn to is the Philadelphia Association.

“[O]n July 27, 1707…five small Baptist churches organized the Philadelphia Baptist Association.”[1] It is noteworthy to mention the influence that Elias Keach, son of Benjamin, had upon this Association. In 1686, the younger Keach came to America to preach but at that point he was not even converted.[2] Perhaps he thought that if he said he was the son of the famous Benjamin Keach he could gain popularity and even line his own pockets with worldly gain.

At one such meeting, possibly one of the first, if not the first, in Pennepack, Pennsylvania, Elias Keach began preaching from an unregenerate heart but at some point in the sermon was visibly convicted and was either converted on the spot or just a short while later through the counsel of another Baptist pastor.[3] In 1688 Elias became the founding pastor of Pennepack Baptist Church.[4] He was influential to area churches and “did much to encourage the idea of connectionalism among the assemblages with which he worked in America.”[5] In 1692 he travelled back to London and to some degree assisted his father, Benjamin, in making two additions to the 1689 Second London Baptist Confession of Faith: One on hymn singing and the other about the laying on of hands in Baptism.[6]

This confession was largely adhered to by Baptists in the Philadelphia association in the early 1700s. But it was formally adopted by many Baptist churches in America when in 1742 the Philadelphia Association voted to print these confessions up which was done by Benjamin Franklin in 1743.[7] This confession came to be known as the Philadelphia Confession of 1742 and is essentially a reprint of the 1689 London Baptist Confession with the two additional sections. Thus, the Particular Baptist influence, both in doctrine and in how likeminded churches ought to intentionally cooperate, was rooted in the formation of the Philadelphia Baptist Association.[8]

Leon McBeth notes that, “By mid-[18th]-century, the [Philadelphia] association referred to churches as ‘belonging to this association,’ offered advice to churches on both doctrinal and practical issues, sent ‘helps’ or representatives to assist in cases of local church discipline, and helped to accredit, and when need be to discredit, ministers.”[9] Thus, Baptists in America greatly benefited from the 17th-century thought of their English forefathers but had to also think through associational life for themselves in a slightly different historical context. Like the English Particular Baptists, they were zealous to maintain the autonomy of the local church all the while also actively promoting tangible cooperative efforts. How then did 18th century Baptists think associations should “work”? Benjamin Griffith helps answer that question.

“[T]he Reverend Benjamin Griffith, pastor of the Montgomery Baptist Church of Bucks County, Pennsylvania” composed A Short Treatise Concerning a True and Orderly Gospel Church.[10] In this work, after establishing the importance and power of a local church, he laid out the following in his section, “On the Communion of Churches”,

[S]uch particular congregational churches, constituted and organized according to the mind of Christ revealed in the New Testament, are all equal in power and dignity, and we read of no disparity between them, or subordination among them, that should make a difference between the acts of their mutual communion, so as the acts of one church should be acts of authority, and the acts of others should be acts of obedience or subjection, although they may vastly differ in gifts, abilities and usefulness.

 

Such particular distinct churches, agreeing in gospel doctrine and practice, may and ought to maintain communion together in many duties, which may tend to the mutual benefit and edification of the whole: and thereby one church that hath plenty of gifts, may and ought, if possible, to supply another that lacketh, Canticles 8:8. They may have mutual giving and receiving, Philippians 4:15. and mutual translation, recommendation or dismission of members from one church to another, as occasion may require. It is to be noted that persons called to office are not to be dismissed as officers, but as members; though another church may call such to the same office again.

 

By virtue also of such communion, the members of one such church may, where they are known, occasionally partake at the Lord’s table with a sister church. Yet notwithstanding such communion of churches, by voluntary consent and confederation, the officers of one particular church, may not act as officers in another church, in any act of government, without a particular call thereunto from the other church where they occasionally come.

It is expedient that particular churches constituted in the way and manner, and for the ends declared in the former part of this narrative, when they are planted by the providence of God, so as they may have opportunity and advantage so to do, should, by their mutual agreement, appoint proper times and places, to meet by their respective messengers or delegates, to consider of such things as may be for the common benefit of all such churches, for their peace, prosperity, and mutual edification, and what may be for the furtherance of the Gospel, and the interest of Christ in the world.

