Why “No Creed But the Bible” Actually Imperils Your Liberty More

Baptist history includes more confessions of faith than we have the patience to enumerate or read in a simple blog post. Baptist history also includes a number of people, churches, and groups of churches who opposed the creation or use of confessions of faith. Virginia lawyer and religious liberty activist John Leland was perhaps the most eloquent when he asked about confessions of faith “Why this Virgin Mary between the souls of men and the scriptures?” Through the present day, the anti-confessional strain of Baptist thought persists, and those who hold it can be passionate in their defense of it.

And the questions from the anti-confessionalists are good questions—they deserve answers. Why should Baptists have and use confessions of faith? I offer a polite response to Brother Leland:

Because it is more fair and unifying to have a written, stable confession of faith than to have an unwritten, secret, volatile one.

Let’s face it: Every church has a confession of faith. Become a leader of a Unitarian-Universalist “church” and start loudly opining that everyone in the congregation is going to Hell unless he or she repents and accepts Jesus as Savior and Lord. Share with me afterwards how that went for you. How long would the CBF permit Westboro Baptist Church to persist in affiliation with them before they started figuring out how to disfellowship them?

You can get booted out. I don’t care what denomination of churches it is…I don’t care how creedal or confessional or anti-creedal and anti-confessional they are…I don’t care how libertarian or latitudinarian the group claims to be…I don’t care how much they prize tolerance and how loathe they are to show anyone the door: I’ll bet you I could get any church or group of churches to kick me out within five years of my deliberate trying.

Gosh…for all I know the SBC is close to doing so, and I haven’t even really tried that hard. :-)

Every group has a set of doctrines that they hold sacred. Every group draws theological boundaries. With confessional churches, you get the great benefit of knowing what those boundaries are. They are out in the open. They have been set down in writing. There is consensus over them among the group. The process for changing them is formal and transparent, and change of those boundaries comes with due notice and due process.

With anti-confessional churches, the theological boundaries are unwritten. You only learn what they are when you violate them. What would John Leland have done with a Baptist church that, for example, decided to embrace episcopal church governance? I can promise you, a man who would author a book subtitled, “The High-Flying Churchman, Stripped of His Legal Robe, Appears a Yahoo,” would boot straight out of a Baptist association any church that adopted episcopacy. Why? Because the church would have violated Leland’s unwritten confessional boundary.

What’s more, when you have an unwritten doctrinal standard it can change without notice. I’m willing to hazard a guess that being a radical abolitionist Baptist church in 1846 would have jeopardized your membership in the SBC. In 2014, every SBC church is what would have been considered a radical abolitionist church back then, and being a racist church will put you in grave danger of being booted out. That’s a good change, but when did it happen? I don’t know. Certainly not in 1963, when we amended the Baptist Faith & Message to include a strong statement on racial equality. The change has taken place after that time, and it took place below the surface. What other changes are underway just beneath the surface?

The question that we face is simply this: Which system is more fair? Do you prefer above-ground fences or buried landmines?

The Southern Baptist Convention at present is in a strange situation: We have BOTH a written confession AND an unwritten one deployed in a way designed to bring out the worst of both systems. All of the dangers posed to Christian liberty by a confession of faith are present in the SBC. You can’t gain employment by any SBC entity without affirming the BF&M. Your odds of election to SBC office or assignment to an SBC board or committee diminish precipitously the more you disagree with our confession of faith. And yet, since the BF&M is not at present the official confessional standard for affiliation within the SBC, the written confession is not the doctrinal standard by which the convention determines whether your church is welcome to continue in friendly cooperation with the convention. What is that doctrinal standard? Who knows. It’s whatever any given year’s group of messengers decides it to be. Your church’s affiliation with the SBC presently is conditioned upon your continuing agreement with the unwritten, informal confession of faith—the mysterious one that is ever-changing without due process or due notice.

Personally, I believe that your church’s autonomy and liberty are protected better when the doctrinal standard of the convention is subject to your scrutiny, has been approved by your vote, cannot be changed without debate to which you are invited, and is set out as a set of universals by which everyone has to live rather than being adjudicated case-by-case according to the prejudices that may favor or disfavor individual churches because of their size, gifts, or influence.


  1. Dave Miller says

    Strangely, I’ve been working on a post about the value of a well-written Constitution and Bylaws, using much the same argument.

    If we are going to have a doctrinal basis for our fellowship, then such ought to be spelled out clearly.

  2. dr. james willingham says

    Dear Bart: Ever hear of Group Think? I think there must be a balance between Confessions and the Bible, with the latter having the final word. One of the reasons why Baptists have had this idea of no creed but the Bible is because the advocates of creeds put Anabaptists and Baptists (and the two have connections as well as pre-reformation antecedents though not the kind most people think) into prison, punished them, and at the utmost extreme put them to death by fire, drowning, etc. It is rather easy to understand why some would prefer the Bible to Creeds. While I think the latter are valuable, they need limitations, etc. Consider how the group think of the Southern Baptists wound up in a Civil War which impoverished this section of the nation for a hundred years (I should know: I was born near the end of that war, when you could talk with relatives who had known relatives in the war). Group think can and does lead to persecution, etc. How do you allow for the liberty of conscience and the priesthood of the believer? Wonder what Shubal Stearns and Daniel Marshall would have to say about the matter, seeing as how they had eldresses in Sandy Creek Church and Association? And yet, one church in that association that I know of clearly states Christ died for the church without any mention of the world, and the first missionary of Southern Baptists to China, Matthew T. Yates, was from that church.

    • says

      Good post Bart.

