The story begins in October of 2019. In a group text with some brothers from Perryville Second Baptist, one man shared Jeff Noblit’s video on Leaving the SBC. Another guy responded with, “Maybe instead of jumping ship, we should take the ship.”
After I had watched the Founder’s Cinedoc, By What Standard?, I posted my review at ThingsAbove.Us and said, “Sure, one strategy is we can abandon ship & let the SBC sink. But, there’s another viable strategy too–We can take the ship.”
Take the ship. That little phrase hasn’t made everyone happy. Some have drawn too strong an analogy between my desires and piracy. But this isn’t a campaign against people. This is a war of ideas. And I assure you, I absolutely desire to make all godless ideologies creeping into our convention walk the plank in Nashville.
Sadly, though, we understand that ideologies are perpetuated by people. Thus, if conservatives take the ship, the crew will shrink. Some (many?) may jump off and sail in various directions. So be it. It’s not my desire to unnecessarily shrink the SBC. But competing ideologies cannot both steer in the same direction. There’s only one Captain. And if it’s not Christ, set the ship on fire and let it sink.
There is a storm brewing. It is time to batten down the hatches and prepare for the battle ahead. So, in today’s post let me give you three exhortations on how to take the ship in Nashville.
Some people do not like the phrase “take the ship” because they do not recognize the dire condition of the Southern Baptist Convention. Too many are constantly saying “There is no drift in the SBC!” so loudly that others actually believe such an absurdity.
Never mind that SBC churches are ordaining women pastors and allowing women to preach. Never mind that CRT/I is infecting our churches and seminaries. Never mind that we, on the whole, too often pretend to uphold the authority of Scripture all the while abandoning its sufficiency. Don’t mention those things! There is no progressive drift!
The reality is, of course, that there is a drift that has been happening in the SBC over the last several years. Too many think of the 1970s and the way liberalism looked in the SBC then and since they don’t see that today, they look at those of us warning of drift as just fear-mongering.
But guess what? Liberalism adapts to every new generation. This is not to say that the SBC is a liberal convention. It is to say that it is undeniable that liberal trajectories exist within our churches and even within our entities in just the things I’ve already noted above.
At best we are the epitome of foolishness if we refuse to recognize what is happening. At best. At worst we are downright sinister because we are helping perpetuate the liberal push. You do not want to be either of those.
We won’t take the ship without recognizing the drift of our beloved convention. And we won’t take the ship rightly unless we first examine our own hearts and repent of our own sins.
What do I mean? First, has any carelessness on your part helped contribute to some of the dangerous trends we are noticing? Have you been afraid to speak up when you should have? Have you found it easier to simply “stay in your lane”? Repent of the fear of man.
Or, perhaps you’ve been prideful about this. You’ve been warning about the encroaching liberalism for years and now that others are on board you boast. Let it not be so brothers and sisters.
What I mean in this point overall is that there is a way to win wrongly. We have a historic moment before us. May God forbid that we walk away with a carnal victory. This isn’t about “winning” for the glory of conservatives. This is about battling for the glory of our King. So, let us be humble servants of Jesus. Let us speak with grace and love and concern for the kingdom. And with that, let us not forget the last ‘R’ word for this post:
This point isn’t about the Founders SBC pre-confernce (Be it Resolved), but it’s worth mentioning here that I do hope you come to that on 6/14/21. My wife and I are registered and we’d love to meet you. (Watch the trailer!)
The focus here, which I know the Founders conference will share, is that we must be men and women of truth and conviction. We must be resolved, as the song says, no longer to linger. The days of sitting on the fence in silence are over.
We must be committed to the truth. And we must realize that commitment always carries casualties with it. If you are committed to losing weight, say goodbye to frequent desserts. If you are committed to rearing children, say goodbye to sleep! And if you are committed to the truth, you must realize that it will mean saying goodbye to those who oppose it – not because you want that, but because it is inevitable.
We must be resolved to contend for the truth. We must be resolved not to allow our grandchildren and great-grandchildren to see in their day the SBC and her once strong Christ-exalting institutions be akin to what we see the PCUSA and UMC as today. We must be resolved to stand together.
What does this look like practically? First, it means being resolved to actually come to Nashville. You’ve got to make this happen. If nothing else leave at Midnight on Tuesday, June 15 to arrive in Nashville that morning. And if you have to, leave that night to head home. Preferably you can do more than that, but hopefully, you can do at least that. The time, money, and resources it is going to cost you to come to Nashville and let your voice be heard will be worth it.
This is, if I may use a pirating analogy, time for all hands on deck. Do what it takes to get yourself to Nashville. Do not allow a small percentage of the SBC to steer the ship. Come take the helm.
