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
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.

Categories
Complementarianism Controversy Debate Ecclesiology Methodology Missions

Planting a Church with the North American Mission Board: What is it Like?

The recent news about North American Mission Board church plants identifying women in their congregation as pastors may have piqued your interest in what the process is like for those interested in planting.

Some insight can be found on the Southern Baptist subreddit on Reddit.com in a thread named “Church planter in residence at an SBC church in WA state. Struggling with whether or not to go through the accreditation/ assessment process.

As you can read, the anonymous author speaks to worries about whether or not to plant with the North American Mission Board because of the current controversy as well as a degree of ambivalence about specifically affirming the Baptist Faith and Message 2000.

Categories
Complementarianism Ecclesiology Gender Reform

NAMB and SBC Egalitarianism

The North American Mission Board (NAMB) has an egalitarian problem. How big of a problem largely depends, in my opinion, on the willingness of NAMB leadership to speak with clarity to this issue.

Two weeks ago, it was revealed that a Florida NAMB church plant had a husband and wife as dual Lead Pastors. It appears the church has subsequently chosen to disaffiliate with the SBC.

This week, I have documented and observed that at least four more current NAMB church plants have women pastors on staff. In the interest of not repeating some of the distractions from last week, the names of these churches are not identified in this post. The decision to withhold this information is not because I want this matter to be swept under the rug, but quite the opposite.

The main issue that needs to be addressed is not ultimately with any individual SBC church, regardless of their error. The issue that must be addressed is whether or not we as a convention broadly and NAMB as an entity specifically approve of women serving in the role of pastor.

Has the SBC, without a vote, become an egalitarian convention based on its actual practice? We must have clarity on this issue.

My intent in sharing this information is not to embarrass or shame anyone. Indeed, one should not be embarrassed by their theological commitments. Presumably all of these churches and individuals believe what they are doing is right. None of the questions which are to follow are directed at the individual churches and people involved. These questions are directed to NAMB and SBC leadership.


A large California church recently became associated with NAMB for their church planting efforts. The plants of this church are currently listed on the NAMB website. Additionally, the Executive Pastor of this church serves as a NAMB church planting trainer.

This church also has five women serving on their staff as pastors.

Two other smaller California NAMB church plants have women listed as pastors on their websites.

 

In the Washington DC area, a NAMB church plant is outspoken about their egalitarianism. This statement is displayed proudly on the churches’ website:

All of these churches above are currently listed on the NAMB website of associated churches, and none of this information appears to be outdated.

Categories
Complementarianism Controversy Ecclesiology Gender Methodology Missions Reform Scripture

Time to Contact NAMB Trustees. Here’s How.

Southern Baptists are a great-commission people.  As a result, Southern Baptists are a church-planting people.

Southern Baptist are also a confessional people who, as a result, have real clarity on what the important terms “church” and “pastor” mean according to Scripture.  This clarity allows Southern Baptists to accomplish what they intend in church planting, namely to plant Southern Baptist churches.

A New Testament church of the Lord Jesus Christ is an autonomous local congregation of baptized believers, associated by covenant in the faith and fellowship of the gospel; observing the two ordinances of Christ, governed by His laws, exercising the gifts, rights, and privileges invested in them by His Word, and seeking to extend the gospel to the ends of the earth. Each congregation operates under the Lordship of Christ through democratic processes. In such a congregation each member is responsible and accountable to Christ as Lord. Its scriptural officers are pastors and deacons. While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.

The New Testament speaks also of the church as the Body of Christ which includes all of the redeemed of all the ages, believers from every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation.

As Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary President Daniel Akin recently articulated, there is no ambiguity in what Southern Baptists confess.  Scripture knows of no office of pastor available to women, regardless of what other adjectives and qualifications might be attempted.

Thankfully, Southern Baptists have an excellent mechanism for planting Biblically-faithful Baptist Faith and Message 2000 churches in the North American Mission Board.  However, the last two weeks have revealed that the blessings of Southern Baptist churches planting Biblical Baptist Faith and Message 2000 churches through the North American Mission Board is experiencing a disruption that has to be addressed.

January 26th, 2020 brought to light the first sign of the breakdown: A North American Mission Board church plant, 1 Name Church of Planation, FL, was found to be using the title “Pastor” in unbiblical fashion, applying it to a woman within the church.

When this breakdown in healthy practice – most importantly, by breaking with Scripture’s clear teaching but secondarily also by breaking faith with the Southern Baptist donors who sponsored the church in good faith with the North American Mission Board under the assumption that NAMB would plant churches keeping with our confession of faith – came to light 1 Name promptly ended their relationship with the SBC and asked to be left alone.