      Dr W., you would know better than I, but weren’t many of those persecutions done with state sanction? i.e. the adherence to the church confessions were enforced by the state? Or with state authority and sanction? I mean look at the formation of the Westminster Assembly with a mixture of church divines and government officials and the aftermath that ensued.

      But I agree, as I’m sure does Bart, that the scriptures must reign supreme over disagreements about what the confession means. Confessions are intended to reflect a consensus of what that body of believers the scriptures to teach. Yet, agreed upon confessional teaching is interpretative and subject to even modifications as the body thinks it needs refinement to better present what the scriptures teach.

      It seems, though, in the SB world a mechanism to enforce subscription to a confession would prove too difficult. Who decides? An annual meeting? Entity boards? Are all entity boards agreed on the interpretation of the confession?

      • dr. james willingham says

        Dear Les: I have asked the question before about practices like women in ministry, as Sandy Creek had eldresses and I know of no one who has made a real effort to see what justification for that practice. I made an effort to reconstruct the case for it. Whether it was of any value, others will have to decide. What bothers me is that much of the articles on women and marriage is really not theology but reactology justified by some verses from the Bible. The reaction is to the radical feminists, and reactions never make for good theology. Second, the drawing up of articles like that lacks insight as to what such a strict practice might produce, which will prove that it is not biblical based as one would think. Will a son of one of the major leaders of the CR leave the convention, if they make certain understandings the Law of the Convention, allowing for no exceptions and no opportunities. Here I refer to David Rogers, the son. As to what his differences are with articles of faith, he will have to say. I only note that he said he disagreed with it. Since I am a descendant of families that have been associated with Southern Baptists all the way back to Daniel Marshall and possibly earlier will I be booted out. What a hoot that will be as I was going to the Convention as far back as ’63 to vote for the Bible (I had been to one in ’61). For me the Book is verbally inspired, inerrant, and infallible. That does not mean that my interpretation and/or understanding of it is inerrant and/or infallible. The same goes for others. I am on record in an address on the subject, “The Genius of Orthodoxy: Eldresses.” It was a speech I gave as Chairman of the Historical Committee of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, etc., and it was filmed by the Convention’s Communications Dept., comprising one of the two first VCRs in the Visual Collection of the BSCNC. The other cassette records a play I wrote for the Jersey Baptist Church. It involved in one of five acts, the meeting between John Gano, representing the Regular Baptists (Philadelphia Assn.) and Elder Shubal Stearns, representing the Separate Baptists (Sandy Creek Assn.). The person who played Shubal ad libbed instead of following the script. However, it is still a fairly accurate re-enactment of that encounter.

        If the sense of liberty that Separates and Regulars developed in the period from 1787-1800 is not perpetuated, we will wind up in the rigid ways of the Pharisees, unbending and easily broken and shattered,

    • dr. james willingham says

      Correction on the above, I was born near the end of the 100 year depression after the war.

    • Bart Barber says


      As has already been pointed out, the dangerous creedalism to which all Baptists object takes place when state-sponsored coercion imperils those who object to the creed. Too many want the church to wield either both swords or neither. We ought to wield the spiritual weapons of our warfare and leave the carnal ones to the state.

      The contrast offered in the statement “some would prefer the Bible to Creeds” is a false dichotomy. That’s what I’m trying to indicate in the post. The fact is that some prefer unwritten creeds over written ones. Even “I believe we must have no creed but the Bible” is…guess what…a creed. It’s a short creed. It’s a simple creed. It’s a creed nonetheless, and a self-contradictory one.

      Finally, yes, it is common knowledge, taught in every Baptist history class, that the Sandy Creek churches had women in ministry. And yet proponents of women in ministry in the modern context do not regularly offer citations that say, “Go read Shubael Stearns’s excellent scriptural defense of women in ministry.” Such would be more persuasive to me than the mere fact that he did it.

  3. Allen Davidson says

    This is a really insightful post. The convention’s confession has always been minimalistic in that they give the boundaries for what is acceptable but recognize that there is a range of opinion in southern baptist life on a great number of issues. Those who say it impinges upon liberty to associate with the convention if they must affirm a confession miss the point that they I exercise the liberty not to sign. I am a big tent southern baptist, but I would not lead a church to engage in local missions with a sbc church that didn’t affirm the bfm2000. Thanks for the post Bart.

      • dr. james willingham says

        When one follows the drawing of boundaries by Confessions, one finds that sooner or later, they get more and more restrictive or are ignored all together. So folks who had a hand in the origins of the CR before even Dr. Patterson and others took a hand in the matter will be disenfranchised, because they do not adhere to every tenet of the 2000 BFM.

  4. says

    There’s some irony here, right?

    Your engagement with Elder Leland is an example of authentic Baptist freedom at its best – he expressed the convictions of his conscience, you expressed the convictions of your convictions, and you disagreed respectfully.

    The rub is that Elder Leland would not be welcome in the SBC if the SBC lived into your vision for it re: confessions. You’ve just cost the ERLC like $10K in stationery changes and whatnot to rename their Leland House…. :-)

    A comment and a question, Dr. Barber:

    I just don’t understand the need to have a written statement bind Baptists together. The right wants written statements to be affirmed and so does the left. You know my perspective on this – looking at history, I just don’t see much reason to put faith in the idea that a written statement solves theology/identity challenges.

    We’re witnessing a waning of denominational influence in many different ways. How does your proposal (which you’ve stated elsewhere before) really work in an increasingly post-denominational era?

    Like many other faith groups, you have many many churches whose involvement in the life of the denomination is limited to selected financial support. In years past, churches looked to the denomination for almost everything. That’s changed and churches are much more independent, doing their own things. I’m sure you even have congregations that support missionaries that aren’t connected to the denomination.