The only way to take the ship in Nashville will be from a grassroots effort. That means you need to come and bring your church members that might not have social media, but who do love the things that are right and good about the SBC including our gospel partnerships, strong complementarian convictions, and our unashamedness of being Baptists.
Secondly, we must be resolved to do what is necessary in Nashville even if some will call us names for doing it. We must be resolved to rescind Resolution 9. We must be resolved to vote to pass resolutions like this one from Jared Longshore. We must be resolved to go to the microphones and rightly hold NAMB, the ERLC, and our other entities accountable. This won’t be time to collect trinkets from the booths. Come and be resolved to stand on truth and let your voice be heard.
Finally, we must be resolved to pick the right president of the Southern Baptist Convention. I’m voting for Pastor Mike Stone. This is not because I think Randy Adams or Al Mohler are drifting liberal. I am grateful for both of those men and hope they will continue to be vocal about the changes we need to see in the SBC. But from what I have heard and seen, Mike Stone is the man for the hour. He is a pastor. He is a man with a humble heart. And he is a man of clear conviction.
See you in Nashville. You probably shouldn’t actually wear pirate regalia. But I hope you come ready to take the ship.
The gist of Mohler’s argument is that the Southern Baptist Convention has already fought and won the battle over complementarianism in the SBC and that the office and function of pastor, including preaching, is reserved for qualified men. In essence, it is not a Southern Baptist position to have a woman preach to men and women or to hold the office of pastor – even if that office is something other than “lead pastor.”
And of course, some have already come out saying that “there is no looming storm” (I’d rather not link to the article honestly). One of the arguments there is this:
“All our seminary faculty have publicly affirmed the BF&M. If anyone can clearly demonstrate where one of our seminary faculty members is teaching contrary to the BF&M, I will join you in calling for their removal.”
To which I say, “So what?” I don’t mean to imply that what our seminary faculty members hold to and teach is not important. Of course, it is important – so important it’s worth going to battle over at times. But what I am saying is, the Southern Baptist Convention is not a convention of Seminary Faculty. It is a convention of churches.
Seminary professors can say this or that, but to fully and accurately assess the health of the SBC you cannot ignore the local church. We are a convention of local churches.
It’s interesting that this is the second time in less than two weeks I’ve heard such an argument. I heard Ed Litton publicly say at an Arkansas meeting of pastors that “CRT is not a problem in the SBC.” He went on to say publicly that the idea of “CRT in the SBC is a conspiracy theory.” What I believe he meant was that CRT is not being advocated in our entities (which I certainly disagree with). But the point for this post is that Ed seems to think the health of our convention can be measured without looking at local churches.
What is the SBC?
On May 5th Adam Greenway tweeted some important questions for SBC 2021. One of the questions he said we need to clarify in Nashville is, “What is a Southern Baptist?” I won’t answer that fully here, but I cannot stress this enough: Without local churches, you do not have the Southern Baptist Convention.
The literal heartbeat of the SBC is the local church. Don’t be suckered into thinking that just because our seminaries sign off on the Baptist Faith and Message (2000) that there is no problem with egalitarianism (and CRT, btw) in the SBC.
All the seminary professors (and entity heads) involved in the SBC can affirm the BF&M. But if you have local churches ordaining female pastors and allowing women to preach to a mixed congregation, then there most certainly is a storm looming that must be resolved in Nashville.
Egalitarianism is an issue in our churches. It has been for years actually. And the only reason it’s not more widely recognized is because people want to play word games with complementarianism. One blog post actually said, “I don’t know any actively involved Southern Baptists who would consider themselves an egalitarian.” Well of course! Because the BF&M 2000 flat out denies egalitarianism if taken with any grain of sincerity. So, almost no one who loves being part of the SBC is going to openly say, “I’m an egalitarian!”
But what they are going to do are things like this:
These are examples of functional egalitarianism within the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention. And since the SBC is a convention of churches, don’t tell me there is no looming storm. Don’t tell me there is no denial of the sufficiency of Scripture in the SBC. Don’t tell me there is no moderate drift. On the issue of complementarianism, there are two Southern Baptist Conventions and it is time for us to decide the direction we will go and whether or not we will be faithful to our Lord or not.
Take the Ship
Since the churches that comprise the Southern Baptist Convention are what make the convention, as they go, so sails the SBC Ship. Some have seen the course we’ve charted and have jumped ship. Some are ready to do so even now. It’s hard to blame them. Others deny we’ve even drifted off course.
