June 2009

Analysis: Generation gap creates dilemma for SBC

June 26 2009 by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (ABP) -- The 2009 Southern Baptist Convention marked the 30th anniversary of the launch of a theological/political movement aimed at stopping the nation's second-largest faith group from drifting into liberalism and inevitable decline.
 
Three decades later, Southern Baptists are baptizing fewer new converts than in the 1970s. Total church membership is starting to drop, and a recent study warned that years of precipitous decline may lie ahead.
 
Meanwhile, the old guard that led the "conservative resurgence" is moving off the scene, followed by a generation behind them that needs some convincing that the SBC is the best vehicle for their investment of their churches' mission dollars and energy.
 
SBC President Johnny Hunt succeeded his first year in office in rallying younger Baptists. They came to Louisville in unusually large numbers to support Hunt's Great Commission Task Force, which they hope will find ways to make the convention more responsive and relevant to their goals for ministry.
 
Rather than stepping into pulpits of traditional Southern Baptist churches, some of these young ministers want to start new churches that appeal more directly to the interests of their generation. That involves outreach innovations, like a church in St. Louis that invites people once a month to gather at a local pub to talk about theology.
 
That may appeal to Christians with spiked hair and body piercings, but it doesn't sit well with many traditional Baptists, especially those of the Greatest Generation who were raised in an era when Baptists didn't dance, drink or go to the movies on Sunday.
 
Roger Moran, a Missouri layman who served the conservative resurgence faithfully in ideological battles with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and before that the Baptist Joint Committee, brought 4,000 copies of a 47-page pamphlet warning messengers of perils of the "emergent" or "emerging" church, but he handed out only a few hundred before convention officials asked him to stop.
 
One of the most-spoken names at this year's convention was Mark Driscoll, though he wasn't there and isn't even a Baptist. He has spoken at an SBC seminary, however, and a number of younger SBC ministers are involved with the Acts 29 Network, a church-planting movement which Driscoll co-founded.
 
Eight motions brought to the floor during business sessions discouraged Southern Baptists from associating with Acts 29, mainly over Driscoll's reported use of vulgar language and acknowledgment that he drinks alcohol.
 
Most were ruled out of order, but three were referred to SBC boards of trustees, which now must consider them and report their action to the convention next year.
 
Driscoll, 38, pastor of 7,000-member Mars Hill Church in Seattle, was an original member of the emerging church movement in the 1990s. Later he distanced himself from the "generous orthodoxy" view of Brian McLaren, another prominent voice of the emerging church.
 
Driscoll believes in "complementarianism," a view that men and women are created equal in value but each gender has unique roles in the home and church. That puts him solidly in step with the 2000 revision of the Baptist Faith and Message, which says the husband is leader of the household and the wife should "submit herself graciously" to his headship. 
 
He also supports the "New Calvinism" -- identified by Time Magazine as number three of "10 ideas changing the world right now." That aligns him with Baptist brethren such as Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, who made the motion that authorized Hunt to appoint a Great Commission Task Force.
 
One messenger who spoke in opposition to the task force motion said sarcastically he didn't need a study to tell him what is going wrong in the Southern Baptist Convention -- it's Calvinism.
 
That assessment seemed to be shared by some of the convention's top leaders. During his report Morris Chapman, head of the SBC Executive Committee, criticized both Calvinism and "church-growth methodologies that masquerade under the guise of Bible exposition [that] are increasingly known for the crude themes and the vulgar language of their strongest advocates."
 
A couple of hours later at a luncheon for young pastors, Southeastern Seminary President Danny Akin apologized for Chapman's remarks and called them "shameful." 
 
Moran argues that "cultural liberalism" that claims to be biblically conservative but tolerates ungodly living is just as dangerous as theological liberalism to the SBC.
 
Many young pastors, meanwhile, are on the fence about the wisdom of investing resources in a denomination they see as wedded to methodologies from the 1950s and seemingly more interested in political clout than ministering to "the least of these."
 
Jonathan Merritt, son of former SBC President James Merritt, described his ambivalence in a recent blog.
 