Ultimately the decision of a local church to cooperate or not with the Southern Baptist Convention is that church’s decision.  What remains is for the North American Mission Board to account for (a) how much money they were tasked with stewarding on behalf of Southern Baptists has been sunk into a church that was clearly not of like faith and practice and (b) what safeguards failed to prevent this from happening.

There was an initial indication that Dr. Kevin Ezell, President of the North American Mission Board, was willing to address the seriousness of the problem directly.

What appeared to be an invitation to engage directly with Dr. Ezell via email resulted for those of us who reached out in a form-letter response from someone other than Dr. Ezell that amounted to a shutdown in further communication (the last I personally received directed me back to Dr. Ezell’s tweets, for instance).

Unfortunately, the intervening days have revealed the problem is more pronounced than just one church.  In fact, – in the most distressing fashion possible – it is now clear that the situation with 1 Name Church is far from an isolated incident.  As Nate Scholman has demonstrated here on CR Voices – and please read the whole thing – there are a disturbing number of churches receiving sponsorship from the NAMB who are in open contradiction to The Baptist Faith and Message 2000, indicating a breakdown in the partnership/stewardship relationship of Southern Baptist donors and the NAMB, doctrinal fidelity to our confessional statement, and faithfulness to Scripture’s clear teaching.

Since the problem is now seen to be worse than indicated on January 26th and the opportunity to engage with Dr. Ezell resulted in no additional way forward to address these breakdowns in Southern Baptist cooperative ministry it is now time to call on the trustees of the North American Mission Board to fulfill their responsibilities to Southern Baptists.  The trustees of Southern Baptist entities work on behalf of Southern Baptists (rather than on behalf of the entities themselves) to supervise the work of these entities in such a way that the entities fulfill the mandate given them by Southern Baptists.

Categories
Controversy Ecclesiology Methodology Missions

SBC Executive Committee ERLC Task Force Releases Investigation Report

Approximately one year ago the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee formed a task force to “review the past and present activities” of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC). The Baptist Press reporting on the Task Force’s formation is a helpful refresher:

The Executive Committee action comes in response to “ongoing concerns” cited by EC members, state leaders and other Southern Baptists that the ERLC is not adequately fulfilling its Convention-approved ministry assignments.

The motion specifically noted that concerns “have been expressed both publicly and privately to various members of the Executive Committee and other Southern Baptists regarding how the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission’s actions in relation to its ministry statements are affecting the Convention and its relationships with local churches, local associations, and state conventions.”

“We are looking for the facts,” said Executive Committee chairman Mike Stone, who will chair the task force. “We are hearing from state leadership and other pastors across the country. We are making a statement about effectiveness.”

This action creates “a formal process by which we can receive information and determine the level that this issue is affecting the Cooperative Program,” said Stone. “I’m fully aware that we may find, as we did in 2017, that what we are hearing is not as significant in fact as it is in perception. What we want to find is where the facts lead us.”

Following the action by the Executive committee the trustees of the ERLC issued a response, including instruction to the staff and leadership not to comply with the Executive Committee’s investigation.

The Task Force made its findings available yesterday and the report is an important read for all Southern Baptists, regardless of their opinion on the activity of the ERLC. Click here to read the Task Force’s report (PDF reader required).

Of particular interest are the following sections of the report:

Section V: The Long-Term Decline of the Cooperative Program [Excerpt]

In recent years, the allocation forwarded by the states to the national convention has increased
from an average of 37% (2009) to 42% (2018-2019). But total dollars received by our
state/regional convention partners has been in steady decline as noted in Appendix 4.
Percentage giving by churches has fallen by more than half over the last three decades. This is
despite the fact that total giving to SBC churches has grown from around $4 billion to around
$12 billion in this same time frame.

Sections X & XI: Conclusions & Recommendations

X. Findings

(1) That there seems to be confusion among Southern Baptists regarding increases and
decreases in national Cooperative Program giving.

(2) That while much of the work of the ERLC is praised and appreciated by Southern Baptists,
the ERLC is also a source of significant distraction from the Great Commission work of Southern
Baptists. The leader of a large state convention stated, “one of the major points of erosion of Cooperative Program support has been the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.”  The task force finds merit in this statement.

(3) That the unacceptable handling of the amicus brief matter discussed in #9 above [in the report] is an
example of a concern raised by many SBC leaders that the ERLC is not as responsive as it ought
to be in correcting problems and controversies it creates. In this context, one state executive
responded about the ERLC that “National SBC controversy impacts CP giving through the state convention.”