    I realize that many churches would adopt BFM2000. Yet, many likely wouldn’t and wouldn’t for different reasons than those opposed at the time of its adoption 14 years ago. In a post-denominational era with so many choices in a vibrant religious marketplace (look at the many evangelical organizations out there doing great work…), setting up barriers/requirements for involvement is going to have a negative impact on participation. Right?

    Your proposal seems to assume that people still value denominations and still maintain a strong denominational identity. Lots of research show this not to be less true – unless the SBC is the exception. And a big exception it would be.

    • Bart Barber says

      Well, Big Daddy, I think John Leland might have jumped ship in 1925, don’t you? :-)

      I’m not offering the use of written confessions of faith as any sort of a solution to the problem of post-denominationalism; however, I will offer this observation: A lot of the post-denominational non-denominations (like, for example, Acts 29) remain confessional—sometimes robustly confessional. I do not think that it is an aversion to doctrinal specificity that fuels post-denominationalism so much as it is an aversion to polity/politics and other sorts of organizational structure that typifies the bogeyman “institutional church.” And also, of course, each flavor of Christianity would object to the content of those statements of faith with which they disagree, but not, I don’t think, to the mere having of those statements.

      But I might be wrong.

      With regard to the SBC in its current condition, I see and have experienced in my state convention a waxing enthusiasm for the mission of the convention, including the burgeoning support of young people. That’s happening in a confessional atmosphere. At least one side-benefit of having a stable written confession of faith is the fact that in the SBTC we don’t have to fight over doctrinal issues. Those questions have been settled. That makes for a much more winsome cooperative experience.

  5. says

    I wonder just which specific problem in the SBC will be solved by this? Heretical churches? Rampant child abuse? Widespread sin among pastors? Legal problems posed by our management structures?

    What? What problems are there that are threatening the SBC and/or its churches or its missions, that call for rewriting our Confessions and changing our basic way of being what we’re supposed to be?

    Oh .. if it’s going to happen, be sure to write something into it mandating that churches actually fulfill the Great Commission. Making disciples .. as opposed to a mass of people who’ve been told they’re now OK with God, only 30% or so of whom show up when we meet.

    To be Discipled.

    • Bart Barber says


      Here’s the point of the post: You get to choose between having to live up to an unwritten, volatile doctrinal standard or a written, stable one. If you’d like to offer up some reason why the unwritten, volatile approach is better, I’d welcome the chance to read your argument.

  6. says

    To what Bob said,
    When the heat of the world is turned on the Christians and the SBC, will that 70% be for us or against us? Will even all of the 30% be for us or against us?
    The heat is coming.
    God is our hope.
    But let us look at the history of the church geographically.
    Where was it first and strong? Is it still strong in the middle east today?
    Then look as it moved across northern Africa? Is it still strong there today?
    How about in southeastern Europe? How is it doing there?
    The rest of Europe? I read the in-the-minority Muslims have more attending their weekly services than all the Christians combined in Europe.

    This is not to say that God won’t bring a revival across our land. But as we allow millions to call themselves by His name and we say nothing to address their lack of holiness in Christian religion; and count them as brothers and sisters in Christ without any communication from us to see how they are doing, what does that say about us? Does it say we watch over our own?
    If not, why should we be entrusted with more?
    I think having stated doctrines with an acceptable diversity is a good thing:
    if it pares down the church and prunes the membership. Then we could grow stronger and healthier and in a better place to meet the coming challenges headed our way.

    Better right than might.
    Better true than many.
    God bless the SBC.

  7. Jim Shaver says

    Almost ‘thou all’ persuadest me that being a Southern Baptist in the 21st Century is rapidly becoming more of a burden than I’m willing to bear.

    When Baptists like us start erecting barriers that men like John Leland could not in good conscience negotiate then I believe we are in danger of losing the very soul of our precious Baptist Identity.

    • Bart Barber says

      If “the very soul of our precious Baptist Identity” is “I’ll believe whatever I want, and nobody will tell me any different, and we’ll have no statements of faith” then you can sign me up somewhere else and give Christians like me a new name.

      …along with Spurgeon, the Carroll brothers, Thomas Grantham, Hansard Knollys, William Kiffin, John Smythe, Hercules Collins, Benjamin Keach, E.Y. Mullins, Thomas Helwys, Morgan Edwards, …

  8. Wm. Dwight McKissic, Sr. says


    (1) “In 2014 every SBC church is what would have been considered a radical abolitionist Baptist church back then, and being a racist church will put you in grave danger of being booted out.

    (2) The Southern Baptist Convention at present is in a strange situation: We have both a written confession And an unwritten one…”

    I appreciate your labor of love in writing here at Voices. Because of your positions and connections, you represent an interesting, an somewhat of an insider perspective. It’s good, and I am thankful to have your voice and viewpoint represented here. Let me gently push back on these two statements that stood out to me in your post.

