The BF&M Communion Issue: There Is Only 1 Solution

by Dave Miller on February 25, 2014 · 158 comments

We are in a real situation here folks. We’ve had three articles in recent days discussing the issue of the messenger eligibility proposals being floated at the Executive Committee. All of a sudden it feels like we are back in 2006 debating Baptist Identity and IMB policies and such. I don’t know about any of the rest of you who were around in 2006, but I have no desire to go back to those days and that style of Baptist blog debate. But this is no small issue that we have here. Let me state the facts, as I see them. There is a significant problem with the Baptist Faith & Message (BF&M) and the way we follow it.

1) As Bart has rightly pointed out, we have a document which defines our parameters of fellowship as a denomination. The BF&M is not a perfect document, but it is our duly approved statement of faith. It is our standard for doctrinal accountability.

2) As Alan has rightly pointed out, we have a problem because more than half of churches in the SBC are operating in violation of Baptist Faith & Message. A study demonstrated that around 55% (?) of Baptist churches do not observe either closed or close communion. Closed communion is when only church members observe the supper. Close communion refers to opening the table to Baptists (or Southern Baptists, or anyone who has experienced believer’s baptism – practices vary). This is the position spelled out in the BF&M. So, over half of our churches exist in violation of our confession of faith.

That’s a problem folks. I consider myself a loyal Southern Baptist. I think I could give you a Baptist pedigree that would rival most anyone else’s. But I pastor a church that does not practice close communion. When we do the Lord’s Supper, I usually say something like this. “This is the Lord’s Table, not ours. If you belong to him you are welcome to share this holy time with us.” If there are BCI churches practicing close communion, I am not aware of it. Years ago I read some pretty well-stated arguments for close communion made by Dr. Nathan Finn – I am not saying it is a viewpoint without biblical merit. But it is not the position that I hold to. I agree more with David Rogers’ “modified open communion” position. I can tell you this, Southern Hills Baptist Church does not take the Supper lightly. We may not close communion to non-Baptists, but we take its celebration very seriously. But all that is to admit that we are a loyal Southern Baptist church which exists regularly in violation of the BF&M. What needs to happen?

I am content with leaving the practice of communion up to the autonomous choice of each local church. If your church is convinced of close communion, fence the table! If you believe in close communion, keep the fence but lower it a little. If you are like me, you keep a very minimal fence (believers only, who participate in a worthy manner).

But we have a real problem within the convention. The EC is moving to make some changes in messenger eligibility procedures. I think they are good as a whole. I even support the provision about assent to the BF&M. Someone can be a good Christian and not agree with tenets of the BF&M, but they are not really Southern Baptist. I agree with that idea, but enforcing it becomes a nightmare. A lot of us who are not in compliance with the close communion provision are nervous about adopting something that could be used to exclude us in the future. Bart has repeatedly said that no such exclusion is intended and I believe him. I do not think there is a single person at the EC who wants to kick out those who practice any form of open communion. That would be denominational hara kiri. It’s more than half of us, folks!

But I am uncomfortable being in compliance limbo. I hate the fact that I am leading my church to exist outside the boundaries of our own denominational confession. I have a couple of other quarrels with the BF&M, but they are minor (I think we are baptized IN the Holy Spirit by Jesus, not BY the Holy Spirit – no big deal). I can live with that. But I am in the odd position of being a loyal rebel. I am loyal to the denomination but we exist outside the parameters of fellowship set in our confession of faith.

Options

1) The first option is to just turn a blind eye to the BF&M and pretend it doesn’t actually prescribe close communion.

That’s not a good option. A confessional body that gets in the habit of ignoring its confession is setting itself up for trouble. We ignored our confession for far too long and the painful events of my early ministry were the consequence. If we are going to have a confession, we ought to confess it!

2) We can change the Baptist Faith & Message.

That is the only option, the only solution.

Here is the BF&M statement (VI. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper):

Christian baptism is the immersion of a believer in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is an act of obedience symbolizing the believer’s faith in a crucified, buried, and risen Saviour, the believer’s death to sin, the burial of the old life, and the resurrection to walk in newness of life in Christ Jesus. It is a testimony to his faith in the final resurrection of the dead. Being a church ordinance, it is prerequisite to the privileges of church membership and to the Lord’s Supper.

The Lord’s Supper is a symbolic act of obedience whereby members of the church, through partaking of the bread and the fruit of the vine, memorialize the death of the Redeemer and anticipate His second coming.

The only real issue is five words in the first paragraph, “and to the Lord’s Supper.” I  think we all agree about every other word in this statement. But that phrase makes it clear that only baptized believers should participate at the Table.

There are three options here.

A) The democratic option – Encode open communion as the SBC norm.

If the research is right, then we the majority position in the SBC is open communion. But this would be a horrible mistake. I am in the uncomfortable position of being outside the BF&M. I don’t want to put someone who believes in close communion in the place I am right now. Scratch option A.

B) Strike the words, “and to the Lord’s Supper.” 

This is a good solution as far as I am concerned. This still makes baptism a prerequisite to membership and each church can decide for itself whether to fence the Table. I do not think it significantly weakens the document to do so. Hooray for autonomy!

C) Add a statement concerning open communion.

As a part of this statement on Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, we could add the following:

Many faithful Southern Baptist churches do not consider baptism a prerequisite to the Lord’s Supper. (Perhaps the following could also be added) The decision as to who is permitted to receive the Lord’s Supper is a local church matter.

That wording is not well thought out, but is just a proposal. It gets at the heart of what I am saying.

I would never recommend we simply ignore our confession and pretend it did not proscribe something that a majority of us practice in our churches. But if we are not practicing close communion universally, is it really a parameter for fellowship? Have we not already made my proposal the reality? Ought we not simply write down what is common practice?

That seems to me to be the only solution.

 

1 Dave Miller February 25, 2014 at 7:40 pm

I guess my question would be to those who believe in and practice close communion:

How important is it to you that the BF&M encode your practice?
Would it be okay with you if we strike the words about baptism being a prerequisite for the Supper?
Would you accept a secondary statement that defines those who practice open communion as faithful Baptists?

2 Wm. Dwight McKissic, Sr. February 25, 2014 at 10:08 pm

Dave,

I hope that someone from Frank Page’s office and the EC has read your post here and will circulate it to the EC. If your recommendations are accepted; you solve the dilemma, and, you allow them to accomplish their goals. Great post.

3 Dave Miller February 26, 2014 at 11:58 am

Dwight, I’m sure Dr. Page reads every word I write!!

::crickets chirping::

4 Scott Richards February 25, 2014 at 7:57 pm

Dave,
Maybe I am new to this discussion about the Lord’s supper. I need some clarification. You defined closed and close, what is open? Does that mean “anyone can participate”? If so, the BFM eliminates that, and I am fine with that. I think that sounds Biblical and still leaves room for debate between closed and close.

5 Dave Miller February 26, 2014 at 12:16 am

Scott, there are varieties of open communion. At our church, we invite anyone who have repented of their sins and trusted Christ, anyone who belongs to Christ, to share in the Lord’s Supper.

I guess there are some people who essentially say, “have at it.” That is not us. Read David Roger’s comments on modified open communion at SBC Impact. He links to it in one of these comment streams.

6 Bob Cleveland February 25, 2014 at 8:01 pm

Preamble Provision #3: “That any group of Baptists, large or small, have the inherent right to draw up for themselves and publish to the world a confession of their faith whenever they may think it advisable to do so.”

So modify and publish it for your church.

7 Jonathan S. Jenkins February 25, 2014 at 8:28 pm

The Baptist Faith and Message, should be in my opinion, a base line document with the least constricting parameters of doctrine to maintain fellowship with the SBC. I would be completely comfortable with striking “and to the Lord’s Supper.”

I have never really considered that section of the BF&M and its implications and it bothers me that my church does not hold to that but I am not prepared to lead anyone to a closed communion just to adhere to a confession. Ultimately, something has to be done though. If we are going to have rules or a confession we ought to hold to it, if we aren’t going to hold to it then we shouldn’t have it.

Just as we should not only confront some sins we should not only enforce adherence to certain parts of the confession.

8 william thornton February 25, 2014 at 8:40 pm

This is why the EC’s taking the Yeats motion to another universe was a terrible idea. Now we are discussing changing the BFM?

I think you are missing something here. Why in all these years has the BFM never been linked to an evaluation of a church in friendly cooperation? Why is the BFM not mentioned in our Constitution? Why weren’t these linkages done in 1963, or 2000?

When you say, “Someone can be a good Christian and not agree with tenets of the BF&M, but they are not really Southern Baptist”, I’m a bit flummoxed. We elected a convention VP who is not really Southern Baptist? How’d that happen? Under what reasoning was this possible?

If we have problems that this would solve, what are they? The cheap tuition given to unqualified seminary students? That’s it? An old dollar figure for messengers? Some viral rot in the SBC fabric that needs to be eradicated?

I know there are people who think this is brilliant and that we need to boil “friendly cooperation” down to a concentrate and thereby purify the convention. I don’t see it. I do see a Cooperative Program reduction program. I don’t think we need that.

9 Alan Cross February 25, 2014 at 8:44 pm

I am just going to co-sign along with William Thornton and David Rogers on all of their comments about this, if that is okay.

William, you are nailing this. I agree completely.

10 Joel February 26, 2014 at 4:01 pm

Thornton nailed it.

11 Ron F. Hale February 25, 2014 at 9:10 pm

When you read our BFM confessions (1925 to 2000) you clearly see that Baptism is an ordinance of the Church and is to be a prerequisite for the privileges of membership and the Lord’s Supper. Going all the way back to the Schleitheim Confession (Anabaptist) of 1527 it reads, “All those who wish to break one bread in remembrance of the broken body of Christ, and all who wish to drink of one drink as a remembrance of the shed blood of Christ, shall be united beforehand by baptism in one body of Christ which is the church of God and whose Head is Christ.”

For the most part, I think we have neglected teaching the “preciseness” of our confession and things like this are no longer even entertained in “ordination councils.”

I have always said something like: “If you have trusted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and have publicly followed Him in believer’s baptism – then you are welcome to participate with our church family.”

I don’t think the Supper is for “secret” believers and taking the Supper without baptism is like: (gulp) going on the honeymoon without having the public wedding and vows before family and friends.

Respectfully and I love everybody!

12 Mike Bergman February 25, 2014 at 9:40 pm

As an “open communion” guy, I don’t see the issue so much as unbaptized “secret” believers… But more so if a faithful Presbyterian brother or sister who was sprinkled as an infant and sincerely believes that was a true baptism–I would disagree, but they’re not trying to hide their faith or walk in open disobedience… I would not bar them from such fellowship at my church, but leave it to their own conscience…

on the flip side, one of my old seminary profs told our class he would bar guys like R.C. Sproul, D. James Kennedy, and Kevin DeYoung because they have not been truly baptized according to our understanding and confessional practice…

13 Dave Miller February 26, 2014 at 12:19 am

Ron, I appreciate the integrity and conviction of your position. The question is whether that position should be universal for all Southern Baptists.

