Remove the Persistent Agitator (by Jeremy Vanatta)

by Guest Blogger on November 11, 2013 · 95 comments

Jeremy Vanatta is the pastor and an elder of Southside Baptist Church in Lebanon, TN.  He holds a PhD in New Testament from Mid-America BTS.  He blogs at The Threshing Floor, where this article originally appeared.

As Paul brings his letter to Titus to a close, he wants to give some instructions on what to do with divisive church members who persistently disrupt the unity in the church with their wild theologies and controversies.

Titus 3:10-11—As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, 11 knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.

1. The Church must be patient with divisive members (v.10a): Paul has already alluded to divisive members who promote “controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law” (v.9).  He says they are “unprofitable” and “worthless.”  Notice, Paul didn’t say that these divisive members were being unprofitable and worthless or that their theology is unprofitable and worthless, though those things are certainly true.  Paul says that they, the members themselves, are unprofitable and worthless.

This is why the job of the shepherding elders is so tough.  Not every person that enters our building is membership material, meaning that not every visitor is here for the right reason.  The reason we exist as the Church is to “declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Pt.2:9).  But people come in all the time with their own agenda and motivations that are rooted in selfishness and not the gospel.

And sometimes, some of our own church members will become like those self-righteous visitors.  Some of our own members will hear a weird preacher with weird views, or else they’ll hear a good preacher with good views but they misunderstand something he says.  And then they begin to promote those weird views in the church, and before you know it divisions arise.

Paul gives Titus, as one of the elders of the Cretan Church, the responsibility of rebuking such divisive people.  But notice the patience with which the Cretan leadership is to have with them.  They are to be warned not once but twice.  This is very similar to Jesus’ teaching on church discipline in Matthew 18: call for repentance privately; then with two or three witnesses; and then tell it to the church.

In Matthew 18, however, sinning church members get three warnings.  In Titus, Paul is dealing with a more serious problem, namely false teaching that is causing division.  Someone who is committing adultery may or may not threaten the unity of the church.  Someone who has been unfaithful in gathering with the church may or may not threaten the unity of the church.  But false teachers spreading their gangrenous division is always a threat to the unity of the church.

Paul, however, is not saying that the false teachers ought to be ousted because of their false teaching, although that would be permissible.  Rather, Paul is saying that false teachers that are causing division in the church ought to be ousted.  And it is Jewish legalism that is especially in view in Paul’s mind.  Today, it might be denominational legalism or American-pride legalism or self-made moralism.  Yet in God’s grace, God calls for patience.

2. The Church must remove divisive members from its fellowship (vv.10b-11): Paul says to “have nothing more to do with” the divisive church member.  It means that after two warnings, the agitator is to be excommunicated and ostracized.  No more hanging out.  No more game nights or Mexican cheese dip or guy outings of any kind or shopping trips for the gals.

Paul is very adamant about this, and he tells us why in verse 11: “knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.

Warped and sinful means that a person is beyond ordinary instruction.  While they are not beyond the power of God’s grace to work in them, we must understand that the primary way that God works grace into a person is through the preaching and teaching of God’s Word.  If a person is unteachable, always arguing and debating doctrine with a know-it-all attitude, then they are beyond God’s ordinary means of grace.

The phrase, “He is self-condemned” is very interesting.  Often people will react to church discipline by saying, “Who are we to judge?”  But notice that Paul does not promote the judging of others.  Rather, he makes it clear that such people are self-condemned, meaning they have brought judgment on themselves.  The church is simply confirming the sinner’s unrepentant status.

Sometimes we react to a single teaching of Scripture like this as if it is an isolated instruction, but the teaching on church discipline is far from being a single teaching.  Here’s a few examples of other places that mention the removal of and warning about unrepentant members:

2 Thessalonians 3:6—Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us.

2 Thessalonians 3:14—If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed.

Galatians 6:1—Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.  Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.

Romans 16:17-18—I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. 18 For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naïve.

The biblical evidence is clear.  The church should not tolerate theologically divisive people, but we should lovingly remove them from our fellowship.  For church discipline is love in three directions:

1) Love for the unrepentant person–It is better they suffer now than to suffer eternally in hell.  The hope is that they will repent and get right with Jesus.

2) Love for faithful members–We hear a lot about harming the unrepentant sinner, but what about the rest of the church that is walking faithfully with Jesus?  What is it teaching our children when a church member is living in adultery and the church stands by and does nothing about it?

3) Love for the glory of Jesus–Ultimately, it’s all about Jesus.  The Church has been saved and set apart for the purpose of making Jesus look good, for shining the spotlight on Him.

May the Lord continue to purify for Himself a people who willingly remove unrepentant members from its fellowship with patience and love in the hopes of bringing them back to repentance.

Soli Deo Gloria,
Jeremy Vanatta

1 clark November 11, 2013 at 10:24 am

Thanks for this, a very good distillation of NT teaching in this area

2 Louis November 11, 2013 at 10:26 am

These verses are clear, so I am not intending to sound as though I am disputing them.

But people such as the ones you describe often are able to cause division because of the things that the church does.

First, if the church has not been good about discipleship and teaching doctrine, then the people are more susceptible. Some churches are notorious for this.

Second, if the church has poor quality control in the selection of teachers, a guy like this can become head of a class, and off you go. The church should be careful about whom it allows to teach, and the church should select the material. If a person goes off the rails, he can be removed as a teacher.

Third, if the church has meetings where anyone can stand up and say anything and hijack the meeting, that is a bad practice. Meetings should have agendas that are organized, and the church should be mature enough to follow the agenda.

If the church doesn’t do those things above, about the only place a guy or gal with a weird doctrine can get a foothold is talking to people in hallways between classes etc. That usually goes nowhere. But if it starts to take off, the elders can ask the person to come to an elders meeting, ask him what is going on, and talk about it like adults. He is certainly free to believe what he believes, but he should be told in a nice way that the church is not going down that road.

The church should remain patient. If the church doesn’t overreact, things will be fine.

We have had this happen recently. A fairly uneducated member started doing “research” about prophecy on the internet and discovered new insights about end times etc. He is an earnest and sincere person, but he is not educated in biblical studies. He is enthralled with his new findings, and he has had some success in convincing a few people that we need to “go deeper” and discover the true prophetic teachings of the Bible, which go back to OT, rather than focusing on the few NT books and the Gospel so heavily (I kid you not.)

We are not overreacting. We are being patient and we believe this fine young person is going to do well.

I have found that the more difficult areas are personality difficulties and arguments over worship because there is often no right or wrong on those issues.

Patience is still the calling. The staff and the elders do the preaching, the marrying and the burying. Over time service to people and confident patience wins out.

I would caution against making a small deal a big deal by giving it too much attention. Don’t ignore it. Just don’t overreact.

3 Dr. Jeremy Vanatta November 11, 2013 at 3:37 pm

Good thoughts. Thanks for sharing.

4 Truth Unites... and Divides November 11, 2013 at 10:51 am

Is an egalitarian who lobbies for women elders a persistent agitator?

5 Dwight McKissic November 11, 2013 at 11:20 am

Truth United,

Could be? Depending on the doctrine of the church. Willow Creek & several evangelical churches have women elders. SBC entities have women trustees whose function is very similar to the function of a elder in many churches. So a person consistently lobbying for a woman elder may or may not be a persistent agitator. It all depends on what a church’s position is on this subject. And depending on governmental structure & the exact function of an elder in a particular local church context…a person does not have to be an “egalitarian” to push for a woman elder. I’m sure the person that pushed for women trustees & women voting priveleges in the SBC were not egalitarians.

6 Doug Hibbard November 11, 2013 at 12:12 pm

Governor Eagle and Mary K.O. Eagle were probably not what we would call “egalitarian” but they were certainly ahead of their time.

Although more logically, they were just the president of the ABSC and his wife who were elected to be messengers in Augusta in 1885 and thought that representing Arkansas Baptists was enough. Nothing in their personal correspondence about the move to ban women messengers at that meeting, after credentials read off her name, indicates they went to provoke or cause a problem. There was nothing prohibiting women messengers until that year, so there was no reason to exclude Mrs. Eagle and Mrs. Early, except for stubbornness.

The end result was that Arkansas had no representation that year, and women until 1918.

It took some stubborn men to force those votes through–especially to come back in 1918 after a technicality was used to vacate the vote in 1917 over removing the block on women, and the committee appointed had no report because two members refused to participate in committee meetings.