    With regard to statement # 1: I don’t believe that any current predominately Anglo SBC Church would have been considered a radical abolitionist Baptist church back then. Why not? Current Anglo SBC churches are considered anti-affirmative action; pro-racial profiling; supportive of the Zimmerman verdict; mean-spirited toward President Obama, as evidenced by a Anglo SBC pastor and a SBC Texas revivalist/evangelist having prayed for the exile and death of President Obama; anti-Obama-Care-posture, that most Blacks strongly support(I am a exception); non inclusion of Blacks and other minorities in entity head level positions; silence on racial and gender abuse issues within the ranks over the past 10-20 years: (1) missionary couple who adopted Black baby being denied a speaking opportunity in a Louisiana SBC congregation (2) The dismissal of 3-4 mid-level Black NAMB missions personnel, and the hiring of four White NAMB VP’s to oversee church planting in urban communities, go figure?; (3) A Criswell College VP calling Hispanics “wetbacks,” on a public broadcast; (4)the deafning silence of SBC leaders–with the exception of Ed Stetzer– to point out publicly how wrong Richard Land’s Trayvon Martin’s racial remarks were; (5) Ask Tim Rogers about a North Carolina SBC church refusing to baptize Black converts in there church during the Patterson presidency at SEBTS. Where were the voices crying for repentance and disfellowshipping of that church? The Mississippi Crystal Springs church is owed an apology for them being singled out, when other SBC churches have been just as guilty. (6) Black Sanford University students having preaching invitations withdrawn when it was discovered that they were Black. (7) Black SBC employees tell me that that SBC facilities rented to Blacks are charged higher rates than SBC facilities rented to Whites. (8) Just before her death Mrs. Criswell taught the curse of Ham doctrine to her class across their church broadcast (9) A female professor was dismissed at SWBTS for teaching Hebrew (10) A female professor and a SWBTS president were pressured out of their jobs at SWBTS because she was allowed to teach/preach in chapel there. Where was the SBC outrage at these abuses? And now you tells us that the SBC would be “radical abolitionist Baptist church”? Where is the proof? The SBC tends to reflect the Conservative White popular culture–whatever that is at the time–not contradict it. If the White popular conservative culture held to the position of slavery today–as they did form their birth ’til the culture changed–there is no proof that the SBC would have a different posture as evidenced by all of the cases that I cited above.

    If the SBC want to prove that they are now ready to go counter culture, they can start by calling qualified Black males to serve as pastor of local SBC churches( The United Methodist Churches have been doing this the last 40 years; the Presbyterians have begun to move in this direction the past 20 years); they could hire a Black or other minority to serve as President of the IMB; they could apologize for their mean-spirited dispositions toward President Obama, calling for his exile and death; they could apologize for advancing the curse of Ham doctrine–for which they have never apologized for. The curse of Ham doctrine is the precursor to racial profiling.

    I do see positive signs though for which I am grateful. I believe I read where Frank Page has appointed a woman as VP at the EC!!!!That’s major progress. Gary Frost has been appointed a VP at NAMB the past year!!!! Major progress. Ken Weathersby has been appointed a VP at the EC. Frank Page deserves the MLK award for racial progress. Russell Moore has been stellar at the ERLC. His racial comments are balanced, true, compassionate, fair, and well thought out. I’m proud of him. Frank Page’s Black advisory committee is also a plus. SWBTS has appointed a Black person over the Music Department. And of course, Fred Luter has served exemplary as our President. There is much to be thankful for.

    But the reality is, I don’t believe that your “abolitionist” statement would have received one Amen in a Black SBC church. It leaves the false impression that all is well now; and it’s not. Frank Page’s advisory committee even said as much in the most recent BP report on their work.
    When Black CP giving drastically improves then we will know that Blacks are ready to sign on to your statement. If a Black is elected the President at IMB, the church where I pastor will definitely increase our CP giving.

    (2) With regard to the second statement that you made that got my attention regarding “unwritten” confessions: I regret that I did not allow the SBC in session to vote on my status as a trustee at SWBTS. In hindsight–outside of the LifeWay Poll–that would have been another measuring stick to indicate where the SBC stands on praying in tongues in private. You are correct about unwritten confessions, they are the ones that concern me.

    Why pick a fight with the CBF? The SBC would be far better off defining where they stand on the Calvinist/Traditional divide; the cessationist/continuationist divide; and the hard complementarianism/soft complementaranism divide. There are unwritten confessions on all of those issues. Many of us, however got to the SBC late, and we simply don’t know what the unwritten confessions are. Wouldn’t informing all of us what the unwritten confessions are be more important than picking a unnecessary fight with the CBF?

    We would all agree that the Bible and the BF&M 2000 says that a female can not be the Senior pastor of a local church. But, beyond that the BF&M 2000 is silent on the role of women in ministry. Why can”t we tackle that instead of attempting to address the CBF in a backdoor fashion. That’s beyond the decency, integrity, and transparency posture of the SBC, to approach the goal of doctrinal unity in such a indirect, and clumsy manner. Here we go again, straining at a gnat while swallowing a camel.

    Why not call the CBF churches in, ask them questions, and based on their answers we can determine whether or not we want to move toward removing them from our ranks. The CBF is not keeping the SBC from moving forward. The proposed decision could identify doctrinal fault lines in our own ranks, or highlight the fact that we have unwritten doctrines–as you have done. Why not set our house in order before we go and try and to sweep out their house? Thanks for listening. I await your response.

    • Tarheel says

      Dwight, respectfully. As we discussed in another thread….you’re makinga distinction between the office of pastor and senior pastor. The BFM2000 is very clear that women are welcome to participate in ministry…but the office of pastor is relegated to men. You keep adding “the” or “senior” in front if the word pastor….problem is neither qualifier is there in the BFM2000…you’re adding it to suit your argument.

      Any southern baptist church who had women serving the role of pastor is in violation of both the letter and spirit of the BFM2000…. And more impotantly scripture.

      Would you mind elaborating on your “charges” levied above….some of them are quite serious in implication and I wonder if typos have more detail we can chew on?

        • Wm. Dwight McKissic, Sr. says


          Is it title or function that causes the BF& M to be defied? In Ephesians 4: 11, 12, there is made mention of the “gift of pastor.” Gifts are not given according to gender. A woman can be given by God’s Spirit the gift of pastor, and not function or operate as the Senior Pastor. A female with the gift of pastor can teach Sunday School; direct the Awana’s program; the girl scouts program etc.