14 Ron F. Hale February 26, 2014 at 12:28 am

Dave,

The Abstract Principles declares —

XV. Baptism

Baptism is an ordinance of the Lord Jesus, obligatory upon every believer, wherein he is immersed in water in the name of the Father, and the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, as a sign of his fellowship with the death and resurrection of Christ, of remission of sins, and of giving himself up to God, to live and walk in newness of life. It is prerequisite to church fellowship, and to participation in the Lord’s Supper.

Tim, Jared, and myself may have to start us a Founders group (smile).

Blessings!

15 Dave Miller February 26, 2014 at 12:51 am

Again, I respect your position. But what do you think should happen to those who do NOT share the position?

16 Jared Moore February 26, 2014 at 12:59 am

Dave, I think the answer is a Triage approach to the BF&M2K concerning friendly cooperation.

Now, concerning those who serve in our entities, they must affirm the BF&M2K. But, this is also where a Triage approach would come in. They must affirm the BF&M2K and agree to teach in line with it, but not necessarily agree with the BF&M2K in its entirety.

17 Dave Miller February 26, 2014 at 2:08 am

Triage doesn’t help here.

It’s not a question of whether you agree with me or not. You and your church are more than welcome to practice as your convictions dictate.

But are you willing to let those with different views hold to their convictions as well?

18 Robert Vaughn February 25, 2014 at 9:25 pm

Dave, you write that turning a blind eye to the BF&M and pretending it doesn’t actually prescribe close communion is not a good option. But isn’t that exactly what has been done since 1925 to turn a convention whose vast majority held restricted communion into one whose majority now holds open communion (assuming the polls are correct)? Why was it a good option for nearly 90 years and now suddenly isn’t?

19 andy February 25, 2014 at 9:45 pm

Would a church be in violation if they said something like, “we welcome all baptized believers to partake of communion,” knowing that a visiting presby or Methodist may hear that and partake…and even being ok with it…?

perhaps I am being too free in my reading but it seems that a church that teaches believers baptism, and also tells people that baptized believers may take communion, would not be in violation…even if they did not go into baptism details when fencing the table.

20 Tim Rogers (@Timothy_Rogers) February 25, 2014 at 10:10 pm

Whoa, back up the bus.

Ok, let me see if I got this right. We as Baptists believe the Bible teaches the first step of obedience after salvation is baptism by immersion. We as Baptists believe the Bible teaches those partaking of the Lord’s Table are to do so in obedience to the commands of Christ. If we have any place we are in disobedience to Christ we tell people they are to examine their lives to make certain they are walking in obedience to Christ.

But, I am seeing an argument elaborated, once again, for advocating teaching people they do not have to examine their lives they are just to take of the table.

Now, let’s examine other denominations. Catholics baptize their babies and announces to those in attendance that if you are not a member of the Catholic church you are not to take of the sacraments. Methodists, Presbyterians, and Anglicans do the same. So, in reality they believe that Baptism (their form of understanding) is a prerequisite to the Lord’s Table.

Bottom line, Open Communion ( or whatever you want to name it) is the first step, and a major one at that, towards Open Membership. Next thing you will see is a debate for receiving members into the church that have not been baptized by immersion because they believe their baptism is a biblical one.

21 Jared Moore February 25, 2014 at 10:18 pm

I largely agree with Tim Rogers on this issue.

22 volfan007 February 25, 2014 at 11:47 pm

Whoa, hold the bus, again….Jared Moore and Tim Rogers agreeing on something? And, publicly saying so?

Sweet Sassy Molasses….what’s this blog coming to??

David ;)

23 andy February 25, 2014 at 10:18 pm

Perhaps off topic, but some may recall that John Piper proposed this very thing (allowing convinced paedobaptists into membership) to his church a few years ago…it didn’t take.

24 Dale Pugh February 26, 2014 at 7:24 am

Gasp! John Piper has been……….wr……wr….wrong? Say it ain’t so!

25 Dave Miller February 26, 2014 at 11:57 am

Piper said it. I believe it. That settles it.

26 Wm. Dwight McKissic, Sr. February 25, 2014 at 10:44 pm

Bro. Tim,

I made a similar comment on Alan Cross’s comment thread. Here it is as it relates to a closed communion that you seem to be advocating here.

Often a denomination and the Kingdom of God are compatible and moving in the same direction, but inevitably, a denomination and the Kingdom will run into a conflict of interest. This is one of those cases.

It is an affront to the Kingdom of God to suggest that a born-again citizen of the Kingdom of God can be present in a local church during the Lord’s Supper, yet be ineligible to partake of the Lord’s Supper, because they are not a member of that local church, or not a Southern Baptist. That would clearly be a case of the SBC denomination and local church trumping the Kingdom. The Lord never intended for the church to take precedence over the Kingdom, but, rather for the Kingdom to take precedence over the church.

27 Jared Moore February 25, 2014 at 10:50 pm

Dwight, the BF&M2K emphasizes close communion, not closed communion. Any Baptized believer–by immersion as a profession of faith-is welcome to the Lord’s table

28 Dwight McKissic February 25, 2014 at 10:59 pm

Jared,

Explain the difference between “close communion” and “closed communion?” Thanks.

29 Jared Moore February 25, 2014 at 11:03 pm

Dwight, closed communion would be those who are members of your local church. Close communion is for those who are repentant and have been baptized by immersion after a profession of faith in Christ. My church practices close communion.

30 Dwight McKissic February 25, 2014 at 11:19 pm

Jared,

Thanks. I hope this is my last question. What then is open communion ? And what is the difference in open communion & close communion? What is the difference between what you, Bart, and Tim Rogers are advocating, vs., what Dave M., David R., and Alan Cross are advocating?

31 Jared Moore February 25, 2014 at 11:22 pm

Dwight, open communion allows for anyone that has professed Christ to partake of the Lord’s Supper, regardless if they’ve been baptized or not and regardless of how they’ve been baptized.

32 David Rogers February 25, 2014 at 11:34 pm

Dwight,

To see my answer to this question, which is somewhat different than Jared’s, please refer to my answer to Roger Simpson’s question on the comment stream of Bart’s post, currently comment #43.

33 Bart Barber February 25, 2014 at 11:37 pm

Here’s my position on communion: It should be open to any and everyone who, if a member of your church, would not be disciplined out.

34 Bart Barber February 25, 2014 at 11:37 pm

Of course, going along with that is my belief that if you had people in your church who were sprinkling infants and passing it off as baptism, you ought to discipline them out.

35 Dwight McKissic February 26, 2014 at 12:08 am

Jared Moore & David R.,

I have read both of your answers. Thanks. David I appreciate the hard work of thinking through this issue and submitting your thoughts to writing. Your work is critical on this subject. At first opportunity I plan to read your longer piece. But I found your answer to Roger Simpson quite on point.

My dad was a Baptist preacher/pastor as well. Not nearly as well known as David’s dad. I distinctly recall that on The Lord’s Supper Sunday, he would request that only those who been born again & who have been baptized could partake of The Lord’s Supper. That is where I learned my ecclesiology as it relates to The Lord’s Supper. I started pastoring at 21 years of age. I am now 57. I have pastored non-stop between two churches. I never classified my practice as closed, close, or open communion. But as I think through this using David’s grid, I practice and sincerely believe in modified open communion. This is the first time I realized that there was a label for my practice. To the best if my knowledge, all National Baptist Churches practice what you all call modified open communion. I believe that it represents a biblical and Kingdom viewpoint moreso than the other views. Wouldn’t it be Landmarkish to restrict communion to Baptist ? Wouldn’t it be antithetical to Kingdom theology to restrict communion to a local church membership?

36 Jared Moore February 26, 2014 at 12:42 am

Dwight, it sounds like your dad practiced close communion.

37 Bart Barber February 26, 2014 at 10:34 am

I agree with Jared. “Only those who have been born again and who have been baptized” is textbook close communion.

38 Adam Blosser February 26, 2014 at 10:36 am

Yes, the paragraph on baptism emphasizes close communion when it tacks on “and to the Lord’s Supper” at the end.

However, the paragraph on the Lord’s Supper seems to advocate closed communion when it says “whereby members of the church”. Perhaps it would be helpful if there was an indication as to whether it is referring to the local or universal church.

“The Lord’s Supper is a symbolic act of obedience whereby members of the church, through partaking of the bread and the fruit of the vine, memorialize the death of the Redeemer and anticipate His second coming.”

39 Adam Blosser February 26, 2014 at 10:37 am

This comment is directed toward Jared. I failed to realize that it would be pushed down so far from his comment because of the replies posted earlier.

40 Dwight McKissic February 26, 2014 at 10:58 am

Jared & Bart,

If there were persons from other denominations who considered themselves born-again and baptized, my dad would also allow them to take communion. It was on an honor system. He would lay out the qualifications & leave it to individuals to determine if they qualified. We had friends & family to visit our church who were Catholic, Pentecostal, Methodist, and non-denominational. They would also join in and take The Lord’s Supper with us. I assumed that meant that they figured that they met the criteria. Is that still closed communion? As I read David’s explaination it sounded like his was a more detailed, technical explaination if what my Daddy taught. Again, no one labeled it in tge circles that we traveled in. But, I distinctly recall and currently practice that having accepted Christ, and having been baptized were prerequisites to partaking in The Lord’s Supper. A mode of baptism was never explained. I assumed it would have been immersion, because that was all we practiced. But, in hindsight, some of the Methodist, Catholics , and Presbyterians, who took The Lord’s Supper at our church could have been sprinkled. Now, Jared and Bart, help me understand what label do I fit. I totally agree with what I read on this subject by David Rogers. I can’t recall if he said something that is contradictory to my day’s and I beliefs and practice on this subject.

41 Bart Barber February 26, 2014 at 11:06 am

Dwight,

It all depends upon whether your church had decided just to “look the other way” or whether they actually held a conviction that infant sprinkling is baptism.

42 Tarheel February 26, 2014 at 12:08 pm

Ok y’all….I have read, reread and thought very hard about the statement on the Lord’s supper in the BFM2000. It is hard for me to arrive at a conclusion that the wording does not convey an idea of at minimum CLOSE communion (meaning that all participants either be members of the local church performing the ordinance or otherwise been baptized by immersion as a believer.) I even think a reasonable case could be made that the BFM2000 asserts CLOSED communion (that only members of the particular church performing may partake).

The idea of open communion or is not, in the strict reading, allowed for in the document. One would have to read that in, IMO.

So now what do we do? I think Miller is on to something.

I think this may be a place in the document where it goes too far and the only reasonable and appropriate remedy for that is not to ignore it but…to what?

I have said before that the document is a masterful one and I am amazed at how it straddles to fence of doctrinal purity and church autonomy….it may be that in this one place – that we need to revisit.

