For the Propagation of the Gospel

At its formation in 1845, the Southern Baptist Convention was consecrated to the cause of “the propagation of the gospel.” The convention existed to enable local churches to expand their common reach in the tasks of calling sinners to repentance and organizing new congregations of disciples. “We can do more together than we can do separately” is not just a Southern Baptist slogan; it is the Southern Baptist raison d’être.

Dare I suggest that the health and value of the Southern Baptist Convention must be calculated along these same lines? Dare I opine further that the Southern Baptist Convention—with its history of scandals and schisms not hidden from view but laid bare to the world’s eyes and amply considered, with the lugubrious pre-obituaries some have published near and far for it notwithstanding, with the changing fads and fashions of ministry given their full accounting—nevertheless remains a healthy and effective part of a Great Commission strategy for local churches? Should I enumerate the specifics, not only why our convention’s strengths empower it but also why its weaknesses do not successfully overcome its strengths? I think so.

  1. The Southern Baptist Convention is in the top tier of unifying forces within Christianity. I can hear the guffaws from here, but I’m entirely serious: The level of Christian unity in the Southern Baptist Convention is remarkable and encouraging. Southern Baptists exemplify Christian unity:

    1. Soteriologically: Yes, we probably argue more about soteriology than most other denominations, but have you ever considered that this might be an indication of the degree to which we bring together people of diverse soteriologies? There’s not nearly so much room in a Presbyterian denominational meeting to contend with one another about the nature of election, nor in an Assemblies of God conference to debate the extent of the atonement. How many other denominations of Christianity could count within their ranks as members in good standing both Tom Ascol and Eric Hankins? The Southern Baptist Convention is a place where both Calvinists and non-Calvinists (except for those Arminians who reject eternal security) can cooperate with one another for the propagation of the gospel.

      Because of the unity that many Southern Baptists feel with one another across various soteriological lines, the Southern Baptist Convention has better discussions about soteriology than nearly any other forum. By “better” I mean to appraise both the intellectual quality of our conversations and the Christian spirit in which they are conducted. Like whatever you will about T4G; it is not the place to go to hear the biblical arguments against Calvinism presented in their strongest way by their ablest proponents. Likewise if you’re hoping to hear about the weaknesses of Arminian Pragmatism at the Creative Church Conference. But within the family of the Southern Baptist Convention, each of us has an opportunity both to witness and to participate in the best and fullest discussions about soteriology ongoing anywhere in the world today.

      Even if Dave Miller keeps shutting down the comments. :-)

    2. Racially: The history of the Southern Baptist Convention on the subject matter of race is an embarrassment and a sin. The progress within the Southern Baptist Convention toward racial unity is not nearly enough. Nevertheless, I am excited about the project of racial unity that lies before the Southern Baptist Convention. We are attempting to do something that is rare indeed: Southern Baptists are attempting to create a racially diverse fellowship of Christians who are unswervingly committed to biblical inerrancy and gospel fidelity. There may be denominations that are more racially diverse than the SBC, but the preponderance of them are significantly—dare I say terminally?—infected by theological liberalism. There are denominations that feature a greater percentage than the SBC does with regard to black leadership, hispanic leadership, asian leadership, or other ethnic leadership, but the preponderance of them are actually LESS, not more, racially diverse than is the SBC (i.e., they feature EXCLUSIVELY black leadership, hispanic leadership, etc.)

      I’m not alleging that there are no other denominations that have successfully combined racial diversity with theological integrity, nor am I denying that there may be denominations who do a better job at both of them than we do. Rather, I’m simply pointing out the fact that, considering the broad swath of Christianity, the Southern Baptist Convention is in the top tier of these efforts.

      What’s more, through the careful attention and deliberate efforts of our leaders, the SBC is continually improving in our racial diversity without diminishing our commitment to God’s truth revealed to us in scripture. We’ve all lived to see the first black president of the SBC. Most of us reading this will live to see the second, will live to see the first entity head who is not white, will live to see greater participation by other ethnicities as well. I’m thankful for the leadership of Terry Turner, president of the SBTC, who has called for our state convention not to live as though black and white were the only ethnicities within our fellowship, but to engage in multilateral efforts to unite the panoply of races, tribes, and tongues in the worship of the God who created us in such complementary beauty. The future of the Southern Baptist Convention is one of improving racial unity anchored in the truth. A full 20% of SBC congregations are ethnically other than white.

      Frankly, I don’t know where a biblical inerrantist would go to find a brighter future of racial unity.

    3. Methodologically: Occasionally someone will complain that the Southern Baptist Convention is too methodologically monolithic. And yet my personal observation is that some of the people who complain are happy to participate in organizations that are far less methodologically diverse than the SBC is. Try wearing a suit and tie to Catalyst. Try to post a how-to guide on the multi-site movement on fundamental.org. Whatever you’re wearing, whatever you’re singing, whatever you’re doing in your church (within relatively broad boundaries), you can probably go to the SBC Annual Meeting and (pretty easily) find a way to sit next to somebody who is a whole lot like you. There may be somebody there who is different enough to make you uncomfortable, but monolithic we are not.

    Now, keep this in mind, please: Unity per se is not the mission of the SBC nor is unity in the SBC the way that we ought to measure the SBC’s effectiveness. There have been, in the history of mankind, groups harmoniously united in the accomplishment of nothing—or of nothing worthwhile. The objective of the SBC is the propagation of the gospel, not fellowship. And yet, the more people we can find who affirm our core principles and will unite with us in the propagation of the gospel, the more propagation of the gospel we will accomplish. Unity, therefore, is one factor enabling our effectiveness.

  2. The Southern Baptist Convention is among the denominations most open to your ideas. The annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention is the largest open democratic meeting of its kind in the world. The only thing keeping you from walking up to a microphone and sharing your opinion is you. But not only can you articulate your viewpoint within the Southern Baptist Convention, you can also have influence here.

    Not that I’m saying it is always easy to influence the SBC or that the way to do so is always intuitive. I first got involved in the mechanisms of the SBC back in 2006. Whatever can be done wrong, I’ve done it. I’ve been voted down on the floor of the SBC. Twice. In the same year. On the same question. I’ve had the entire institutional apparatus of entire SBC entities and of state conventions along with hungry hoards of bloggers ravenously looking for me while I was vacationing in the Ozarks because of something foolish and offensive that I wrote. I’ve prognosticated and vituperated and confabulated and masticated for hours on end with fellow Southern Baptists. Just maybe, I’ve made more mistakes than you have. And along the way, I think maybe I finally made enough mistakes to have learned a thing or two—at least, there are ideas I once had about the SBC that I have no longer. And so, I give you a few of my own thoughts about how the SBC works.

    1. The SBC works chaotically. It is easy for people to think that the SBC is some sort of marionette dance, with a highly organized cabal of puppeteers pulling the strings. Friends, that’s just not the case. Since 2006 I’ve had the opportunity to meet most of the so-called “power brokers” of the SBC, and I’ve lost count of the number of them who have expressed frustration at least to some minor degree about what they are NOT able to get done in our convention. We are a convention of many different (sometimes competing) interests, all of which have some influence in the operations of the convention’s ministries. The way it all eventually works out is often a matter of surprise and happenstance. Perhaps it is nostalgia rather than good history, but I’ve got to think that there was a time when Southern Baptists were better organized, in an informal sense. My experience has been that there is a good bit of chaos.

      And so, if you want to influence the Southern Baptist Convention, you’ve got to be patient enough to take two steps forward and then one step back. You’ve got to be flexible enough to work through partnerships and coalitions with people who may not share every last one of your interests. You’ve got to be someone who doesn’t turn in his jersey the first time he strikes out at the plate.

    2. The SBC works person-to-person. Even in this day of blogs and email and Twitter, people get persuaded in our convention mostly face-to-face (or, at the very least, voice-to-voice). If you want to change the SBC, you have to get people to vote in support of your proposals. If you want to get people to vote in support of your proposals, there is no better way than for you to talk to people about your ideas. Make friends. Be winsome. Invest in other people. This is, by the way, the reason why denominational employees have a tremendous advantage over people working in local churches when it comes to these matters. Denominational employees are, very many of them, getting paid to do the very thing that builds influence in the SBC: spending time with the Southern Baptists who cast the votes.

      If you don’t like the way an entity does something, going to microphone 4 in Houston is not a good first step. It may be just the right LAST step, but the best first step probably involves sitting down calmly with an entity head, and perhaps later a trustee chairman, and winsomely articulating your point of view. After you air your grievance on the floor of the convention (or all over the Internet on a blog post), the cordial discussion with trustees suddenly becomes much more difficult to accomplish.