(4) That the current perception of the leadership and direction of the ERLC by many Southern
Baptists is a substantial impediment to the growth of the Cooperative Program. Without quick
and significant changes in that perception, the findings suggest the potential for a measurable
decline in the near future and beyond. The executive director of one of our largest-contributing state conventions told the task force, “one of the major points of erosion of Cooperative Program support has been the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.”

(5) That there is considerable conversation across the Convention as to whether the ERLC is the
most effective and efficient structure and means for addressing the public policy concerns of
the Southern Baptist Convention.

XI. Recommendations

(1) That the Executive Committee seek to provide even greater clarity about Convention-wide
giving trends as it reports giving to the national Convention budget.

(2) That the Executive Committee request that the ERLC Board of Trustees, in an effort to foster
greater unity among our churches, encourage ERLC staff to focus, where possible, on speaking
where the Southern Baptist Convention has already spoken through resolutions and The Baptist
Faith and Message.

(3) That the Executive Committee request that the ERLC Board of Trustees encourage the
president and staff of the ERLC to refrain from opposing specific candidates for public office.

(4) That the Executive Committee request that the ERLC Board of Trustees encourage the ERLC
staff to be more responsive to requests from Southern Baptists to address/acknowledge certain
news items as a means of better serving the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention.

(5) That the Executive Committee request that the ERLC Board of Trustees work with the ERLC
staff to develop an intentional plan to demonstrate a greater appreciation for how its positions,
including social media usage, affect the spirit of cooperation among Southern Baptists.

(6) That the Executive Committee request that the boards of trustees of each of the entities of
the Convention adopt and implement a policy of submitting legal briefs, where those briefs
address the nature and work of Southern Baptists, to Convention attorneys, prior to their being
filed, for the purpose of receiving input regarding the effect of those briefs on the ministries of
the Southern Baptist Convention.

Read the full report here.

Categories
Controversy Ecclesiology History Methodology New Liberalism Non-SBC Podcast Reform

“Liberals Are Very Good at Capturing Institutions. They’re Very Poor at Creating Institutions.”

Aaron Ren has released an episode of his podcast, The Masculinist, with critical insights for those interested in learning lessons for today from church history.  The focus of the episode is the battle for conservative theology within the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod.

The quote in the title of this post can be found around the 12:41 mark in the episode.  You can listen to it on your podcast app or stream it here.

Categories
Controversy Ecclesiology Pastoring Podcast Scripture

Mike Riccardi on Pastoring Grace Community Church in 2020

On Episode 18 of The CR:V Podcast Jeff Wright speaks with Mike Riccardi of Grace Community Church about pastoring, pastoring in 2020, and pastoring Grace Community Church in 2020.

Subscribe to the podcast on Anchor or iTunes.

Categories
Complementarianism Ecclesiology Missions Reform

Cleaning the Outside of the Cup: Why Now is not the Time to Debate a Name Change in the SBC

My three-year-old was doing a three-year-old thing at breakfast. He wouldn’t drink his milk because he said it smelled funny. Every time he put his cup to his mouth to take a sip he curled his nose and told us “This milk smells yucky!”

Finally, I did what dads do. I took the cup and gave it a sniff. Turns out, he was right! Sort of. It wasn’t the milk that actually smelled funny but the cup. The inside hadn’t been cleaned properly and it gave off a noticeable odor when you put the cup to your nose. I attribute the problem to my older children who are too much like the adolescent version of their father who thought washing dishes poorly might get him out of having to do it (as an aside I was wrong, and so are they!).

Of course, I wouldn’t have gotten my youngest to drink the milk if I would have taken a paper towel and simply shined the outside of the cup. The outside wasn’t the problem. It was the inside that was causing the issue. I could have put a sticker on the outside of the cup that said “Clean Cup!”, but alas, the inside is what needed changing.

Categories
Abortion Abuse Christology Complementarianism Controversy Critical Race Theory Critical Theory Debate Ecclesiology Fallacies Gender History Homosexuality Intersectionality Methodology Missions New Liberalism Non-SBC Podcast Prosperity Gospel Racism Reform Reviews SBC Author Scripture Social Justice

Conservative Resurgence Voices Turns One!

Conservative Resurgence Voices has posted its 200th article and turned one year old. We’d like to thank our contributors as well as our readership for a fantastic year! We look forward to many more, Lord willing.

You can click here to understand what we’re all about, and here to find the statements we affirm. If you look around the site, you’ll find articles, series, and media pertaining to theological conservatism and the Southern Baptist Convention.

Will you consider supporting us through Likes, Retweets, Shares, and Reviews? And make sure to let your pastor or church members know about us, too! You can Follow us @voices_cr on Twitter, or find us on Facebook.

You can also listen to our new podcast on Anchor here or Apple Podcasts here.

Thank you for reading and listening to Conservative Resurgence Voices!