I am not sure that biblical the case for closed communion can be made… I am much more convinced with close communion…but many churches ( as both evidenced by posters here and the Lifeway study) practice a more “open” communion in that (NOT come one, come all as that would clearly violate the BFM2000 and Scripture) all professed believers present are welcomed to the table and I not sure that this is a practice that is outside of scripture as it too allows only believers to partake, just includes more believers, I guess one could say ;-) .

So. IMO this phrasing may be worth a second look and discussion.

43 Dave Miller February 26, 2014 at 12:21 am

I don’t know, Tim. I’ve been practicing open communion for 32 years without adopting open membership. I’m not sure one leads to the other.

44 Bill Mac February 26, 2014 at 9:59 am

“I don’t know, Tim. I’ve been practicing open communion for 32 years without adopting open membership. I’m not sure one leads to the other.”

Ditto. Well almost. I can’t be as old as Dave.

45 Bart Barber February 26, 2014 at 10:34 am

It only leads to open membership if you think about it. :-)

46 Dave Miller February 26, 2014 at 11:56 am

Oh, wow. A zinger from Barb Barter.

47 Alan Cross February 26, 2014 at 12:20 pm

Or, you can think about it and come to a different conclusion from Dr. Barber. That is possible, you know. :)

48 Dwight McKissic February 26, 2014 at 11:15 am

Bart,

It was on an honor system. Once we state that it is only for those who have been born again, and who have been baptized, we then state that if you don’t meet those qualifications we ask that you refrain from partaking. So, no we don’t look the other way; we trust the worshipper to determine whether or not they qualify. I don’t ever recall it being a matter of dispute or debate in the circles that I have traveled in.

49 Les Prouty February 26, 2014 at 12:40 am

Tim, just a clarification:

Just a small clarification. “Presbyterians…” The PCA Book of Church Order says about fencing the table,

“Since, by our Lord’s appointment, this Sacrament sets forth the
Communion of Saints, the minister, at the discretion of the Session, before
the observance begins, may either invite all those who profess the true
religion, and are communicants in good standing in any evangelical church,
to participate in the ordinance; or may invite those who have been approved by the Session, after having given indication of their desire to participate. It is proper also to give a special invitation to non-communicants to remain
during the service. ”

Most I know do not say only members of that PCA church or only Presbys may partake. i.e. any of you gentlemen could commune with us.

50 John Fariss February 26, 2014 at 10:33 am

Yes, I have taken communion any number of times in a Methodist church (on vacation visiting my wife’s people, when they knew I was a Baptist minister) and twice in an Episcopal church. Once I was “just” a visitor, although attending with an Episcopal clergy friend. (This was in New Jersey, when I was taking classes for my doctorate.) Since the minister (or priest) at that church did not know me from Adam’s housecat, that one could probably be ignored. But the other one was upon specific invitation to the installation of a pastor, along with other ministers, including Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, and Assembly of God. Not only did the presiding minister knew who we were, but their bishop as well, as he was serving Communion.

John

51 William Thornton February 26, 2014 at 8:06 am

Actually, here is one lace where J could have played his dog eared logical fallacy card. He must have lost it some where.

It might be that open c. is the first step towards open membership but it doesn’t necessarily follow. We know that more than half the convention already practices some degree of open communion. If Tim is right considerable numbers of these should also be practicing open membership. Perhaps Tim has some data but I doubt it.

52 Ben Stratton February 25, 2014 at 10:20 pm

Dave,

1. I think the 55% figure is debatable. It’s funny that when I pointed out the 1948 survey which claimed 95% of Southern Baptist churches then practiced either close or closed communion, many open communion guys doubted those numbers.

http://baptisthistoryhomepage.com/western.recdr.survey.1948.html

Yet it seems no support of open communion doubts this new Lifeway survey. One problem is how you phrase the question. Another problem is how was the survey conducted? Still another is what area of the U.S. was the survey conducted in. As we all know, survey results are often open to debate.

2. Changing the BF&M on the Lord’s Supper is a bad idea for several reasons. If this happen, I could easily see many close / closed churches leaving the SBC or sending their money else. As it stands now, open communion churches are in no danger of losing their messengers and it is very, very, very unlikely to happen in the future.

Also keep in mind, as a result of the conservative resurgence, our SBC seminaries are largely full of close / closed communion teachers and presidents. I know there are a few open communion seminary professors, but they are greatly in the minority. It seems to me that most of the SBC leadership favors the close / closed position. These men don’t want to divide over the issue, but I don’t think they are going to support the BFM being changed.

53 David Rogers February 25, 2014 at 11:00 pm

Actually, when you add up all the answers, the statistics for those practicing a more open position than close or closed communion is 61%, not just 55%—and that did not even give people the option to differentiate between open and modified open communion. My guess is some of those who in actuality practice modified open communion answered in such a way that it was registered as close communion, which would make the figure of those practicing some variety of open communion or another even larger.

54 Ben Stratton February 26, 2014 at 12:22 am

David,

I think those numbers are up for debate. I can think of numerous pastors that would answer differently depending on how the question was asked. Consider these two real examples in Kentucky:

Church #1. The pastor of this church strongly believes close communion is biblical. However he doesn’t want to offend any visitors. Therefore he doesn’t say anything about who should partake of the Lord’s Supper. So in theology this church is close communion, but in practice they are open communion.

Church #2. This pastor also strongly believes in close communion. However his church has been open communion for a generation. He has slightly changed how and when communion is served. In order to not split the church, he has taught on the issue, but doesn’t press it during the communion service. If you ask the members, half will tell you they have close communion and half will tell you they have open communion.

I have no doubt there are multitudes of churches like this associated with the SBC. Different surveys would put them in different categories.

55 Steve Potts February 25, 2014 at 10:43 pm

Are we being a bit legalistic about this? The BF&M does indicate that baptism is needed for church membership and participation in the Lord’s Supper. Normally this is as it should be. But there are special situations were the general statement need not be an absolute statement. For example, take the case of someone who physically cannot be immersed (perhaps for medical situations, infections, etc.). Is church membership and or the Lord’s Supper absolutely prohibited? While different SBC churches may handle this differently, should we demand exact conformity in all of our churches? The BF&M states in section IV. that “there is no salvation apart from personal faith in Jesus Christ as Lord.” I agree, but I don’t know any (though there may be a few) Southern Baptists who believe babies that die in infancy are lost, or someone like my brother who is severely mentally handicapped is excluded from Christ’s saving grace. The statement is accurate generally speaking, but not if taken legalistically. Why should we not handle the baptism, membership, Lord’s Supper statement with the same charity. These are issues that Bible-believing Southern Baptists have some different ways of handling for a long time. Using the BF&M as a kind of “law” to exclude others, especially when applied so tightly, is troubling, unnecessary, and frankly divisive.

56 dr. james willingham February 26, 2014 at 12:37 am

The case for closed communion is as you pointed out biblically based. All one has to do is read the scriptures and make the elementary deduction, my dear Mr. Watson, that a person must be under the discipline of a local church in order to participate in that church’s communion. But we don’t have church discipline and we have a mix of open and closed communion. The truth is no one can afford to be so dogmatic as to demand that their view is the right one and everyone else is wrong on this issue. David Rogers’ modified open communion, though I have not read it, is, if I understand the concept correctly without having read his particular piece on the issue, cognizant of the biblical teachings on the nature of the church. It involves the issue and problems that were presented to the convention by Landmarkism back in the 1800s, a view of ecclesiology that by its very rational and dogmatic nature, with its principles of interpretation, its hermeneutics, if you please, that logically demand such a view of the local church to the total exclusion of any thing having to do with the concept of the universal church.

Ah! There we have the rub, the counter difficulty. I have known of cases where they push the doctrine of the universal church to the exclusion of anything like the local church. Let me suggest a problem with the extremity of the Landmark view and then one with the Universal Church view which suggests that Roger’s modified open communion view might well be the closest to the biblical teaching due to its prescience of Scriptural depths.

First, with the Landmark view. Suppose the Closed Communion view carried to the logical conclusion that only the member of that particular local church can participant due to the discipline issue. After all, you cannot discipline the members of another church. Let us further suppose we are in the first century and Paul who established a particular church is still alive and comes to town. Would you think that they would refuse the Communion to an Apostle? Suppose our Lord Himself came, but I forgot the presupposition that He is suppose to be in the midst of that local church and every local church at the same time. I am painting with absurdity as most would be overwhelmed with such personages and would admit them to communion. After all, there is the spirit of the whole process which transcends the legalism of understandings pushed to their rational extremes.

And then there is the universal view pushed to its extreme, where you admit any and all without concern for whether they have been baptized or not along with other considerations. I could write volumes on this and the previous perspective.

What conclusion is offered then? The one of Mr. Rogers. We are striving so hard to stick to the BF & M, and now we are facing the fact that we want clarity of conscience and convictions. A too loose a view can lead to disaster as well as a too strict a view. What we really need is, not so much a rewrite, but a better understanding of the nature of biblical doctrines, these teachings are apparently contradictory (that is they cannot really be reconciled) and are not meant to be reconciled. In fact, both poles of a doctrine are necessary in order to become balanced, flexible, creative, constant, and magnetic or, in other words, mature believers, God’s best subliminal advertisement for His Gospel. A view of communion needs to have respect of the universal spiritual nature of the church (after all, we are all members of a body that transcends space and time, part of the body is already in Heaven and the rest is waiting the inclusion of the multitudinous numbers yet to be brought in. We are also members of the local church, and, therefore, we come under its discipline, hopeful a discipline that is committed, careful, and compassionate. In any case, what I am advocating is a both/and position, and we actually have it as is indicated by Dave’s piece (a very good piece, by the way), but I would not want the thing drawn so tight that you do not allow for any differences. While I believe the Moderates were wrong in their pushing of the doctrine of the priesthood of the believer to the extreme, I do think there is merit in maintain the truth involved – even if it was misrepresented and pushed to an extreme.

I could continue, but the point I want to make is that a both/and position allows and enables believers to respond to a given situation appropriately, that is, out of one pole or the other as seems appropriate that that specific case. David, I am Southern Baptist licensed in 1958 and ordained in 1962 and my family was Southern Baptists from the get go. One ancestor made it into the History of Alabama Baptists by Henry Holcomb. His name was Holland Middleton, and either him, apparently, or his father, was one of two executors appointed by a Court to execute the will of Daniel Marshall, the founder of the oldest continuing church in Georgia, the Kiokee Baptist Church. And in that church was a founding member, William Willingham, but I do not know, if he is related or not. The point I am making is that from the beginning of our convention there were allowances for differences. You all might want to read about Shubal Stearns and John Gano, Morgan Edwards’ Materials Toward a History of the Baptists in North Carolina, along with some other colonies, and Gano’s Memoirs, to name but two, would be helpful. I wish I could continue, but I have had a hard day, with having to drive myself to see the doctor, about 35-40 minute drive. David, you might have opened and issue that could be of help to resolving some of the controversial matters in the SBC – even though the resolution might be something that neither of us might consider or expect. We really stand in need of theological mediators – not I did not say theological manipulators (and yes, there is such a thing). Theological mediators are like the sort that are appointed by the Superior Courts of North Carolina and courts (I don’t know which) in Arkansas and possibly in other states. A lawyer would know more than I that subject. I did take the training to be a mediator in legal disputes, but never got to finish the training due to a requirement for five observations (where you observe and then where you are observed). But this presupposes a great deal of theological and historical knowledge about Southern Baptists as well as the knowledge of communications, counseling, etc. You all would be delighted, if you had been exposed to the written records, those that still exist, and the impact that they can have on a person’s thinking. The wisest man I ever met read those records for 10 years, and I think his reading of them was the cause of his wisdom. God bless every one concerned in this discussion.

