Texas cuts dividing churches, SBC executive says : Friday, Oct. 31, 2003
October 30 2003 by

Texas cuts dividing churches, SBC executive says : Friday, Oct. 31, 2003
Friday, Oct. 31, 2003

Texas cuts dividing churches, SBC executive says

From staff and wire reports
The head of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Executive Committee is backing off statements in a Baptist Press (BP) story that implied conservatives should take the debate over the authority of the Bible into churches.

Morris Chapman spoke to a meeting of the new conservative Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC) on Feb. 7, according to a BP story distributed on Feb. 8.

Chapman said in the story that he regretted that "some of the division is being driven into the churches."

"We worked for a long time not to even debate the authority of God's word except on the plane of the national convention," leaving the local church with the priority of teaching and preaching God's word, Chapman said.

"But I believe that time has come. And what has drawn you together is that heart's desire to see Jesus and Jesus alone."

Chapman said in a written response to questions from the Biblical Recorder that "either my sentence structure was not clear or the reporting did not clearly state what I intended to say."

"I was trying to convey that the debate on the authority of God's Word was conducted on an national and/or state convention level," he said. "What I intended to convey was that 'the adoption of the Texas-Preferred Budget for 2001 by the (Baptist General Convention of Texas) BGCT has driven division into the local church,' because it becomes a church budget issue."

Pastors at the SBCT meeting were encouraged to pledge money to the SBC in light of recent funding cuts by the BGCT. The BGCT voted in October to cut more than $5 million from the SBC Executive Committee, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) and the six SBC seminaries.

In January, Chapman appealed directly to Texas pastors regarding funding for the SBC. Chapman wrote a letter asking pastors to bypass the BGCT funding changes and select an option that sends money to the SBC. The letter was in a packet sent to Texas churches.

Chapman said the BGCT cuts are "detrimental to the ongoing witness of the BGCT, the SBC, and most of all, the Kingdom of God."

"In my opinion, the Southern Baptist Convention did what it had to do in establishing, hopefully once for all, what Southern Baptists believe about the authority of God's Holy Word," he said in the letter.

In response to a question from the Biblical Recorder about what churches and church members who do not agree with the SBC leadership's position on the inerrancy of the scripture should do, Chapman said he thinks most Southern Baptists believe in inerrancy.

"Those who do not are, to my knowledge, still welcomed in Southern Baptist churches," he said.

Chapman's letter to Texas churches was accompanied by a flier demonstrating his suggestions on how churches could fill out BGCT forms to make sure money went to the SBC. The illustrations also promoted giving to the SBCT.

A former president of the Baptist State Convention (BSC) of North Carolina is playing a key role in the SBCT. Mac Brunson, who is now pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, spoke at the meeting in Arlington, Texas, which was called the SBTC's "Great Commission Partners in the Harvest Luncheon."

Brunson was one of three pastors to pledge $10,000 from their churches to the SBC to help offset potential losses from the BGCT.

Brunson, who called for shared leadership between conservatives and moderates in the BSC when he was in North Carolina, introduced Chapman and other SBC representatives at the meeting.

Brunson concluded the meeting with a reference to the influence of a church in Staunton, England, where members opposed Oliver Cromwell's attempt to rid the country of Christian influence, first attacking the seminaries. Quoting the inscription of the church cornerstone, Brunson said the church was dedicated to the glory of God as members sought to "do the best of things in the worst of times."

"In the Cooperative Program life of the SBC, it may seem like it is the worst of times, and if so, let us rise up and do the best of things," Brunson said.

In other action at the meeting, the head of the ERLC said his agency speaks for most Southern Baptists.

Richard Land, president of the ERLC, wrote a letter to U.S. Senators endorsing the nomination of John Ashcroft as U.S. attorney general on behalf of "a majority ... of Southern Baptists."

"No one presumes to speak for all Southern Baptists, but we do presume to speak for the majority of Southern Baptists," Land said.

Land told the SBTC audience he was once asked by a reporter whether it is confusing to go to Washington and find the ERLC bringing "the Baptist perspective" while the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs is also claiming to bring "the Baptist perspective." In addition, the reporter said, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship claims to represent the Baptist perspective.

"I find in Washington they're less confused than anywhere else because everyone who holds office in Washington got there by holding an election. Not everyone in the district voted for them, just the majority," Land said.

He said the government representatives in Washington know that "the majority spoke for us for more than two decades," referring to Southern Baptist Convention support for ERLC and its predecessor, the Christian Life Commission. "They know the ERLC speaks for Southern Baptists when the Southern Baptist Convention has spoken," he said in a reference to resolutions and doctrinal statements approved by messengers.

Land said he anticipates increased activity on the part of conservative evangelicals in Washington.

"We've got a president who feels our pain, the pain of being mocked and ridiculed by the media and the cultural elites," he said. "You know, and I know, it's a mighty healing balm when you've been ridiculed and mocked and caricatured by power elites of this culture for the president of the United States to stand up and say he's on your side."

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