These folks were persistent agitators, but they were agitating for the SBC to reflect what churches and state conventions (at least some) were already doing in allowing women votes in the meeting.

7 Bart Barber November 11, 2013 at 12:44 pm

Ahh…Elder Eagle.

8 Doug Hibbard November 11, 2013 at 1:06 pm

Fascinating times. I love the synopsis of Mrs. Eagle’s encounter with Ben Bogard on a train (I think from Paragould to Little Rock, but I can’t find that particular research note). She gave him a piece of her mind–the report said she stretched the definition of “ladylikeness” and would say nothing else of the incident.

He was president of the ABSC for 21 years, and of the SBC for 3. And Governor of Arkansas for 4, back when we had 2-year-terms–and was so cutting-edge that he dared to introduce Susan B. Anthony when she gave a speech about women’s right.

Some of the other tidbits on him are that he opposed the widespread Jim Crow laws, but was willing to accept some portions of segregation. The extreme Democrats in Arkansas threatened to refuse to pass anything he wanted as Governor if he didn’t sign the Jim Crow-type laws, so he signed off on them to try and also get the Legislature to allow for providing education, even though segregated, to both races. And to girls, too. (The Jim Crow supporters had a veto-proof majority, so there was no stopping the laws from going into place. He was just trying to get something out of it that could help eventually.)

His level of accomplishment was remarkable for a man who finished one year of college and then went home to the farm.

Doubly so, since that year was in Mississippi! :)

9 Dave Miller November 11, 2013 at 1:33 pm

I wish I knew a historian or two who could write a post about this fascinating historical pair – never heard of them before.

10 Doug Hibbard November 11, 2013 at 5:06 pm

That’s what you’ve got Bart for.

:)

11 Bart Barber November 11, 2013 at 7:51 pm

Doug,

I’d be interested in seeing sources for what you’re saying about Eagle and Jim Crow. That’s not the impression I got when I was working on my dissertation. Hinson did, of course, do all he could do to exonerate Eagle, but a wider examination of sources put that line of argumentation in doubt, particularly with regard to the “Separate Coach Law.”

Here are the sources that I consulted on this point:

Matthew Hild, “Labor, Third-Party Politics, and New South Democracy in Arkansas, 1884- 1896,” Arkansas Historical Quarterly 63, no. 1 (2004): 27-33; and Moneyhon, Arkansas and the New South, 38-39.

Carl H. Moneyhon, Arkansas and the New South, 1874-1929, Histories of Arkansas, ed. Elliott West (Fayetteville, AR: University of Arkansas Press, 1997), 88-91.

_____, “Black Politics in Arkansas during the Gilded Age, 1876-1900,” Arkansas Historical Quarterly 45, no. 3: 240-45.

Raymond Arsenault, The Wild Ass of the Ozarks: Jeff Davis and the Social Bases of Southern Politics (Knoxville, TN: University of Tennessee Press, 1988), 39, 132.

E[dward] Glenn Hinson, A History of Baptists in Arkansas, 1818-1978 (Little Rock, AR: Arkansas Baptist State Convention, 1979), 148-49.

Here’s my paragraph on this topic from the dissertation:

Eagle’s two terms as governor were so bereft of legislative significance that little
academic attention has gone into evaluating his political significance. In typical New South fashion, Eagle encouraged new settlers to come to Arkansas, strengthened relationships between Arkansas and industry, and promoted universal public education. Eagle supported the relocation of the state penitentiary in order to construct a lavish new state capital building on the site—a project that many considered the crown jewel of the New South movement in Arkansas. Eagle did oppose the convict-lease system, but rather than calling for its immediate disuse, he encouraged the legislature to discontinue the system when the lease next came up for renewal, after Eagle would be out of office. Strained finances eventually necessitated the renewal of the lease. Scandal and corruption marred Eagle’s tenure when his State Treasurer, William E. Woodruff, Jr., embezzled $100,000 from the state’s coffers. Eagle himself was not involved, but the scandal brought down the Bourbon Democrats, of which Eagle was a member, from control of the party. Unfortunately, Eagle’s greatest long- lasting influence in the political sphere is also the least flattering aspect of his life. In the aftermath of his second close election, Eagle and the Democrats passed a series of modifications to Arkansas’s election code designed to disfranchise blacks and illiterate whites. Democrats surmised that agrarian movements like the Union-Labor Party received a disproportionate amount of their support from these two categories of Arkansans. Eagle also signed into law Arkansas’s “Separate Coach Law” officially segregating the railroads and thereby fulfilling a campaign promise. Thus, Eagle’s political legacy to Arkansas was the
bitter era of Jim Crow.

Here’s my full footnote for that paragraph:

Hild, “Labor, Third-Party Politics, and New South Democracy in Arkansas,” 38-39; Moneyhon, Arkansas and the New South, 88-91; Moneyhon, “Black Politics in Arkansas,” 240-45; and Arsenault, 39, 132. For a different view—one that evaluates Eagle’s political legacy from the friendly environment of a denominationally sponsored history—see Hinson, 148-49. This analysis, for example, interprets Eagle’s support of ballot changes, literacy restrictions, and poll taxes as “favor[ing] pure elections,” when they actually were elements of Democratic disfranchisement schemes. It also takes the 1892 election of William Fishback as public approbation for Eagle, since another Democrat succeeded him. Actually, Fishback’s election was more a public repudiation of Eagle, marking the fall of Eagle’s more conservative wing of the Democratic Party. After eighteen years of dominance in Arkansas, the conservative faction could not withstand the controversy and corruption of the Eagle era. See especially Arsenault, 39.

12 Doug Hibbard November 11, 2013 at 10:36 pm

I’ll see where I filed those cards. That was the way Mary Eagle recorded her impressions in one of her journals that a museum in Little Rock had.

I was mainly researching her and the whole SBC thing, so those notes were sloppy and aren’t in the paper I have on the computer. Probably a one-sided view of the man that is less than perfect.

13 dr. james willingham November 11, 2013 at 12:44 pm

I had the experience of finding out that one does not receive support and recognition, when he or she goes against the grain in advocating something that most people think is biblical. In 1985 I served as chairman of the historical committee of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, and I delivered an address on the subject, “The Genius of Orthodoxy: Eldresses,” which earned me the commendations of the wind, rain, and stars, which is to say, nada, nothing. The Moderates who were in control at that time (supposedly) simply reported the subject in the state Baptist paper, the Biblical Recorder, and a conservative friend to whom I sent a copy of the address sent it back with the note, “I don’t agree.” And that was all, no reasons given. Of course, we were then in the midst of the struggle with the Moderates over the view of the Bible. In fact, that was the year of the largest annual meeting that Southern Baptists ever had, some 55,000 messengers gathered in Dallas. I had been going and voting every time that I could though it earned me plenty of enmity among the Moderates. There were conservatives who also warned that egos were very much involved in the whole affair.

I was well aware that part of the problem of the acceptance of women in ministry was that the usual examples were Moderate women, and some of them were in-your-face women libbers. One once said to me, “Your a male chauvinist pig.” I was so nonplussed that I simply walked away. Another said the same thing to a friend (we found out later it was a preplanned effort by the ladies in the women’s dorm at SEBTS to render some shock therapy to the men on campus) who happened to be somewhat in the Moderate camp, but who had been a sergeant in the Air Force. Bad mistake. In his best sergeant’s voice he roared, “Lady, if you ever again say those words to me, I will knock your teeth down your throat.” The lady turned white, nearly fainted, then turned and ran from the student center. I was not a witness to that event, but I nearly died laughing when I heard it. Why? I knew the fellow who said it and where he stood on the issues. He was really in their camp, but, like most people, he did not care to be insulted to his face.

In any case, I began to mull over the whole issue of women in ministry, especially because I had done 6 yrs. of research in Baptist History and had written a Master’s thesis in American Social & Intellectual History on, “The Baptists & Ministerial Qualifications:1750-1850,” and I had stumbled across the fact that Sandy Creek Baptist Church and Assn. had eldresses. My problem with the matter, in addition to the verses that seemed to be dead set against such practices, was how could they do such a thing in a period, when there was no question about their view of the Bible and how they sought to have it as their only and sufficient rule of faith and practice?