57 Allen Calkins February 26, 2014 at 12:41 am

This is nuts! I cannot believe this is our biggest issue. The EC is acting like Congress here.
I have served on staff at 6 different churches and have been a member of another 3 and have never seen anything but open communion.
The church I presently serve has the tradition of sharing the Lord’s Supper in the Community Christmas Eve service and a Maundy Thursday service. These actually make me a little nervous since unbelieving family members are often present, which is a little too open for me. I always assumed the BF&M was simply poorly written and never intended to imply baptism by immersion is required for a person to receive the Lord’s Supper.
As to how many messengers anyone gets, how many churches USE their 10 messengers today, 1%, 5%? It would shock me if it were more! Increasing the $$ to 21st century levels is fine. And having the calculation done optionally on a % basis is a nice thought.

58 John Botkin February 26, 2014 at 1:25 am

Allen, not being snarky, but I would say it’s “nuts” that you have been in churches that practice communion in such a way. From my church background (4 SBC churches), close communion was always the practice.

On the larger issue, I think it’s a bit ridiculous to say “we hold to the BFM2000″ but then drop various parts you don’t like. Why not write up your own statement of faith or adopt another?

Furthermore, I don’t see how any kind of “theological triage” for membership on the convention-wide level will not be a disaster. After, being debated forever, the final question being ‘Why do we have the others parts in the BFM at all?’

In the end, I find it a hard pill to swallow to say that because (for various reason) many churches have drifted away from a basic, Baptist belief, we have to modify the BFM to get it line with current practice. That doesn’t mean that I don’t want to cooperate with open communion churches. I just think it sets a bad precedent for why the BFM should be changed.

59 Bart Barber February 26, 2014 at 10:32 am

Nobody at the EC was trying to enforce any perspective on the extent of communion. It wasn’t ever discussed, to my knowledge.

All the EC wants to do is have the Baptist Faith & Message be the standard against which doctrinal challenges to church affiliation are measured. That is a good idea, a very good idea, a GREAT idea!

60 Deakon Cane February 26, 2014 at 2:31 am

in your minds are you guys saying “close communion” like “close the door” or like “stay close to me” … obviously the first choice would make sense as it is related to “closed” but that just sounds terrible: “we practice kl?z communion”…anyways. hope you get this worked out!

61 Dave Miller February 26, 2014 at 11:54 am

I say it, “stay close to me.”

62 Tim Rogers February 26, 2014 at 4:14 am

Wow I was not feeling well and perused the blogs. After seeing this article I commented on it and just felt bad and got in bed. It is now 3am and sleep eludes me so i thought i would peruse the blogs again. Low and behold i findbDwight doesnt exactly agree with me. That is no huge surprise our friendship has survived much more than a ordinance disagreement. But, i find that Jared Moore is in agreement with me. I am going back to sleep b/c i must be dreaming. :)

Seriously, on will find that many old school Princeton Calvinists will stand strong for a “close” communion. So this is an area of agreement that will cross soteriological lines of differences.

63 Dave Miller February 26, 2014 at 11:54 am

Did you take some strong cough syrup,Tim? You know, that stuff with Hydrocodone in it?

64 Allen Calkins February 26, 2014 at 6:52 am

My understanding is that Arkansas Baptists require churches to sign off on their practice of closed communion before their messengers are recognized. I always thought that was more than a little rigid. BUT NOW it appears the SBC EC feels the whole denomination should go that way? What is wrong with leaving the practice of the Lord’s Supper in the hands of the churches? I believe omitting the phrase ‘and to the Lord’s Supper’ does that nicely and cleanly. I see no reason to add anything additional to the paragraph that follows on the Lord’s Supper. That leaves it to the local church.
In a day when nondenominationalism seems to rule the day, the SBC restricting the practice of partaking communion in public services to exclude some Christians is not a good witness and further marginalizes the SBC by making us look judgmental and legalistic. I certainly do not believe it is an appropriate requirement for identification as a Southern Baptist Church.

65 Tim Rogers (@Timothy_Rogers) February 26, 2014 at 9:13 am

Allen,

I believe Dr. Bart Barber can give great insight into the Arkansas Baptists situation. His dissertation was on the Landmark Controversy in Arkansas.

66 David Rogers February 26, 2014 at 9:23 am

I wrote an article a few years back that speaks to that: http://loveeachstone.blogspot.com/2007/11/landmarkism-and-arkansas-baptist.html?m=1

67 Ben Stratton February 26, 2014 at 9:27 am

The Arkansas Baptist Convention’s constitution says, “The ‘Baptist Faith and Message’ shall not be interpreted as to permit open communion and/or alien immersion.” Similar statements used to be in other state convention by-laws as well such as Kansas and California. They remain in a number of Southern Baptist local associations.

The Arkansas Baptist Convention has not disfellowshipped a church over open communion and alien immersion in several decades, probably since the early 1970′s.

68 Doug Hibbard February 26, 2014 at 12:16 pm

There was a proposal a few years back to take that line out, but it passed by like 64%, if I recall correctly.

Being a bylaw change, it needed 2/3, twice–so it just kind of got left aside.

I continue to be an advocate of alien immersion, personally, as Vulcans are likely the best missionaries to their own planet.

69 Doug Hibbard February 26, 2014 at 12:25 pm

Based on the discussions I remember, the real concern at stake was alien immersion/non-Baptist baptism. There was a concern that we had churches beginning to accept members on transfer from non-denominational churches without asking about their baptism.

The pro-change folks pointed out that these were “Non-denominational Churches” according to the Tim Hawkins definition: a Baptist church with a cool website. They noted that these churches practiced baptism (immersion) and taking their members on transfer was not a problem.

The no-change folks pointed out that these churches were not the only ones, and that some of them simply asked whether or not the prospective member had “been baptized” without drilling down for data. So, theoretically, a Presbyterian or Catholic (paedo-sprinkled) could join a non-denominational church that acknowledged their baptism, then transfer to a Baptist church.

Those are the two sides that I received material from leading up to that ABSC meeting. There may have been other sides, but that’s the baptism part. Probably was also related to the IMB’s emphasis on baptism in the same time frame–how to handle people who were members of ABSC churches but couldn’t pass the IMB’s expectations.

The communion side was based on viewing only a dichotomy: open or closed, with a background in the Landmark issues. There were many churches (I know of one, definitely, knowwhutImean?) that practice communion as a few have described here: declare/preach the context but invite “all baptized believers” to partake. Is this open or closed? It’s neither–it’s close or some other term meant to sandwich in here. But some people called it open for not requiring definite church membership, others called it closed for requiring baptism.

I was all for changing that aspect, but I understood the concerns on the baptism front. I think that the communion language would have been changed had they been separate issues, but I could be wrong.

70 Alan Cross February 26, 2014 at 1:28 pm

Then why does the Arkansas Baptist Convention have the statement?

They are pretty clear in their statement, yet it is worthless.

My understanding about the BFM2000 has been that it is our confession, but if there was a clearly articulated caveat on a tertiary issue that was common (such as Article VII), then you could still be a member in good standing.

The Communion issue is the one issue that seemed to get a pass. But, if you come up with a new requirement that the BFM2000 must be affirmed by all churches in it entirety or they might not have messengers seated or they might be disfellowshipped, then without a protection clause, that destroys the allowance we have had for Article VII. At bringing that up, we have people saying that if you allow for Open Communion, then you are not a true Baptist – but, we probably won’t get around to disfellowshipping you, even though we are putting the apparatus in place to do so – but, we probably won’t even though you are not really a good Baptist.

I understand that that is not the intent, but it is the possible result.

71 Todd Benkert February 26, 2014 at 8:41 am

I would be open to changing the BFM to reflect the beliefs of this very large number of our churches — much like the BFM2000 revision did with the statement on the Lord’s Day. We did not see a mass exodus of Sabatarians or decline in giving by Sunday Sabbath churches when we did so, but did change the language to reflect the beliefs of our constituents on this tertiary issue.

72 Nate February 26, 2014 at 2:44 pm

Todd,

So are you saying that baptism is a tertiary issue? I don’t want to put words into your mouth, but your sentence concerning the BF&M issues about the Lord’s Day seem to imply that.

If so, I cannot disagree with you more strongly. Our heritage is linked to brothers and sisters who were martyred because of their belief in baptism by immersion. If we, as a denomination, want to say that baptism by immersion is tertiary, then we need to disband altogether.

73 Dave Miller February 26, 2014 at 3:30 pm

I am quite sure that Todd would say that baptism is secondary. It defines us as baptism.

He said the sabbath issue was tertiary.

74 Todd Benkert February 26, 2014 at 3:39 pm

What I am saying is that I would be comfortable with the SBC making the debate between modified-open/close/closed communion a tertiary issue and not a secondary one, similar to how we did with the debate on how we observe the Lord’s Day. I have no interest in making baptism a tertiary issue (after all, our view of baptism is why we’re called baptists).

Not sure how you interpreted my remarks that way anyway. Is not the topic of this discussion about how we celebrate communion not how we practice baptism?

75 Nate February 26, 2014 at 4:58 pm

Thanks for the clarification Todd… That is why I said I didn’t want to put words into your mouth.

I do think how we celebrate communion does extend to how we celebrate baptism though. As has already been said by others, the RCC church certainly would not extend the Eucharist to us, nor should we, the table, to them. Now, regardless of whether or not RCC individuals are believers have nothing to do with whether we, as SBC Baptists, should extend participation of the Lord’s Supper to them, IMO. First and foremost, we don’t even believe what the ordinance represents the same way. For that matter, we don’t with the Lutheran church either.

I personally think our own members in our churches are increasingly illiterate as to what the ordinances actually represent. The same could be said for membership, which is, in my opinion, moving all too rapidly towards a more open format as well.

76 David R. Brumbelow February 26, 2014 at 3:22 pm

Nate,
I put doctrine into three categories:

1. Basic, fundamental Christian doctrine.
2. Baptist Distinctives.
3. Secondary issues.

I would put Salvation only by Faith in Jesus in #1.
Believer’s Baptism by Immersion and Eternal Security in #2.
Premillennialism in #3. (Although Premillennialism is correct!)

