Categories
Controversy Critical Theory Ecclesiology Methodology Missions Reform Social Justice

Kyle Whitt Goes on the Record with Significant & Specific Concerns about NAMB

Kyle Whitt has released a video with several specific and distressing claims about the doctrinal fidelity and inner workings of the Southern Baptist Convention’s North American Mission Board discovered during his two years working to plant a church in Washington state.

From Whitt’s Reddit post:

For the past two years I’ve been working with NAMB to plant a church in Washington state. After hours of research and conversations, I came to the conclusion that NAMB’s church planting arm, the Send Network, is pushing us to teach a false gospel. There are many other serious issues at Send and NAMB, but this video only covers the biggest and most important. I get that this is a big accusation, and believe me this is not something done lightly or without a lot of prayer. I ask that you watch the whole thing, look into what I’ve pointed out, and use this as a starting point to answer this question. I’m extremely nervous right now, as I have no idea what posting this video will result in for me, so it might take me a little bit to reply to comments. I plan on doing some follow up to help answer questions/clarify things (livestream? AMA?), but for right now I’m taking this one step at a time.

More:

Some [at NAMB] are adding specific works as a “key component of the gospel.” I assumed they were wording it poorly, talking about obedience to Christ, and the good works we do as a result of the gospel transforming us. After lots of research, and conversations (including with Dhati Lewis, head of NAMB’s church planting arm, the Send Network) it was clear that no, they’re attaching these things directly as a part of the gospel.

Watch the video here:

For the sake of our cooperative missions endeavor here is to hoping NAMB will answer Whitt’s claims as forthrightly as he has made them; more this kind of direct speech is desperately needed in this era of Southern Baptist history.

Edit

Whitt’s claims seem to echo Dhati Lewis’ controversial statements in this video:

Categories
Critical Race Theory Ecclesiology Racism Reform Social Justice

What to Make of Owen Strachan’s Departure

As you likely know, Owen Strachan is leaving the Southern Baptist Convention.

How should we think about that move?

For starters there are lots of people his departure is good for.  It’s great for everyone connected to Grace Bible Theological Seminary, so great that “great” really doesn’t quite capture how good it is.  Go look on YouTube for the reaction in Cleveland when the Cavs won the Lebron James lottery.  That is what I mean by “great for GBTS.”

It’s great for Dr. Strachan, in fact.  Everything he has written or said about this decision indicates he has a hopeful, aggressive, and entrepreneurial spirit as he engages in this new endeavor (example).  Clearly Dr. Strachan is ready to try his hand as a builder and I expect nothing less than his per-usual excellence in this new pursuit.

The people who it is bad – really bad – for are those of us who care about the faithfulness and future of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Dr. Strachan represents rarified air within scholarly Southern Baptist circles in terms of scholarship, leadership, faithfulness – particularly when one considers his relative youth.  Give his faculty page at the old gig a read.  He’s… accomplished.  Published.  Lead.  Contributed.  Taken stands.

In short, he’s the kind of scholar coming into the very height of his powers that a wise institution not only fights like a wild animal to keep but builds its program on.

But Midwestern wished him well.

And Grace Bible Theological Seminary won the lottery.

And the Southern Baptist Convention lost.

Of immediate importance is that Dr. Strachan was the highest profile Southern Baptist working at a Southern Baptist institution who was regularly and forcefully pushing back against the attempted colonization of historic Christianity by neo-racism through Critical Race Theory.

This, in and of itself, is a catastrophic loss for the Southern Baptist Convention.  Let me ask you, reader, this question:

Dr. Strachan was clearly the #1 opponent of CRT working at a Southern Baptist entity. Who is in the #2 slot behind him?

Don’t worry – I’ll wait.

Insofar as this decision looks like the failure to retain a voice critical of Critical Race Theory the implications for the Southern Baptist Convention are increasingly distressing.

