Saturday, February 11, 2006

SBC: Are we becoming a creedal people?

I ask that question because there appears to be some shifting in the Southern Baptist Convention which seems to collect definitions of what constitutes a Southern Baptist in good standing ... sort of an unwritten creed of the "acceptable" and the "unacceptable."

Notice the use of words such as appears and seems ... that's an author's way of saying he's supposing a lot.

Apparently there are some of our brethren who have "charismatic" or "pentacostal" leanings ... well, praise the Living God for each one of them.

And apparently there are some who look down their noses at this "less-than-Baptist" behavior. Sounds somewhat Spirit quenching on the surface, doesn't it?
"Charismatic-leaning Southern Baptists being betrayed, excluded," says pastor.
I've studied and studied and find nothing which says being "charismatic" or "pentacostal" is unbiblical. In fact, if anything, it's biblical. That doesn't stop some from using labels pejoratively, however. But aren't labels frowned upon by Scripture?

Paul clearly taught there's just not much room in the faith for labels ... other than say "anti-Christ," "apostate," "heretic," "trouble-maker," and a few others.
Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment.

For I have been informed concerning you ... that there are quarrels among you.

Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, "I am of Paul," and "I of Apollos," and "I of Cephas," and "I of Christ." Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?
1 Corinthians 1:10-13
Paul spoke again of divisions in the church, and he said they would most certainly exist. (I'm aware I'm stretching the context here but I happen to believe in the application of this passage to the situation before us.)
... if one is inclined to be contentious, we have no other practice, nor have the churches of God. But in giving this instruction, I do not praise you, because you come together not for the better but for the worse. For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that divisions exist among you; and in part I believe it. For there must also be factions among you, so that those who are approved may become evident among you.
1 Corinthians 11:16-19
One could easily become a biblical schizophrenic with teaching like this; but, as so often is the case, God intends us to mine deeper (see later).
When Paul Pressler and Paige Patterson launched a revolution within the Southern Baptist Convention, they found an eager soldier in Ron Phillips. [...]

In the early 1990s, he served as chair of the Home Mission Board, since renamed the North American Mission Board. But in 1989 he had "an experience with the Holy Spirit" that changed his life and ministry significantly.

Though once an insider in the conservative movement, Phillips now sees himself as excluded from SBC life.
Why does he feel this way? Because according to a recent Associated Baptist Press report ...
"I do believe Paige [Patterson] and others have betrayed every one of us," said Phillips, whose church is now known as Abba’s House and draws about 3,000 worshippers each Sunday.

The congregation identifies itself as "a Spirit-filled Southern Baptist church" that "operates in the gifts of the Spirit while holding to the Word of God." Phillips said his congregation affirms biblical authority -- what he thought was the sole issue in the SBC controversy. [CRIB NOTE: So did I!]

"We thought it was a commitment to a higher view of scripture, rather than a narrowing view of fundamentalism," said Phillips, who helped carry out the radical reshaping of the convention as HMB chair.
Phillips said policies - including the recent one adopted by the IMB, which excludes missions candidates who use a "private prayer language" - are pushing solid Christians away from Baptist life.
"We’re shocked and betrayed by what has happened at the International Mission Board," said Phillips. "I feel like it is a precursor to a total booting out of Baptists with charismatic leanings." [...]
In response, Paige Patterson said neither he nor anyone else to his knowledge ever made a promise to include charismatic persons in all aspects of SBC life.
Ah, Paige, I deeply appreciate the heroic work you performed for the Convention but if you feel you and a few others have the last word on who is and who is not a Southern Baptist, you are sorely mistaken. It's not individuals who set the stage for our play, it's the people through the annual meetings ... it's the Baptist way.
Patterson said, as a Baptist, he would not forbid anyone from speaking in tongues, but would not call such a person to be his pastor or appoint someone with such leanings as a seminary professor. [CRIB NOTE: I have to believe this is an accurate reflection of what Paige actually said, I'd hate to think an ABP reporter or editor deliberately made him sound so arrogant!]
Phillips has a lot more to say on this and the IMB issue in the ABP report ... go here to fill in the blanks.
Phillips also claimed that members of his congregation are no longer able to serve as missionaries - even as volunteers - of NAMB, the SBC agency he once led.

Marty King, NAMB spokesman, said the agency does not screen volunteers for charismatic leanings. The board does have a policy, King said, that prohibits appointed missionaries and endorsed chaplains from practicing glossalalia (speaking in tongues), including a private prayer language.
In speaking of his present congregation, which continues to be a Southern Baptist fellowship, Phillips indicates he and his people are finding rich associations outside the SBC umbrella, "We want to go where we are celebrated, not just tolerated," he said.

All of this contention behavior wearies the soul. I'm drawn to two scriptures as a result of this post ...
Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
Romans 14:4
And of course ...
But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:13
It seems to me Paul leaves room for us to understand that any done in service to Christ that is absent love is less than the best thing we can give in that service. I'm sensing a certain lack of love in some areas of our convention these days. Is this indicative of the new spirit we've earned from our efforts?

One thing is clear, a man stands or falls on the opinion of his master ... depending on who his master is! And self is a wicked master indeed.

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