 

And forasmuch as it falls out many times that particular churches have to do with doubtful and difficult matters, or differences in point of doctrine or administration, like the church of Antioch of old, wherein either of the churches in general are concerned, or any one church in their peace, union or edification; or any member or members of a church are injured, in or by any proceeding in censures not agreeable to gospel rule and order; it is according to the mind of Christ, that many churches holding communion together, should meet by their messengers and delegates to consider of and to give advice in or about such matters in difference; and their sentiments to be reported to all the churches concerned; and such messengers and delegates convened in the name of Christ, by the voluntary consent of the several churches in such mutual communion, may declare and determine of the mind of the Holy Ghost revealed in Scripture, concerning things in difference; and may decree the observation of things that are true and necessary, because revealed and appointed in the Scripture.

 

And the churches will do well to receive, own and observe such determinations, on the evidence and authority of the mind of the Holy Ghost in them, as in Acts 15:29. Yet such delegates thus assembled, are not intrusted [sic] or armed with any coercive power, or any superior jurisdiction over the churches concerned, so as to impose their determinations on them or their officers, under the penalty of excommunication, or the like.[11]

In this way, Griffith laid the theological groundwork for why and how local churches can cooperate together in associations.  This work served as a foundation for a statement Griffith produced in 1749, which was “signed by all of the delegates present at the annual meeting”.[12] This 1749 statement “made it clear…that the association had only the power to withdraw its fellowship; they might urge the churches to exclude members involved in erroneous practice or teaching, ‘but excommunicate they cannot.’ That power belongs only to the church.”[13]

Griffith’s statement both borrowed from the past and helped to cement a groundwork for the future. It was integrally connected to Christians of the 17th century, since, “In Griffith’s preface, he indicated that he had consulted works on church government by Benjamin Keach, John Owen, Thomas Goodwin, and Abel Morgan.”[14] Furthermore, as Baptists continued forming formal associations in America, they, like Griffith and those who had gone before him, were adamant that the ultimate ecclesiastical authority was the local church.

Earl Blackburn, a modern-day Reformed Baptist, echoes this sentiment when he writes, “An association of churches is not a denomination. An association has absolutely no power or authority over any local church, except to break fellowship with a disorderly church over doctrine or practice and to make known to others its actions toward the erring church and why its actions were taken. Its capacity and function is only advisory.”[15]

Similar to the 17th century General Assembly in England, the 18th Century Philadelphia Baptist Association “served as a doctrinal monitor” and “advised on Baptist practices.”[16] Also like the General Assembly of Particular Baptists from England it used money to help fund theological education and missions. “One purpose of associations was to extend the gospel to destitute areas, and by the 1760s the Philadelphia Association employed an ‘evangelist at large’ to plant new churches in needy areas.”[17] The minutes from the 1766 Philadelphia Association say this,

That it is most necessary for the good of the Baptist interest, that the Association have at their disposal every year a sum of money. Accordingly, it was further agreed: that the churches, henceforth, do make a collection every quarter, and send the same yearly to the Association, to be by them deposited in the hands of trustees; the interest whereof only to be them laid out every year in support of ministers travelling on the errand of the churches, or otherwise, as the necessities of said churches require.[18]

Torbet notes that, “The significance of the [Philadelphia] Association cannot be overemphasized, for without violating Baptist church autonomy it provided a source of guidance and unity at a critical period of organization in the denomination.”[19] In fact, it was the Philadelphia Baptist Association, standing on the shoulders of the 17th Century English Baptists, helped lay the groundwork for even larger associations of churches. By the 19th Century, state conventions were forming.

“The first Baptist state convention was formed in South Carolina (1821), followed by Georgia (1822), Virginia (1823), Alabama (1823), and North Carolina (1830). The idea of state conventions was a natural outgrowth of associational work”.[20] Thus, even large associations that continue to exist today, like the Southern Baptist Convention, owe their formation to the cooperative work of Baptists in the Philadelphia Association.


 

[1] A History of the Baptists, 212.

[2] https://www.pennepackbaptist.org/history.html

[3] A History of the Baptists, 210. See also, https://www.pennepackbaptist.org/history.html

[4] Ibid. Another Baptist historian, H. Leon McBeth, says, “Keach formed the Pennepek [sic] church in 1687”. H. Leon McBeth, The Baptist Heritage: Four Centuries of Baptist Witness, (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 1987), 240.

