Baptist leaders examine creeds
January 6 2003 by BR Editor

Baptist leaders examine creeds | Monday, Jan. 6, 2003

Monday, Jan. 6, 2003

Baptist leaders examine creeds

Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

Recent studies have shown that the relative presence of Baptists in North Carolina is shrinking, while the percentage of Roman Catholics in the state is rising rapidly.

Some observers are alarmed by the demographic shift.

Others are concerned about trends within Baptist life that have a Catholic feel to them. Movements towards a more centralized authority and the imposition of strict doctrinal guidelines (subject to change) on denominational employees have a distinct Batholic feel to them - or Cathtist, as the case may be.

Some Baptists see the shift to denominational dogmatism as a new development, while others would argue that Baptists have always been expected to toe a defined doctrinal line. The truth is elusory because Baptists - even Southern Baptists - have never spoken with a single voice on that or most any other subject.

The issue has come into sharp focus since the 2000 revision of the Baptist Faith and Message (BF&M), which states in its preamble that confessions are to be used as "instruments of doctrinal accountability." It describes the doctrines stated in the BF&M as "essential to the Baptist tradition of faith and practice" (my italics).

For all intents and purposes, that characterization makes the document a creed, and SBC agencies have imposed it as such.

Some shout "anathema!" Others say "about time!"

To shed more light on this debate that has so divided those Baptists historically affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, we offer below two guest perspectives on the subject.

Charles Deweese, executive director-treasurer of the Baptist History and Heritage Society, takes the position that Baptists are historically anti-creedal by nature and practice, and should stay that way.

James Smith, executive editor of the Florida Baptist Witness and former public relations director for Southern Baptist Seminary, argues that the Baptists are intrinsically creedal and shouldn't be afraid of the word.

The essays indicate that Baptists have seen the subject differently for far longer than our lifetimes.

For most of the past century, differing points of view on various points of doctrine did not preclude cooperation in a greater mission.

Will cooperation continue to triumph over division in the century ahead? That remains an open question - and the most serious issue facing Baptists today.

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1/6/2003 12:00:00 AM by BR Editor | with 0 comments
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