      There’s nothing sinister about speaking with people face-to-face before taking up your cause in front of 9,000 of your closest friends. I’m not talking about smoke-filled rooms or “illegal caucuses.” I’m also not saying that a private conversation will always solve everything—you might indeed have to go to the floor of the convention, and even that measure might not work in the end. Rather, I’m simply saying that even in this electronic age a winsome personality and a corporeal encounter remain the most powerful way to influence people in the Southern Baptist Convention.

      The great news about the Southern Baptist Convention is that these encounters are relatively easy to accomplish. I’ve never had a one-on-one conversation with Fred Luter, Frank Page, or Tom Eliff, but I bet that I could have one inside of a week, not because of who I am but because of who they are. Our leaders are, to the last one of them, humble and accessible people who will gladly speak with you. Yes, they’re busy. No, you shouldn’t waste their time. But if you have something important on your heart (and by that, I simply mean something important to you), they will hear you out.

      Go ask your local priest what it would take for him to get an audience with the Pope or the Archbishop of Canterbury. In smaller denominations this level of access is probably customary, but for an organization as large as it is, the level of access that we have to Southern Baptist leaders is something that ought to delight us and in which we ought to take some measure of satisfaction.

      Of course, I suspect that if you make an incorrigible pest of yourself, it is possible that your appointments may become more difficult to schedule. :-) Don’t do that. Be respectful of our leaders and be considerate of their time. But don’t be afraid, if you have something positive to contribute to our work, to take your ideas before those who can make them happen.

    3. The SBC works convictionally. If you’re trying to push something contrary to the core convictions of the convention’s churches, then you’ll have to work in the shadows and be resigned to the fact that eventually, someday, the churches will overturn what you’ve done. Real change in the SBC cannot consist of something you can merely move, second, or aye—if you can’t preach it, and preach it with conviction, then you probably cannot harness the convictional passion of the convention behind it.

      If you’re the guy who wants the SBC to approve of gay marriage, then you’re going to fail. If you want the SBC to endorse women as pastors, then unless you are a masochist you probably ought to move on. There are things that are already in our statement of faith, questions that have already been addressed within our polity, matters that arise out of the plain reading of scripture for which you will not be able to turn the tide of Southern Baptist opinion.

    4. The SBC works slowly. Not that I haven’t seen people ramrod things through in a hurry. That does happen sometimes. It’s just that, in my experience, those high-pressure initiatives, even when they pass, rarely actually achieve their objectives—rarely actually change the SBC. Instead, they become flash-in-the-pan initiatives. Everyone is talking about them this year; everyone has forgotten about them next year.

      Movements like the Conservative Resurgence make a lasting impact. They create and sustain enduring themes that change not just the organizational accoutrements of the convention but reach deeper and alter the culture of the convention. Lots of people could accomplish that; few will want to. It requires years of hard work. But you’re fooling yourself if you don’t believe that the same is true of any organization that you would seek to influence.

    In more hierarchical denominations (which would include both the more episcopal denominations and the more entrepreneurial ones), having real influence upon the denomination usually involves having to come into the employ of the denomination, and at a high level of administration at that. The Southern Baptist Convention, on the other hand, gives amazing opportunities to pastors and laypeople alike to make a difference in the convention’s work.

    Of course, other people are trying to influence the convention at the same time as you are. Having influence over the work of the convention is both a privilege and a responsibility. Be sure, if you try to exert influence over the convention, that you are doing so not for self-aggrandizement nor for baser motivations. Our convention operates as it does for the sake of the propagation of the gospel. Seek the aggrandizement of Christ (the real Christ, as found in the New Testament) and the magnification of our common gospel ministry and your ideas will do good service for the Master in the SBC.

Something tells me that perhaps I’ve written enough for a first installment. More to come in a subsequent post…

Comments

  1. says

    Brother Barber,

    Thank you for publishing this insightful article. When I was asked about four years ago to serve on my state convention’s executive board, I thought that my task was to accomplish as much as possible, as loud as possible, and as quickly as possible. Quickly I ran into the same sort of convention built wall you describe. Even so, as I have built relationships and spoke when most necessary, I have noticed God make changes through my service.

    Would you equate the pattern you describe here with the one we find for church discipline in Matt. 18:15-20? It seems that, as you say if we must confront issues, we find God’s guidance in this passage. For two days as we gather we in many ways constitute a congregation. As brothers and sisters for that period, should we not first go tell others their fault and follow the process from there? The frustration as you also state will be the persistent and long-suffering trial it will take to see any change occur. Even so, does such a method honor and glorify our Savior who gave us this process? If our convention took serious the need for time to allow this kind of process, do you think they might offer more time to meet or availability of denomination heads than they do? Just thinking. God Bless!

    Letting the Shepherd Lead,
    Steven R. Owensby

    • Bart Barber says

      Steven,

      Although I admit that Matthew 18 did come to my mind while I was writing, I think that similarity is as far as I would go. In most of the situations that I have in mind, it would be something of a stretch to make it a matter of one person sinning against another. Rather, most of the decisions that we face in the SBC concern different opinions about how to conduct our business—matters of preference rather than matters of sin.

      I do think that our convention’s processes could be fine-tuned to accommodate better the kind of first-hand encounters that are more effective in conducting our business. I’ve actually thought about that quite a bit. I’m going to save my ideas for use in a future post (the lifeblood of a blogger), but suffice it for now to say that I agree with the sentiment of your comment, especially to the degree that it agrees with the sentiment of my post. ;-)

  2. Dave Miller says

    I honestly hope people will digest some of this. I hear constantly how awful we are in so many ways. This is great.

    Please read this everyone.

    I promise not to shut down comments. (For a while anyway).

  3. Nick Horton says

    I agree. I wish that this were adequately communicated to many. I find in my own church a very distant relationship with the SBC, perhaps due to long neglect of who and what the SBC is. I also see young planters leaving the convention, in part because they are missing the forest for the trees as you have articulated. The net benefit of the SBC is greater than little islands of disagreement which seem larger than they are. The disagreement and discussion is in large part what fuels our cooperation, I think. We all actually have a say and equal standing in this loose association of churches who cooperate for the propagation of the Gospel. Core convictions are shared and we agree are far more than we disagree. But, we unite for the cause of the Gospel being advanced. I hope we don’t ever lose sight that Gospel advance is our sole reason for having an “SBC” to participate in.

    • Bart Barber says

      A good word, Nick. Thanks for working to encourage those young church planters to join in with the rest of us!

  4. says

    If you truly believe we are a huge unifying voice , then why do major groups in our society avoid us ; and , why do our membership numbers not support your conclusions in #1 . We do lousy PR !!

    • Bart Barber says

      Jack,

      I meant to assert not that we are a unifying voice in society at large, but that we are a unifying voice within Christianity. And even within that sphere, I did not mean to suggest that we are unifying in an absolute and unqualified sense (nor would I even suggest that such would be a good thing). Rather, if you will direct your careful attention to the wording of my point, I was indicating that, within the scope of Christianity, the unifying voice of the SBC falls within the top tier of similar organizations.

      I’ve identified several ways in which I believe that to be true. I don’t begrudge your right to believe otherwise. Feel free to present evidence to the contrary (e.g., a long list of organizations who do better than we do, along with specific evidence as to why you think so and how they accomplish it).

      Why do major groups in our society avoid us? Because major groups in our society would avoid any group committed to the actual teachings of Jesus Christ as He gave them to us through the writings of his apostles in the New Testament.

      Why do our membership numbers not support my conclusions? I do not accept that they do not. Please lay a foundation before you build an assertion.

      Thanks.

  5. Louis says

    Thanks, Bart. Many good things in this article.

    Hope I run into you in Houston.

  6. says

    Bart, this is an excellent post. Well done.

    I’ve been a member of a of of denominations; 1 Kind of EUB, 2 kinds of Methodists, 3 kinds of Presbyterians, and now the SBC. I am quite sure that, in those others, I would never have had, as a “guy in the pew”, the opportunity to address some things, and be involved in some things, that I have.

    It’s been said “We need more often to be reminded, than informed”. Amen, and thanks for doing just that.

  7. Dale Pugh says

    “‘We can do more together than we can do separately’ is not just a Southern Baptist slogan; it is the Southern Baptist raison d’être.”
    This statement is why I’m concerned about the decline of the local association in areas where I’ve served. I believe that such a decline is to our detriment, and it goes against the core of who we are and how we cooperate with one another.

  8. Dwight McKissic says

    Bart,

    Great Post. Thanks.

    I have not read this assessment and prognosis of the SBC anywhere else. I commend you for being intentional and specific about acknowledging and affirming the inclusion and empowerment of non-Anglo races in the SBC. God is not color blind. He made the various colors in all His creation. Since He is not color blind, neither should we be. People of color somehow get excluded when there is an attempt to be color blind. This aspect of your post is most powerful and a departure from most SBC commentators when discussing the future and the vision of our convention. Danny Akin, Fred Luter, Dave Miller, Alan Cross and now you are notable exceptions to the usual color blind vision casting and assessment of the SBC. I once heard the late Dr. E. K. Bailey say, “Please don’t overlook my color. When you overlook my color you overlook my pain and my history. And that means you really don’t know or understand me.” Again, I appreciate and largely agree with what you say here. However, I do want to respond to one statement, that I don’t disagree with but, I think it is to simplistic, as it relates to the attractiveness of the SBC.