I know you did not directly ask me, but for what it’s worth.
And, of course, there are other ways to categorize.
David R. Brumbelow

77 Dave Miller February 26, 2014 at 3:27 pm

That’s essentially Mohler’s Triage system, though category 3 is generally called tertiary. But I agree.

78 Nate February 26, 2014 at 5:10 pm

David,

I think Scripture might argue with you that baptism is simply a Baptist Distinctive (Mt 28:18-20; Act 2:38, 41; Rom 6:4; Eph 4:5; Col 2:12; 1 Pet 3:21). Now hear me clearly. I am not saying that baptism saves, but it is a Christian distinctive. Any person that says they profess Christ and refuses to be baptized is either utterly ignorant of Scripture or is directly being disobedient to Scripture, if they are presented with the Scriptural facts. And if the latter, I, as a pastor, would not consider them a brother or sister in Christ. I cannot judge their salvation, but I certainly would refuse them membership in the church I pastor and participation in the Lord’s Supper.

Now, as to the mode of baptism, we might argue that it is a secondary issue, but we certainly have broken fellowship with other believers over that secondary issue. That is why there is a SBC denomination, among other reasons.

79 David R. Brumbelow February 26, 2014 at 5:46 pm

Nate,
I think you and I essentially agree on this issue.

I look at “Basic, Fundamental, Christian Doctrine” as being so important that if you disagree you’re probably not even a Christian. Historic Baptists, Methodists, Episcopalians, Evangelicals, etc. (for the most part) would agree with these doctrines.

As far as “Believers Baptism by Immersion,” I believe our view is Scriptural, but I do not view it as a “Basic, Fundamental, Christian Doctrine.”
If you do not hold to our view of Baptism, I do not believe that calls your salvation into question.
But I’m looking at our “Baptist Distinctive” view of Baptism; not Baptism in general.
David R. Brumbelow

80 Todd Benkert February 26, 2014 at 8:48 am

What is the parliamentary procedure here? Where would/could such a change in the BFM originate and how would it be accomplished?

81 Dave Miller February 26, 2014 at 3:28 pm

All that would need to happen would be to have 1 person stand before the Annual Meeting and move that the 5 words be struck. If the Committee on Order of business schedules it, we vote. If 50% plus one approve it, the change is made.

I am shocked at how easy it is to change the BF&M.

However, if I were to make the motion, I would suggest it be referred to the EC and ask it to be carefully considered for a year.

82 Bill Mac February 26, 2014 at 10:03 am

Is observance of the Lord’s Supper a command or a reward?

83 Bill Mac February 26, 2014 at 9:30 pm

Since no one has answered my question, let me ask a followup:

If the LS is a command, then since when does disobedience (or misinterpretation) of one command bar you from obeying another?

84 Ron F. Hale February 26, 2014 at 10:28 pm

Bill,

I Cor 11 –

Verse 24 (Of the bread)”Do this in remembrance of me”
Verse 25 (Of the cup) “Do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
Verse 26 “….you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”

He is speaking to baptized believers as he directs them to not eat the bread or drink the cup in an unworthy manner…but to examine themselves.

Verse 33 “So then, my brothers …

The Lord Jesus has asked us to do this or observe this in His name. I see it as a loving command.

Blessings!

85 Les Prouty February 26, 2014 at 10:31 pm

Yes a command. And all commands are loving.

86 cb scott February 26, 2014 at 10:44 pm

“And all commands are loving.”

Les Prouty,

That may be the most pure and undefiled comment you have ever made in a “Baptist” comment thread.

87 John Botkin February 26, 2014 at 10:22 am

Allen: “In a day when nondenominationalism seems to rule the day, the SBC restricting the practice of partaking communion in public services to exclude some Christians is not a good witness and further marginalizes the SBC by making us look judgmental and legalistic.”

But what does the Bible teach? Regardless of how it “looks” shouldn’t we be faithful to the biblical witness?

88 Bart Barber February 26, 2014 at 10:28 am

Amen.

89 Bart Barber February 26, 2014 at 10:29 am

And why is it that having a separate denomination or having separate churches doesn’t look judgmental and legalistic?

Because this is entirely not about substance and is entirely about appearances?

90 Allen Calkins February 26, 2014 at 10:56 am

I just do not know what we are saying about brothers in Christ in other denominations or groups. We are so much more biblical than they are that we cannot share in the Lord’s Supper together? That seems unnecessarily exclusive. Where is the biblical support for this thought? If we believe them to be brothers in Christ then we should have no problem inviting them to have communion with us. This does not make them members of our church or deny those theological issues that do divide us. I just don’t get it about the NEED for closed or really even CLOSE communion. So long as the person is a believer, why would we not want to share communion with them?

91 Bart Barber February 26, 2014 at 11:27 am

I’m not really trying to say anything about other denominations or groups. I’m just trying to follow the teachings about the Lord’s Supper in 1 Corinthians. I believe that you should encourage to participate in the Lord’s Supper any and everyone who, if he or she were a member of your church, you would not discipline out.

The extent of communion = the extent of church membership.

What always amazes me about this conversation is not the fact that people consider it to be a big deal to withhold communion—it is a big deal and you are right to be concerned about it—but the flippancy with which people seem to consider it nothing at all to refuse church membership to someone!

“Yeah, infant-sprinkling is no big deal. Welcome to the table! We’re one big happy family! Oh, wait! You want to JOIN the church! Well, you’re not welcome!”

Personally, I think that you shouldn’t prevent anyone from joining your church for any reason that isn’t important enough to also withhold communion from them.

92 Alan Cross February 26, 2014 at 12:32 pm

Well, we can deconstruct the whole thing, if you want to. Church membership should be available to those who are born again, regenerated, part of the family of God. You restrict it according to doctrinal issues and call them obedience issues and thus label those who have different views on baptism as unrepentant sinners.

Many do not believe that everyone with a different theological view from themselves is an unrepentant sinner. What we think is that there are areas where we disagree that would make church membership problematic. We believe that baptism by immersion is the Biblical way and it best tells the story of the gospel. We recognize that others disagree with that view, but we do not push them into the realm of church discipline or consider them to be unrepentant sinners. We see it as an area of disagreement. Actually, to force them to be baptized against their conviction would be forcing them into a situation where they did something not out of faith in God, but to please men. We cannot make them see things the way that we do, but they are truly Christians.

Equating a different view of baptism with adultery, fornication, stealing, etc. and invoking perspectives of church discipline when it comes to who can remember Christ at his Table is a position where there is a great deal of disagreement. But, since we are identifying people who disagree with us as unrepentant sinners, I would imagine that the SBC would be consistent in effectively placing half of her churches into theological and relational “time out” until they can get around to voting us out – or, if they decide to.

Then, you have to ask if the other 50% who KNOW that there are churches in their midst who allow for open communion in violation of the BFM2000 are not in sin because they won’t vote the rest of us out. Should the 50% who allow for modified open communion then vote to expel the the 50% who won’t expel us because they are in sin because they did not deal with us who they claim to be in sin?

Bart, are you just looking the other way in regard to the rest of us who are in violation of Article VII if you don’t push for our expulsion? Are we looking the other way if we don’t push for your expulsion because you won’t push for our explusion?

I think that once you go down this road, no one makes it to the end of it.

I am obviously being ridiculous here, but I don’t know that I am wrong in what I am saying.

93 Joe Blackmon February 26, 2014 at 12:51 pm

Bart,

I was aghast to read of an SBC (in name only) church here in middle Tennessee where one of the pastors said they would only baptize new believers by immersion but would welcome with open arms into membership people who professed faith in Christ and repented from their sins but had not been baptized by immersion.

I honestly couldn’t believe it. And they said it like it was no big deal.

I appreciate you bringing this thing coming out of the EC up because it has forced me to actually think about open communion and up to this point I don’t know that I’d ever given it much thought.

94 Bart Barber February 26, 2014 at 6:49 pm

Alan,

“…there are areas where we disagree that would make church membership problematic”

1. Upon whose authority to you get to decide which issues are problematic enough for you to tell people they can’t be a member of a church that belongs not to you but to Jesus?

2. Or are you telling me that every difference of opinion that causes friction in a congregation is a legitimate place for you to tell people that they can’t be a member of the church unless they agree with you?

95 Alan Cross February 26, 2014 at 11:15 pm

Bart, differing views on salvation and when it is experienced and how you tell the story seem to be issues that would make the constitution of the church of a differing perspective. Differing views on church governance and church leadership.

It isn’t as much that I would be pushing someone out as it would be that we would constantly be at odds over introductory things. Taking infant baptism as an example, if the Presbyterian and Baptist views tried to merge, someone would have to give – they are mutually exclusive. I do not want my baby baptized in a way that they would never have believer’s baptism.

When we take go to the Lord’s Table together, if it happens that way, we are in agreement that Jesus is Lord and that communion is a remembrance of His death until He returns. It is not a sacramental view that we share either.

So, it seems that having differing views of church membership, leadership, and initiation are issues that might preclude church membership together, but not necessarily Christian fellowship.

I understand what you are getting at in your question. I do think that remembering The Lord at His Table can be a place of unity when we agree what is happening there. While I believe that there are many Catholics who are truly saved, I would not try to take communion in a Catholic Church because of what it means there and I cannot agree with that. My unity with a Catholic who has trusted in Jesus and not just in the church would have to be demonstrated elsewhere.

96 Richard February 26, 2014 at 10:48 am

In all of this, perhaps we should remain mindful of our historic church anonimity and believer priesthood. Check David E. Crosby’s article today on SBC Today:
“We insist that all true faith is voluntary. Hence we are champions of religious liberty. Faith at gunpoint is not faith at all. Freedom of conscience is the fundamental freedom. Each individual soul is competent to respond to God. The ground is level at the cross of Christ. And each believer is competent to be a priest before God. No place in the church is reserved only for the clergy. The church may worship, observe its ordinances, and conduct its business with or without ordained leadership.

All associations in Baptist life are voluntary. Each of our 40,000 churches is independent and self-governing. Each of our state and national entities are also independent. Baptists are a swarm of individuals and independent churches working on inspiring projects for Kingdom advance.”

97 Bart Barber February 26, 2014 at 11:30 am

Richard,

1. I love the typo “church anonymity”! There’s a sermon in there somewhere! :-)

2. Can you tease this out for me a little more? Who do you think has forgotten what Crosby is advocating and in what way? I don’t see anything here that runs contrary to voluntarism, local church autonomy, or the priesthood of all believers.

98 Ron F. Hale February 26, 2014 at 11:28 am

Communion or Lord’s Supper?

In a future survey, I would like to see what % of SBC pastors refer to the ordinance as the Lord’s Supper or Communion.

I’ve always used “Lord’s Supper,” for communion seemed to relate too much toward the sacraments.

I thought I knew what a SBC pastor meant when he used the word “communion” — but maybe the gap is wider than I had imagined.

99 Dave Miller February 26, 2014 at 11:52 am

Communion is used in 1 Corinthians 10 (fellowship in some translations) and I use the terms interchangeably.