"The Southern Baptist Convention is an archaic denominational dinosaur with a bloated bureaucratic infrastructure on the fast track to irrelevance," he wrote. On the other hand, he continued, the SBC "does more missions work than any other organization on this planet and has many other vibrant and impactful ministries."
 
That is why Merritt said he supports the current discussion about the denomination's future.
 
"Southern Baptists are faced with a choice from which they cannot hide," he said. "Either they will keep kicking the can of reality while they fade into cultural irrelevance or they will act aggressively to refine our processes while preserving the wonderful work being done by so many. Southern Baptists have a choice: change or die."
 
-30-
 
Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press. 
 
6/26/2009 6:49:00 AM by Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press | with 1 comments



Full text of Chapman letter to Executive Committee

June 9 2009 by Morris Chapman, Baptist Press

NOTE TO READERS FROM BAPTIST PRESS:
The following memorandum was mailed by Morris H. Chapman to all Executive Committee members (trustees appointed from local churches) on Friday, May 29, 2009. As president of the SBC, Johnny Hunt is a member of the Executive Committee and received this same letter. Baptist Press obtained the letter after publication of the Southern Baptist TEXAN’s article. Prior to this, the letter had been circulated only to Executive Committee members.
 
Date: May 29, 2009
 
To: Executive Committee Members
 
From: Morris H. Chapman
 
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
 
Greetings in Jesus’ Name! As most if not all of you have read, the SBC president, Johnny Hunt, has called upon the Southern Baptist Convention to approve the Great Commission Resurgence (GCR) Declaration authored primarily by Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Both men have given a number of interviews to Baptist state papers. At the bottom of this memo, I have provided a few links to related articles. In recent weeks, I have been in several conversations with Dr. Hunt and we have exchanged letters on two occasions.
With each conversation and letter, we have both been candid about our convictions. At the same time, our conversations have been as brothers in the Lord and have been marked with civility and Christian brotherhood. The president of the Convention is to be respected and lifted up in prayer. I gladly do so. As is often the case, especially about policy matters in the SBC, he and I differ about Article IX of the Declaration (the web page on which the declaration can be found is www.greatcommissionresurgence.com). He has asked individuals who supported the Declaration to sign their names on the page.
 
After weeks of prayer, thorough study of the Declaration, reading quotes by Drs. Hunt and Akin, and listening to people reflect on their thoughts about the Declaration, I have notified the president that I cannot sign the Declaration due primarily to the existence of Article IX. This afternoon, I released a FIRST-PERSON article to Baptist Press. I would encourage you to read it. In the article I explain some of the reasons I cannot sign the Declaration as long as Article IX and Dr. Hunt’s request to appoint members of a Convention-sanctioned task force remain in his proposed recommendations. The president is not following established procedures and thus bypassing responsibilities assigned to the SBC Executive Committee. Please do not forget the importance of your Bylaw 18 assignments. They exist for the continued health of our Convention. As you read this memo and the materials attached, please be reminded that your responsibility as a member of the Executive Committee may be circumvented and/or marginalized if Dr. Hunt bypasses the Executive Committee altogether. In the BP article, I have tried to explain to the best of my ability why I wholly support the Declaration with the exception of Article IX.
 
Twice the president has revised the GCR Declaration and the one presently on the web site is the third version. Some of those who signed early are struggling with the fact that what they signed is not the language in the present version. Furthermore, although the language has been softened, the original meaning and intent remain.
 
I realize that some of you have signed the Declaration on the web site and I want you to know that I have no problem whatsoever with any of you signing the document. I fully realize that my permission is not necessary, but so that you are not left to wonder, any of you who feel led to sign the document have my full support for doing what God leads you to do.
 
I identify with many who have signed the Great Commission Resurgence Declaration because they so greatly thirst, as do I, for revival. But we cannot overlook statements in the Declaration that are highly critical of the Convention and could possibly allow the Cooperative Program to be redefined in principle or practice. If we jettison the Cooperative Program and go back to the societal funding model, we will get the same results we did before 1925 — bankruptcy and failure. If we bypass the trustee system by adopting presidential fiat, we replace our cooperative methodology with the vagaries of personality. And if we wed our autonomous partners together unintentionally by tying structure across the board to the preferences of a single committee recommendation bereft of thoughtful Executive Committee review, we render the entirety of the Convention and its kindred bodies vulnerable to the assault of any single attacker on any missiological, doctrinal, legal, philosophical, or functional front.
 