[5] Baptist Confessions of Faith, 348.

[6] The Baptist Heritage, 241.

[7] Baptist Confessions of Faith, 349.

[8] Brand and Hankins note that, “the first association of Baptists was formed in Philadelphia in 1707, largely as a result of the tireless work of Elias Keach.” One Sacred Effort, 63.

[9] The Baptist Heritage, 243.

[10] A History of the Baptists, 213.

[11] This work is dated, 1743. https://founders.org/polity/a-short-treatise-concerning-a-true-and-orderly-gospel-church-griffith/

[12] A History of the Baptists, 213.

[13] The Baptist Heritage, 244.

[14] Polity, 36.

[15] Denominations or Associations?, 27.

[16] The Baptist Heritage, 244-245.

[17] Ibid., 246.

[18] Denominations or Associations?, 59-60.

[19] A History of the Baptists, 214.

[20] Anthony L. Chute, Nathan A. Finn, and Michael A.G. Haykin, The Baptist Story: From English Sect to Global Movement, (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2015), 135.

Categories
Ecclesiology

Historical Basis for Baptist Cooperation – The 1689ers

By the 1670s the political climate in England was such that Baptists thought it prudent to show their solidarity with other English nonconformists like the Presbyterians and Congregationalists. This led to what is known today as the 1689 Second London Baptist Confession of Faith that was actually first written and published in 1677.[1] Chapter 26, Paragraphs 14-15 state,

As each church, and all the members of it, are bound to pray continually for the good and prosperity of all the churches of Christ, in all places, and upon all occasions to further every one within the bounds of their places and callings, in the exercise of their gifts and graces, so the churches, when planted by the providence of God, so as they may enjoy opportunity and advantage for it, ought to hold communion among themselves, for their peace, increase of love, and mutual edification.

In cases of difficulties or differences, either in point of doctrine or administration, wherein either the churches in general are concerned, or any one church, in their peace, union, and edification; or any member or members of any church are injured, in or by any proceedings in censures not agreeable to truth and order: it is according to the mind of Christ, that many churches holding communion together, do, by their messengers, meet to consider, and give their advice in or about that matter in difference, to be reported to all the churches concerned; howbeit these messengers assembled, are not intrusted [sic] with any church-power properly so called; or with any jurisdiction over the churches themselves, to exercise any censures either over any churches or persons; or to impose their determination on the churches or officers.

This Confession is similar to its 1644 predecessor but also goes into more detail on the nature of associational work. It actually uses the word “ought” to demonstrate that association among Baptists was not seen as merely something optional but even a duty. For local churches that have the opportunity to cooperate with like-minded churches in reasonable geographical proximity to not take advantage of this good providence is to be neglectful of God’s intent for His churches. Like the 1644 Confession, it highlights the necessity of churches meeting together to discuss problems that may arise, doctrinal issues, or even dealing with members of local churches that have an issue with church discipline. It is important to highlight again that the 1689 London Baptist Confession expresses that Baptist associations hold no authority over local churches. But, as James Renihan notes, “Independency did not imply isolation.”[2]

Furthermore, it is noteworthy that the Baptists of the late 17th century in England did not merely talk about associating, they actually did associate. Robert Torbet notes that, “the Particular Baptists…were reluctant to organize, fearing the loss of their local autonomy and freedom of conscience. However, they ‘were never independent in their attitude to other churches of similar outlook;’ they felt the need of closer association, particularly in the metropolitan areas.”[3]

Thus,

In 1689 a General Assembly of Particular Baptists was organized. This meeting, and those which followed periodically, possessed several distinctive characteristics. (1) Close membership was practiced; thus only churches of baptized believers were admitted. (2) Open communion was permitted, leaving each church to decide for itself whether visitors of non-Baptist fellowships should be allowed to partake of the Lord’s Supper. (3) At its first session, the Assembly upheld the Lord’s day for worship in preference to the Seventh Day. (4) The Assembly aimed to have an educated as well as an ordained ministry…(5) Its growth was rapid, there being one hundred and seven churches in attendance at the General Assembly of 1692.[4]

The General Assembly of Particular Baptists was organized on robust doctrinal positions that extended beyond primary issues. For example, 1689 Baptists agreed with Presbyterians on the gospel, but the Presbyterians would not have been invited to be part of this General Assembly since it was for Baptist churches. Furthermore, this assembly expressly stated,