It would take years, at least 15, to begin to realize and to find the information that served as the basis for a different understanding of what the word of God actually teaches. Too illustrate, since the records of both Sandy Creek Church and Assn. were destroyed in a fire, the case for the practice would have to be reconstructed from other sources available to the founders of that day (1755ff). One of the sources available was that of Matthew Poole’s Commentary on the Whole Bible. In his discussion of I Tim.2 & 3, he says it is true that God does not allow for women in ministry, except they be specially called, gifted, and endowed. Then he names all of the women prophetesses of the Old and New Testament. Exception, was the beginning, especially when I noted in I Cors.14 that the man was told not to speak in tongues, if there was no interpreter present, in the same terms as the women were told not to speak. Regarding the women speaking, some churches only allow their husbands, a brother, or other male family member to speak for them, but even John Gil allowed for them to speak in giving their testimonies or in the case of church discipline. There are other reasons that could be given, but my purpose here is to speak with reference to a person who might be considered a trouble maker. However, in the long run, that person might prove to be right as were all of those folks who objected to slavery in American History as inconsistent with our national commitments and ideas, a reality about which African Americans often reminded us. Native Americans likewise called attention to the founding ideals. For their pains they were dispossessed of homes and plantations, etc., in western Georgia and eastern Alabama. In fact, there were Whites camping out just outside fully functional plantations with houses and crops and equipment, waiting to take possession after the Cherokees began their long trek on the trail of tears (a term developed around 1900 I understand), and those stoic people would provide over 10,000 troops to fight for the confederacy. Some also fought for the North.

Anyway, make a long story short, my biggest kick out of this whole experience has been to know of a woman who founded a church, preached Sovereign Grace to the members, and then gave it to Southern Baptists who told her that it would never be acknowledged that she had founded it (I think they reorganized and began the church from the day the local association took it over). I have seen a picture of an interior of that church; it was evidently built with bible study in mind. God does have a sense of humor even in the midst of sore disappointments. Trouble makers can sometimes be prophets warning against disaster or symptoms of deep unrest underlying what is being done. Also the drive for unity can result in what is known as group think, a process which almost invariably ensures that the whole body will go off the cliff, sooner or later.

14 Dave Miller November 11, 2013 at 1:23 pm

There can be no doubt that the church is required to exercise discipline against sinful or errant members.

However, my concern (not disagreeing with Jeremy’s piece at all) is that church discipline has sometimes been used as a means of intimidating those who do not agree with the leaders’ views, to enforce conformity and to silence critics.

We cannot classify disagreeement as sin or dissent as division

But those who are truly divisive, we must discipline.

15 Dr. Jeremy Vanatta November 11, 2013 at 3:40 pm

I whole-heartedly agree.

16 Chris Johnson November 13, 2013 at 1:29 pm

Dave,

I think your comment is truly at the heart of how Jesus requires us to love our brothers and sisters in the church. There are many churches, unfortunately, that do not have the ability to carry forward this requirement for lack of Godly men serving as Elders/Pastors in the church body. If Elders/Pastors are not lovingingly serving the congregation, and Lording over them,…that is a whole other proposition altogether and moreover what Paul is instructing Titus to deal with in the letter.

When we love our brothers and sisters by winning them back to the church, that discipline is priceless (Matthew). While if there are teachers that abandon the truth,…those typically come in the form of teachers and leaders, and it is “that man” that Paul is quick to instruct Titus to call to the carpet. That is a very important point of spiritual order in the church among the leadership, how else will the church at large have confidence in how and where the Elders/Pastors are leading and serving.

Blessings,
Chris

17 Louis November 11, 2013 at 2:27 pm

Our church’s bylaws provide for male elders and we cross reference the BFM in our doctrinal statement.

If someone believed in having female elders we would not discipline them.

As I mentioned above, we are set up in such a way that “Lobbying efforts” can’t exist in our church. We don’t have a political system that would recognize lobbying efforts.

To have a change to the bylaws and doctrinal statement would require all of the elders to favor it, and then recommend the change to the congregation.

We would invite the person to come and dialogue with the elders. We would be friendly and not threatening.

Most of the people who have joined our church agree with what we believe so a person like this would have a small chance of getting many converts. Even if they did , so what. That would not cause a change.

18 Truth Unites... and Divides November 11, 2013 at 3:05 pm

Louis: “To have a change to the bylaws and doctrinal statement would require all of the elders to favor it, and then recommend the change to the congregation.”

Curious. When was the last time a change to the bylaws and doctrinal statement changed at your church given the process outlined above?

Curious. Has there been any SBC church in the last 50 years that ordained a woman elder which has the polity process that Louis’s church has?

19 Louis November 11, 2013 at 8:41 pm

Truth:

We have not had a change in our doctrinal statement that required congregational approval since our founding 21 years ago. We have had 2 requests that were brought formally to the elders and one that was brought informally. The elders did not unanimously that the requested changes should be made.

Every person who johns our church is made aware of the bylaws and doctrinal statement do they don’t join unless they agree.

What I was trying to communicate earlier is illustrated by our polity. We do not have doctrinal disputes at our church because our doctrine is stated clearly, is taught and our polity is such that changes to the doctrinal statement cannot be undertaken lightly or easily. That really helps keep the peace in a church.

If the polity is such that changing the doctrine or discussing doctrinal changes is easily done, there is an invitation to political maneuvering and the development of factions.

I would add, however, in such a church the people agitating for change are actually not doing anything morally wrong.

If the polity allows for people to lobby for doctrinal changes, they are not being divisive. They are actually being interested and conscientious members by seeking the changes they believe are correct .

20 Les Prouty November 12, 2013 at 12:54 am

Louis,

You wrote, “Every person who johns our church is made aware of the bylaws and doctrinal statement do they don’t join unless they agree.”

Do you mean they don’t join unless they acknowledge having been made aware of your doctrinal statement?

Or, they don’t join unless they agree with your doctrinal statement. I can’t tell from what you typed.

I’m an elder in a PCA church and people can and do join while not agreeing with the WCF and Larger and Shorter Catechisms. Happens all the time. We in fact have many former Southern Baptists who join but do not agree with paedobaptism. And some don’t agree with the Reformed faith. But in all these cases they agree to be in submission to the elders.

21 Louis November 12, 2013 at 9:41 am

Les:

People joining agree with our church’s doctrinal statement which is only 8 or 9 points long – on a single sheet of paper. It includes statements about Scripture, God (Father, Son, Holy Spirit), Salvation, End times (just says that God brings everything to an end). I am writing this from memory.

We do not require everyone to believe every point about the BFM. But we say that our church is a Southern Baptist congregation and we reference the BFM.

The bylaws say that the Elders must meet the qualifications in Timothy, which mentions being male.

We do not ask people to agree with the bylaws. They are what they are.

Also, we do not ask people to submit to the Elders.

In our situation, the Elders are not only the NT spiritual undershepherds, we are also the Board of Directors for the church which is a non-profit corporation.

So, as the Board of Directors, the Elders (with the approval of the congregation) hire and fire the pastoral staff, direct the pastoral staff and the implementation of the church’s mission and vision, oversee the finances and operate the corporation legally, with congregational approval on all large matters.

We don’t ask people to submit to anything. The organization operates and they just live within that operating scenario.

Changing how things work can be done, but not unilaterally or by political pressure.

Hoping this makes sense. There is simply no need to ask people to submit to anything.

22 Louis November 12, 2013 at 9:46 am

I find that interesting that PCA churches can accept baptists as members when the baptists don’t agree on the nature of the “sacraments” as being a means of Grace. Not fussing. Just interesting.

We have had some PCA folks join our congregation, but if their only baptism was not as a confessional believer, they would need to be baptized.

In our city lots of baptists are members of a handful of PCA churches that have private schools so they can get the church member discount.

Do you feel that is helpful to the PCA? It seems that an important part of Presbyterian theology has to do with the understanding and purpose of the sacraments and their application. And yet the PCA allows people to join who don’t agree with that.

It doesn’t seem that advances the vision of the PCA in some critical areas. If the areas are not critical, they should just relax them?

Have a great day.

23 Les Prouty November 12, 2013 at 1:02 pm

Louis,

Sounds like your church has thought membership through very well and are doing what works best for your structure. Just one point, we don’t really “ask” new members to submit to the leadership. In our new members (prospective members) class, among other things we go over our structure and talk about what elders and deacons do and let them know that membership involves a vow to submit to the governing shepherds, elders, and explain then what discipline would entail should there be a need for it.

But as always, membership does not require anyone to agree with our doctrinal standards per se on matters such as baptism, election, etc.