SBC Bylaw 18 (5) states that the Executive Committee is, “To act in an advisory capacity on all questions of cooperation among the different entities of the Convention, and among the entities of the Convention and those of other conventions, whether state or national.” SBC Bylaw 18 (13) b states that “The Executive Committee shall present to the Convention recommendations required to clarify the responsibilities of the entities for ministries and other functions, to eliminate overlapping assignments of responsibility, and to authorize the assignment of new responsibilities for ministries or functions to entities.” In other words we exist for the purpose of maintaining “checks and balances” in the Southern Baptist Convention between annual meetings.
 
The Executive Committee is just that; a committee of the Southern Baptist Convention and the only organization in the SBC whose assignments are written in the form of SBC Bylaws. In other words, the work of the Executive Committee is unique in function to any other SBC entity. Our primary responsibility is to guard the welfare of the SBC, always keeping uppermost in our minds that the Executive Committee is to think first about what is best for the Convention as a whole. No other organization has that responsibility. We are charged with providing the larger Convention with research and recommendations since the messengers attending an annual meeting do not have the time to perform these tasks. Prior to coming to the Convention in Louisville, I encourage you to review carefully all of SBC Bylaw 18 that explains the duties of the Executive Committee.
 
If you should like to do so, I invite you to call or email me. I will be glad to answer any question you may have. I look forward to seeing you at the Executive Committee meeting in Louisville and pray you and any who accompany you will have a safe trip. Because the president has proposed a GCR Declaration that has drawn significant interest, both pro and con, the annual meeting stands to take on an importance of historic proportions. Drs. Hunt and Akin have expressed a desire to begin counting designated local church missions giving as Cooperative Program receipts. As you know, only undesignated gifts from our churches are presently considered CP giving. If this change is enacted by the task force to be appointed by the SBC president, the Cooperative Program will be decimated in only a very few years. These are the kind of decisions that can alter even the greatest strengths of our Convention.
 
I am praying for our SBC president as he prepares for the Convention and his President’s Address. Although I disagree with Dr. Hunt on several points in his proposed recommendation, we are Christian brothers and both want God’s Will to be accomplished. The decision to interpret God’s Will rests with the messengers who attend the 2009 Southern Baptist Convention on June 23-24 in Louisville, Kentucky.
 
Whatever your position may be on the Declaration, I ask you to pray for Dr. Hunt and for me. In a non-hierarchical convention, we need to state our convictions, bathe the decisions we face in prayer, be kind to one another, and trust God’s Will to be done. I praise the Lord for you and rejoice in God’s blessings upon this Convention. God bless.
 
Sincerely in Christ,
 
Morris

Related articles
 
Hunt says GCR was needed 'shock' to 'adrift' SBC (Florida Baptist Witness)

Akin offers specifics for GCR (Biblical Recorder)

Great Commission Declaration requires restraint (The Pathway)

Hunt says church is 'king' to bureaucracy's 'prince' (Biblical Recorder)

Additionally:
 
More than hurt feelings hang in balance with Article 9 (Biblical Recorder)

GCR harkens to Bold Mission Thrust (Biblical Recorder)

'This One Thing I do' (Phil. 3:12-14) (Biblical Recorder)
6/9/2009 10:13:00 AM by Morris Chapman, Baptist Press | with 2 comments



‘This One Thing I Do’ (Phil. 3:12-14)

June 1 2009 by Morris H. Chapman, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — On Monday, April 27, I received an e-mail and was surprised by the attachment entitled, the Great Commission Resurgence Declaration. As I began reading through the ten articles of the Declaration, I rejoiced in the strong affirmations of our Convention’s biblical convictions. These articles listed many of the tenets of the faith that are critical to believe and live if ever we expect to fulfill Christ’s commission to us in Mat. 28:19-20 and see revival come to our churches. The e-mail asked Southern Baptists to sign a web page created to show their commitment to the Declaration. Some of those who knew about it prior to its posting had signed already.
 