We disclaim all manner of Superiority, Superintendency over the Churches; and that we have no authority or Power, to prescribe or impose any thing upon the Faith or Practice of any of the Churches of Christ. Our whole Intendment, is to be helpers together of one another, by way of Counsel and Advice, in the right understanding of the Perfect Rule which our Lord Jesus, the only Bishop of our Souls, hath prescribed, and given to his Churches in his Word, and therefore do severally and jointly agree.[5]

 

The assembly made several practical moves toward tangible cooperation between likeminded churches in England. They, for example, took up a collective fund that they could use for three main reasons. The first was to help churches in need to pay their pastors. Secondly, it could be used to send ministers to places to preach the gospel where it needed to be preached. Thirdly, it could be used to help gifted members or ministers in studying languages like Latin, Greek, or Hebrew.[6] In essence, the money was used for local church ministry, missions, and education.

This fund shows the willingness of the churches not merely to talk about the importance and necessity of associating together but demonstrates a tangible way of cooperation. In 1690, the General Assembly noted regarding this fund that, “Some at the cost of the Fund were sent out to preach the Gospel, with which the People were so affected, that they were forced to ride from place to place, and preach every day till they were even spent; and divers were baptized and two Churches are like to be gathered; and the People have sent again for their help; their Meetings were very great, and a great Door is open in those Eastern Parts, the Lord make it effectual.”[7] Thus, the Assembly’s fund shows Baptist churches pooling their earthly resources together and distributing money in a collective effort towards gospel preaching, ministry, church planting, missions, and theological education.

Regarding this fund, the 1690 Assembly gave suggestions for churches to give. It was made plain churches must first care for their “Ministers.” In any situation that a church’s Minister was sufficiently supplied, churches were encouraged to give to the collective fund. Further, rules were given for when a local church should make use of the fund. “[W]hen a Church hath done all they can do to their utmost and will not be sufficient, then those Messengers do acquaint their respective Association, and they together do consider what may be needful to be had out of the Fund”.[8]

Another thing this assembly did was to answer doctrinal questions. For example, one question proposed to the assembly was whether or not believers were justified at the moment that Christ died on the Cross. The assembly answered by saying that, “[N]one can be said to be actually reconciled, justified, or adopted, until they are really implanted into Jesus Christ by Faith and so by virtue of this their Union with him, have these Fundamental Benefits actually conveyed unto them.”[9]

Another thing the General Assembly did was give practical suggestions for cooperation among churches. Consider, for example, this question asked to the Assembly, “Whether it be not expedient for Churches that live near together, and consist of small numbers, and are not able to maintain their own Ministry [i.e., pay a pastor], to join together for the better and more comfortable support of their Ministry, and better Edification one of another?” The answer was, “Concluded in the Affirmative.”[10] That is, the General Assembly saw it a matter of prudence for small churches in close proximity who could not afford a minister, to combine and form a new local church that could afford a minister. In fact, an anonymous author expanded on this idea in a book printed and distributed to churches in 1689 entitled, The Gospel Minister’s Maintenance Vindicated, which was, “Recommended to the Baptize Congregations by Several Elders in and about the City of London.”[11] In this book it says,

It may deserve our most mature Consideration, whether a People may safely continue themselves in a Church State, when not able to provide for a Ministry, especially as the Case may be circumstanced; for, possibly they might very well joyn [sic] themselves to another Congregation near unto them, and be a real help to such a Church, being Imbodied with them, And this we do say, For a People to put themselves into a Church State, is one of the most weightiest Things in the World, and ought with as great Care and Consideration to be done; we concluding in some places where there are many Churches near to each other, it would be far better for some of those small and insufficient Societies to unite themselves to some other Congregation; and by that means the weight of those Indispensable Duties and Obligations that are incumbent on them, would with much more ease be borne and answeres [sic], to the Honour of Christ, reputation of the Gospel, and their own Edification.[12]

The point this book, and the General Assembly, makes is not that local churches are obligated to join together if they cannot afford a full-time ministry. Rather, these great Baptists were attempting to think through how churches ought to associate together. And in their mind, it made sense for two small churches close in doctrine and proximity, to unite together into one local church so that they could pay for a Pastor’s needs in such a way that he would not have to be so preoccupied with secular work and could appropriately attend the flock and be occupied with the Word of God and prayer (cf. Acts 6:4). Again, this was not mandated, in fact, nothing the Assembly suggested was mandated. Instead, the General Assembly of these 17th Century Baptists was for the purpose of advice and counsel on doctrinal matters, but also how the churches could cooperate together in a concrete way for the glory of Christ.