          Therefore, the BF&M is not inherently defied if a woman has the gift of pastor, and actually carries the title of Associate Pastor of Youth, Music, Education etc. She like Phoebe would function under the authority of the male pastor. And that does not defy the Bible or the BF&M 2000.

          • Tarheel says


            “In Ephesians 4: 11, 12, there is made mention of the “gift of pastor.” Gifts are not given according to gender. A woman can be given by God’s Spirit the gift of pastor, and not function or operate as the Senior Pastor. ”

            The ephesians passage indicates what pastors do, not how the role is defined….besides You seem here to be arguing that God gives a woman a gift/calling they can’t then serve in. That makes no sense to me.

            The other passages relating to the defintion/description of the office of pastor/elder the instruction is clearly and intentionally masculine (there were other words that could have been used had exclusionary language not been intended)…therefore the office of pastor you quoted from Ephesians must necessarily also be exclusionary to men.

      • David (NAS) Rogers says

        Can a woman serve as a youth “minister” or youth “pastor”?
        Children’s “minister” or children’s “pastor”?
        Pre-school “co-ordinator” “minister” “pastor”?

        Are we talking about some sketchy differentiation between which label is used?

        • Bart Barber says

          As for me, I’m more concerned with the substance than the wording. I’d prefer that churches were careful and deliberate in their wording of job titles, but I recognize that often they are not.

          • David (NAS) Rogers says

            But can a woman serve the substance of a church position in ministry to pre-school, children, or youth?

          • Bart Barber says

            I think so. I don’t read any biblical definitions for those positions, which, after all, have been dreamed up in the past century. And when I read about the office of pastor/elder/overseer in the New Testament, it doesn’t sound anything like those roles.

          • David (NAS) Rogers says

            What does a “diakonos” do in the church? Phoebe was one for the church at Cenchrea.

          • Tarheel says

            That’s basically my point too, Bart.

            But when people throw around the word pastor in a way thats against scripture and BFM, the that’s when I have problems…or when they act as pastors (in the sense of th “overseer” role or the preaching and teaching roles.

            I understand that some people aren’t precise in their titles/roles…but when women are recognized as pastors, the scripture and BFM2000 are defied.

          • Bart Barber says

            Since the post is about confessions of faith, perhaps it would appropriate to note that the BF&M doesn’t make any statement about the gender of deacons.

          • David (NAS) Rogers says

            When confessions/creeds become codified as evaluation tools the specific terms used can then become specifically concretized in the evaluation process, and the golden rule applies (whoever has the gold makes the rules). Whoever is in power decides what the words mean, and I’m not all that sure that I’m comfortable with some of the insights that some power brokers have with regard to semantic range of both words diachronically, synchronically, contextually and so on. Power broker traditions often trump real scholarship with regard to semantic dynamics.

        • Bart Barber says

          Also, to leap into a bit more controversy here, I know for a fact that some churches set their job titles in opposition to their theology in deference to their tax strategies—churches do not have to pay FICA for their “pastors.”

          • Wm. Dwight McKissic, Sr. says

            David(NAS) Rogers,

            The text in Romans is clear that the role of the recipients of the Roman epistle–which interestingly, would presumably be the men–would be to “assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you”(Romans 16: 2). Paul had given Phoebe clear instructions to conduct certain business matters in that church and region per his instructions. It was Phoebe’s job to tell them what Paul said. It was the job of the recipients to assist her in doing those assignments.

            It is my belief that Paul gave Phobe an assignment beyond cooking the meals and tending to the nursery. This verse provides proof positive for me that we have misled and misread what the Bible says about the role of women in the church.

          • Bart Barber says


            I wonder, why don’t you apply to the question of Phoebe the same reluctance to draw doctrinal conclusions from narrative that you apply to the question of the gift of tongues?

          • Wm. Dwight McKissic, Sr. says


            Is Romans 16: 1,2 a narrative? I always viewed the epistles as doctrine. Sure, Acts is a historical narrative; but, if Romans 16, 1-2 is as well, you just “edumacated” me.

            To answer your question, the reason that I am willing to draw doctrinal conclusions form Phoebe and not Acts, is because I never viewed the Phoebe account as a narrative. But, even if it is a narrative(you are a brilliant man, therefore I will take your word for it, in this instance), it the early church provides a blue print for today’s church, why couldn’t we learn from and emulate the example here?

            Obviously in the Acts narrative, some things simply cannot be duplicated: “the cloven tongues of fire,” “the sound of the mighty rushing wind,” “cloven tongues of fire upon their heads,” “all speaking in tongues” etc.,; these are occurrences found in a narrative that cannot be duplicated. However, everything in the Phoebe “narrative” can be duplicated. That’s why I treat Romans 16 different from Acts 2.

          • Bart Barber says


            The categories of narrative, didactic, etc., apply at a finer grain than just the book level. The Book of Romans is an epistle, but all Romans 16 does with regard to Phoebe is to narrate that she served in a particular role.

            There are, of course, questions about whether “diakonos” is a proper title of an office here or a common noun, but let’s suppose for a moment that “diakonos” here means the office of deacon. Romans 16 does not command us to open the office of deacon to women; it simply might tell us that a woman named Phoebe occupied that office. Is this scenario not possible:

            1. The church in Cenchrea had made Phoebe—a woman—a deacon.

            2. Paul and the other apostles disagreed with the idea of making a woman a deacon.

            3. However, with more important things going on, they did not find that particular item of disagreement so important that they could not cooperate with her. The business upon which she had been sent was urgent and Paul considered the strategic need to support her as more important than his disagreement with Cenchrea’s polity.

