Positive signs or posturing
July 12 2002 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

Positive signs or posturing | Friday, July 12, 2002

Friday, July 12, 2002

Positive signs or posturing

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

One of the most frequent questions I hear is whether there is any hope for a Baptist future that involves more cooperation and less division, more ministry and less criticism.

And the answer, generally, is something like, "I'm always hopeful, but I have more hope than confidence."

I do not have any hope that Baptists as we knew them through most of the 20th Century will be united again in our generation, at least on the national level. The division has grown too deep and too bitter.

The powers-that-be who control today's Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) have consolidated their dominance in ever-growing fashion, using the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message (BF&M 2000) statement as a clear line of demarcation for partnering with those who pass the muster of "doctrinal accountability" and rejecting those who do not.

Every edict on every level that requires endorsement of the statement is another nail in the coffin of cooperation and another step away from the traditional Baptist aversion to creeds.

On the other hand, those who have distanced themselves from the SBC, including those who participate in the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF), are growing more comfortable in their self-identity apart from the former fold, feeling less of a need to reference SBC life at all.

The sharpest struggles of today are on the state and associational level, where individuals pushing for SBC-style uniformity have led some state conventions and associations to adopt the BF&M 2000 as their standard of doctrine, leaving churches that don't sign on in an uneasy limbo or out in the cold altogether.

Other states and associations have resisted the call to conformity, continuing to emphasize local cooperation without expecting unanimity about national affiliation.

The level of division in either setting is directly proportional to the zeal of those who have particularizing agendas.

Such hope as I have for our future lies in the as-yet-unproven ability (or desire) of contemporary Baptists to accept one another despite their doctrinal differences, to wish each other well and agree to live in peace, if not in the same national convention.

There have been encouraging signs recently, if convention statements can be taken at face value rather than as political posturing.

Southern Baptists declared at this year's convention that they plan to focus future efforts on "an all out concentration on the kingdom of God," as outgoing president James Merritt put it.

Cooperative Baptists announced two weeks later that they intend to be the incarnation of Christ in the world, following Jesus' example in living and relating to others.

If the two national entities mean what they say and their supporters buy into the twin visions - if SBC and CBF Baptists will truly focus on living for the Kingdom of God and becoming more like Jesus - then neither will have the time or the inclination for sniping at the other, and local believers can work together in peace.

Is there any chance that will happen?

One can only hope.

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7/12/2002 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments
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