100 Dean Stewart February 26, 2014 at 12:03 pm

Dr. Hale, I use the term, “Lord’s Supper” exclusively. I try to clearly teach the distinctions between us and the Sacramental churches.

101 John Wylie February 26, 2014 at 12:36 pm

I use them interchangeably as well. Both are biblical.

102 Dale Pugh February 26, 2014 at 4:45 pm

I use them interchangeably, but I always define “communion” as our unity in fellowship with one another and the Lord (John 17) as we gather around the table.

103 Dean Stewart February 26, 2014 at 11:51 am

I just don’t understand the legalistic lingo. I do not want to be an offense to anyone but we are Baptist. We stand here today on the bodies of men who were drowned because they believed so strongly the Scripture teaches baptism is for adults who have trusted Christ. No one in this thread has argued against the fact that Scripture teaches baptism is for believers and is by immersion. We have had nothing to do with paedobaptism since the radical reformers. Dr. Hale has mentioned their confession of 1527 and through the years he has eloquently shared the story of our forerunners’ persecution. Our convention has always, as for I can determine, held that Scriptural baptism is a prerequisite for receiving the Lord’s Supper. We have come to a place in our convention where we are not only not willing to die for baptism we are not even willing to offend someone who rejects Biblical baptism all together. Will we camouflage what the Bible teaches, what our confession teaches and what our forerunners died for in order not to offend someone? This thread is a statement more about what we believe about baptism than what we believe about the Lord’s Supper.

As for your article Dave, I have no answer. Today I wonder why we even have a confession if it does not matter anymore than ours does. As a trustee of one of our seminaries I signed the BF&M, but why? Half our churches evidently do not practice what it clearly states and added to that every confession we have drafted has stated.

104 Alan Cross February 26, 2014 at 12:36 pm

Dean,

No it isn’t. You are totally off base. This thread is simply a recognition that Baptists aren’t the only Christians in the world and sometimes, we have people who worship with us who see things differently. In taking Communion with them, we simply recognize what God has done in saving them. We do not affirm their false view of baptism.

105 Dean Stewart February 26, 2014 at 1:08 pm

Alan, I hope that I in no way asserted that Baptist are the only true Christians. I was not aware that even needed to be recognized. I certainly don’t think I am off base. My point is one from history and I am afraid there is no debating those facts. Baptism has been so significant to Baptist and our forerunners that for one to participate in the Lord’s Supper they had to have been properly baptized. To depart from that stance is a departure of at least 500 years of our history. You will have to forgive me for struggling with that change. I do find comfort in the fact that I stand where we have always stood. I offer the Lord’s Supper for any believer who has been baptized and has examined him/herself. In doing this we honor both the ordinances that Jesus gave. I also find comfort in that if I am off base I am in company of men like Hershel Hobbs and for that matter the entire SBC who drafted three confessions stating clearly what I have argued for.

As to Dave’s article, I have no solution and will state I will be disappointed if we were to change the wording of the BF&M and I see no way will any church ever be disciplined for practicing open communion.

106 David Rogers February 26, 2014 at 1:16 pm

Just as a side note… Though it is indeed hard to contradict the evidence that Baptists throughout most of Baptist history have in the majority practiced either close or closed communion, The Second London Baptist Confession of 1689 says nothing about either one, and appears not to demand either one:

http://www.1689.com/confession.html#Ch.%2028

107 Jason Sampler February 27, 2014 at 4:55 pm

David,
I’ll go you one further. The Appendix to the 2LCF speak to specifically WHY there is no discussion concerning baptism as a prerequisite to the LS. They say that some churches in the association require baptism before participation in the LS, other churches in the association do not. Therefore, the intentionally left it out so that all of the churches could affirm the confession.

108 David Rogers February 27, 2014 at 5:45 pm

Jason,

Thanks for the info. I’d love to read your dissertation. I probably will, as it sounds like it is tangentially relevant as research for mine, as well.

109 Dave Miller February 26, 2014 at 12:46 pm

Dean, I write not because I discount the confession, but because I believe in it in concept.

Must someone be an adherent of close communion to be a “real” Baptist?

110 Greg Harvey February 26, 2014 at 12:52 pm

Nope. They must not. And worst yet: if that’s required to be a “real” Baptist, it certainly isn’t required to be a “real” Christian. Which means there is the possibility of a set of “real” Christians that doesn’t include Baptists to the extent that this requirement is offensive to the Father.

Now I’m not saying God is opposed to us because of “closed” or even “close” communion. I’m saying that Baptists don’t determine who is acceptable to God…just who is acceptable to each other.

111 Dean Stewart February 26, 2014 at 1:23 pm

Dave, I do not believe I defined who is and is not a true Baptist. If I did I apologize. I will leave that to others. However, you will have to admit that open communion is a recent development among Baptist. I also point out Dave that I did not say you discounted the confession. I am struggling with the significance of our confession – me. I feel like discounting it. I can’t see it mattering at all today. I see where some can argue for and against inherited guilt in the BF&M so that is open for interpretation. Open communion cannot be defended in the confession. We as Southern Baptist have drafted 3 confessions that state our believe is close communion. Dave, please don’t take offense, I am struggling trying to figure out just how much of the BF&M we have to believe in order to be a Southern Baptist.

112 David Rogers February 26, 2014 at 1:29 pm

It seems to me that the BF&M has historically been regarded as a descriptive, as opposed to a prescriptive, document. It is, in that sense, a Confession of Faith rather than a Creed. The truth is that today the majority of cooperating Southern Baptists do not believe in and/or practice close/closed communion. Thus, as far as its accuracy as a descriptive document, the present BF&M is out of date. Now, if we now want to say it is also prescriptive, that is a different story.

113 Dean Stewart February 26, 2014 at 1:40 pm

David, thank you for reminding me of this brother. I guess I worded my thoughts incorrectly. Maybe what I am struggling with is if it is descriptive of what we believe and over half do not believe what it says on a matter what value is it? By the way, thanks for the link to the Second London Confession. I am always leery of quoting church history when all I know is Gonzalez and a few of you guys have all of Schaff, the creeds and all the councils memorized.

114 Gary Snowden February 26, 2014 at 11:43 pm

You have hit the nail on the head, David, with what was historically true of both the 1925 and 1963 BF&M’s. The prefaces to both documents leave no shadow of doubt as to their natures and their proposed usages. I’m including the language of those below:

(1) That they constitute a consensus of opinion of some Baptist body, large or small, for the general instruction and guidance of our own people and others concerning those articles of the Christian faith which are most surely held among us. They are not intended to add anything to the simple conditions of salvation revealed in the New Testament, viz., repentance toward God and faith in Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord.
(2)That we do not regard them as complete statements of our faith, having any quality of finality or infallibility. As in the past so in the future Baptists should hold themselves free to revise their statements of faith as may seem to them wise and expedient at any time.
(3)That any group of Baptists, large or small have the inherent right to draw up for themselves and publish to the world a confession of their faith whenever they may think it advisable to do so.
(4)That the sole authority for faith and practice among Baptists is the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. Confessions are only guides in interpretation, having no authority over the conscience.
(5)That they are statements of religious convictions, drawn from the Scriptures, and are not to be used to hamper freedom of thought or investigation in other realms of life.

The BF&M 2000 represented a marked departure from what was clearly stated in previous versions about confessions being merely guidelines for interpretation and having no authority over the conscience. Despite including these very same statements in the preface, the BF&M 2000 version speaks of the use of confessions as “instruments of doctrinal accountability,” and this in turn was utilized for the first time by the SBC in the form of a creed rather than a confession.

That shift in usage from a confession to a creed was a major factor among other changes introduced in the BF&M 2000 that prompted many missionaries like myself to refuse to sign an agreement to teach and conduct our ministries in accordance with and not contrary to it. It’s also why large state conventions like Texas and Virginia have also resisted adopting the 2000 document, preferring instead the language of the 1963 BF&M.

I’m still wondering despite Bart’s disclaimers that no one is looking to oust anyone from the SBC by the proposed revision to Article 3 if in fact churches affiliated with the BGCT and BGAV would not automatically fall into the list of those considered to be in opposition to the BF&M 2000 because they belong to state conventions that have disavowed the current edition of the SBC’s statement of faith.

115 Tarheel February 27, 2014 at 12:53 am

“It’s also why large state conventions like Texas and Virginia have also resisted adopting the 2000 document, preferring instead the language of the 1963 BF&M.”

I’ll point that the more recently formed conservative conventions in those states have adopted the 2000 document and are outpacing in growth, finances and missionary/planting endeavors the stagnating, more moderate (some may say liberal) conventions in those states….

Just sayin’

116 cb scott February 27, 2014 at 1:04 am

No, you are not “just sayin’,” Tarheel.

You are as right as the rain. The BGAV was and probably still is the most liberal, non Baptistic association of Baptists in the history of the SBC. Period.

No “just sayin’.” Absolutely declarin’

117 Tarheel February 27, 2014 at 3:05 am

See, there’s more we agree on, CB.

Keep this up and we’ll have to quit fightin’ so much. ;-)

118 Dave Miller February 26, 2014 at 11:59 am

I have realized that trying to control the discussions at SBC Voices is a little bit like trying to nail jello to a wall.

But the discussion, as is to be expected, has tended to focus on the relative merits of open and close communion.

But I’d like to see some interaction NOT on the ideal (which is better) but on the REAL. We have a majority of our churches who do not follow the practice defined in the BF&M.

I’m guessing most of the open or modified open communion adherents would agree with me. But those of you who are convicted of and practice closed or close communion – WHAT SHOULD WE DO with the reality that we are presented with.

*You cannot dictate to SBC churches what they will believe or practice.
*Do you wish to disfellowship the churches practicing open communion in any of its forms?
*Are you willing to allow a place for them in our confession of faith?

119 David Rogers February 26, 2014 at 12:07 pm

That, indeed, is the question at hand, and the one to which I am most interested in hearing the answer, as well.

120 William Thornton February 26, 2014 at 12:12 pm

The “real” would be that the system we have in place is satisfactory, in my view, and there is no need to follow this EC proposal that Bart thinks would be great and others think to be brilliant. If we wish to exclude from friendly cooperation most of the churches who now are I such a relationship to have more conformity, then it should be clearly stated that all those churches who exhibit some degree of departure from the BFM are not good SBC churches and they should be encouraged to find another affiliation.

We have always been in a delicate balance, there is no need to crash and burn now.

Those who declare that the SBC in session would never take such steps are changing horses on midstream, declaring doctrinal fidelity is brilliant but deferring to the pragmatic. Such people should just rely on the pragmatic approach (they have already accepted it) which is the situation on the ground now.

121 Alan Cross February 26, 2014 at 12:48 pm

It does seem that we have a delicate balance that works. But, for some reason, we are not able to stick with the balance. Certain groups want to continue to redefine who a Southern Baptist is and those of us just doing the work and not paying attention suddenly look up and find certain people who have gained positions of power/influence for whatever reason with their hands on the knife trying to cut off those that they have found distasteful for however long.