            Now, understand, I’m not at all saying that this is what is going on in Romans 16. I’m just saying that it is possible. The reason why I’m laying out this possible scenario is to illustrate the difference between a commandment and a mere narration.

            In the earlier work I’ve done on my ongoing series about the nature of the gift of tongues, I’ve never tried to turn the narrative passages in Acts and other places into commands. I’ve merely depended upon those narratives to do what narratives do: To describe to us what was happening when people were speaking in tongues.

          • John Wylie says


            Churches don’t have to pay FICA taxes for their pastors who are ordained. I have a man who holds the Associate Pastor title and responsibilities in my church and because he is only licensed we have to pay his FICA just like any other employee. If churches are giving non ordained people the title of pastor and they are not paying the employer’s portion of Social Security are in violation of the law.

          • Bart Barber says


            The IRS says “licensed, commissioned, or ordained” to define “clergy” for tax purposes. Here’s the link http://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc417.html

            It would violate the Free Exercise clause for the IRS to stipulate that ordination is required in order to qualify someone as clergy. Not even all Christian organizations perform ordinations, and these regulations are flexible enough to include everything from Santeria to Islam.

            But, that having been said, there are complementarian churches who actually do ordain their female staff “pastors” just because they believe that it puts them on more solid ground for not paying the FICA. They do not treat these women as pastors/elders/overseers, but they use the terminology and the rite of ordination to accomplish a desired financial outcome.

            Churches who do this are not in violation of the BF&M, since the BF&M says nothing about ordination at all, and since these churches do not view these “pastors” as people who occupy the “office of pastor.”

          • Tarheel says

            Certainly though they violate the spirit of the document…not to mention playing games of semantics with a biblical office to save money.

            I’m sorry, andi know ths is blunt…but that is dirty. If they’re not a “pastor” then calling them one to gain an IRS advantage is nothing short of lying.

            Mess like that is what gives churches and pastors bad names with the public. A church, a house of God, preferring a “meaningless” title for mere financial gain.

            Wow, I’m sickened by that.

          • John Wylie says


            I stand corrected. Our church has always paid the employer’s contribution for non ordained staff. I was under the impression that was the law, but obviously not. Thanks Bart.

          • Bart Barber says

            Ethically, John, I think you’re 100% right. I’m with YOU.

            But as is often the case when dealing with the IRS, this one depends upon which judge you get if you’re challenged. It’s a matter of what makes someone a “full-fledged” member of the clergy. In most cases, if a Southern Baptist church has both ordained staff and non-ordained staff, unless the lead pastor is the one who is not ordained, you might lose if challenged by the IRS.

      • Wm. Dwight McKissic, Sr. says


        Does the 2000 BF&M address the following questions:

        Can a woman teach a coed Sunday School class?

        Can a woman stand and give the message of the hour in a Sunday worship service?

        Can a woman give the chapel message at an SBC seminary?

        Can a woman teach Hebrew or Church History at an SBC seminary?

        Can a woman serve as the church administrator?

        Can a woman serve as minister/director/associate pastor of Christian Education; or evangelism/missions; or music; children’s ministries etc.

        Can a woman serve on the church’s executive council, if indeed a church has one?

        Can a woman serve on a church’s trustee board?; if indeed they have one.

        Can a woman serve on one of the SBC entity boards?

        If she can serve on a SBC entity board, why can’t she serve on a church’s elder board, or deacon board?

        Can a woman chair the church’s strategic planning team?

        Can a woman be ordained/commissioned to a specific ministry area, such as worship, women ministries, CE etc.?

        You get the picture. Does the BF&M 2000 address these questions? Could a church read the 20000 statement and find answers to these questions? if so, would you reference the answer for me please.

        Would you be more specific as to what exactly do you want me to elaborate on? Don’t quite know what you are asking me with the statement ” I wonder it typos…..” What are you trying to find out there. I am not understanding your questions. It’s been a long week.


        • Tarheel says

          Does the 2000 BF&M address the following questions:

          Can a woman teach a coed Sunday School class?

          SS teacher job descriptions are up to each church, BFM does not address SS. Since SS serve under authority of pastors/elders it’d be up to them.

          Can a woman stand and give the message of the hour in a Sunday worship service?

          Sure….So long as given under the permission and authority of the pastoral leadership and not offered up in a role herself as a pastor.

          Can a woman give the chapel message at an SBC seminary?

          Why not? Again though, up to whomever makes those decisions at the seminary…and subject matter would be crucial, I would think.

          Can a woman teach Hebrew or Church History at an SBC seminary?

          See answer to above question.

          Can a woman serve as the church administrator?

          You mean a secretary? Yes. You mean pastor of administration, no.

          Can a woman serve as minister/director/associate pastor of Christian Education; or evangelism/missions; or music; children’s ministries etc.

          Not as a pastor….other leadership roles can be determined by each church under the authority of pastors/elders

          Can a woman serve on the church’s executive council, if indeed a church has one?

          See above answers.

          Can a woman serve on a church’s trustee board?; if indeed they have one.

          See above.

          Can a woman serve on one of the SBC entity boards?

          Sure and They do now, don’t they?

          If she can serve on a SBC entity board, why can’t she serve on a church’s elder board, or deacon board?

          She can….So long as deacons serve and don’t administrate….if they function like elders in a church setting (different than entity boards)…scripturally, no…but i already stipulated that the BFM is snot specific on the issue.

          Can a woman chair the church’s strategic planning team?

          See above, Church decision under authority of pastors/elders.

          Can a woman be ordained/commissioned to a specific ministry area, such as worship, women ministries, CE etc.?