    “Frankly, I don’t know where a biblical inerrantist would go to find a brighter future of racial unity.” This is probably a true statement. Although there are denominational like fellowships and local churches that are committed to inerrancy, yet with a heart and some visible success in achieving racial inclusion and unity. The Association of Related Churches based in Birmingham Alabama would be an example of fellowships committed to inerrancy and racial inclusion. Tony Evans and T D Jakes para-church ministries, ministerial fellowships, and annual gatherings of pastors and leaders, would also be examples of denominational like fellowships committed to inerrancy and racial inclusion.

    My concern(s) or question(s) with the above quote is this: Inerrancy is the norm and the expectation in most Black denominations and certainly among National Baptists. I strongly believe in the doctrine of the inspiration, infallibility, and inerrancy of Scripture. However, I’ve also concluded-rightly or wrongly- that in SBC life, inerrancy is also a code word for robust cessationism, complementaranism, and a conservative style of worship, that would be unattractive and unappealing to many if not most Black worshippers, including Black SBC worshippers. This explains the usual lack of Black presence and participation in SBC corporate gatherings.

    Most Black SBC churches have female ushers and deaconesses. Most Anglo SBC churches don’t. Most Black SBC churches and NBC churches at least once a year-“Women’s Day”-allow a woman to be the principal speaker/preacher on a Sunday morning. Most SBC churches don’t allow such practices. The First Baptist Church, Washington DC, recently fired the Black Pastor they hired to foster integration in their church in part because he attracted many Black members whose expressive worship style was unacceptable to the ruling White elite. Praying/praising in tongues in private worship and within during corporate worship( 1 Corinthians 14: 28) is more accepted in Black Baptist circles than it is in the SBC as a whole. Incoherent sounds and verbal expressions that are not tongues, but audible-groanings, moanings, sighs, and shouts that can’t be translated in any language, are fairly common in Black Baptist worship experiences. You have to be seated near certain people to hear it, but it happens nearly every Sunday during praise and worship and prayer times. This kind of experience is rare in Anglo SBC churches. I did read in Charisma a few years back where Ed Young, Jr. said that if you put a mic in front of certain worshipers at his church during praise and worship you would hear tongues.

    Spontaneous holy dance or choreographed worship dances are also very common in Black Baptist churches. When many Black churches join the SBC they are not aware of the fact that “inerrantist” would find most of these practices as unacceptable. Moderates were much more affirming of these practices, or certainly did not hold them in contempt. This is evidenced by the fact that the BGCT does not exclude people from being missionaries based on their private prayer practices.

    The First Baptist Church(Anglo) in Pine Bluff, Arkansas hosted a joint city wide revival of all the Baptist Churches in the city in the mid-seventies. The day revivalist was Charles Ashcroft(sp) the then executive director of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention(Anglo SBC). That meeting went well. It was held at the Pleasant Grove Baptist Church(Black). The night meeting as stated was at the large FBC Anglo church and the revivalist was DR. CAW Clark of Dallas, Tx. The Anglo’s present disliked the exuberant, expressive and emotional responses to the preaching of Dr. Clark. By midweek they had a public announcement made asking the Black Baptist worshipers to tone down their worship practices during the remainder of the revival. This was very offensive to some, and needless to say from that day to the present-to the best of my knowledge–no such attempt at a joint revival has taken place. Pine Bluff is my hometown.

    Although I do not agree with all of what Dr. Jeremiah Wright stated that was broadcast over and over during the 2008 Presidential election, the surprise for most Blacks was that White people were surprised at his message. It is very common to address social justice and racial issues with the gusto and some of the rhetoric used by Rev. Wright. Mike Huckabee was one of the few Anglo’s who understood this and gave Rev Wright a public pass. If one visited a predominately Black SBC congregation for 52 straight weeks, they will inevitably here some direct and different points of views than you would here in a White SBC church. Richard’s Land’s initial response to the Trayvon Martin saga versus Fred Luter’s and most Black SBC responses is evidence or illustrative of what I mean.

    I have written to much here. The major point that I’ve tried to make is, just because a church and pastor would hold to inerrancy and the BF&M 2000, does not necessarily make the SBC an attractive option because of what I believe are sincere and progressive steps in the right direction concerning race. Given what I know now about the SBC, but didn’t know when I joined, I question whether or not I would have joined now that I am aware of these serious differences. Again, the issue is not inerrancy; it is the other differences that I’ve mentioned that the dominant group in power don’t really appreciate or embrace. So, on one hand I deeply appreciate and embrace all you say in this post. On the other hand, if churches come into the SBC thinking that their worship practices are respected or appreciated in the SBC, they are in for a rude awakening. Of course, what I’m saying would not ring true for all Black Baptist churches. But from my observation, it would ring true for the majority, particularly the larger ones. Many of them understand the differences and therefore refuse to join the SBC, or remain marginal and aloof because of these differences. The word “inerrancy” simply don’t gloss over these differences. I was that naive 29 years ago,when I joined the SBC. I am not that naive today.

    Hope to see you in Houston Bart.

    • Dwight McKissic says

      Bart,

      I type faster than I think. In the last sentence of the 2nd paragraph above, this is what I meant to say:

      “However, I do want to respond to one statement, that I agree with, but I think it’s to simplistic as it relates to the attractiveness of the SBC.” I do agree with your statement. I simply have some introspective questions. Above I typed that I disagreed with your statement that I placed in quotes.

      • Christiane says

        Dr. McKISSIC,
        your comment reminded me of this:
        “Plenty Good Room: The Spirit and Truth of African American Worship”
        (Washington, DC: USCCB, 1990)

        African American preaching allows for plenty of expression of thanksgiving and praise . . . this is a culturally rich form of preaching the Word that fulfills a goal of the whole Church . . . to come together as community filled with thanksgiving and praise directed towards God.

        • Dwight McKissic says

          Christiane,

          Thanks for this reference. I was unaware of it. Look forward to retrieving it tomorrow. I really appreciate your input and interaction on this and other Baptist blogs.

          Neither one of our DNA’s are SBC. Therefore, I think at times we are misunderstood, and their are times when don’t understand because of our backgrounds. Nevertheless, I think it is important that persons whose DNA is not SBC contribute to these discussions. Again, thank you for your contributions. The ones that I have read have been worthwhile and helpful.

          There are times that I believe that you have been addressed in the wrong manner, and in less than a Christian tone. For that I apologize. Be blessed.

    • Bart Barber says

      Good morning, Dwight,

      I, too, hope to see you in Houston. Early on this Sunday morning there is much to do for both of us, but I did not wish to delay too long in replying to you. I think, perhaps, that I can respond well to the overall gist of your comment simply by replying to the statement:

      However, I’ve also concluded-rightly or wrongly- that in SBC life, inerrancy is also a code word for robust cessationism, complementaranism, and a conservative style of worship…

      It seems to me that most of the rest of your comment serves either as illustration of, or deduction from, that sentence (along with its implications upon Black churches). If so, perhaps interaction with that statement will serve as interaction with your comment as a whole.

      So, do I think that it is rightly or wrongly that you have concluded thusly? I’d say it is a mixed bag:

      1. “Robust cessationism”: I think you’ve concluded wrongly. The Southern Baptist Convention includes both robust cessationists and continuationists along a certain spectrum. Probably, when talking about Southern Baptist folk-theology (an unfortunate term, but the best one I can imagine to describe the theology of laypeople) it is best to discuss this question gift-by-gift rather than to take all of the gifts en masse into a doctrine of cessationism or continuationism. Southern Baptists are, in my experience, most suspicious of the gift of tongues. They are quite open to the gift of healing in general, but very suspicious of specific claims to it. Southern Baptist reticence regarding miraculous gifts is, I think, in direct proportion to the manufacture of pseudo-gifts that has accompanied the Pentecostal movement and the subsequent use of those to claim spiritual superiority over, among others, Southern Baptists. Those gifts that have appeared the most prominently in this phenomenon now receive the most suspicion.

      The president of the International Mission Board was a continuationist. Our host on this blog is a continuationist and is an officer of the Southern Baptist Convention. I do not know whether my own position of “a posteriori cessationism” does or does not fall within what you mean by “robust cessationism,” but that really does not matter for our discussion. It is, rather, sufficient for me to say that although I am a cessationist, I do not believe that I am one simply because I am an inerrantist, nor do I believe that a belief in inerrancy necessarily implies a belief in a posteriori cessationism.

      I suspect that you would find few in the Southern Baptist Convention who believe that inerrancy amounts to robust cessationism.