It seems that the greatest mark of Baptist identity is to constantly prove how pure you are by getting rid of those who dare to disagree with you. Maybe that is why in a world of 7 billion people there are around 35 million baptists and in a nation of 330 million there are 6-7 million actual Southern Baptists who even attend their churches. Some people would be happy if that number was 3 million or so if it meant that we were more perfect and then they will cut it even further over the next issue. And the next. And the next. And the next.

122 Dave Miller February 26, 2014 at 12:54 pm

I identify with your fears, Alan. However, I am absolutely convinced that there is NO intent at the EC to do any such thing. The problem is how it could be taken down the road.

123 Alan Cross February 26, 2014 at 1:20 pm

Dave,

I am not attributing what I have said to the EC. I agree with you. I am just talking about elements within the SBC that do exist. When they have power, they seem to exercise it in a particular way that focuses on how they can purify the convention by getting rid of others who do not see everything exactly the same way as they do.

This is the essence of the debate we have been having for almost 10 years now. It just keeps popping up with new issues.

But, no, I do not attribute that to the EC or think that it is their motivation to come up with something new. They appear to be targeting the CBF, which we all know is something quite old, at least in the way these arguments go. But, it is still the same thing, in a sense. The only time I ever think about the CBF is when something like this happens. Where are they causing problems, by the way? I am ignorant of their continued influence that would necessitate such a move.

124 Joel February 27, 2014 at 10:05 am

BOOM!

On that note, if you practice open communion and the SBC eventually kicks you out, we at the Mid-Maryland Association would love to have you as a partner with us as we focus on multiplying disciples and churches in our own area, and all over the world. Though we are affiliated with the SBC, we will also invoke our autonomy and invite you to be on mission with us. I’ll be glad to send you an application packet to begin. :)

125 Jason Sampler February 27, 2014 at 5:02 pm

Dave,

Without intending to ‘toot my own horn’, the issue you raise was the precise purpose of my Ph.D. dissertation. After I waded through almost 200 years of SBC writings, the last chapter specifically addresses the crossroads the SBC finds herself related to this topic. If anyone needs a quick cure for insomnia, my dissertation is available through loan from the John T. Christian Library of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, or via purchase from ProQuest.

As a tease, here is the final paragraph:
“Chapter 1 contained a quotation from the appendix to the LBC1677, noting that early British Baptists realized there were a variety of opinions on the qualifications for legitimate Table restrictions. While some found a direct relationship between membership qualifications and Supper participation, others did not. A similar situation seems to be occurring during the current SBC. Theological writings, including the current statement of faith, proclaim a relationship between membership requirements and Lord’s Supper participation, but most churches do not. If Southern Baptists choose to make the BFM2000 less restrictive, Baptists will demonstrate once again that they use their confessions as statements of consensus of thought from among their churches as opposed to creeds to which their churches must conform.”

126 Dave Miller February 27, 2014 at 5:15 pm

Or you could give us a sampler of your dissertation. Sorry. Couldn’t resist the pun.

127 Jason Sampler February 27, 2014 at 5:18 pm

Dave,

If I did that, then I wouldn’t be able to fund my new mansion based off of expected dissertation royalties. That’s how everyone in the SBC is doing it these days, right?

128 Richard February 26, 2014 at 12:12 pm

Bart: I wondered who would catch that…shoulda known you would be the one…No, I just remain concerned about something that has already been aired, that a lot of churches maintain their freedom to associate with various groups for reasons known only to them, i.e., BGCT, SBCT, Gospel Coalition, plus the churches you have noted that maintain association with SBC and CBF. I wonder if they do so because their membership is varied enough that some of their members feel their church needs to be represented in that way. For instance, a couple of swith pastors with whom I once served on staff are very conservative and evangelistic, but I have recently noted that their church websites list SBC and CBF affiliation. This does not seem to describe them, but I daresay such affiliations describe the wishes of their congregations. This action may bring difficulty for such pastors while they are in the process of drawing some members of the church more closely into the SBC fold. I would be surprised if there are not other instances of this, as wells as for churches who maintain loyalty to an earlier BF&M. If our purpose here is only against CBF, we are dealing with a tiny organization. Why bother, especially with the thorns that are inherent in the proposal?

129 Tarheel February 26, 2014 at 12:19 pm

Doesn’t the CBF still add churches to the list of “affiliated churches” if one person sends them a contribution and lists the name of the their church?

130 Tarheel February 26, 2014 at 12:16 pm

OPPPS….I meant to put this post down here at the bottom….Mr. Miller, would you delete the other post as I am posting it here in its entirety. Thank you, our dear kind and benevolent leader. ;-)

Here it is….

Ok y’all….I have read, reread and thought very hard about the statement on the Lord’s supper in the BFM2000. It is hard for me to arrive at a conclusion that the wording does not convey an idea of at minimum CLOSE communion (meaning that all participants either be members of the local church performing the ordinance or otherwise been baptized by immersion as a believer.) I even think a reasonable case could be made that the BFM2000 asserts CLOSED communion (that only members of the particular church performing may partake).

The idea of open communion or is not, in the strict reading, allowed for in the document. One would have to read that in, IMO.

So now what do we do? I think Miller is on to something.

I think this may be a place in the document where it goes too far and the only reasonable and appropriate remedy for that is not to ignore it but…to what?

I have said before that the document is a masterful one and I am amazed at how it straddles to fence of doctrinal purity and church autonomy….it may be that in this one place – that we need to revisit.

I am not sure that biblical the case for closed communion can be made… I am much more convinced with close communion…but many churches ( as both evidenced by posters here and the Lifeway study) practice a more “open” communion in that (NOT come one, come all as that would clearly violate the BFM2000 and Scripture) all professed believers present are welcomed to the table and I not sure that this is a practice that is outside of scripture as it too allows only believers to partake, just includes more believers, I guess one could say ;-) .

So. IMO this phrasing may be worth a second look and discussion.

131 John Wylie February 26, 2014 at 12:33 pm

Our church for a long time practiced strict closed communion but in recent years have moved to a form of closed. I personally could never hold to a form of open communion. But having said that, I would not be opposed to a revision of the BFM to accommodate those who do practice a form of open communion.

132 Doug Hibbard February 26, 2014 at 12:42 pm

I think it’s an unnecessary step, and I think it’s going to lead to more confusion than help. If this passes as it appears to be designed (based on Bart’s post about the proposal), then do I have to send in a statement with our next CP check that we affirm the BFM?

What about the next time the BFM changes and there’s a quirk that we don’t like in the wording? Or it just seems unnecessary?

I am perfectly comfortable that a sizable percentage of the offerings given in this church are used only to support mission and ministry controlled by the BFM. As are the church members who give the money, and who vote on the percentage every year, guarding it zealously.

Is it really necessary that before you cash the check that you check whether we hit every box of BFM compliance? I’d really like to understand what churches like this one have done to offend the EC that we need our doctrine double-checked and validated. We teach the Bible as inspired, buy stuff from Lifeway, and give sacrificially to the CP, NAMB, and IMB. True, there’s not a lot of us and we aren’t frequent attenders at the annual meetings, but is that enough to require us to do something this church has never done in voting a human-written document as our rule for doctrine instead of Scripture?

The simple change that William pointed out, regarding monetary amounts, that makes sense, and I’m fine with it. I don’t see it as changing anything in practice, but it’s a valid update.

But adding a requirement that churches must accept the BFM as their own rule, when they are already willing to accept the BFM as the rule for how the money is spent, just feels like an edict. All my life and training through being a Southern Baptist has taught me that the SBC is united in purpose, but that even our own confessions are a statement of what the majority believed at the time, not a list of what we must all believe now. Making the BFM a requirement on the churches changes the nature of the SBC, and that will have a cost. How big is a question I can’t answer, because we are woefully slow in the SBC to put our money and our actions where our words are. I know how much it will cost from here, but what’s a big gift for us is small potatoes for the SBC, so they won’t miss it–but when most of the leaders of this church threatened to leave our association when someone wanted to make affirming the BFM a requirement to participate in the association, I don’t think they’ll be any more receptive to it at an SBC level.

133 Todd Benkert February 26, 2014 at 12:47 pm

Would not a change on the LS portion of the BFM be akin to the change we made concerning Sunday worship? Allowing this to be a tertiary issue rather than a secondary one?

134 Ben Stratton February 26, 2014 at 11:06 pm

Todd,

There’s a world of difference between the Sunday / Christian Sabbath issue and the open / close communion issue. How many Southern Baptist Sabbatarians are there? Very, very, very few. Probably less than 1% of Southern Baptist pastors would fall into that category.

On the other hand, there are great multitudes of Southern Baptist pastors who believe in close or closed communion. And it’s not just the Baptist Identity crowd who does. Most of those associated with the Southern Baptist founders movement (Calvinists) also believe in close communion. After all the SBC founders such as Dagg, Boyce, Broadus, Mell, Manly, and Howell were all staunch opponents of open communion. Lastly many associated with conservative resurgence are strong supporters of close communion. (I am thinking here of men like Richard Land)

That’s quite a coalition which tells me it will be a big fight to change the BFM on the requirements for the Lord’s Supper.

135 Todd Benkert February 27, 2014 at 9:08 am

With all due respect, we have a significant number of churches who continue to observe Sunday as described in the BFM1963: The Lord’s Day … “should be employed in exercises of worship and spiritual devotion, both public and private, and by refraining from worldly amusements, and resting from secular employment’s, work of necessity and mercy only being excepted.”

However, because a large number of churches did NOT observe the Lord’s day in this way, the wording was changed to accommodate this large constituency of Southern Baptists and relegate Sunday sabbath keeping to a tertiary issue. The wording was thus changed to state that the Lord’s Day “should include exercises of worship and spiritual devotion, both public and private. Activities on the Lord’s Day should be commensurate with the Christian’s conscience under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. ”

A change on close/closed communion would be much simpler and just as warranted. No one is arguing that our new position should be modified-open communion. Rather, I am arguing that the the modified-open view is (1) held by a significant number, likely a majority, of SBC churches, (2) should be permitted among the views acceptable for cooperation in the SBC, and (3) the BFM should be reworded so as neither to affirm nor exclude modified-open communion.

136 David R. Brumbelow February 26, 2014 at 1:04 pm

Some thoughts on the Lord’s Supper:
I have absolutely no problem with a local, autonomous Baptist Church practicing Closed, Close, or Open Communion.

If I am attending your church when you have the Lord’s Supper, I will not partake unless you have made it crystal clear that I, as a non-member, am welcome to partake. In this instance it is your practice of the ordinance, not mine.

If the church I’m visiting practices Closed Communion, I will take absolutely no offense at not being able to partake of the Lord’s Supper. Rather, I would count it a privilege to observe their practice.

Some time ago I attended a Catholic funeral. I was not invited to partake of their Communion. It did not bother me at all.