In conclusion, it behooves us to stop and appreciate the time, study, writing, dialogue, and prayer these 17th century Baptists put into thinking through the issues of cooperation.[13] This does not in itself prove they were right in their conclusions. But it ought to give us in the 21st century serious pause before dismissing their conclusions. Some of the hardest time and effort has already been done for us on this subject by these men.


 

[1] Denominations or Associations?, 235-237.

[2] Faith and Life for Baptists, 15.

[3] Robert G. Torbet, A History of the Baptists, (Valley Forge, PA: Judson Press, 3rd Printing 2000), 67.

[4] Ibid., 68.

[5] Faith and Life for Baptists, 34.

[6] Ibid., 36.

[7] Ibid., 62.

[8] Ibid., 66.

[9] Ibid., 38.

[10] Ibid., 37.

[11] Ibid., 141. The work is “attributed to Benjamin Keach”, 139.

[12] Ibid., 185.

[13] The technical term today is Associationalism.

Categories
History Methodology Missions

Dr. Tom Nettles on The Mission Board that Saved the Southern Baptist Convention

Renowned church historian and Southern Baptist Dr. Tom Nettles recently spoke with the Church History Matters podcast about the founding of the SBC’s Domestic Mission Board in 1845 and how that decision reverberated through the Convention.

This is a great reminder of the importance of The Cooperative Program as a mechanism for funding missions and theological education. It also reminds us why a healthy SBC matters.

Find it on your podcast app or stream it here!

Categories
Controversy Reform SBC Author

PragNAMBtism: Dr. Ezell’s position on Women Pastors in SBC Church Plants

*At the time of this posting Echo Church is still listed as a NAMB church plant with a female teaching pastor. 

If the Southern Baptist Convention is going to see true reformation, the 11th Commandment has to end. For those unfamiliar with this rule, it is an unwritten agreement that you don’t talk publicly about anything negative in the SBC, particularly with any of the main entities.

Conservative Resurgence Voices is not a polemics site. But we are willing to speak publicly about what’s going on in the SBC because we truly long for a conservative resurgence. Part of the battle has been convincing some that there is even a need for a conservative resurgence. After all, the SBC is a “conservative” organization. Right?

Hopefully, last week’s piece on NAMB churches utilizing women as pastors has brought more awareness to some of what is going on in our convention. The reality is, this is not the worst of it. Dr. Ezell, and apparently NAMB Trustees, know this is happening. As a result, I’m forced to wonder if they either do not care or perhaps are pushing it.

Bad as the ’80s?

I’ve had several phone conversations since the NAMB piece last week. In most of them, folks were concerned about the direction of the SBC. But in one of them, with a NAMB employee, the topic was brought up by the other party that “This is nowhere near as bad as 1985-1986.”

Well, I was born in 1986 so I cannot speak to that. But this would be similar to me telling you that I was diagnosed with stage 2 cancer and you responding with “Oh yeah? I was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and beat it.” Praise the Lord you beat cancer! But this does not take away from the seriousness of my own diagnosis even if it appears to be at an earlier stage. If left untreated it will kill me.

Maybe people are not publicly denying the inerrancy of the Bible – yet. But the situation we are currently in is that people are saying one thing with their mouths and doing another in their actions. This is a terrible direction. It is pragmatism at its worst.

Dr. Ezell’s Position

It’s never been my desire or hope to get to a point in SBC life where we need to publish an entity head’s emails. But this is where we are. The doublespeak has to end. The political maneuvering has to end. Transparency is what we want.

Let me state a few things up front. First, a lot of what I am publishing from Dr. Ezell has been said similarly by him on social media or in the public arena. Secondly, at least one other SBC pastor received what I received verbatim (his was on 1/12-1/13/2021). So, these answers seem to be pretty public for anyone who wants them.