      2. Complementarianism: I think you have concluded rightly, and I side with the Southern Baptist Convention on this one. I believe that a commitment to biblical inerrancy will necessarily lead one to reserve the office of pastor for men (and if you believe that, regardless of what you believe about deacons, etc., you are not an egalitarian and are thus some sort of a complementarian). I further believe, from personal observation, that women serving as pastors are far less likely to be biblical inerrantists and are far less likely to teach people to regard the Bible as inerrant than are male Southern Baptist pastors, which I would attribute to their understanding that an inerrant view of the Bible tends to undermine their position. I’d love to see Ed Stetzer do a poll along these lines.

      The complementarian Bible passages are clear. The egalitarian twistings of them are embarrassingly poor—akin to the treatment of scripture necessary to find room for homosexuality in the Bible. I do not question the sincerity of those who claim to be both inerrantists and egalitarians, but I do question the soundness of their position. Furthermore, I am thankful to hope that they are within the minority in the Southern Baptist Convention.

      Also, unlike the other two items that you have mentioned, egalitarians are in direct contradiction to our statement of faith.

      3. A Conservative Style of Worship: I think you have concluded wrongly. Virtually no Southern Baptists connect inerrancy with a particular style of worship. Almost all Southern Baptists have worship preferences, but they generally acknowledge them as such. Some of their preferences align much more closely with yours. Others have preferences in worship that more closely resemble those of Bill Gothard. I have seen some on both sides argue for a biblical mandate for their particular style of worship, but these are the minority (and by that, I mean not 48% but in the low single digits).

      Southern Baptist worship style has changed significantly in my lifetime. My anecdotal observation (not researched) is that both Pentecostal and non-Pentecostal worship are moving toward one another—toward a more bland, generic evangelicalism. Many Pentecostal megas are moving away from the more obtrusive displays of “signs and wonders” (case in point: Joel Osteen) toward worship that is simply enthusiastic and expressive. Most Southern Baptist churches are moving toward worship that is more enthusiastic and expressive.

      So, Dwight, we see things differently. I stand by my initial assessment. I do thank you for your presence in this dialogue. I hope to see you soon.

    • Bart Barber says

      Dwight,

      Looking back over your comment, I do think that there is one aspect of your overall comment that may not have been addressed at all by my reply: The idea of social justice and the role of churches in that process.

      I think that this is a difficult issue (the role of churches in political discussions)—hard to get just right. I think that both of our traditions show good evidence of that. A group like the Southern Baptist Convention finds it difficult to know how to respond to something like the Trayvon Martin tragedy. A group like the National Baptist Convention finds it difficult to know how to respond to something like President Obama’s “evolution” on same-sex marriage.

      May God give us all wisdom to face these days.

      • Dwight McKissic says

        Bart,

        Saying to a church interested in the SBC that inerrancy and racial inclusion are core values is wonderful and powerful. But wouldn’t it also be right to disclose to pastors and churches interested in joining the SBC– but who are ignorant of her stands on the other matters that I mentioned– where the SBC generally stand on those issues?

        Many of us who are complementarian would not object to a woman teaching Hebrew or church history at an SBC seminary. Neither would we object to a woman serving as VP of the IMB, or as a local church usher or deaconess. Many of us have no problem with a woman serving as the Sunday morning speaker under the male Senior Pastor’s authority. The role of a Phebe who provided servant leadership in the church at Cenchrea(Romans 16: 1) and under Paul’s authority was entrusted to conduct business in the church at Rome(Romans 16: 2) would be objectionable to the ruling elite in SBC life. Paul told the men and women at Rome to “assist her in whatever businees she hath need of you.” Paul had no problem here placing men under a female”s authority here, who was under his authority. The SBC view and practice of complementarianism is more restrictive than the biblical view of complementarianism. Anybody interested in joining the SBC would probabaly not believe in a woman serving as Senior Pastor. I certainly don’t believe that it is biblically permissible.

        But the question that you fail to answer is what is a woman allowed to do in the SBC short of serving as a Senior Pastor? The answer to this question based on what I’ve seen in the SBC many churches would find unattractive. Your response did not address any of these matters. And that’s o k with me, but these are important matters that pastors and churches should know as they consider joining the SBC, Limiting the appeal to inerrancy and racial inclusion is not sufficient or attractive enough in light of the aforementioned matters.

        Where I agree with you and appreciate your specific response is how the two groups process social justice issues. Particularly did I like your contrasting and comparing how the NBC handles President Obama’s same-sex marriage evolution with how the SBC handled the Trayvon Martin matter. Although the President of the NBC produced a statement affirming marriage between a man and a woman, after President Obama’s announcement in support of same-sex marriage; I was deeply disappointed to read in the same statement that we should not let the President’s position on “marriage equality” prohibit us from supporting his agenda as it relates to health care and other specific matters he mentioned. I found his reference to “marriage equality” distasteful and inconsistent with his strong statement in favor of traditional marriage. Many National Baptists thought his response fell way short of what it should have been. But you are right: this was a difficult to handle matter for the NBC in light of Mitt Romney being the alternative. At that point President Obama became the lesser of two evils for the vast majority of NBC pators and people.

        You are right that the SBC is comprised of cessationist and continualist. So is the NBC. The problem though is, only the cessationist viewpoint is the ruling policy in SBC entities. No such restrictions exist among NBC entities.

        You mentioned Dr. Rankin being a practicing continualist, which would have been a great point in contradiction of my position, if the IMB had not adopted a cessationist policy during his tenure. He was in violation of the very policy that he was responsible for enforcing.

        This is the kind of information that needs to be disclosed to churches before they consider joining the SBC. There are those churches–including some Black Baptist Churches–who would not object to or disagree with many of these policies and positions that I’ve referenced. Those are the ones that I anticipate would be drawn to the inerrancy and racial inclusion thrust of the SBC. However, churches that accept the SBC view of women and the restrictions on missionaries private prayer lives would be a very limited in number, if I’m reading the tea leaves correctly. The SBC does a disservice to churches by not disclosing this information to them when they are considering joining.

        Finally, I agree with you again. I believe worship styles are becoming closer together across the spectrum as I visit churches. Maybe today this would not pose a division. In times past, I know it would have and indeed, it has. I’m encouraged to know that things may be different now.

        • Bart Barber says

          Dwight,

          I agree that no church should ever join the SBC solely on the basis of my blog post. It was not my intention to include in this post everything that a church would need to know in order to make a decision about joining the SBC. Indeed, especially since this is not stated in the post itself, perhaps it would be helpful to indicate that the target audience I had in mind was not churches considering affiliation with the SBC, but rather churches already within the SBC who might undervalue their partnership through the SBC. Decisions about denominational affiliation ought only to be made after exhaustive and careful research.

          I do not believe that it invalidates any portion of the post that I have written, but I am happy to concede that the Southern Baptist Convention will not be just the right fit for every inerrantist who desires racial unity. My intention was simply to state that being both an inerrantist and a person desiring racial unity would not, in and of themselves, make any denomination of churches a more suitable place for anyone than the SBC.

          The other questions that involve the differences in our respective complementarian views, including our respective differences in understanding the passages that you have cite, probably would merit a post in and of itself. And so, I’ll be content to have offered as good an explanation as I know regarding the intention of my post.

          Finally, I would say that I’m thankful that you have presented a biblical argument for your understanding of biblical complementarianism. Even if a theological change would make our denomination of churches more attractive to other churches, becoming more attractive to other churches is, in my opinion, a pretty poor reason for changing one’s theology. I was once contacted by a pastorless church who indicated that they would be willing to affiliate with the SBTC if I would consider becoming their pastor. I told them that I would never, under any circumstances, agree to move to a church that was changing denominational affiliation to accommodate my coming. Churches should make such decisions convictionally, after careful research, and with informed consent.

          Similarly, the SBC should never make theological changes for pragmatic reasons. If the United Methodists should abandon infant sprinkling in order to woo my church to affiliate with them, although I would consider the abandonment of this unbiblical practice to be an improvement, I would have no confidence in any group that regards so lightly its own convictions with regard to biblical teachings.

          • Dwight McKissic says

            Bart,

            Thanks for your response. Now with the concession that you’ve made I can endorse and embrace your post without any qualifying remarks-understanding that my endorsement is of little consequence or value. I did think it to be necessary and important for Voices readers to hear the qualifying and alternative viewpoint to your post that my response brought.

            There would have been a time as a young pastor, I would have been thrilled beyond measure by your post. My excitement is now tempered by knowing that the two values that you feature–inerrancy and race–simply don’t tell enough of the story.

            My comments were not designed to say that the SBC should change any of her doctrinal positions to attract any church or churches to join. My comments were designed to convey–the SBC should fully disclose in depth and detail her doctrinal positions to any church that might be interested in joining.

