Thursday, January 12, 2006

The unfolding events of the IMB Trustee meetings have disturbed, if not infuriated me. I believe that many of us realized we would one day arrive at this place and yet now that we are here, I’m not certain what to make of it. How can a few instigate and inflict a policy change that limits the autonomy of the local church and binds her hands in endorsing suitable missionary candidates? How can a denomination which prides herself on the autonomy of the local church and the individual believer allow one of her organization’s trustee boards to act as inquisitor, effectively seeking to excommunicate a man of God for sharing his own personal convictions and beliefs – even if they differ with the majority? While I have many questions, I am afraid I too have many answers. I am quite confident that the problem rests not in the fact that Wade Burleson has shared his differing opinions, but in the fact that he has “stirred the troops” and struck a nerve among so many dissenting Southern Baptists. I believe those who led the charge against liberalism and the ensuing “conservative takeover” feel such a sense of ownership and fear a loss of power that the focus has, albeit inadvertently, shifted from kingdom work to power politics. It seems to no longer be about uplifting Christ but about maintaining control. While I do agree that at one time the pendulum had swung far too left, I believe it is now entering equally dangerous territory as it begins to swing far too right. Once again, we leave the green zone of biblical inerrancy and interpretation and are left at the whim of those who find it their sole responsibility to interpret and enforce the laws they find in Scripture, thus keeping the denomination pure and righteous. At the same time, they are willing to sacrifice all who disagree on the altar of liberalism, “gossip,” and “slander.”

As I have watched these events unfold, several things continue to stand out to me:
1) It seems influential SBC leaders seek to CONTROL LEADERSHIP by appointing only like minded individuals and by strongly influencing the decisions these leaders are asked to make – bending the truth and misrepresenting information if necessary.
2) It also seems SBC leaders have a strong desire to CONTROL THE DISSEMINATION OF INFORMATION related to SBC matters. (It seems one of Wade’s biggest problems came from the fact that he had an audience - specifically an audience that disagreed with convention leaders. As he shared his personal views and opinions, the audience was moved to action – which then infuriated leaders, causing them to react against Wade - the only visible target for the dissension. It is now further evident in the information shared by Marty Duren regarding the handling of Wendy Norville, the IMB's head of communications and the latest procedures for all future press releases.)
3) Apparently SBC leaders also have a strong desire to CONTROL THE LAITY by simply lulling them into a state of blind trust and obedience, never challenging them to think for themselves, to educate them theologically, or wanting them to react against a popular decision. If they are kept busy doing church, we are then free to rule the convention.

Where do we go from here? I’m not certain. I was reared in an Independent Baptist church which prided herself on much legalism and self-righteousness and held to Landmark views . While I learned a great deal from this church and her leaders and retain the utmost respect for the men of God I was brought up under, I have no desire to go back to that place.

I serve a Southern Baptist Church because I believe Southern Baptists have so many things right. My heart’s desire is to continue with the convention, to support our missionaries and leaders and yet I realize that my first allegiance is to Christ alone. As we face these difficult days, I believe Paul’s words to the churches of Galatia are quite fitting for us today: “The entire law is summed up in a single command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” Gal 5:14-16

I pray God will show us the way and remain confident that in the midst of these tumultuous days, Christ is working about His plan for the ages, working “for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”

I pray also, that one day soon, we can watch as Wade, along with Joseph, proclaims: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

And finally, I pray that without sacrificing truth and spiritual liberty, God would bring a spirit of unity and love among the SBC. After all, it is by our love that Christ promised the world would recognize us as His own.

To God be the Glory!
posted by Rick