Still, to be as charitable as possible I’m only publishing what I think needs published. I will leave out the rest. After the fiasco with the Florida Church Plant that had a woman lead pastor, I reached out to NAMB. I got a form letter in reply but asked to speak to Dr. Ezell directly. He did email and said he was willing to answer questions so I sent him this on January 29, 2021:

Dr. Ezell kindly and promptly replied on January 30, 2021. Again, this information has been emailed to more than just me. Understandably, I’m sure Dr. Ezell got a lot of the same questions, so it seems there were some who received basically the same information. So again, this information isn’t really hidden for any who would care to write Dr. Ezell. Here is his 1/30/21 response:

The yellow highlighted portion was done by either Dr. Ezell, or someone else. And I have to be honest, it was very encouraging to read that. It says a few things very clearly:

  1. Only biblically qualified men are approved in the role of pastor which are endorsed and funded by NAMB
  2. SBC Plants are required to whole-heartedly embrace the BFM 2000 and
  3. specifically the role of women. Which just to remind us here the BFM says this: “While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.”

So, again, quite encouraging. Shouldn’t, then, we reasonably assume that what this means is that NAMB will not support churches that intentionally violate the BFM 2000 by having women serve as pastors? That’s what I assumed when I read it.

I was even tempted to leave it there and basically say in my mind, “Whatever is going on with NAMB it must be that Dr. Ezell does not know and things must fall through the cracks at times.”

I think this is probably what a lot of Southern Baptists believe. And when they see reports about church plants with women pastors they think, “Sure, but we trust Dr. Ezell. We know that he’s not allowing this to happen intentionally.”

Thus, I decided not to let it go and on 1/31/21 I wrote this back to Dr. Ezell:

And here is what I think Southern Baptists need to know. I think it is what they deserve to know. On Monday, February 1, Dr. Ezell replied:

Here is what is frustrating as a Southern Baptist. In one email Dr. Ezell assured me that SBC Plants are required to whole-heartedly embrace the BFM 2000 and specifically the role of women. That is, the Southern Baptist Convention has unequivocally stated in its statement of faith that only qualified men can serve in the role of pastor.

Yet, when pressed on this, the real story is: “We don’t look at staff rosters.” That is, “We don’t really care if women are serving as pastors or not.” Now, which is it? Because these two emails are contradictory. A church cannot be whole-heartedly embracing the BFM 2000 and have women serving in the role of a pastor.

After these emails and talking with a NAMB employee, I can tell you definitively and beyond any shadow of a doubt that NAMB’s position is that female pastors are fine as long as they are not the “lead” pastor.

I do not understand the strategy in this. It seems that Dr. Ezell and the leadership at NAMB, without informing the Convention, have reinterpreted the BFM 2000 to mean something its writers never intended it to mean: that women are only barred from serving as “senior” pastors. This is an absolute butchering of the BFM 2000. And what’s more concerning is that this is a classic liberal tactic: To say you affirm a statement when you just redefine the terms. This is not me calling Dr. Ezell a liberal. This is me saying he is undeniably using a liberal tactic.

How can an SBC entity adopt a policy that is in contrast to the clear doctrinal parameters of the Baptist Faith and Message (2000)? Without asking or informing the convention, an entity that is under the authority of the churches in the convention has usurped the authority of these churches and carved its own path. And then, at best, they have been very political in their wording, and at worst they have bold faced lied to Southern Baptists about their strategy.

Since last week’s posting there has been some shuffling around with NAMB’s website. It appears some churches with female “non-lead” pastors have been removed? Is this being done silently?

What about the Trustees?

In a Baptist Press Article that posted February 4, 2021, NAMB Trustee board chairman, Danny de Armas, said this:

“Several trustees related being frustrated by the notion that some are putting forth that the NAMB trustees are not doing our job and that we don’t know what is going on at NAMB. Not only do we know what is going on, in most cases we initiated and, in every case, we affirm the strategies and changes that are being implemented.

This is not a comforting statement. I’m trying to be fair to this statement but it seems rather reasonable that I could plug this in: “Not only do NAMB trustees know that women are serving as pastors in NAMB plants in most cases they also initiated it, and in every case, they affirmed it.”

So, not only are NAMB employees “in” on this. Apparently, so are the trustees? And this is not with the consent of the Convention. How is this happening if the SBC really is under the authority of the local churches?