If someone present does not partake of the Lord’s Supper, I consider that none of my business. It may be for personal reasons. They may need to get right with God. Some may feel they are unworthy to partake, or have other personal convictions.

More of my thoughts at:
http://gulfcoastpastor.blogspot.com/2012/08/lords-supper-questions-answers.html

David R. Brumbelow

137 Greg Harvey February 26, 2014 at 1:15 pm

Now you’re emulating Worley. All the Davids in the world are trying to be reasonable at the same time!!

I agree with precisely what you wrote including the specific example of joining the celebration of a friend’s wedding at the local Catholic parish in College Station and being very specifically not invited to celebrate Mass with them. My friend apologized and I told him there was no apology necessary because I understood the reason–far less friendly than Southern Baptist reasoning by the way in the sense that ALL non-Catholic faith groups are essentially treated as heretical branches from the one true church–that the RCC doesn’t invite non-Catholics to participate in mass.

At least Baptists admit that it is primarily about being Baptist and only secondarily about being the one true branch of Christianity. ;)

138 David R. Brumbelow February 26, 2014 at 1:51 pm

Greg Harvey,
Hey, I have your poem, Salt Mill, in my Church bulletin for next Sunday. I did not even put my name down as the author! And your name is listed as author.

You’re right, it is strange, all the David’s uniting. Something must be wrong.

When I observe the Lord’s Supper, I try to invite all those who will be invited to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.

But again, it does not bother me at all if I’m at another church and I’m not invited to partake of the Lord’s Supper. If that happens at my church, then it might be cause for some concern on my part.
David R. Brumbelow

139 Greg Harvey February 26, 2014 at 3:04 pm

Thanks, David. I’m humbled.

140 Richard February 26, 2014 at 1:22 pm

Tarheel: I really don’t know….worth checking.

141 Tarheel February 26, 2014 at 2:04 pm

I know they used to and there was a kerfuffle where several churches called them out on the practice…and if I remember it all correctly they promised to stop listing churches on the basis of individual contributions and only list ‘affiliated” churches as ones who contribute by way of church check.

But, the fact that their (CBF) existence and very name is predicated on falsehood and intentional deception I am not particularly inclined to believe them.

142 Joel February 26, 2014 at 4:08 pm

I wrote on this subject almost 2 years ago. Interesting how it has risen again, which makes one wonder……http://joelrainey.blogspot.com/2012/09/we-believe-what-new-lifeway-research.html

143 Bart Barber February 26, 2014 at 6:57 pm

I’ve got 10 minutes. That’s probably all I’ll have for the next three days. I want to give you a series of what ifs, just to try to remind everyone that nobody involved in this process was trying to do ANYTHING about open communion…

WHAT IF…

1. What if at next year’s SBC Annual Meeting I chose to move to unseat the messengers from Dave Miller’s church because I alleged that Dave is a continuationist with regard to the gift of tongues? What if the convention stood with me and excluded Dave and his church? How many of you would be outraged? How many of you would blog fiery screeds about it? How many of you would lambaste me with philippics?…

…and how many of you would mention in your writing how awful it was for us to exclude a church that was in perfect agreement with the Baptist Faith & Message?

And you know what? I agree with you. The Baptist Faith & Message needs to be the doctrinal standard for affiliation in the SBC, even if it needs a little tailoring before it fits just right in that role.

144 Dave Miller February 26, 2014 at 7:10 pm

Philippics?

145 Dave Miller February 26, 2014 at 7:13 pm

Definition of PHILIPPIC

: a discourse or declamation full of bitter condemnation : tirade
Examples of PHILIPPIC

146 Bart Barber February 26, 2014 at 7:29 pm

Following the pattern of Demosthenes against Phillip of Macedon.

147 Bart Barber February 26, 2014 at 7:03 pm

WHAT IF…

2. What if the SBC church at Crystal Springs, Mississippi, had persisted in refusing to permit a black couple to get married in their facilities? What if I (as I was prepared to do) had gone to the floor of the Annual Meeting and had demanded that this church be disfellowshipped? What if (as would be likely) my motion had been referred to the Executive Committee and the EC had brought representatives of the church in for examination of the matter? The last time that happened, the question was homosexuality and the EC had the specific wording of Article III to consult and against which to “try” the church. Against what standard would they judge this church for racism? Wouldn’t it be nice if they could use the wording of the Baptist Faith & Message?

148 Bart Barber February 26, 2014 at 7:10 pm

WHAT IF…

3. What if one of the churches in which one of the members of Phillips, Craig, and Dean worships was to petition the SBC for membership? What if a dispute arose over whether the church was or was not Trinitarian? You’re on the committee that has to decide whether to accept their credentials or not. Given the nuanced and intricate nature of this theological dispute, wouldn’t it be nice to have a statement of faith to which you could refer in trying to determine whether their beliefs about the godhead were in agreement with the SBC’s beliefs? I think that the Baptist Faith & Message needs to be the doctrinal standard for affiliation in the SBC.

149 Todd Benkert February 26, 2014 at 7:38 pm

I like Bart’s “what ifs” and agree that the BFM2000, while not a creed, should be the doctrinal standard for affiliation in the SBC. But if we are going to treat it as such, it behooves us to either change the wording of the BFM to actually reflect the beliefs of the current membership or be willing to split the Convention over this issue. I choose the former.

150 Nick Migliacci February 27, 2014 at 4:37 am

How would Jesus have fared if He were operating under the BF&M? He not only opened communion to Judas, an unbeliever, but He KNEW Judas was an unbeliever. Secondly, they did not call themselves a church per se. Thirdly, there is no record of any of them, besides Jesus, being water baptized. Fourth, what if somebody received Christ as their Savior on a Sunday during the invitation, but prior to communion (assuming it was a communion Sunday). You’re saying that, for that person, their “first step of obedience” is water baptism, and not communion? You’re going to forbid a new Believer the opportunity to obey the Lord to “drink from it, all of you”? You’re going to steal from a new Believer a “means of grace” that afternoon, all because the baptism service isn’t scheduled until later that evening?

I agree with my brethren who say that this section of the BF&M is unnecessarily divisive between brethren. As I see it, the BF&M should be something that every true Christian ought to be able to subscribe to (which means not including secondary and tertiary issues, or else spelling them out as such). But maybe my view of the purpose of the document (a summary of non-negotiables), is wrong.

As for whether or not to call communion the Lord’s Supper, how can you call it a supper when it’s just a cracker and an ounce of juice? That’s not a supper that you can get full on (1 Cor. 11), nor is it anything like the Lord’s Supper. His Supper was in fact an entire Passover meal. Unless you observe a Passover meal, you haven’t observed the Lord’s Supper; you’ve only observed a symbol of the Lord’s Supper. A second problem with calling it the Lord’s Supper is the fact that you can’t call it the Lord’s Supper when He promised that He “will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom” (Mt. 26:26). How can it be the Lord’s Supper when He vowed not to partake in it? Thirdly, according to Albert Barnes, a supper has to be in the evening, not at 12:00 noon.

151 cb scott February 27, 2014 at 7:39 am

“You’re saying that, for that person, their “first step of obedience” is water baptism, and not communion? You’re going to forbid a new Believer the opportunity to obey the Lord to “drink from it, all of you”? You’re going to steal from a new Believer a “means of grace” that afternoon, all because the baptism service isn’t scheduled until later that evening?

“means of grace”??

Well, that reveals you are not a Baptist, but more so, it means you are not biblical in your understanding of soteriology. The Lord’s Supper is not a means of grace. Nor, for that matter is biblical baptism a means of grace.

However, your comment is a perfect example as to why it is important for Baptists to carefully guard a Baptist identity.

152 Tarheel February 27, 2014 at 7:57 am

Nick,

I dont want to make assumptions about a phrase you’ve used….so I’ll ask you to define it. What do you mean by the “means of grace” ?

153 John Wylie February 27, 2014 at 8:30 am

Nick,

1.) There is an ongoing debate as to whether or not Judas was there for the Lord’s Supper.

2.) I will argue that the church as we know did not exist until after the death of Christ, so we have at least partial agreement on your second point.

3.) This point is easily debunked, Andrew was a disciple of JOHN THE BAPTIZER…it’s in John 1

4.) I would not deny the new believer a “means of grace”, but I certainly would deny them the Lord’s Supper. Look at the order of things in Acts, people believed and then they were baptized, and then they continued in the apostles’ doctrine, breaking of bread……..

5.) Your whole Passover meal hypothesis is bunk, the Jews celebrated Passover once a year, but the early church observed Communion at least once a week. Also, the elements were simply bread and the fruit of the vine, the Passover meal was more intricate than that.

6.) A supper is to be eaten at night…okay? Do you really think that the Lord cares when we observe the Lord’s Supper? By the way, our church always observes it in the evening service.

154 Les Prouty February 27, 2014 at 8:45 am

Tarheel,

It really simply is some of the mans whereby God strengthens His people. He nourishes us. Here are a couple of quotes about the means of grace:

“Sanctification depends greatly on a diligent use of scriptural means. The “means of grace” are such as Bible reading, private prayer, and regularly worshiping God in Church, wherein one hears the Word taught and participates in the Lord’s Supper. . . They are appointed channels through which the Holy Spirit conveys fresh supplies of grace to the soul and strengthens the work which He has begun in the inward man.” J C Ryle

“what should be true whenever we receive communion. 1) We receive it in faith, trusting not in the act of taking communion, but in the finished work of Christ. 2) We do so in remembrance of the Lord, thus being linked with all of the redeemed who have done likewise since the Last Supper, sharing a common hope. 3) We receive communion as a proclamation of the gospel hope, publicly declaring the reason for our hope. 4) When we receive communion we are longing for the Lord’s return to physically share that fourth cup with us. 5) When we receive communion we are expressing our hope in the future kingdom of God in which all true people of faith are reunited with their Lord and recline in table fellowship together.” Bob DeWaay

You don’t have to be afraid of the phrase “means of grace.” We are not talking about something salvific.

155 Tarheel February 27, 2014 at 6:03 pm

Les, thanks! I love me some Ryle. ;-)

“You don’t have to be afraid of the phrase “means of grace.” We are not talking about something salvific.”

I’m not afraid of it as I use it myself just as Ryle and Dewaay are quoted above. I just wanted to know why Nick meant by the term. That is why I asked him.

156 Les Prouty February 27, 2014 at 8:51 pm

Tarheel, I really didn’t think you are afraid of it. I was just reassuring since others were somewhat warning you about it.

Yes, Ryle should be on everyone’s reading list. His devotional commentaries on the gospel are priceless.

157 cb scott February 27, 2014 at 8:16 am

Tarheel,

Read Bart Barber’s post entitled: Sides. It will do you a world of good. The only “means of grace” is the gospel. To even use the phrase in any other way is a theological slippery slope.

158 Tarheel February 27, 2014 at 6:04 pm

Thanks for that input, CB!

I have read it.

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