But, I discovered that Article IX and its commentary stood starkly apart from the other nine articles. It suddenly departed from biblical affirmations in order to address the reorganization of structure and methodology within our denomination. The article included several negative characterizations and unsupported judgments of the denomination. In that first draft, unseen by the larger family of the Southern Baptist Convention, Article IX included these words:
 
“... our denominational structures have become bloated and bureaucratic at every level, from local associations to state conventions to the SBC itself. We believe our ministry effectiveness is being strangled by overlap and duplication, poor stewardship, and a disproportionate amount of Cooperative Program dollars being kept by the state conventions.”
 
This language in Article IX was revised within 48 hours when several leaders in the Convention rightly expressed their concern and indicated they could not sign the document as written. More objections were raised, and now a third version has been posted that removes the reference to “restructuring” the Convention. Unfortunately, changing the language has not made the perceived intent any more acceptable.
 
Revival and spiritual growth are the greatest needs in our Convention and our nation. This is the challenge around which all Southern Baptists can rally. Reorganization is not. Neither is it a prerequisite to revival.
 
Don’t get me wrong. Effective and efficient organization is critical to any corporate endeavor and periodic changes are necessary. But revival in our churches and appointing a task force to study Convention structures are not two parts of one whole. They are two separate objectives that, if sought under the same banner, have the potential to cause both to fail. When the time is right, a successful study can happen, following established processes, as has occurred before. However, to put the two objectives together is like trying to mix oil and water.
 
I sense that most Southern Baptists are weary of wrangling with each other. They want to work, together, for the glory of God and the salvation of man. A review of the “denomination” is not an assignment the Convention has authority to undertake. Neither will it increase baptisms. Only the churches can increase baptisms. If our churches catch fire for Christ’s sake, and thousands upon thousands are saved, baptisms will follow.
 
What are our choices? On one hand, calling for a study of the Convention is very likely to create highly-charged polarization. On the other hand, if our people come together under the guidance of God’s Holy Spirit, Southern Baptists have the potential to mount such a powerful witness to the saving grace of our Lord that God will pour out His blessings upon our efforts.
 
Perhaps some have the mistaken notion that if we get our stuff organized first, then God will pour out His blessings. Does history bear this out? Are there biblical examples from which to draw that would lead us to expect this? Reorganization does not change hearts. Only God’s Holy Spirit moving in the hearts of men and women leads them to repentance, salvation, a closer walk with Christ and obedience to Christ’s Great Commission.
 
My overriding concern is that if Article IX remains in the Declaration, all attention will remain riveted on this one article. Article IX is causing distractions already. Since the release of the original Declaration, it seems as if all eyes and discussions have focused primarily on Article IX. The news media want to know more about Article IX. Southern Baptists who are reading about the Declaration are asking about Article IX. Pastors are talking about Article IX, particularly about a backwards observation in an earlier version (now corrected) that theological education “starts in the seminaries but finds its way to our local churches.” Others are asking, “Why is the issue of reorganization in Article IX inserted in a Great Commission Resurgence document?”

Still others are saying that it seems apparent that Article IX is the primary reason for the entire Declaration since it is practically the only element that calls for action. This unique characteristic, in itself, identifies the heightened level of importance given to this one article by its framers. And to what end? I have continued to communicate to the president my objections to the inclusion of Article IX in any plea for a “Great Commission” resurgence.
 
The commentary on Article IX in its latest version still includes the following statement, though the reference to “our denomination must be restructured” has been changed to “our Convention must be examined”:
 
“We believe that North American church planting, pioneer missions around the globe, and theological education ... are three priorities around which Southern Baptists will unite. Our denomination must be restructured at every level to facilitate a more effective pursuit of these priorities.”
 
The work of the Program and Structure Study Committee was completed in 1997 under the Covenant for a New Century. At that time, the Southern Baptist Convention was restructured so that 95 percent of all Cooperative Program funds received by the Convention were, and still are, directed to the very three priorities identified by the framers of this Declaration — our two mission boards and our six seminaries.
 