          Not Ordination. Ordaining a woman carries assumption of pastor and conveys official sanction in role of pastor….I’d need to know what commissioning means…but if it’s simply a church “stamp of aproval and prayer service” then see above about local church decision under the authority of the pastors/elders.

          The BFM only excludes women from holding the office of pastor. That’s all I’m saying. Other areas of church leadership can be determined at the decision of the church under te authority of the pastors/elders.

          Would you be more specific as to what exactly do you want me to elaborate on? Don’t quite know what you are asking me with the statement ” I wonder it typos…..” What are you trying to find out there. I am not understanding your questions. It’s been a long week.

          Lol…for me too. The “typo” was ironically a typo…;-).
          I was asking for clarification on the 9 or so accusations you made in your post. I’m assuming the things you accuse happened and for the reasons you seem to be asserting they happened.

          • Wm. Dwight McKissic, Sr. says


            Thanks for your response. I am not avoiding or evading answering you, but I must call it a night. I promise to address your questions, perhaps tomorrow, but certainly before the close of business Monday. I am encouraged though as I read your answers–we really are not very far apart in what we believe. Good Night.

          • Wm. Dwight McKissic, Sr. says


            Briefly. Absolutely!!! Everything that I said happened, happened. And to the best of my knowledge they happen for the reaons that I said they happen. Some of these are a matter of public record. I even forgot one; within the past 10-20 years, one of the Baptist Newspapers reported a church in Georgia that refused to bury an inter-racial baby in their church owned and managed cemetery, because of the baby’s race. And yes, it was an SBC church. If this satisfactorily answered your questions let me know. It will take one other commitment off of my to do list.

          • Dwight McKissic says


            I am amazed at your answers here. All this time I thought that we were a 10000 miles apart on where we stood with regard to answers to the above questions, and we are only just a few feet apart. We actually agree on the one big issue here and that is: the only restriction that the 2000 document and the Bible places on a woman is in the office of the pastor. I believe that a church has only one pastor. Anybody else who carries the title pastor within that same congregation, it is assumed or understood that that person is an associate pastor, because the church has only one pastor. All of the coaches on a football team are called coach. But, it is commonly understood that the football team has only one head coach, therefore it is unnecessary to constantly make the distinction, or use a different title to differentiate between the two.

            I believe that our major point of disagreement is over the use if the word pastor–not the functions that a woman may conduct within a local church’s ministry, but whether or not she can carry the title pastor, as assistant coaches carry the title coach. I say that she cannot hold tge office or carry the title of the pastor; but, she can hold the office and carry out the functions of a pastor. We read the 2000 document differently on this point.

            We also disagree on whether or not a woman can be ordained/commissioned in the role of her specific ministry. You say no, I say yes. I personally don’t believe that ordination as practiced in today’s church is a biblical practice. Therefore, it is not commanded, nor restricted in Scripture from my vantage point. The 2000 document does not address this(based on my memory) directly or indirectly. You read into the 2000 document things that simply are not there.

            We seem to agree on the big points, a d that is the 2000 document does not give specific answers to my questions above. That was my one major point. Therefore, each church has to determine how they answer those questions, as you seem to agree with. And there are no wrong answers, unless a church decides to elect a female as the pastor, as opposed to selecting/electing one to serve as a pastor of an assigned area. Again, it’s the word pastor, and how it is used that’s in dispute between us; not the functions of what a woman can & cannot do. I happen to fully agree with your answers, with the exception of ordination. The 2000 document does not adress our point if disagreement. I wish it did.

            As Bart Barber admitted on another comment on this thread; there are lots of SBC churches that have ordained women, regardless to the reasoning for doing so. If they were in violation of the 2000 document, where is the outcry, or charges leveled against them? If Barber was willing to level charges against the Mississippi church for racism; surely, if he truly felt as if the churches who have ordained women were in violation of the 2000 document were in violation, he would also be willing to bring charges against those churches.

            I trust that I have adequately addressed your questions. I also trust that I adequately answered your clarification questions about the SBC racial/gender allegations. If not, let me know; and I’ll try again.

          • Tarheel says

            I believe that the office of pastor is a calling that is extended only to men.

            I disagree that a church only has one pastor…I disagree with your adding if the word “the” in our discussions relating to the office of pastor and the BFM2000.

            In short…here is what I hold to;

            Should a church decide to have more than one pastor then both biblically and confessionally in a southern baptist church, the occupant of that position and office as well as whatever number of persons hold the position and office should be reserved to males.

            Yes Bart spoke of churches lying about roles and positions, even going so far as ordination, to gain financial advntage. I maintain that such action is not only criminal as it relates to the IRS, but also immoral and disgusting. I hope you’re not arguing for that position.

          • Tarheel says

            If a church has several pastors…they are equal in calling and office – but different in responsibility (relating to church job description.)

            I reject the “coach” analogy for several reasons…but one being scripture delineates and defines the role of pastor (and does so in language that relegates it exclusively to men)….and is silent on football coaches.

          • Dwight McKissic says


            Does the 2000 document says that a local SBC church has more than one pastor? No!!!! There you go again, reading into the document. We call a church “vacant” when she has no pastor. When we say a church is praying for, or looking for a pastor, we have only one pastor/male person in mind.

            You and Barber are saying that the churches sole motivation for ordaining women is financial, or fir tax advantages. I don’t believe that any church that ordained a woman that the sole or major morivation was driven by financial concerns.