24 Les Prouty November 12, 2013 at 1:11 pm

Louis, as to the sacraments, our view is of course that immersion is valid but not required to be considered an acceptable baptism. So, for instance, my wife was accepted many years ago as a member and her only baptism was in a SB church when she was a young teen after her profession of faith.

Our view is that we should not make requirements into a local membership any more narrow than requirements to be in the body of Christ. That is, a credible profession of faith and water baptism in the name of our triune God. Adding that people also have to believe the same as we practice on water baptism or the precise nature of the sacrament of the Lord’s supper would be in our view requiring more than is required to be a believer.

As to the Christian school thing, I don’t think that is a very good reason to join any church…to get a tuition discount. And if we discerned that in the person’s membership interview or along the way, a more serious conversation would need to be had.

As to relaxing critical areas of our beliefs and practices, not sure what you mean. Can you give an example?

Thanks brother,

Les

25 Les Prouty November 12, 2013 at 3:27 pm

BTW Louis, here below are the 5 vows of membership for joining a PCA congregation:

“1. Do you acknowledge yourselves to be sinners in the sight of
God, justly deserving His displeasure, and without hope save
in His sovereign mercy?
2. Do you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of God,
and Savior of sinners, and do you receive and rest upon Him
alone for salvation as He is offered in the Gospel?
3. Do you now resolve and promise, in humble reliance upon
the grace of the Holy Spirit, that you will endeavor to live as
becomes the followers of Christ?
4. Do you promise to support the Church in its worship and
work to the best of your ability?
5. Do you submit yourselves to the government and discipline
of the Church, and promise to study its purity and peace?”

As you can see, no requirement to adhere to all points of the church confession of faith.

Blessings brother,

Les

26 Louis November 12, 2013 at 6:38 pm

Thanks, Les. This is really helpful to learn more about the PCA culture.

I agree with the general goal of not requiring too much. A baptism as a confessional believer by immersion would be fine in the PCA.

We don’t require re-baptism if a person was baptized as a confessional believer. We offer if the mode was different (e.g. pouring or sprinkling), but it’s not mandatory. Since we don’t see non-confessional baptisms as baptisms, it’s harder to come in our direction.

As to relax doctrinal standards, I meant that I just assumed that before becoming a Presbyterian I would have expected that people would voice agreement about the sacraments. I find it interesting that is not required.

On the school thing, that is not the Presbyterians’ fault. It’s the Baptists’ in my view.

Baptists have a pragmatic streak that runs a mile wide. Sometimes it’s a blessing and other times it’s a shame.

Thanks for your replies.

27 Les Prouty November 12, 2013 at 11:00 pm

Thanks Louis. One last observation. You said “We offer if the mode was different (e.g. pouring or sprinkling), but it’s not mandatory.”

Wow! You’re one of the few I’ve heard of that will accept a confessional sprinkling or pouring. I would guess that stance is not too prevalent in SB churches.

God bless,

Les

28 Roger Simpson November 11, 2013 at 3:47 pm

Here is my pet peeve regarding “dissention” in Baptist circles:

It is conflating the view that the length of the 7 creation day in Genesis were not 24 days with a view that the bible is not inerrant.

In a nutshell it is conflating a first order doctrine in the theological triage continuum with a doctrine which is third order (or maybe even 4th order).

Sometimes people will defend to the death secondary or even tertiary doctrines as if they were the very foundations of Christianity.

Roger Simpson Oklahoma City OK

29 Ken Hamrick November 18, 2013 at 7:52 am

Roger,

My pet peeve is with people who affirm faith in the supernatural God and the supernatural, literal resurrection of His Son, but balk at an immediate, supernatural, literal, six-day creation. I challenge you to find a single example of a denomination that was once a Bible-believing part of the body of Christ but is now an apostate, liberalized, false-gospel “church” that did not begin its journey to apostasy by first abdicating a literal understanding of Genesis 1.

Step 1: leave the question of a literal six-day creation up in the air.
Step 2: accept the old-earth creation theory, denying the literal reading—but maintain a denial of evolution.
Step 3: accept evolution as God’s chosen means of creating; but insist on a literal Adam as the first real human.
Step 4: accept that the story of Adam and Eve was intended to be symbolic of great spiritual truths, and not taken literally.
Step 5: With your now more enlightened hermeneutic, take a more sophisticated and less supernaturalistic view of all the Old Testament miracle narratives. The flood was only local. The Red Sea crossing was only knee deep and due to natural conditions. Clearly fulfilled prophecies must have been written after the prophesied events happened (how else could they write about them?).
Step 6: Look for the real meaning behind supposed miracles in the New Testament. For example, regarding the virgin birth, the word “virgin” was simply used optimistically of all unmarried women and does not mean that Jesus was conceived in any way different from normal men.
Step 7: Deny what is obviously not true—that Jesus rose physically from the dead. His rising from the dead was only in the sense of His spirit rising in victory from the grave up to heaven.
Step 8: Deny that the God of love would ever get any sort of satisfaction of justice from the cruel crucifixion of His Son. God forgives anyone who repents, and He neither needs nor requires any such savage measures as bloodshed, suffering or death.

30 Ken Hamrick November 18, 2013 at 7:56 am

—But, hey… maybe I’m just an “agitator.”

31 Dwight McKissic November 11, 2013 at 4:22 pm

Truth United…

The SBC has declined to be definitive about several doctrinal issues that contribute to the problem of churches or individuals within churches not knowing where Baptists stand on these issues such as: women preachers(not Senior Pastors), women deacons(the 2000 BF&M committee deliberilately chose not to address this issue), elders form of church government, and praying/praising/thanksgiving in tongues(privately or publicly), and Calvinism. Because the SBC refuse to be definitive on these matters it leaves local churches & individuals in local churches confused, or unsure as to the official position of the SBC on these matters. If someone advocate for one of these positions at the local church level, they may be accused of being an agitator or divisive. The SBC could eliminate this ambiguity & sometimes confusion/identity crisis by simply choosing to take a definitive position or officially declaring that Baptist hold diverse views on these issues. I’m sometimes asked by Baptist pastors who are not SBC where does the SBC stand on some of these issues & O don’t know exactly how to answer those questions, because the SBC refuse to give answers.
Truth United….how do you suggest that the SBC bring clarity or definitive ness to these issues?

32 Truth Unites... and Divides November 11, 2013 at 4:55 pm

Hello Pastor Dwight,

I was merely interested in the real-world possibility (or actual occurrence) of an egalitarian lobbying, or agitating, or advocating for the ordination of women to the office of elder in a SBC church with a multiple elder polity, and that such an SBC church subscribes to BFM 2000 and church bylaws like Louis’s church which expressly stipulates that only men are to serve in the office of elder.

Would this be a clear example of “Remove the Persistent Agitator” Egalitarian as espoused by Dr. Jeremy Vanatta?

33 Dwight McKissic November 11, 2013 at 5:33 pm

Truth…,

No. A person advocating an egalitarian position on elders should not be removed. They should be dealt with lovingly. Someone should explain the church’s position to them with gentleness & respect. And if the “agitator” persisted, a church leader should repeat this process as often as necessary.

34 Truth Unites... and Divides November 11, 2013 at 10:08 pm

Me: “… Case … Would this be a clear example of “Remove the Persistent Agitator” Egalitarian as espoused by Dr. Jeremy Vanatta? ”

Dr. Jeremy Vanatta: “The biblical evidence is clear. The church should not tolerate theologically divisive people, but we should lovingly remove them from our fellowship.

versus

Pastor Dwight McKissic: “No. A person advocating an egalitarian position on elders should not be removed.”

Pastor Dwight, suppose a church, let’s say a SBC church, lovingly removed an unteachably persistent egalitarian agitator from it’s church membership. A loving excommunication from that local corporate body.

How would you regard that SBC church and its leadership? They did something that you wouldn’t do.

35 Dwight McKissic November 12, 2013 at 12:48 am

Truth,

It amazes me that we would be discussing removing a person for holding an advocating an egalitarian position. The SBC refused by vote to place in their bylaws/constitution that they would be willing to remove a racist from registering as a messenger, but yet, it appears that you & the author of this post would remove an egalitarian. How amazing!!! If a person affirms the BF&M 2000, which does not forbid a woman from serving as an elder-as in a plurality of elders governing system–how then can we justify removing the person who advocate for a woman elder to be removed or disciplined when that position does not violate the BF&M 2000, or the model represented by women SBC trustees. This discussion reminds me why the SBC has a reputation for being sexist. A person who affirms the BF&M 2000 & advocates for a female elder, trustee, or deacon is simply not in violation of the BF&M 2000 or the Bible. Any church that would seriously entertain this discussion would be a church that I would stay far away from.