But in Nashville, we have the opportunity not to deny the drift or jump overboard, but to take the ship. Come to Nashville. Don’t let your grandchildren or great-grandchildren visit the “battlefield” one day in a hundred years and talk about how important a stand conservative Christians took, looking to find your name on the memorial, only to not see it there.
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:
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!
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?
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.” 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.”
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?
 Major Contributors and Editors,“Egalitarianism,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016).
*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:
Only biblically qualified men are approved in the role of pastor which are endorsed and funded by NAMB
SBC Plants are required to whole-heartedly embrace the BFM 2000 and
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?
“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.”
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.
“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.”
“[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.”
I suppose every post must start somewhere. This one begins in 1673 – the year Benjamin Keach decided to apply Matthew 26:30 tangibly to his church at Horsleydown in London. I suppose I should also mention Keach was Baptist before it was cool; before there was so much Great Commission™ money. This was before the Act of Toleration; a time when Baptists embraced being outsiders to the mainstream.
I know. I’m throwing a few jabs early there. But I’ll save the haymaker for later.
Moving along, in 1673 Keach leads his church to sing a hymn after the Lord’s Supper. By 1690 Isaac Marlow is publicly opposing him in the social media of the day: tracts. They duke it out in the public arena and eventually, the singing Baptists win.
In 1688 Elias Keach, son of Benjamin, is pastoring in the Philadelphia area. It’s not just his influence mind you (I do think it significant enough to mention) but by 1707 the churches in the area have unofficially adopted “the Confession” as their theological foundation.
What is “the Confession”? Well, in 1742 it is officially named the Philadelphia Confession. Why did I start this story with Benjamin Keach? Because the Philadelphia Confession of 1742 is the 1689 London Baptist Confession with two additions: one dealing with the laying on of hands. The other? Singing.
We now fast forward to 1814 – the same year Colonel Jackson took his little trip down to New Orleans. Unrelatedly, the Triennial Baptist Convention (TBC) was formed (it had a longer name) by Luther Rice.
Fast forward again to 1844. In a 7-5 decision, the Board of the Home Missionary Society declined the appointment of a missionary from Georgia because he owned slaves. In response, Alabama Baptists wrote to the Foreign Mission Board asking if they would appoint missionaries who owned slaves. The answer: No.
Some southerners, “did not attempt to defend the evils in the slavery system, but described the institution as an inherited disease to be cured slowly.”* Others tried to justify slavery with the Bible. This was a sad and tragic era in the history of Triennial Baptist churches south of the Mason Dixon line.
Thus, over the issue of missionaries being denied appointment because of slavery, “a total of 293 delegates” representing a “substantial” number of local churches gathered on “May 8, 1845 in Augusta, Georgia” and formed the Southern Baptist Convention.** Thankfully, Southern Baptists today continue to repudiate the reprehensible view some in the early SBC held toward people of color.
Now, what hath London to do with Augusta? Why start this post with Benjamin Keach?
Because, as the faculty blog of SEBTS notes, “In 1845, when the Southern Baptist Convention was formed, every delegate came from a church or association that had adopted the Philadelphia Confession or an abstract of the document.”
Nearly 300 delegates and every single one of them was influenced by Benjamin Keach and the uncool 17th-century Baptists of England. Which, we must also point out that historically the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith (written in 1677) had nothing to do with American chattel slavery. I only mention this because you cannot argue historically that the Confession was a pro-slavery document. The error in the early SBC was in spite of the Philadelphia Confession they held to, not because of it.
So, now, we are ready to get to a point!
Sometimes you will hear Southern Baptists today saying, “What we agree on is more than what we disagree on” or, important for this post, “the SBC is a big tent!”
Now, there is some truth in that. We have differences of style or eschatology, or how flashy our bulletins ought to be, or whether we can preach from an iPad. But despite these differences, we can, and should, still partner together for mission.
After all, at its inception, Southern Baptists said their organization was about “directing the energies of the whole denomination in one sacred effort, for the propagation of the Gospel.”***
However, the SBC in 1845 didn’t merely unite just for the purpose of “mission” but had a very rich theological underpinning. Yes, the SBC partners for mission. But this partnership began with serious theological parameters. Doctrinal parameters must be maintained, for if the tent is too big, the cooperation fails.
Because, theologically, being a Southern Baptist, at least in the beginning, was about a rich and glorious orthodoxy. A Confession that had a high view of God, a biblical view of the local church and its male leadership, and a robust trust in the sufficiency of Scripture, was held to by our Baptist forefathers.
Again, I am willing to admit this was not always applied correctly, but this is not the Confession’s fault, nor is it the Bible’s. It is the hearts of men that are to blame.