Does NAMB work for the local churches in the SBC or not? If so, why does it get to do what it wants in terms of disregarding the Baptist Faith and Message? And if it doesn’t work for the churches of the SBC, why are we giving them money under the guise that they do work for us?

I did email Danny de Armas, Chair of the Board of Trustees for NAMB and wrote, “Please brother, we must hold NAMB accountable to planting churches that are in true agreement with the BFM 2000.” He did email me back thanking me for reaching out but did not respond to the comment about the Baptist Faith and Message. Perhaps it was an oversight. But it is hard for me to continually pursue these avenues as a Southern Baptist Pastor only to time and again have my questions ignored, overlooked, or answered deceptively.

Brothers and sisters, this is beyond heartbreaking. It is well past time to contact our NAMB trustees and reiterate to them that our standard of cooperation is the BF&M 2000. Maybe other trustees will listen. As Denny Burk wrote last week, “Our ability to cooperate is materially compromised when a cooperating church ignores what we have all agreed upon as the doctrinal basis for our work together—the BF&M.”

We should believe more than what is in the BF&M, but we cannot believe less (see Why the SBC Needs a Tent Revival).

Does this Really Matter?

Absolutely. The SBC is sick. She has a cancer that is spreading through her churches that if left unchecked will eventually be terminal. One may think “Oh we are just arguing about words here.” No. We are arguing over whether or not we actually believe and practice that the Word of God is our highest authority and wholly sufficient for how we understand the leadership of the church.

Consider what Dr. Mohler said in a 2019 9Marks Panel at the Southern Baptist Convention:

“A lot of younger Southern Baptists…understand that complementarian or the gender relations, that’s a second-order issue. But what they’re missing is second-order issues are also constitutive of the Southern Baptist Convention. And so just understand we had a 30 year battle over 1st and 2nd order issues. One secondary issue we were fighting over was should women be pastors. The convention has declared itself so emphatically on that it’s in the confession of faith. Our confession of faith that constitutes the basis of our cooperation is inherently complementarian…

The Baptist Faith and Message requires an understanding that the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture and that there are distinct roles for men and women in the home and in the church…But this is where I think a lot of younger Southern Baptists are acting as if Southern Baptist can embrace a pluralism on this that would include egalitarianism. No! We spent 30 years struggling with Scripture and each other to define the fact that this fellowship is established upon Complementarianism.”

And on January 28, 2021, Danny Akin tweeted out:

“[W]omen cannot serve as a pastor. Pastors are always men in the Bible. To call a woman a pastor in any capacity is not faithful to the biblical revelation. She can serve in many capacities but it is theologically in error to call her a pastor.”

What does this mean? It means we can argue about whether or not churches that have women pastors are true churches or not. But what we cannot argue about is if they are Southern Baptist churches, because they are not – not if we “wholeheartedly embrace the Baptist Faith and Message 2000.”

Categories
Complementarianism Controversy Ecclesiology Gender Methodology Missions

NAMB Follow-Up | Current Church Website Profiles

Yesterday we released an article describing concerns over egalitarianism in NAMB church plants. Since then, the most frequent question we’ve received is whether or not these are current NAMB churches.

Each of these churches was verified on the NAMB church plant database prior to publication. Each church was re-verified today and that is documented below. This website information does reveal the names of the churches. We want to again stress that our intention is to seek clarification from NAMB and all our SBC entities, not to interrogate the practices of any individual church.

This post is being provided so that those interested can see the accuracy and timeliness of our concerns. Our previous article stated that one of the five churches has already left NAMB affiliation. If more of these churches have since left NAMB and the SBC, this does not change the substance of our questions. Indeed, if that is the case it raises questions about our assessment process on such a key doctrinal issue.

While how we got to this point would still be concerning, many Southern Baptists would be relieved to see a statement from NAMB clarifying our current church planting practices in regards to egalitarianism.

We want to hear that NAMB does not plant or partner with churches who violate the BF&M2000 by appointing women to the office of pastor. The office of pastor is not arbitrarily limited only to one position in a local church known as a “senior” or “lead” pastor, and this language is found nowhere in the BF&M2000. We would expect that any SBC entity would be eager to affirm such a statement, and to correct any practices found to be in violation of this.