36 Truth Unites... and Divides November 12, 2013 at 1:13 am

Pastor Dwight McKissic: “If a person affirms the BF&M 2000, which does not forbid a woman from serving as an elder-as in a plurality of elders governing system ….

Hi Pastor Dwight,

In a post on SBC Voices written by Kevin Howard titled, “Women and SBC Ministry: Clarifying the BF&M”</a, he notes the following:

Article 6, The Church, of the BF&M 2000, says, “While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.”

It’s an article well worth reading.

37 Dwight McKissic November 12, 2013 at 2:26 am

Truth,

I am failing to make the connection between the article Kevin Howard quoted from the BF&M 2000 and my comments? Nothing in that article contradicts or refutes anything that I’ve said. Please specify how This article–that I certainly embrace & wholeheartedly believe–addresses any of my comments stated in this thread. Thanks.

38 Dwight McKissic November 12, 2013 at 2:49 am

Truth,

Article 6 in the BF&M 2000 does not prohibit a woman from serving as a elder in a plurality of elders governed church, or an SBC entity trustee.

39 Truth Unites... and Divides November 12, 2013 at 1:06 pm

o Article 6, The Church, of the BF&M 2000, says, “While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.”

o Pastor Dwight McKissic: “Article 6 in the BF&M 2000 does not prohibit a woman from serving as a elder in a plurality of elders governed church….”

Pastor Dwight, “pastor” and “elder” refer to the same office in the NT church.

Are you contending or arguing otherwise?

40 Dwight McKissic November 13, 2013 at 5:48 pm

Truth,

First of all the BF&M does not recognize the elders system of church government. Secondly, in an elders form of church government elders are not pastors as in functioning in the role if a Senior Pastor. The BF&M does not address the scenario that we are referring to inasmuch as it does not recognize elders in local church government. Therefore, a person lobbying for a woman serving as a local church elder in a plurality of elders system is not in violation of the BFM, or the Bible.

41 Chris Johnson November 13, 2013 at 7:16 pm

Brother Dwight,

…am I hearing you say that Elders and Pastors are not the same critter? Or, are you saying the the BF&M does not see Elders and Pastors as the same.? Or, both?

Chris

42 Dwight McKissic November 13, 2013 at 7:46 pm

Chris,

I am saying that the BFM does not see elders & pastors as the same. The role of the elders in a plurality of elders church governmental system is almost identical to the role of trustees at SBC entities. If it is inappropriate for a woman to serve as a church elder, it would be inappropriate for a woman to serve as a entity trustee. To dismiss a person who is an advocate for a woman elder from the membership would be cruel & unusual punishment. I use to wonder how did the SBC get to the point that they could rationalize slavery, women not having a vote at the convention, cessationism, and Jim Crowism. This discussion is opening my eyes to how that might have happened. Seriously, we would excersize church discipline for the advocacy of a position that does not contradict the Bible or the BFM? That explains a lot about the SBC. It was that logic & reasoning that caused us to lose 600 missionaries and adopt a policy forbidding missionaries to pray in tongues in private. I hope I answered your question. If not, I’ll try again.

43 Chris Johnson November 13, 2013 at 8:48 pm

“The role of the elders in a plurality of elders church governmental system is almost identical to the role of trustees at SBC entities.”

Brother Dwight,

Not sure what the above line describes, but it certainly does not make any biblical sense. If elders are seen by the SBC in that fashion….that would be gross ignorance when compared to the scriptures.

All I know is that “SBC entities” are foreign when it comes to the concept of a church. So, no gender restrictions should come into play in a non-church entity.

-Chris

44 truthunites November 13, 2013 at 10:04 pm

Pastor Dwight: “Truth,
First of all the BF&M does not recognize the elders system of church government.”

It doesn’t?! Many, many SBC churches have a plurality of elders polity for their church government.

“Secondly, in an elders form of church government elders are not pastors as in functioning in the role if a Senior Pastor.”

I’m not clear what you’re saying here. Are you saying that elders are not pastors unless they are a senior pastor? Please clarify.

“The BF&M does not address the scenario that we are referring to inasmuch as it does not recognize elders in local church government.”

See above. If I’m not mistaken, the BF&M does recognize a plurality of elders in local church government.

“Therefore, a person lobbying for a woman serving as a local church elder in a plurality of elders system is not in violation of the BFM, or the Bible.”

Thanks for being helpfully clear. That is exactly the issue under examination and contention. There are many SBC folks, many SBC pastors, even a good number of SBC commenters on SBC Voices, who would argue that a woman serving as a local church elder in a plurality of elders SBC church is in violation of both the Bible and the BFM.

45 Roger Simpson November 11, 2013 at 4:33 pm

Here is a small laundry list of potentially “divisive” issues that I have witnessed in Baptist churches [not necessarily Southern Baptist].

1. Dealing with the assertion that the King James version is the only appropriate version because any other English language version is “modern”. [I am aware of this controversy in certain landmark Baptist churches (particularly in NE Tennessee) but not in any SBC congregation]

2. Dealing with various eschatological views as if holding to any one of them is tantamount to having a “correct view of the Bible”.

3. Arguing whether or not the flood in Noah’s time covered the entire sphere of the earth or it was only “universal” in that it covered a large area of the ancient middle east — where everyone at the time lived. [This controversy was going on at Southwestern Seminary a few years ago regarding Dr. Dembski]

4. Arguments regarding the length of the creation days: are they 24 hours, the period from noon to the next noon, an indefinite time, a “long” indefinite time, etc. [I personally attended a lecture in an SBC church where a particular view on this was equated with inerrancy.]

I don’t believe that people should broach these type of issues because they just cause too much division. They are not important issues and even among conservative evangelicals people are all over the map on these issues.

I just retired from teaching adult Sunday School after doing so — off and on — for the last 30 years. I never brought this stuff up except to say in response to someone else bringing this stuff up that , “reasonable people who hold to a high view of scripture can agree to disagree on stuff like this.”

46 Dwight McKissic November 14, 2013 at 4:00 pm

Truth,

1. You have provided no proof that the BFM affirms a plurality of elders church government polity, because no such proof exists. Paige Patterson has published a work-if my memory serves me correctly-arguing against the elders form of church government. Patterson would never argue against the BFM.

2.Elders in a plurality of elders church government polity system are not pastors in any traditional sense of the term-pastor. Any one elder does not carry the influence and authority that a Senior Pastor generally carry. Therefore, you cannt compare an individual elder to a Senior Pastor in a church governmental sense.

3.The fact that mant SBC personalities would argue that a woman serving as a local church elder in a plurality of elder system is in violation of the Bible and the BFM does not make their argument valid or true. The BFM does not address this scenario. I wish it did. The BFM leaves many unanswered question regarding women in ministry, such as women deacons.

4.Many SBC pastors argued in favor of slavery, segregation, abortion in the mid-70′s, and denying women the right to vote in the SBC convention and secular politics. Therefore, the fact that many SBC pastors would not affirm a woman elder in a plurality of elders system would not be surprising. It would be consistent with their history.

5. Question: Do you believe that a woman serving as a trustee in SBC entities is biblical? And would you reconcile your answer with your belief that a woman cannot serve as a church elder on a plurality of elders system?

47 truthunites November 14, 2013 at 4:21 pm

Pastor Dwight McKissic: “You have provided no proof that the BFM affirms a plurality of elders church government polity, because no such proof exists.”

The empirical proof is that there are many, many SBC churches that purposefully have a plurality of elders church polity. The BFM does not prohibit the plurality of elders church polity.

” Elders in a plurality of elders church government polity system are not pastors in any traditional sense of the term-pastor.”

Of course they are. As I stated above, ““pastor” and “elder” refer to the same office in the NT church.”

“Question: Do you believe that a woman serving as a trustee in SBC entities is biblical? And would you reconcile your answer with your belief that a woman cannot serve as a church elder on a plurality of elders system?”

I would answer the same way as Chris Johnson did above:

“Not sure what the above line describes, but it certainly does not make any biblical sense. If elders are seen by the SBC in that fashion….that would be gross ignorance when compared to the scriptures.