When the news broke a friend told me he is sending his daughter to MBTS’ Spurgeon College and now is questioning the decision.  Strachan, by himself, granted a degree of legitimacy to MBTS among those who see CRT for the danger it is that no other seminary can boast.  That MBTS failed to retain Strachan leaves many of us not just wondering if MBTS is a viable option but whether there is a viable option in the SBC for Seminary education.  It appears the policy of our seminaries is to deny that CRT has any place in their institution even as the content coming to light from their faculty makes clear that CRT is very much at home within those schools.  Owen offered a practical, real-world alternative – again, as I have mentioned, largely by himself – and now the door to a theological education not subject to CRT propaganda appears to have departed the SBC with him.

I once told Owen that I believed he was our Machen because he was taking an unique stand against a popular and egregious error.  His departure makes the parallels more pronounced.  Think I am wrong?  Providentially, Ligonier’s Renewing Your Mind podcast has been running lectures from Dr. Robert Godfrey’s Church History lectures.  Recent episodes have covered the 20th Century Modernist / Fundamentalist split.  This paradigm is the best we have for understanding the current developing divide between woke evangelicals and those who wish to remain within the historical Christian tradition.  Give these episodes a listen and tell me that the comparison is not painfully apt.

  1. Fundamentalism vs. Modernism in the Church
  2. J. Gresham Machen
  3. Remaining Struggles over Fundamentalism and Modernism in the Church

Machen’s departure should have prompted American Presbyterianism to rend their clothes in sackcloth and ashes.  That didn’t happen.  Princeton was lost to apostasy and continues to vomit toxicity to our day.

The Southern Baptist Convention is the place our Presbyterian brothers found themselves long ago.  May the Lord grant we learn from their lesson and act more faithfully.

Let me put a point on this: Get to Nashville.  Vote in every session.  We have two candidates who won’t allow the degradation into Church Intersectionality to continue.  We have a third who might not.  Vote for them.*

Haven’t been planning to go?  No excuses – get to Nashville.

Think the last minute planning will be too difficult?  Stop.  Get to Nashville.

Seriously.  Enough is enough.  Get to Nashville.  Need help?  Reply to this post and we’ll see what we can do.  But get to Nashville – with as many voters as your church can send.  I’m dead serious.

Owen Strachan left the Southern Baptist Convention.  He left not because he was forced out, I think, but because the options outside were better for his calling.  That the options for him outside the SBC were better is to our great shame and his departure has massive and immediate ramifications for our brothers and sisters in Southern Baptist Churches.

If we fail to act now, if we fail to learn from church history, we will find ourselves where the options outside the SBC aren’t merely better but rather the only option for faithful Christians.

————————————

A couple readers have asked that I elaborate here; I honestly assumed it was obvious.  I’ll clarify but I want it to be clear I am speaking for myself and not CR:V or any other contributors.

I think Mike Stone is the best candidate, Randy Adams is another great option. Al Mohler, who I respect as much as anyone in the SBC, is the maybe candidate; if we get the guy who reformed SBTS and speaks on The Briefing every day he’d move straight up the chart like a rocket. However, that he is also Matt Hall’s boss makes the proposition more iffy.

Ed Litton is the no-go candidate in my opinion. The current good ol’ boy network lined up to promote him at every turn, sometimes in a way that is more than a little ethically suspect. He’s also on the record perpetuating the “nothing to see here” approach to the problem of Critical Race Theory in the SBC that the same group of elites promoting him as a candidate have adopted.

I’m confident that Ed is a good man and a fine pastor. However, he is not a good candidate (for the reasons above) to fill the Presidency of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Categories
Ecclesiology Podcast Reform

Randy Adams: SBC Presidential Candidate Interview

On this episode Jeff sits down with Randy Adams, Executive Director of the Northwest Baptist Convention, and candidate for the presidency of the Southern Baptist Convention. You’ll get to know Randy better – how important the BCM was in his walk with Christ, his time pastoring, how he came to the Northwest, and what his aspirations for the Southern Baptist Convention look like.

We trust you will find this interview enlightening and enjoyable!

You can stream the episode here or find it on your favorite podcast platform.

Give Randy a follow on Twitter then check out his SBC-focused writings at SBCtransform.com.

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
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
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.