            Case in point. I have a pastor friend of a Baptist Church in Georgia, who is a very popular preacher, and considered by most to be very orthodox. The local SBC Association reached out to him and ask him to unite with them. His response was I certainly will consider it,but I want you to know at the outset that I believe in all the gifts of the Spirit and Women Preachers(not Women Senior Pastors). He never heard back from the Association after that. My point is that the Association should have handed him a copy of where they and the SBC stand on these issues, so that it would be no question in his mind or theirs, if he and his church qualified for SBC affiliation. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, appealing to churches already affiliated, or who are interested in becoming affiliated on the basis of race and inerrancy is simply not giving enough attention to matters equally as important, with regard to affiliation or strengthening the existing relationship.

            It is matters not addressed in the BF&M 2000 that divide us. And it is the SBC ruling elite positions on matters not addressed in the BF&M that trump the admitted attractiveness and excitement regarding inerrancy and race.

            With that said, I’ve enjoyed the dialogue-appreciate it. Don’t think that I have any thing else to add to the subject since I’m already repeating myself. Therefore, I will again thank you for the refreshing dialogue and bid the conversation adieu.

        • says

          Dwight,

          Perhaps your position on gender issues should be called soft egalitarian rather than complementarian? Provides the distinction between the complementarian views of the SBC and the views you espouse which aren’t really complementarian. If you think those views still fit within the BF&M, well, that’s a different discussion, but in terms of nomenclature, what you describe is not complementarian. Thus we can helpfully tell people “most in the SBC are complementarian while a few are soft egalitarians” and they will have some idea what we mean.

          • Dave Miller says

            I would not call Dwight’s position egalitarian. If you hold back the position of pastor to men, that is not an egalitarian position.

            The bedrock of the complementarian position is whether positions like elder/pastor are restricted to men (which Dwight affirms) and whether husbands have a servant leadership position in their homes (which I’m not sure he addressed – since this discussion was ecclesological). I think he would affirm a leadership role for husbands, but I’d let him speak to that.

            However, I don’t think many of the other questions are as clearly delineated in Scripture. For nearly 15 years, I had a music leader in my church in Cedar Rapids. She worked with me and respected my authority as pastor. There were people that didn’t like that we had a woman that led music, but I did not consider that one of the biblically restricted positions.

            Currently, we have a team-based structure at our church. Six teams with six team leaders. Can a woman serve as one of those team leaders? I had no problem with that. Another pastor I discussed it with thought they should all be men.

            There are a lot of such questions. Many people have far greater restrictions on women serving in certain church positions than I do. But I am a convinced and convictional complementarian – on those two key issues.

            By the way, are there actually churches that believe that women are restricted from serving as ushers? I know its not traditional in most SBC churches, but is it a conviction or just a tradition?

          • says

            Dave,

            Any view on this which would defend women preaching – even if not pastoring – is not a truly complementarian position. There are a few reasonable questions when it comes to deacons or even ushers but when it comes to (1) spiritual leadership in the church as a whole (as opposed to over women or children), or (2) women teaching men in the church in any capacity, the consistent complementarian will resist. Seminaries might require a little more thought, depending on the position. Women as music ministers is slightly trickier, though I still see this as a position of spiritual leadership in the church and as such reserved for men just as the work of pastor is.

            Teams in the church is a different matter. Our senior adult coordinator is a lady, as is our stewardship chairman, and probably a few others if I thought about it a bit, but none of these are exercising teaching/spiritual leadership roles over mixed groups in the church.

          • Bart Barber says

            I’m going to agree with Dave on the terminology here. Egalitarianism, strictly speaking, is neither about ecclesiology nor family ethics (although these are implicated). Rather, egalitarianism is about anthropology (the study of the nature of humanity). Are male and female to be considered as essentially the same or as essentially different? That is (since all acknowledge the obvious anatomical differences) where there are different roles for men and women, are these roles externally imposed by others or are they, rather, internally produced by and consistent with the reality of being male or female?

            The complementarian position is that men and women are equal in value but are different (i.e., there is such a natural reality as masculinity and femininity, and these are not mere cultural constructs), and that God has, for reasons He knows, whether they are discernible to us or not, assigned roles to men and women that are not identical to one another.

            No complementarian believes that the roles of men and women are entirely dissimilar (e.g., men and women have the same role and responsibility as citizens if they witness a crime, for example). No complementarian believes that the roles of men and women are entirely similar (since the definition of complementarianism excludes that viewpoint).

            In the Christian context, complementarianism is clearly articulated throughout the Bible. The mere existence of New Testament paraenetic lists bifurcated between men and women (and sometimes further between young and old) leaves no doubt that the Bible views the roles of men and women differently. Any (like Dwight) who would withhold the office of pastor from women is a complementarian if he has thought through his position and if it arises from principle.

          • John Wylie says

            Chris,

            While I do not believe in women preaching to men in any capacity, I do believe Bart is correct. If you believe that there is any difference at all in the roles of men and women you are a complementarian. Egalitarianism recognizes no distinction whatsoever between the roles of men and women. So if you believe that women can preach or teach men under certain circumstances but that they cannot hold the position of pastor you are perhaps a soft complementarian.

          • John Wylie says

            An egalitarian is one who believes that there are no differences whatsoever in the roles of men or women. Once a person makes any distinction in those roles (i.e. no women pastors) they cannot be said to be egalitarian. And especially the way Dwight qualified what he believes about those roles means that he can’t be a true egalitarian. Actually Dwight’s view was not that much different than Dr. W.A. Criswell’s view and no one that I know would call Criswell an egal.

          • John Wylie says

            But I would like to stress that you and I agree on whether or not a woman should ever preach to or teach men. And I also agree that allowing women to do so is not consistent with complementarianism. But barring women from the pastorate is not consistent with egalitarianism.

          • Dwight McKissic says

            Chris,

            Egalitarian and complementarian are man made terms not found in the Bible. These terms are designed to divide, define, label, and eventually marginalize fellow believers. Personally, I would rather not be identified by either label. I only reference them to facilitate dialogue. I prefer to be known as a Kingdom citizen and as a biblicist.

            Complementarianism has not been defined by the SBC and that’s a part of the problem. You and I obviously define it differently. I appreciate Bart, Dave, and others recognizing that your my views on the subject are not beyond the boundaries of complementarianism. Your robust complimentarianism is illustrative of why I wanted Bart to reconsider or at least concede that race and inerrancy are important and attractive–but woefully insufficient and inadequate to hail the SBC as an unqualified attractive place to belong.

            Thanks for labeling me a “soft egalatarian.” You prove my point with regard to the reasons why I addressed Bart’s post: Robust Complementarianism that makes the SBC so unattractive to many even with the wonderful and powerful focus and success related to inerrancy, and major steps in the right direction as it relates to race.

            Chris, if your view and definition of complementarianism is the dominant and ultimate ruling and reigning view, I would then find the SBC totally unattractive. Indeed your view may be the dominant view, Unfortunately, the official SBC positions tend to be coy and not totally forthcoming with these matters. Therefore, we are left to live with these tensions that could be fairly easy resolved.

          • John Wylie says

            Dwight,

            I don’t believe that it is the dominant view because almost every SBC church that I’ve ever visited had women teaching men in Sunday School, had women giving devotionals in the Sunday School assembly time, etc…

          • John Wylie says

            And I live in Oklahoma which is certainly one of the most conservative state conventions.

          • Dave Miller says

            I agree with something John said. What Dwight describes as “robust complementarianism” is not quite as dominant a view as it is believed to be.

            I am a convictional complementarian but have views that would likely not meet Chris’s complementarian standards.

            For instance, I’d not have a problem with a female missionary standing in the pulpit and describing her missionary service – even doing what might be called preaching.

            Complementarianism is a RANGE of views, not a fixed set of strict policies defined by a person or persons.

          • Dwight McKissic says

            John,

            Thanks for reminding me of Dr. Criswell’s position and practice regarding the role of women. I too recall reading and being pleasantly surprised that in his book “Criswell’s Guide Book for Pastors” he made a statement similar to this: The only restriction on a woman in the life of the church is the office of the pastor. I certainly agreed with him then and now.

            As you know, his wife taught I’m told 300 or more men regularly in Sunday School. She taught more men than the average SBC church have in worship on a Sunday morning. He certainly had no problem with a woman teaching a man. Chris Roberts, I guess would label Dr. Criswell I suppose as a soft egalatarian.

            The robust complementarianism in the SBC that restricts women military chaplains from serving-even those trained in SBC seminaries, is complementarianism that goes far beyond biblical parameters. Thanks again for evoking the memory and legacy of Dr. Criswell into this discussion.

        • Dave Miller says

          By the way, this exchange between Bart and Dwight is quite an education – substantive, respectful. I’ve enjoyed the chance to eavesdrop!