All I know is that “SBC entities” are foreign when it comes to the concept of a church. So, no gender restrictions should come into play in a non-church entity.”

48 Dwight McKissic November 14, 2013 at 4:36 pm

Truth,
Truth

Thanks for your answer. Would you please answer the question that I asked Chris regarding whether or not you support SBC ladies who were denied an opportunity to serve as VP at the IMB, and as professors at SWBTS? Since you believe that gender should not come into play at a non-church entity, surely, you must be highly disturbed by these actions, where gender drove these decisions admittedly by the persons who made the decisions?

49 truthunites November 14, 2013 at 4:45 pm

Pastor Dwight,

#1. These are issues that I’m not aware of.

#2. It’s a red herring distraction away from the specific topic being discussed.

Question: In the church that you are the pastor of, are there women ordained to the office of elder in your church?

50 Dwight McKissic November 14, 2013 at 5:02 pm

Truth,

These are germane issues and very familiar issues in recent years in SBC life. They were hotly debated on the blogs. You are dodging answering these pertinent questions. I will be glad to answer the question that you asked me ’bout ordained women elders in my church. But, first you must answer my questions: (1) Do you believe that it is biblical for a woman to serve as a trustee in a SBC entity? (2) Do you believe that a woman should be denied an opportunity to serve as a VP at the IMB simply because she is a woman–answer as if this a hypothetical question? (3) Should a woman be denied tenure as a professor of church history in the school of theology on the basis that she is a woman? Should a woman be dinied an opportunity to teach Hebrew at a SBC seminary on the basis that she is a woman?

You have a hidden identity by virtue of your name. I don’t. You have nothing to lose by answering honestly. I do. I am at a lost to figure out why you will not give straight answers to these simple and straight forward questions. Again, please answer these questions as if they are hypothetical.

51 truthunites November 14, 2013 at 5:40 pm

Pastor Dwight: “I will be glad to answer the question that you asked me ’bout ordained women elders in my church. But, first you must answer my questions:

Okay.

(1) Do you believe that it is biblical for a woman to serve as a trustee in a SBC entity?

Is this SBC entity a SBC church-entity or a SBC non-church entity?

If it’s a SBC non-church entity, then the idea of “biblical” has no bearing since the Bible does not speak to women serving in non-church entities.

As such, if a woman serves as trustee in a SBC non-church entity, it’s not a nonissue.

(2) Do you believe that a woman should be denied an opportunity to serve as a VP at the IMB simply because she is a woman–answer as if this a hypothetical question?

Same answer as the answer given in #1. I’m assuming that the IMB is a SBC non-church entity. It’s a nonissue.

“(3) Should a woman be denied tenure as a professor of church history in the school of theology on the basis that she is a woman? Should a woman be dinied an opportunity to teach Hebrew at a SBC seminary on the basis that she is a woman?”

Again, these are SBC non-church entities. Nonissue.

Question: In the church that you are the pastor of, are there women ordained to the office of elder in your church?

I would assume that this is a matter of public record, at least to the members of your church.

52 truthunites November 14, 2013 at 5:43 pm

Oooops! “As such, if a woman serves as trustee in a SBC non-church entity, it’s not a nonissue.”

Should be written as:

As such, if a woman serves as trustee in a SBC non-church entity, it’s a nonissue.

53 Dwight McKissic November 14, 2013 at 5:47 pm

Truth,

It’s a “non-issue” is not the same as an answer to my question. I still don’t know from you the answer to my questions. As soon as I get a answer to my question–yes or no, or something that in close proximity to yes or no–then I will gladly answer your question. Sorry, “non-issue” is not an answer to very simple straightforward questions.

54 truthunites November 14, 2013 at 6:12 pm

“As soon as I get a answer to my question–yes or no, or something that in close proximity to yes or no–then I will gladly answer your question.”

If SBC non-church entity, then NO.

55 Dwight McKissic November 14, 2013 at 6:27 pm

truth,

Thanks. Do you believe that it is biblically permissible for a woman to serve as a SBC trustee, IMB-VP, SBC seminary theology professor in Hebrew and Church History? Yes or No?

You said: “If SBC non-church entity, then No.” No, what? Would you please give a complete answer to my question. I promise you when you do, I will give you a complete answer to your question.

This is my last time asking. If you don’t give a full answer that a third grader could understand, then, again, we are wasting each others time, and I won’t bother asking again.

56 truthunites November 14, 2013 at 6:39 pm

Me: “If SBC non-church entity, then No.”

Pastor Dwight: “No, what?”

Should a woman not be allowed to serve as a trustee in a SBC non-church entity because she is a woman? NO.

Do you believe that a woman should be denied an opportunity to serve as a VP at the IMB simply because she is a woman? NO.

Should a woman be denied tenure as a professor of church history in the school of theology on the basis that she is a woman? NO.

Should a woman be denied an opportunity to teach Hebrew at a SBC seminary on the basis that she is a woman? NO.

Question for Pastor Dwight McKissic: “In the church that you are the pastor of, are there women ordained to the office of elder in your church?”

57 Dwight McKissic November 14, 2013 at 4:16 pm

Chris,

“no gender restrictions should come into play in a non-church entity”?

Does that mean that the lady at the IMB who was refused a position as VP; and Dr. Sherri Klouda who was refused a position as professor of Hebrew; and Dr. Karen Bullock who was refused tenure–all because they were women–in your opinion–were they treated wrong? Gender restrictions did come into play in all of these decisions in a non-church entity. The irony of this discussion is: if a person was an advocate for restricting minorities from the plurality of elders local church government system…there would be no discussion about removing or disciplining such a person. But God forbid a person be an advocate for women elders in a plurality of elders system; we must remove the agitator. How sad? Yet, we would not remove the racist who advocates that no minority should serve as an elder.

58 Dwight McKissic November 14, 2013 at 6:54 pm

truth,

Thanks. I do have elders. I have no ordained elders-period; at least not as of yet. There are no women or men ordained to the office of elder in CBC. I have no women elders period at the current time. At one point for what I considered biblical/theological reasons I was opposed to the idea of a woman serving as an elder. But after further review and study, and considering how differently elders function in our church–so radically different than how a Senior Pastor function–I don’t believe that it would be a violation of Scripture for a woman to serve as as an elder–no more than you do not believe that it would be a violation of Scripture for a woman to serve as a trustee.

Contrary to what you and Chris see, I see these roles as analogous. Paige Patterson has argued that what happens at the seminary should be a model or reflection of the values of a local church. He used that rationale to justify the dismissal of Sherri Klouda as a Hebrew Professor. If you and Chris believe that a woman can fulfill all of the assignments heretofore mentioned, I am bewildered to understand how did Southern Baptist allow this gross miscarriage of justice to take place at the IMB and SWBTS without registering serious disagreement. Again, the only way I can understand that is, it is similar to how they handled similar issues aforementioned. If my answer is not satisfactory, let me know and I will try again.

59 Dwight McKissic November 14, 2013 at 6:58 pm

truth,

“no gender restrictions should come into play in a non-church entity”

I wish that mindset would rule the day in SBC life. The SBC would be a much greater and biblically reflective Kingdom enterprise if that were to take place.

60 truthunites November 14, 2013 at 7:32 pm

I do have elders. I have no ordained elders-period; at least not as of yet. There are no women or men ordained to the office of elder in CBC. I have no women elders period at the current time.”

So you’re saying that you have non-ordained male elders in your church?

What is a non-ordained elder? I’m not at all familiar with this.

61 Dwight McKissic November 14, 2013 at 7:36 pm

truth,

Non-ordained male elders are the same as ordained male elders, other than the ceremony of ordaination.

62 truthunites November 14, 2013 at 7:39 pm

Pastor Dwight,

How does a non-ordained elder come into his office of eldership? Appointed or elected or congregational vote or what?

63 Chris Johnson November 15, 2013 at 9:27 am

Brother Dwight,
Your view of how women serve in the church is probably much like a friend of mine, Daniel Vestal. Daniel and I have had very good discussions concerning the biblical evidence of women aspiring to Elder/Pastor. He came to much the same conclusion as you have, and did admit that his hermeneutic was required to change to come to that conclusion. A consistent hermeneutic will not allow for his conclusion, so I did appreciate his honesty about why he changed his position; yet I am forced to disagree with him based upon consistency.