Now, I do not imply that one must hold to the Philadelphia Confession of 1742 in order to be a “true” Southern Baptist. But I do, without reservation, say that we must hold clear conservative doctrinal convictions. So, everyone who calls themselves a Southern (or Great Commission™) Baptist, is not necessarily SBC. You can’t say you’re SBC for the sake of “mission” and yet be removed from certain doctrinal standards, like those defined in the Baptist Faith and Message (2000)
The SBC was never designed to be such a big tent that orthodoxy was in question. But even beyond that- it was never designed to allow for, say, paedobaptism. Nor was the tent built for various views of women pastors, or for any to take or leave the sufficiency of Scripture, etc.
The SBC was always meant to agree on not only the gospel, but even other core issues. To partner for mission without that understanding is to misunderstand why the SBC even exists. Southern Baptists did not join in this large association with Presbyterians or free will Baptists “for the sake of the gospel.” Rather, they came together from a likeminded theological position as articulated by the Philadelphia Confession.
Included in these reactions is also my reaction to J.D. Greear’s statement on the JRS statement. I guess you’re reading a statement on statements that are themselves responses to statements (like here and more recently here).
In this post-Thanksgiving 2020 season, we’ve been inundated with a cornucopia of statements. Praise God from whom all blessings flow.
So, here are my initial reactions:
1. I’m not sure how many times the SBC can repent for its being founded on slavery. The JRS statement is proudly headlined with “PUBLISHED ON DECEMBER 18TH 2020, THE 155TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE PROCLAMATION OF THE THIRTEENTH AMENDMENT, ABOLISHING SLAVERY AND INVOLUNTARY SERVITUDE”
Which, to me, is in itself another statement. Praise God that slavery has been abolished in our country. But it is placed in the article in such a way as to show a union exists between the JRS and the 13th amendment that doesn’t exist between those who would oppose the JRS.
The SBC has repeatedly acknowledged its ugly, sin-laden history and repented of it. In fact, I challenge anyone to find one Southern Baptist who does not repudiate slavery.
2. The original statement is so laden with CRT categories like “power” and “influence” that it is either done in blatant ignorance or maliciously. I don’t understand how those writing this statement could not see this.
To say that those opposed to CRT are just concerned about losing power is to itself affirm the tenets of CRT even if people continue to deny holding to CRT!
3. To accuse brothers, like me, who rightly hate CRT of only caring about “winning” is the height of uncharitableness.
Faithful brothers and sisters who have given their lives to serving Christ are boiled down to simply only being concerned about “winning”. That’s a shameful move.
4. President Greear said “I, for one, remain committed to a posture of humility.” A statement on abasement I guess.
I have a few issues with that. First, J.D. could have exemplified this humility by stepping down as president and giving his position to a minority person. That is if he *actually* believed what he is writing. But it appears to me he does not. If he did, then why hasn’t he humbly stepped aside?
Secondly, why is pro CRT the “humble” position? This seems like virtue signaling to the max. Thirdly, we must be wary of the tactic over the years of moving away from certainty not with the word “doubt” but with the word “humility.” Note that I am not accusing J.D. of being sinister.
But I am saying this historically orthodoxy moves from certainty, to “humility”, to doubt, to rejection. This is not the type of humility we want to have.
Fourthly, and I am not the one who initially pointed this out, this statement reeks of the “Trumpism” so many rail against. It sounds like, “I’m the most humble person I know.” A leader who is humble doesn’t have to tell people how humble he is.
5. “Great Commission Baptists” is going to mean woke Baptists isn’t it? It’s going to mean that if you’re not woke, you don’t care about the Great Commission. This is sad.
6. The SBC presidents’ statement against CRT has stirred this up. Good. It needs to be stirred up.
We need the battle lines drawn so that Southern Baptists can clearly see what is going on and what is at stake here. I don’t agree with the JRS statement (as you have probably discerned) but I’m glad it now exists because it helps to identify that there are two diametrically opposed views here.
7. The issue remains over the sufficiency of Scripture. I don’t care how many times someone says they hold to the sufficiency of Scripture. If they employ CRT categories, they practically deny it (whether sinisterly intentional or just ignorantly).
8. Please pray for the SBC. Nashville is going to be telling toward our future. I remain committed to the Southern Baptist Convention because I refuse to hand over our institutions to a liberal trajectory and wokism. May God bring reformation.
In this article from Ronnie Floyd’s Advancing the Vision series, Floyd writes, “The future is not in having cultural conversations apart from the Bible. This will always lead to division. Southern Baptist pastors, leaders, and churches need to be having biblical conversations about cultural matters.”