Let me repeat, the Cooperative Program Allocation Budget of the SBC already directs 95 percent of all Cooperative Program funds received by the Convention to eight of only 12 entities in the SBC — the eight that are assigned the task of North American church planting, global missions, and theological education.
 
At the Southern Baptist Convention level, our structure already has been “streamlined for more faithful stewardship of the funds entrusted” to it. Why distract our Convention from the potential blessings a Great Commission Resurgence might bring when our current SBC structure already addresses the concerns expressed in Article IX over which the Convention has control?
 
While I continually have urged our state convention executives to increase their Cooperative Program allocations toward the 50 percent mark, I cannot concur that the states are bloated or seeking to retain more and more CP money in the states. In fact, just the opposite is true. The slippage in Cooperative Program giving is at the local church level. If our churches still gave the same percentage of CP funds from the churches through the states as they did a decade ago (8.24 percent then; 6.08 percent now), the International Mission Board would have an additional $35 million dollars this year alone, not counting the money it would have received pro rata over the past decade. NAMB and our seminary funding formula would each have received approximately $17 million dollars more this year. While our annual dollar amount of Cooperative Program has continued to grow, we have reached a historic low in the percentage of CP funds forwarded by the churches, in spite of a restructuring that took place just over a decade ago and was hailed as the dawn of a new day for evangelism and missions. Reallocating our funds will not solve any perceived problems. But, a genuine revival might!
 
Two weeks ago, in press interviews with several editors of Baptist state papers, the Florida Baptist Witness and the North Carolina Biblical Recorder, our SBC president noted that I had not signed the Declaration. He further mentioned he had learned that in 2004 I had called for reorganization of the Convention. He was curious to know how I could propose reorganization in 2004 and not have signed his Declaration. The answer lies in the very address from which he excerpted the quote — one I delivered at the Baptist Identity Conference held at Union University. The paper is entitled, Axioms of a Cooperating Conservative.

I am glad the president referred to my paper, and would be happy for any and all Southern Baptists to read it. In the paper, I:
 
A. quoted the “Response to the Welcome” I gave at the beginning of the 1980 Southern Baptist Convention in St. Louis. I concluded by saying, “The genius of Southern Baptist tradition is that we have been able to speak our minds without losing our heads. Our forefathers intended we are to be a denomination of convictions, not convenience. They determined we are to be a Convention of cooperation, not coalitions.”
 
B. proposed that the Southern Baptist Convention should never leave its historic, cooperative nature and that at our best Southern Baptists are both conservative and cooperative.
 
C. emphasized that cooperation is foundational to our Baptist identity and how easily James L. Sullivan’s description of our cooperative polity, the “rope of sand with strength of steel” can be demolished. I stated, “The deterioration may be caused by deliberately brushing away a few grains of sand here or there; not enough for anyone to notice, but enough to begin the weakening process in the spirit of cooperation.”
 
D. stated that “The Southern Baptist Convention needs fine tuning. In fact, the Convention may require an overhaul, not in its polity, but in its programming and processes by which it functions daily. A major overhaul by the national Convention and the state conventions appears to be an absolute necessity, letting the facts speak for themselves lest the conventions discover too late they were blind and deaf to a delivery system that better serves the churches.”
 
Please do not miss the fact that my appeal was to the state convention executive directors, the presidents of our SBC entities, and their trustees — the very people who already are charged with oversight and review. I did not recommend that a task force be appointed. I also did not recommend that the national Convention appoint a committee to judge other Baptist bodies. I could never do so, for the SBC has pledged never to even attempt to do so (SBC Constitution, Article IV).
 
In that paper, I also made the following appeal:
 
“If the churches lose the vision and the understanding of the Cooperative Program, missions suffer. If missions suffer, the conventions suffer. If the conventions suffer, reorganization and reallocation of funding shall no longer be a choice. Now is the time for leaders of all conventions to concentrate upon priorities of their organization’s very existence and determine that more shall be done for less. To fail to do so will bring the disadvantages of smaller budgets and reduced ministries. Now is the time to maximize our resources by creating leaner organizations and eliminating wasteful expenditures for failing and static ministries and programs. To put our money behind ministries that genuinely assist the churches who gave us a portion of their undesignated and designated offerings is a formula for fulfilling our Lord’s command to go ye therefore. Anything less must become unacceptable. It is incumbent upon chief executives and trustees to assure the very best use of resources by giving laser-like focus to those pursuits that most honor our Lord Jesus Christ and expand His Kingdom on earth.”
 