  9. William Thornton says

    Good subject. Am I incorrect in concluding that in regard to the Baptist Faith and Message a church which has the following would NOT be considered to be acting in violation of the same?

    1. Women preaching (or teaching) to men.
    2. Women filling the pulpit in a capacity other than the office of pastor.
    3. Women evangelists on staff.
    4. Any female staff, or leadership, or committee, or team leader, or trustee position, save for the office of pastor.
    5. Women as deacons.

    • William Thornton says

      6. Women ordained in recognition of any calling other than senior pastor.

      • Dwight McKissic says

        William,

        Your questions get to the heart & crux of the matter. Thanks for asking them. I wish they were a seperate post. I would live to hear many SBC pastors & seminary professors weigh in on these questions. For sure I would love to hear Bart & Chris answer specifically & clearly these questions.

        I’ve heard at least three Black SBC Pastors respond to the BFM 2000 statement on the office of pastor being restricted to men as: Great!!! They affirmed the gifts and calling of women in these other areas & placed no restrictions on them. Many pastors who hold my views interpret the BFM 2000 statement with affirmative answers to your six questions. The truth of the matter is, I think both sides answer these questions from silence because they are not specifically & clearly addressed in the BF&M.

        Again, I hope that you do a seperate posting on these question & it generate a lot of response. They would be quite informative.

      • Bart Barber says

        William,

        Yours is a good question, and one that is easy to answer. I would answer differently if you were inquiring as to what the Bible teaches, and indeed, because the Bible is a much lengthier and more detailed document, speaking about its teachings is a more complicated matter. But with regard to the BF&M, I’d say that you are correct on items 1-5 and incorrect on item 6.

        The BF&M makes no mention of a “senior pastor,” and with good reason, since that is an unbiblical office (unless you are speaking with regard to the “Chief Shepherd,” the Lord Jesus Christ). The qualifications in the pastoral epistles speak only of the office of pastor, as does the BF&M. We have four pastors at FBC Farmersville, and all are required to be male. We do have other staff positions, and those are open to women or men. “Pastor” at FBC Farmersville is not just a word that we add to a position—a common core of responsibilities pertains to all of the pastors, whether they are the leading pastor or are associate pastors, and I regard all of our pastors as my peers, even if we have different specific assignments here.

        • William Thornton says

          Thanks for the replies.

          Churches may apply much greater specificity in carrying out their view of what roles may be filled by whom and how. A church that ordained female deacons, for example, might not be what some would approve but would not be in violation of the BFM and if, say, the local association had adopted the BFM, they would not find cause to expel such a church and claim the reason to be the church’s not acting in accord with the BFM.

          Bart, I don’t think the BFM can be stretched to cover all specialty staff ministers under the “senior pastor” position. I would guess that the acumen of the writers of the document is such that they were well aware of the issues of ordination and executive staff and all that yet chose not to address it.

          All churches certainly may so specify their staff as pastors and restrict them to males.

          In my hacker and plodder opintion, the future health of the SBC depends somewhat on the more restrictive crowd not attempting to isolate those whose views on complementarian/egalitarian issues are less restrictive, like Dwight McKissick and others.

          Dwight, perhaps Dave will find a way to initiate this as a separate discussion.

          • Bart Barber says

            William,

            In my opinion, the larger and underlying problem is the erosion of the biblical office of pastor/elder/overseer that becomes so evident when we consider the practices of many of our churches on topics like this one.

            1. When precisely the same roles are entitled “Pastor” in some cases and with other terminology (“Director” or “Minister”) in others, not because of any actual difference in the role, but simply because one occupant is ordained while another is not, we’re missing something.

            2. When we write qualifications and job description documents for offices like “Pastor,” for which qualifications and at least some concept of a job description are given in the Bible, and yet in those documents little or no mention is made of the relevant biblical materials (as though we are authorized to redefine what God has defined in scripture), we’re missing something.

            3. When we make the key differentiation in theological discussions (like this one we’re having here) to be the question of whether one serves in a role (“Senior Pastor”) which, if it appears at all in the New Testament, certainly does not come with its own set of biblical qualifications and responsibilities, we’re missing something.

            Now, I’m not opposed to our having all sorts of other people working at church. We, ourselves, have everything from nursery workers and instrumentalists and custodians to a director of our preschool and children’s work. Have all that you pragmatically require IN ADDITION TO the biblical offices of pastor and deacon, and I’ve got no problem with it. I simply don’t want us to do so at the cost of either (a) weakening the office of pastor/elder/overseer by applying it to a whole host of people who really do not serve in that biblical role, or (b) losing sight of the office of pastor/elder/overseer by failing to set apart specifically as pastors those who serve in that role.

    • Dale Pugh says

      I believe you are correct, William. The BFM states of the church, “Its scriptural officers are pastors and deacons. While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.”
      Of course the argument might be that one can never say less than the BFM and be in agreement with it, but one may certainly place a tighter constraint on it and still be in agreement with it. In this case, those who would say that women preaching or serving in positions of spiritual leadership, which, in my estimation would be just about any kind of staff position, is prohibited are placing a more restrictive principle on the issue than does the BFM.

    • Joe Blackmon says

      Bart

      I understand that the BFM wouldn’t prohibit a church from being found in violation for 1-5, but I sure wish it was worded so that it would be found that they were not in friendly cooperation. The very fact that we’re still discussing this question when the Bible is clear without any question that complimentarianism is the only proper interpretation is sad, in my most humble of opinions.

      • Dwight McKissic says

        Joe and Bart,

        Would the BF&M find a church in violation of William’s # 6 ? I need to read again that section, but I don’t recall the BF&M restricting ministry specific ordination for women that excludes the office of the pastor. Most persons would read the office of the pastor language in the BFM 2000 statement as referring to the male senior pastor.

        • William Thornton says

          I threw in the question on ordination because it has been a litmus test of sorts even though neither the BFM or Scripture says much about it.

          The reason this business, the broader one of women’s roles, is critical can be seen in this short discussion where appeals have been made far beyond the BFM to the CBMW.

          We can propagate the Gospel and not agree on whether or not a woman may ever stand behind the pulpit in any capacity, or teach 14 year old boys, or be a deaconess, or be ordained, or serve in a staff position, etc.

          I think Lottie Moon is still held in high regard among almost all SBs.

          Perhaps this could be discussed further but I will miss it until the end of the month.

        • Bart Barber says

          Dwight,

          Would you consider it fair if I, in other portions of the BF&M, disregarded the wording of the text and instead started stipulating outside of the text what it is that “most persons would read” it to mean? Perhaps we should conclude that the framers of the BF&M, knowing scripture well, stuck with scriptural terminology with deliberate intent.

          • Dwight McKissic says

            Bart,

            You could very well be right. I am generally a stickler for the letter of the law. Would somehow reading the text as is answer the question regarding ministry specific ordination for women, or the commissioning service for the IMB female missionaries? The commissioning of female IMB missionaries is an example of ministry specific ordination from my vantage point.

            I deeply regret that the BF&M is not more definitive and specific on these questions. But in SBC life I’ve learned on certain doctrinal questions one just have to learn to live with ambiguity, because the powers that be refuse to answer and refuse to allow votes that would bring clarity to these ill defined doctrinal questions.

            I don’t believe ministry specific ordination for women defies the Bible or the BF&M, unless someone can convince me otherwise. Again, the IMB commissioning service from my vantage point is an example of this. Thanks for your question. It has me thinking.

  10. Robert I Masters says

    Dwight MsKissic
    I think that this conversation that has turned into the egalitarian
    /complementerianism discussion is good.
    1. Your correct that the word complementarian is not found in the Bible but the principle is found in Scripture.As is the case with the Trinity!
    2. The CBMW guidlines are a more restrictive set of terms in regards to womens roles in the local church than the BFM.
    3.I personally believe they(CBMW)fit the Biblical definition as intended by God.
    My advise to you, not that you are listening to me, would be to just say you hold to the BFM and leave out the complementarian!
    If a person wants to join your church and has questions regarding gender roles just answer truthfully. I would not join but I am fine cooperating with your church.
    BTW I agree that too many Southern Baptist churches are not clear on the positions they actually hold too. Drives me nuts!!!!
    BTW 2 I love labels because they are just theological shorthand for correct definitions. One of the reasons I like and use the term Reformed Baptist for myself is that also connotes a restrictive view of womens roles in the church and the family. For example we know that Voddie Baucham would not hold to the same gender views as you because he is a Reformed Baptist.