Blessings,
Chris

64 Dwight McKissic November 15, 2013 at 12:49 pm

Chris,

I am not following your line of thinking about a consistent hermeneutic must apply to this decision regarding women in ministry. I totally agree. Help me to understand from your vantage point how am I applying an inconsistent hermeneutic in order to arrive at my position in women in ministry? Thanks.

65 Chris Johnson November 15, 2013 at 1:13 pm

Brother Dwight,
Yes,… relative to the conversation I had with Daniel and the Apostle Paul’s first letter to Timothy, he has become convinced that Paul has somehow included women within the aspect of aspiring to Elder as the Apostle explains their serving or deaconess aspects. Since the text does not allow for that inference, Daniel has gone on to understanding that the meaning can be extended. Yet a consistent hermeneutic would expose the fact that women like men are to serve the church, yet separate in the aspect of aspiring to Eldership the role is exclusive to men.

It appeared to me that Daniel was trying to use the text very broadly and practically to supply evidence that women should aspire as well. Of course, that not being in the text makes that resolution impossible.

Again, the question is not whether a woman can or would be a better Pastoring vehicle, since in many cases that is no doubt the truth. But, textually the inference that women aspire is not found in the scripture, thus the norm for the church is that men aspire, in multiples to lead. Even at that point, most Baptist churches are satisfied to stop at one man, while Paul instructs Timothy and church to go beyond one,…which is the biblical norm in all cases as well.

Blessings,
Chris

66 Chris Johnson November 14, 2013 at 8:58 pm

Dwight,

The Seminary was in error and made poor choices.

Within the church body though, men are commanded to lead as elders/pastors… Same critter. Women are not given the option, biblically.

Blessings
Chris

67 Dwight McKissic November 14, 2013 at 9:08 pm

Chris,

How do you explain Junia, the female apostle in Romans 16; Lydia who was the first church planter on European soil, and Priscilla-whose name is often listed/mentioned before her husband & she shared ministry responsibilities with him? It is not as simple as men did all the leading as if women didn’t also have leading roles. And oh yea…let’s not forget Phoebe, who Paul instructed the men at Rome to “assist her ” in whatever she ask you to do. Examples of women leading & serving are scattered throughout the Old & New Testaments.

68 Dwight McKissic November 14, 2013 at 9:10 pm

Chris & truth,

Perhaps the “agitator” at the church that this post centers around, had these examples in mind when he/she was advocating for a female representation as a part of the body of elders.

69 Chris Johnson November 15, 2013 at 8:58 am

Brother Dwight,

You are over simplifying and broadening the norm given in scripture. The question is not whether the female gender is capable of leading. That is never in question, and many women do a wonderful job, and will continue to do a wonderful job.

Elders/Pastors, being men leading the church is the norm given by Christ and his Apostles to the church. Do other things happen, of course.

The treatment of specific women at the Seminary seemed to be more political than biblical. I for one will not conflate the issue that a woman teaching greek or hebrew equates as aspiring to Elder/Pastor/Overseer. Politics in a Seminary is not the work of the church.

Blessings,
Chris

70 Dwight McKissic November 15, 2013 at 2:04 pm

Chris,

Thanks. The huge question for me is this: is the function & role of biblical elders analogous to the function & role of elders today? Elders essentially function as an executive committee or as a board of trustees. To that extent I have no problem with a woman serving in this capacity. Maybe elders is the incorrect title for the functions in which they actually perform. I do not believe that a woman can biblically serve as a Senior Pastor. I don’t see in Scripture where a woman is forbidden to serve as an elder. If a woman exercising authority as a part of a team or under the authority of a Senior Male leader was a violation of God’s will….Paul would not have ever instructed men to assist Phoebe, who was the authority in the situation carrying out Paul’s instructions(Romans 16: 1-4).

71 Chris Johnson November 15, 2013 at 2:29 pm

Brother Dwight,

Oh, yes…I see your point.

The Elder that I am referring to is the qualified men that the Apostle is teaching Timothy about and are supplied by the Holy Spirit to the church for its edification. Qualification being the key!

If the contemporary church, Baptist or otherwise, simply gives a corporate or political title of “elder” to someone, ….well, that would be an obvious misuse of the term, since the biblical “Elder” is clearly a qualified man aspiring to lead the congregation.

Couple of things:
1. Change the title to something else: Helper, Corporate Assistance, Prayer Warrior, etc. That would make it less confusing.

2. Begin to teach the church the scriptures regarding qualified men (Pastors/Elders) that should aspire to the lead the church. Once that is better understood, the church can mature, and both the men and women can serve just like in the days of Paul.

Its unfortunate that the term is abused so easily.

Blessings,
Chris

72 Chris Johnson November 15, 2013 at 2:35 pm

Brother Dwight,
Another quick note… a Senior Pastor (say in the Baptist world) is a Pastor, is an Elder. They are one and the same. I realize some in the Baptist clan use the term one way, and then there are others in other clans that use it differently as well. So, A Senior Pastor, with a staff of other Pastors will all be Elders. The Senior Pastor is not qualified differently than the other Pastors. In other words,….All Pastor/Elders have the same qualification.

Elders that are made by appointment, but without biblical qualification are not biblical Elders.

Blessings,
Chris

73 Dwight McKissic November 15, 2013 at 2:57 pm

Chris,

I appreciate your response. I think that we are moving closer to common ground. Does the title really matter though? Was Paul being descriptive and prescriptive, or just descriptive? I am thinking about moving to an elders/executive council where wonen women can serve on the council, but perhaps not carry the title as elder. In Phillipians Paul mentioned two ladies who were colaborers with him in the gospel; a woman Apostle, and prominent women (Act 17) who hosted house churches. Priscilla role as reflected in Scripture would be similar to an elder’s role.i don’t think that we should get bogged down on the title “elder” as it relates to women. It would be a violation of Scripture to make a woman the final authority in the life if the church. But we generally do not call that person elder. I believe 50yrs from now women will be accepted in this role. Just as the SBC once rejected the notion of women messengers and trustees, and now it seem ludicrous that somehow, someway that was the majority thinking at that time…one day we will look back on the notion if restricting women from being elders as ludicrous. Some of us may not be around to see it, but it will happen.

74 Dwight McKissic November 11, 2013 at 4:44 pm

Roger,
I tend to agree with you except for your # 4. I really don’t see where people see anything but “day” in the Genesis account means-as in-24 hour day. One has to bring reasoning or logic from outside the text in order to believe that the Genesis account is referencing anything other than a 24 hr day.

75 Dee Stover November 12, 2013 at 1:18 pm

I dont argue the point but just wonder if time existed prior to the sun, moon and stars beginning their rotations. I believe that may be the sticking point. Also yom is not always 24 hours. This opens the door to supposition. Plus my personal bent is to consider even literal passages may play a dual role as prophetic when considering the nuances of the Hebrew.

76 Dee Stover November 12, 2013 at 1:26 pm

I dont think God expects us to freeze our brain while reading the bible. I take it literally, but still thinking on the further implications of what a day is without sun and moon.

77 Dwight McKissic November 14, 2013 at 8:03 pm

truth,

It is a combination of appointment and election. Current elders and congregation nominate. Senior pastor and vice chair of elders interview. Recommendation(s) are made to the church in an Annual meeting from the Senior Pastor and Elders-body. Church votes up or down.

78 truthunites November 14, 2013 at 8:24 pm

Pastor Dwight,

Let’s assume your church votes to approve an elder.

When does that elder start serving the church?

Does he start serving without an ordination ceremony? Is that why you say you have non-ordained elders?

79 Dwight McKissic November 14, 2013 at 8:31 pm

truth,

There is usually a six-twelve month training period, or a season where that elder has a voice, but not a vote. Once the training or trial period has ended, he is declared an elder with full voting privileges.

80 Dwight McKissic November 14, 2013 at 8:33 pm

truth,

Yes. He starts serving without ordination. I am not a big fan of a traditional ordination service. I see it as only marginally biblical.

81 Truth Unites... and Divides November 15, 2013 at 12:49 am

Pastor Dwight, can an elder serve his entire term without being ordained?

82 Dwight McKissic November 15, 2013 at 1:55 am

truth,

Yes. If by ordination you mean an official formal ordination service, that is not a requirement to serve as an elder at CBC.

83 Dwight McKissic November 15, 2013 at 1:57 am

truth,

There will be a prayer of consecration that is held in the elders meeting which can be somewhat analogous to an ordination. But we have never referred to it as an ordination.