I encouraged our trustees and administrators to be highly responsible and trustworthy with the responsibilities the state and national conventions have given them. If there is a problem, the chief executive should address it. If the problem persists, the trustees of the entity or the executive boards of the respective states should address it. The Southern Baptist Convention has not retained any authority in the operations of SBC entities and has no authority over the churches, the associations, or the state conventions. Southern Baptists historically have trusted the trustees and the administrators to care for their entities. At this next annual meeting, if the messengers wish to request their entities to streamline, the SBC Executive Committee and the entities will respond. This is the process which has been endorsed by the Southern Baptist Convention and has served us well.
 
To sum up, here are my reasons for not signing the Declaration at this time:
 
(1) Though I embrace a call for a Great Commission Resurgence, I cannot sign the Declaration as long as Article IX remains. Merely reorganizing a national body will not ignite the fires of revival. We need to come together to put all of our energies into fulfilling our Lord’s Commission in Matt. 28:19-20. We need desperately to demonstrate the love of God to a world without a Savior. America is becoming a spiritual wasteland and we must put first things first! Why would we believe that reorganizing the Convention is the road to revival? Getting bigger is not better. Getting smaller is not better. Only getting better is better.
 
(2) I cannot sign the Declaration as long as Article IX is included because it is likely to be divisive. For 30 days the Declaration boldly called for a restructuring of the state and national conventions. Therefore, a study with such an obvious, predetermined bias toward restructuring, whether of the national convention or more broadly, will likely undermine rather than enhance state and national cooperation and unity. Whenever the churches call for change, it is best done cooperatively, and in accord with SBC governing principles.
 
(3) I cannot sign the Declaration if its Article IX is interpreted as a need to realign Convention priorities. The Article IX commentary identifies “North American church planting, pioneer missions around the globe, and theological education” as “three priorities around which Southern Baptists will unite.” But, as noted, Southern Baptists already unite around these.
 
(4) I cannot sign the declaration if it includes Article IX because we have not been told what is wrong with the Convention structures and procedures, and even if we had, the Convention does not have the authority to “restructure” the “denomination” at every level as initially urged by the SBC president. As I noted earlier, restructuring the Convention did not result in revival in 1997.
 
(5) I cannot sign the Declaration because an undercurrent accompanying the request for structural reorganization is the dissatisfaction that local church missions offerings are not counted as Cooperative Program gifts. I fear this particular dissatisfaction would find its way as a bias into the selection of any study committee or task force. Capitulating to this viewpoint would improve nothing, for if all missions offerings were added to the Cooperative Program totals, there would not be more money for missions, just higher totals reported under the Cooperative Program.
 
If the messengers of the Southern Baptist Convention adopt the Great Commission Resurgence Declaration including Article IX and empower the president to appoint a task force or study committee, I will work diligently with that committee to supply them all the information they may need from the Executive Committee. But for now, I am extremely burdened that what may be at stake is our cooperative methodology, our representative trustee system, and our Cooperative Program. For the reasons I have given, I believe the Great Commission Resurgence Declaration would be much stronger and extremely more focused if its Article IX and the prospect of restructuring was eliminated.
 
The decision rests with the messengers our churches will send to the 2009 Southern Baptist Convention in Louisville, June 23-24. I pray God’s abundant blessings upon you, our Convention, our denomination, and their respective leaders. Paul described the urgency of our moment in history, “This one thing I do ... I press on toward the high mark of God’s calling in Christ Jesus.” Let us not allow anything to distract us from this one thing.
 
Sincerely in Christ,
Morris Chapman

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Chapman is president and chief executive officer of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee.)
 

6/1/2009 7:22:00 AM by Morris H. Chapman, Baptist Press | with 1 comments