    • Dwight McKissic says

      Robert,

      Our position on gender roles appears in our bulletin each week. Would you be specific as to why I should not identify myself as a complementarian? The CBMW would be totally unattractive to most churches that could totally ascribe to the BFM 2000, but would find the CBMW positions as simply misinterpreting biblical text as was done with certain Scriptures to justify slavery and segregation. I know persons who ascribe to reform theology, yet who view of women is even broader than mine. Therefore, don’t quite understand why you brought Voddie Baucham as an example in this conversation. If only ten per cent of Southern Baptists would identify themselves as Reformed or Calvinist, less than 1 per cent of Black Baptists would view themselves as reformed or Calvinist. Again, I miss your point evoking Voddie Baucham into this conversation. If my memory serves me correctly, Voddie was opposed to Sarah Palin running for President on the basis of her gender & motherhood. That to me is an example of SBC & Calvinist robust complementarianism that goes far beyond biblical parameters and the BFM. Thanks for the dialogue.

  11. says

    Bart’s post and the follow-up interaction has been healthy and profitable for me. Thanks!
    While the discussion has largely centered around the different views related to the role of women in leadership in a SBC church, for me, I am particularly interested in this from Brother Dwight,
    “You mentioned Dr. Rankin being a practicing continualist, which would have been a great point in contradiction of my position, if the IMB had not adopted a cessationist policy during his tenure. He was in violation of the very policy that he was responsible for enforcing.”

    To my knowledge and perhaps I will be corrected as I often am, but has the cessationist policy by the IMB trustees been rescinded? As our beloved convention goes forward into the future, those churches considering a partnership with our convention will do so largely around the idea of cooperation in order to do mission better, i.e. our 5000+ missionaries around the world, let alone our NAMB funded leaders here at home. Do we as a convention still prohibit men and women as international missionaries if they pray in tongues privately?

  12. Dwight McKissic says

    Darren,

    The cessationist policy of the IMB has not changed. Bart referenced Dr. Rankin as an example of a contiualist or continuationist who is a part of our convention. In my opinion the very reason cooperative program giving is challenged & consequently the IMB does not have the funds to hire all of the qualified missionaries who have applied & want to serve, is because of the adoption of the cessationist policies that many churches find unbiblical & unreasonable. Therefore, they cannot support the cooperative program to the extent that they once did without supporting these unbiblical policies. I hope I answered your question. If not, I’m willing to try again. Bart’s point, I believe is that their are many persons who belong to the SBC that hold to continuationist theology. My point is that only the cessationist policies govern our entities. Thus making the SBC unattractive to many.

    • Greg Harvey says

      Bart didn’t address that the Board of Trustees of the IMB implemented restrictionist policies while Rankin was still seated as President that would have prevented Jerry being appointed in 1970 if those policies had been in place then.

      My teen age years would have been quite different without men like Avery T. Willis, Jr. and Jerry Rankin who both were able to speak clearly about the in dwelling of the Holy Spirit in terms of the difference between attempting to serve God both before depending on the direct empowerment of the Holy Spirit and after fully depending on it.

      One eschewed any dependence on charismatic gifts in bringing others to Jesus Christ (Avery’s book “Indonesian Revival: How Two Million came to Christ” is an academic survey of prominent revivals in the 60s especially during the “Like a Mighty Wind” period and highlights that both charismatic and non-charismatic groups received many new believers and that it might not have been predominatly the charismatic groups–in spite of the well-known book–that experienced the largest influx in new believers). The other admitted during interviews and when directly asked by others to using a prayer language during private prayers.

      I think both men believed so fully in the visible, active power if the Holy Spirit in such a way that those of us who hadn’t had the same thoughts were uncomfortable. But I can’t remember either suggesting copying specific patterns they followed.

      Well…except for this: Avery shared almost word-for-word the same testimony in 1974 and 2009 regarding his efforts at witnessing during his time at OBU (iirc and prior to the “U”) both before and after acknowledging his powerlessness to God, surrendering to God in this area, and requesting that his witnessing be empowered by the Holy Spirit. To others that my strike some as similar to the charismatic hallmark of “baptism of the Holy Spirit”, but I merely viewed it as an acknowledgement of the necessity of the Spirit of Christ in conviction and conversion.

      The cessationist policies reflect a general Southern Baptist “discomfort” with visible interest and enthusiasm for the often-called “show” gifts which is why I’ve referred to Southern Baptists as “practical cessationists”. I have dealt with it on occasion in churches and for the most part the topic is raised by relatively recent joiners who grew up with it and feel “there is something missing”.

      I’m not someone who has experienced either visible spiritual gifting that isn’t directly echoing “natural talents” so I am effectively a practical cessationist as well. But I think the policies that were put in place went too far past the BF&M2K and unfortunately restrict the IMB to either folks that potentially are dishonest about their private prayer life or that in some cases could be resistant to the direct work of the Holy Spirit.

      I’m not even sure this matters for work in Western cultures since we sometimes are quite satisfied with the “reason-based” aspects of our faith. But given the biblical pattern of direct involvement of the Holy Spirit when new “fields” were opened, I wonder if we should instead err in the direction of at least ambivalence rather than restriction.

      I would double that recommendation if it made our Black pastors, brothers, and sisters feel more a part of the whole instead of separated on this issue. Though I encourage a hearty, open discussion, regardless.

  13. says

    Dwight,
    You said: “Egalitarian and complementarian are man made terms not found in the Bible. These terms are designed to divide, define, label, and eventually marginalize fellow believers. Personally, I would rather not be identified by either label.”

    That is the best comment I have seen on any blog – anywhere!

      • Dwight McKissic says

        Jason,

        If we did so we would see revival & the greatest display of Christian Unity since the day of Pentecost. It would also be an answer to Jesus’ prayer in John 17: 21 for unity. Eschewing unnecessary unbiblical labels would be a great thing: One Lord, One faith, One baptism.

        • says

          Dwight,

          So… the entire problem is labels? The actual disagreements have nothing to do with it? Sin has nothing to do with it? The entire problem is nothing more than semantics and linguistics?

          • Dwight McKissic says

            Jesus, Paul, and the twelve apostles were content not to wear egalitarian and complementarian labels, so am I.

          • Jason G. says

            Yes, but you use OTHER non-biblical labels. So, you have to admit there are at least some helpful labels that are not destructive to unity within the body of Christ. If so, then it is just a question of which labels are acceptable and who gets the authority to make those decisions.

        • Bart Barber says

          I regularly have to read something like this, and when I do, I thank God for labels that permit me to help the world to know clearly with whom I do not have unity.

          • Jason G. says

            Exactly, Bart. Labels can be used in positive ways. There is no way to claim that labels themselves are the problem. They serve as theological shorthand for the purpose of conversation, debate, and understanding. Can they be misused? Of course they can. But they can also be very helpful.

        • Jason G. says

          Ah….the important qualifier of “unnecessary” labels. Well, who gets to decide what is an unnecessary label?

          Either we eschew ALL non-biblical labels, or we are guilty of all the faults and errors of using labels at all. If we say some labels are helpful and necessary, then we set ourselves up as determiner of what is “necessary” and what is not. Either the existence of labels is a hindrance to revival and unity, or it is not as bleak as you said and they serve SOME beneficial purpose.

          You said you prefer to be considered a “biblicist”…but that is not a biblical label, nor is it a particular helpful label as it tells the reader nothing about what one believes about the Bible.

          I see your point…I just don’t think you see how you hold it inconsistently. Labels serve a good role at times, and they serve a bad role at times. Over-statement of the downside of labels, while simultaneously using labels is just too much inconsistency for me to find your argument compelling.

      • Dwight McKissic says

        I’ve never argued for never using labels at any time for any reason. Each individual determines the labels they choose to wear. To allow Chris to label me “soft egalitarian” is to allow him to attach an inaccurate label on me. That’s when labels become divisive and unnecessary. Therefore, generally speaking, I find labels more of a problem, than a solution. Labels generally don’t adequately, accurately, or appropriately, portray a person in a fair manner. I honestly don’t believe that Jesus would allow himself to be defined by labels others assigned to Him. Neither will I.

  14. says

    Dwight said:

    Egalitarian and complementarian are man made terms not found in the Bible. These terms are designed to divide, define, label, and eventually marginalize fellow believers. Personally, I would rather not be identified by either label.

    So where does the term “Southern Baptist” fit into that paradigm?

    • Dwight McKissic says

      Mark,

      I honestly believe that denominationalism is organized brokenness & dysfunction. The Lord told us to establish a nation; a holy nation. We in turn established denominations. God has obviously used denominations to advance His Kingdom. God has certainly used the SBC perhaps in a greater way than any denomination in history. As far identity goes. I’d rather be identified as a part of God’s Kingdom family. I’d rather my denominational affiliation to be SBC & NBC, because doctrinally they reflect my belief system. Many churches no longer place Baptist in their names because they prefer a Kingdom identity first & foremost above a Baptist identity. And I believe that is a biblical & right thing to do.

  15. says

    “Egalitarian and complementarian are man made terms not found in the Bible.”

    As are many, many other helpful terms and labels. But labels are helpful things which serve to point to biblical (or unbiblical) realities. But if you would prefer to toss the labels aside, fine; I will simply say that your view of men and women in the church is not the biblical view and we can leave it at that.