84 Max November 12, 2013 at 11:24 am

As a child, I began to search the Scriptures more diligently when I found out the church had been lying to me about some very basic things! Just look at the Christmas story: there weren’t three wise men – there were wise men bearing three gifts … they didn’t find Jesus in a manger – he was two years old living in a house. Or what about Noah and the ark: there weren’t two animals of every sort … there was only one pair of “unclean” critters, but seven pairs of “clean” ones! I could go on and on, but I don’t want to appear divisive, lest I be shunned.

85 Dee Stover November 12, 2013 at 1:22 pm

Yes Max and so much more, just honor others and do not allow bitterness as you grow.

86 Max November 12, 2013 at 2:47 pm

Dee – Actually that childhood experience caused me to dig deeper into Bible text to retrieve Truth vs. opinions of men. I developed no bitterness in the process, as I surrendered teachings and traditions for genuine Truth. But, I have grown increasingly concerned about the widespread Biblical illiteracy of American Christians. I have been encouraged in my personal journey through the Bible by testimony of the Bereans (Acts 17) who examined the Scriptures to make sure that what even Paul was saying was true!

87 Dee Stover November 13, 2013 at 10:33 am

And the only scriptures they could check Paul against was the Torah Prophets and Writings Tanakh…a.k.a. Old Testament. Therefore it is imperative we know this foundation well enough so we don’t allow our interpretaion of Paul to contradict it. Reading John without Genesis or failing to follow clues to John’s logos, aleph tav/a.k.a. alpha omega or Paul’s mystery back to the source is perilous as shifting sand. I found catholicism was ingrained so deep in us that i had to reevaluate everything from the ground up. I really wanted that original New Testament church my pastor had always told us we were. My plumb lines were the Hebrew and Greek manuscripts of scripture and historical references to where a doctrine or tradition began. If it crossed scripture lay it aside. If tradition…why was it instituted, when? Pray on it. Wait for clear direction two or three witnesses preferring three. Example: christmas tree. I considered Isaiah 14, Jeremiah 10, among others, watched a few You Tubes, read a few books, defining moment was my neighbor a practicing pagan Wiccan goddess worshipper who also did rituals on Halloween and other pagan high days claims the tree as essential in her worship. Not essential to mine and actually detrimental to my witness to her. Tree has been gone 12 years…among other things. Not telling others what to do, however the process i used to make my decision, i highly recommend.

88 Max November 13, 2013 at 1:48 pm

“… it is imperative we know this foundation well enough so we don’t allow our interpretation of Paul to contradict it.”

Amen Dee!! We, of course, know that what Paul spoke was truth … the test for all of us is to discern that what others say Paul said is truth or not. Jesus told us not to forsake the commandments of God for the teachings and traditions of men, but the church has fallen into that trap over the centuries. If you read Paul first, you might read Jesus wrong. But if you read Jesus first, the writings of Paul come into proper perspective. If we lean too heavily toward man’s interpretation of the epistles, we could very well miss The Gospel altogether. There is a scarlet thread of redemption in Christ woven throughout the whole of the Bible – we would do well to read it all!

89 Roger Simpson November 12, 2013 at 7:01 pm

Dee:

You make a good point. Our concept of the meaning of “day” relates to the time that the sun is up each day (or more precisely the duration between successive daylight periods) as viewed by an earthbound observer. This definition (which in today’s culture we call “24 hours”) presupposes that the sun exists. According to the Genesis account [Genesis 1:14-18] the sun did not show up until day four.

This is really getting down into the weeds, but I think a reasonable case can be made that “day” [Hebrew YOM] can sometimes have some other meaning than what we now call a 24 hour day — at least in the Genesis 1 account. Maybe it means “a period of time” or “era”. This does not necessarily imply a “long time” like millions or billions of years.

90 Ken Hamrick November 18, 2013 at 8:05 am

The Hebrew word, yom, is used just as our English word, day, is used. We use the word day as opposed to night, in the sense of “daytime;” we use the word day to mean a full 24-hour period, consisting of one period of daylight and one period of nighttime; and, we use the word day to indicate an age or era, such as, “in the day of the Roman Empire,” or, “back in my father’s day,” etc. Even though we use the word day for all of these uses, we are never confused as to which meaning is intended—why is that? Note this vital fact: anytime that a number is used with “day,” whether in English or in Hebrew, a literal day is meant. Look outside of the disputed chapter of Genesis 1, and you will find that the OT uses yom together with a number over 350 times, and every single use is undeniably a literal day. This only makes sense—just look at the English: If I say, “back in my father’s day,” we all understand it to be figurative of an age; but if I say, “in my father’s third day,” you would immediately want to know, “Third day of what—third day of existence?” There is no ambiguity in how these words are used or what their meaning is. Rather, those who desperately want to find a way around the stark reality of what Genesis 1 indicates have simply grasped at this straw and now feed it to those who don’t know better as if they can’t rely on the meaning of “day.”

Stand firm on the Word!

91 parsonsmike November 18, 2013 at 10:51 am

Roger,
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

Here God compares the creation week with our week, using the word day to mean a certain, recognized time frame. It can not mean that God created the heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is them in, say, 6 billion years and rested the 7th billion year.

92 Jim Pemberton November 13, 2013 at 11:47 am

There are ways in which a theological issue that is not otherwise divisive can be pursued divisively. There are also ways in which theologically divisive beliefs can be held without being divisive.

There are also ways that someone who holds non-divisive beliefs without being divisive can be portrayed as being divisive just for holding them, when it is actually the accuser of divisiveness who is the one being divisive. Unfortunately, If the leaders of a church cannot discern the difference, perhaps it’s best to go find a less-dysfunctional church to be a member of anyway. Unfortunately, I’ve most often seen pastors on the bad side of this kind of injustice making finding another church a nearly scandalous proposition.

One example is a church I know about going through enough turmoil that some sort of arbitration has been called in. The pastor was ready to leave and expressed a low opinion of himself. However, it was discovered that most of the congregation actually favored the pastor, and only a few deacons were stirring up division for the purpose of aligning the congregation with heretical theologies and blaming it on the pastor. Most of the rest of the deacons didn’t have the wherewithal to discern the true root of the problem.

All this to say that we need discernment. We don’t just need good leaders in our churches, we need leaders who are given to humble wisdom.

93 Louis November 13, 2013 at 3:04 pm

Jim:

You are right on point here.

Most people who advocate for change are good people, even if the change for which they advocate is not accepted by the group.

Based on all of my reading here, the church can do 3 things that will help keep the peace, at least in the area of potential doctrinal squabbles.

1. Don’t have a doctrinal statement that addresses everything. Roger Simpson gave a good list of things that don’t need to be in a doctrinal statement.

2. Don’t have a system of polity that allows for lobbying and agitation. If a church has that, it may never have peace because there is no end to the changes people want to make.

3. In a church where there is a good system, let the person agitating for change do so. Unless it is something that everyone thinks needs to be changed, it will go now here. So the person wanting change has their say. Their request fails. At that point that person has a choice. To remain or (if the issue is very important to them) leave and go to a church of their liking. The problem, as I have stated above, is that many churches have a system that gives this person continuing opportunities to press the issue and lobby for votes. If the church has a system where that kind of thing cannot go on, the agitation will die out.

94 Ken Hamrick November 14, 2013 at 6:14 pm

Throughout most of this, it is assumed that the church has the high ground of doctrinal correctness. But let’s not forget that history has shown some divisive agitators to have actually been God-called reformers. Take any conscientious, Bible-believing evangelical and set him down in a world in which he finds himself a member of a church that is abandoning the inerrancy of Scripture and leaning toward accepting homosexual marriage, etc., and he will be an “unteachable,” divisive agitator until the point when he gives up and forsakes that assembly. He may even be looked down upon as lacking a proper education in “Biblical studies” (after all, the pastor has a ph.d.). In dealing with him, to how much of this discussion would that assembly give a hearty “Amen”?

95 Louis November 15, 2013 at 7:55 pm

Ken:

True, just as a person who pushes a little old lady into the path of an oncoming bus is not to be compared with a person who pushes a little old lady out of the path of an oncoming bus on the grounds that these people push little old ladies around.

The question for this blog is how address persistent agitators.

Much of the discussion has gone in the direction of theological disagreement and how a church should handle that. It should be handled forthrightly, but delicately.

I still submit that the most difficult people and issues to deal with are personality related or program related. In those instances there is no doctrinal standard that can be appealed to.

That makes those really tough ones.

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