    “These terms are designed to divide, define, label, and eventually marginalize fellow believers.”

    Not at all. They are designed to serve as convenience methods to identify what a person believes. Thus I have no problem being identified by the extra-biblical labels “Calvinist” or “Reformed” or “Baptist”, etc.

    “I prefer to be known as a Kingdom citizen and as a biblicist.”

    It sounds noble, but is actually unhelpful obfuscation. Your beliefs are not as generic as the (extrabiblical) labels you are willing to attach to yourself.

    “Your robust complimentarianism is illustrative of why I wanted Bart to reconsider or at least concede that race and inerrancy are important and attractive–but woefully insufficient and inadequate to hail the SBC as an unqualified attractive place to belong.”

    There are biblical positions held by the SBC which nonetheless make it unattractive to others, and that is fine. If someone wants to baptize babies, fine. Just don’t be Southern Baptist. If someone wants their churches ruled by bishops, fine, just don’t be Southern Baptist. Other churches and denominations are wrong on these issues – biblically wrong – and I don’t mind if they are therefore not attracted to the SBC. The issue on men and women in the church is no different.

    • Dwight McKissic says

      Chris,

      Would you be kind enough to succinctly point out where any view that I’ve expressed conflicts with the BFM? If you can show me that I will admit it & apologize for asking you to take the time to do it. If you cannot demonstrate that would u please refrain from plainly stating that my position contradicts the BFM or the various spectrums of complementarianism. Thanks. I appreciate you.

      • says

        Dwight,

        As I mentioned in another comment, whether or not your views fit within the BF&M is a separate issue. Nor do I believe I have said (at least in this discussion – don’t remember previous ones as well) that your views contradict the BF&M. What I have just said is that it is okay if some people are put off by what Baptists believe. I have also said that your view is not consistent with the complementarian position, which is unrelated to whether or not your view fits within the BF&M.

        • Dwight McKissic says

          Chris,

          What is it that you at alleging that I believe that Baptists don’t believe? You are falsely accusing me. You are yet to provide any proof that any belief that I’ve stated is in violation of Scripture. the BFM, or complimentarianism. Yet u continue these false allegations.
          Several persons have shared with u that my views are within the spectrum of complimentarianism. Nevertheless, I will simply live kindly grace your false allegations. The Lord promised a blessing to those who are falsely accused for righteousness sake. I think I’d rather have a blessing from The Lord, than a retraction from you. Be blessed.

          • says

            Dwight,

            What false allegations did I make? I told you at some length why I believe your views are not complementarian. There are no allegations in that. At most all we have done is disagreed about what it means to be complementarian. I’m rather surprised at how you’ve chosen to respond here. No accusations, no allegations, just disagreement.

  16. Dwight McKissic says

    Chris,

    “soft egalitarian” is the false accusation leveled against me. Nevertheless, if you are comfortable making this allegation, I will be comfortable receiving my reward from the Lord for you having made it.

    I believe in husband/male headship at home and in the church. I believe that a female can speak in church under male authority, as did Paul(1Corinthians 11: 2-16).
    Was W A Criswell an egalitarian because he allowed his wife to teach men on a regular basis? Do you consider him an egalitarian? Why or why not?

    • says

      Dwight,

      I know you think your position is biblical and fits within the complementarian framework. I disagree. That does not make my words a false accusation, your desire to receive a reward from the Lord notwithstanding. As for Criswell, I do not know the particulars of his belief or practice so I cannot say. On the whole, he is someone I am almost entirely unfamiliar with other than his name and the church he pastored.

      As for Theopedia, I am surprised you mention it for two reasons:

      First, Theopedia is hardly an authoritative source.

      Second, Theopedia _validates_ my understanding of complementarian. It supports what I’ve said. Notice in the section “Roles in the Church”:

      “The Complementarian view holds that women may not appropriately hold church leadership roles that involve teaching or authority over men. This therefore includes pastors, deacons, ruling elders, and teachers where men are in the class.”

      I have stated that a position cannot be termed complementarian when it permits women to preach to men. According to Theopedia, the complementarian position holds that women may not occupy a position of teacher over men. It does not add “unless the woman does so under male leadership” or “unless the woman only does it once” or some such. It affirms the complementarian understanding that women are not to teach men. I am hard pressed to see how this supports your understanding of complementarian?

  17. Dwight McKissic says

    “Some believe that women should be ordained neither as a pastor nor as an evangelist, while others believe that it is acceptable for women to be evangelists but not pastors.” Theopedia.

    I don’t know Donald, but I thank him for providing this source. That sums sup my position and it falls under the spectrum of complementarianism.

    Great dodge on Criswell.

    • says

      Dwight,

      Missionaries work as evangelists, not as preachers and teachers in a local church. You did notice that part, didn’t you? Does it reconcile with your view?

      • Donald says

        “Missionaries work as evangelists, not as preachers and teachers in a local church.”

        Chris,
        Why can women be missionaries and teach “over there” when they can’t teach at home? When they are teaching a group of 20 new believers “over there” is that a local church? Why or why not?

        Donald

        • says

          Donald,

          I asked that question once of a retired woman missionary. She told me she had always been careful to keep her work with women and to connect any men with the men pastors or missionaries in the area.

          • Donald R. Holmes says

            That’s cool. I do know of a similar situation in a two-thirds world country that has a very strict seperation of men and women in society. The lady missionaries are the only one’s who could possibly speak with the women in-country.

          • Dwight McKissic says

            Chris,

            Based on your private dictionary, I would qualify for many labels that would not fit standard dictionaries that you reject. Therefore, I reject your false labeling.

            Whole races of people have been subjugated and humiliated when they allow others to label and define them. I refuse to allow you to label me based on history.

            I pray blessings upon you as the Scripture commands.

            Because we are using same vocabulary’s but different dictionaries, this conversation has no ending. Therfore, wisdom dictates that I allow you to have the last word.

            I love you. Thanks for the dialogue.

          • cb scott says

            Dwight McKissic,

            In my “dictionary” you are just another little Lone Star Texan who wishes they had a FOOTBALL team.

            ROLL TIDE ROLL!!!

          • Greg Harvey says

            Texas has a football team. They visited Alabama and was the only team that beat them in 2012. Gig’em Aggies.

          • Dale Pugh says

            Greg,
            SEC CB must be using a different dictionary for the word “beat”. That would explain his lack of understanding that the Lone Star State is most certainly a “superior” football nation. Thank you for your reminder to him.

          • Greg Harvey says

            Indeed, Dale, indeed. I was a little concerned entering the SEC about how my Ags would do. But we seem to have gotten the hang of things. The future’s so bright, we gotta wear shades.

    • Donald R. Holmes says

      “I don’t know Donald, but I thank him for providing this source.”

      If you can’t settle on a definition, then you can’t really have a discussion. You’re very welcome.

      • Dwight McKissic says

        CB,

        Thanks for comic relief. BTW, what is the origin of Alabama’s mascot?

        Chris, Donald provided a dictionary, not me. Another false accusation.

        As long as you use your private dictionary, this is a futile discussion.

        Dave, Bart, and Theopedia’s dictionaries differ from yours.

        • says

          Dwight,

          I never did notice Donald’s posting of the link, but I did see you post it and point to it and affirm it and ask me to accept the definition. So speaking of definitions, you may wish to reconsider how you define false accusations.

          Now, I showed you a direct quote from Theopedia saying that the complementarian position holds that women cannot teach men. How does that differ from my definition? Doesn’t it differ from yours?

          • Dwight McKissic says

            I showed you a direct quote from Theopedia saying…”if it is acceptable for women to be evangelists but not pastors.” Which part of that you do not understand? That is my compementarian position. You stubbornly refuse to acknowledge plain English. Therefore, let’s simply agree to disagree, and let this be.

            I forgive you for the two false accusations, of which you have not retracted or apologized for either. Perhaps, it is not within your capacity to do so. I am sure both of us have more important things to do.

            Thank you for the two blessings. Can we now lay this matter to rest?

            I only responded to you because I did not want to leave the second false accusation unaddressed; nor did I want to leave the false impression that you gave that Theopedia’s definition of Complementarianism did not include ladies serving as “evangelists” but not as pastors.

            I realize that your private dictionary also has a contorted private explaination for that as well. So, please, let’s put this subject to rest. We will both live well and do well holding different views. Really, it is o k. Be at peace, my brother.

          • says

            Dwight,

            I would forgive you for falsely accusing me of falsely accusing you, but somewhere in there we cross well into the territory of sheer silliness. Since you will not answer my points (including ignoring my comment about women evangelists), I’ll concede to your request to drop the matter.

        • Dwight McKissic says

          ….”it is acceptable for women to be evangelists, but not pastors.”

          Theopedia

          I mistakenly placed “if” in front of this quote below.

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