            Furthermore, please answer the larger question: if a SBC church who has ordained a woman is in violation of the 2000 document, why is it that no one has leveled charges against them? My point is, they are not in violation of the agreement. You know I that to be true. Bart knows that to be true. I know that to be true. And the proof is three-fold:1. The 2000 document places no restrictions on the ordination of women. 2. No charges gave been brought against the churches that have ordained women. 3. The IBM “commissions” women as missionaries in public ceremonies. Commissioning is identical to ordination as it relates to affirming these women for a particular minisry role. My guess is that they use the word commissioning rather than ordination so as not to raise the ire of folks like yourself.

          • Adam Blosser says

            Dwight, certainly you don’t think the fact that no church has been voted out of the convention for ordaining a women as a pastor means the BF&M 2000 allows for such a practice. The BF&M is quite clear on the issue of communion, yet the church I pastor has not been voted out while our constitution clearly says that we invite all believers to the Lord’s table.

            Also, does the BF&M 2000 say that the church has only 1 pastor? No. Maybe you are guilty of reading into the document. Why would you give someone the title of pastor that you don’t believe is a pastor? That is confusing at best.

    • Bart Barber says


      1. I’m not saying that there are no racist churches in the SBC. There were, unfortunately, a lot of white people in 1861 who favored abolition but who would never have permitted their child to marry a black spouse. Take a Southern Baptist church today that would not support affirmative action, would shun a family that adopted a black baby, would never call a black pastor, would never support a black entity head, etc., BUT IS OPPOSED TO THE IDEA OF BLACK SLAVERY, and you’ve got a church that is a radical abolitionist church in the context of the Southern Baptist Convention in 1850.

      You see, what I’m doing there as a historian is that I’m measuring churches not by modern standards but by the standards as they stood in 1845-1865. I’m trying to show that the standards have moved, without anyone having voted on them, between then and now.

      Rather than disproving this point, you’re actually vindicating it. You’re exhibiting the fact that the bar that a church has to meet these days to be above-average in treating the races fairly is a much higher and stricter standard than it was in those old days.

      As to your second point, I think you and I are in agreement that written policies and agreements are superior to unwritten ones. A separate question is whether the entire enterprise of the SBC, diverse and complex as it is, can actually function under the doctrinal guidance of a single document. Is it possible to say, for example, “SBC churches can believe a wide variety of things about the nature of election, but we at Southern Seminary are going to operate within this narrower soteriological framework?” I think that’s possible, and so long as there is a written statement of those doctrinal convictions (viz., the Abstract of Principles), I don’t think that violates what I’m saying about the written/unwritten situation that we face.

      I’m in favor of our doing our work as much as possible in a way that is above-board, transparent, written down, and available to everyone. I agree with you that operating in this way minimizes confusion and conflict.

      • Wm. Dwight McKissic, Sr. says


        I appreciate your response. I agree with every thing that you said. I like the statement that you made about Southern and election. I wish that we would take that approach to all of our hot bed issues. I understand better now your thought processes and how you arrived at that statement. Thanks.

      • Dwight McKissic says


        The 2000 document does not address either question, regarding, (1) is there biblically more than one pastor in a local church? (2) Is a local church restricted from ordaining a woman to a specific area of ministry?

        Inasmuch as the 2000 document does not address these issues, you, nor Tarheel have the right to determine that level of detail and administration for the local church. Again, if there was anyone in the convention who considered the ordination/commissioning of women to specific ministry positions to be a violation on the 2000 document, I believe that given the emphasis of the CR on doctrinal purity, someone would act to remove them. Our church is a part of the SBTC, and they are strongly doctrinal purist oriented. Not one word has been spoken to me about any of our practices & beliefs regarding women. So, yes, I do believe that because there have been no charges leveled against our congregation, or any other on this matter, it must not be a violation of the 2000 document.

        The convention needs to take action one way or another on churches like yours and mine, who born-again baptized believers to partake of The Lord Supper, who are not Baptists or Southern Baptist. What is the point of having a doctrinal statement if it’s not going to be enforced?

        • Adam Blosser says

          Dwight, I have no disagreement with your first paragraph.

          The BF&M 2000 allows for a single pastor model and a plurality of pastors/elders model. We agree. However, if a church chooses to follow a plurality of pastors/elders model, the BF&M 2000 would say that those pastors should be men.

          You are right that the BF&M 2000 says nothing about ordaining women for specific areas of ministry so long as they are not pastors. The document is very clear that pastors are not to be women. Don’t move the goal posts on me.

          Tarheel, nor I, nor the Southern Baptist Convention has any right or authority to determine anything for a any local church. Tarheel has been given authority by God in his local church. I have been given authority by God in my local church. The SBC doesn’t have any authority over any local church.

          The BF&M is a very different document than those held as authoritative over the local church in other denominations. The way the SBC or the SBTC may use the BF&M does not change what the document actually says.

          I agree with you. Something needs to be done about the Lord’s Supper issue if we are going to use the BF&M 2000 in a way that it has not been used in the history of our denomination.

          • David (NAS) Rogers says

            “if a church chooses to follow a plurality of pastors/elders model, the BF&M 2000 would say that those pastors should be men. ”

            To me this statement and Tarheel’s statement about male pastors leads me to wonder about implications here.

            What does a pastor do and what does a “diakonos” do? (See Phoebe as “diakonos” of the church at Cenchrea – Rom. 16:1-2)

            If all “pastors” must be male, and if an SBC church has a women ministries leader, a pre-school ministries leader, and maybe a youth ministries leader and these leaders are female, how are their ministries not “pastoral”?

            Is the differentiation just that they shouldn’t get the “pastor” title? Are you saying that no paid ministry position should ever have a female since one cannot differentiate what a male “pastor” would do in these positions from what a female “whatever title” would do in the same position? Or can you enumerate the difference between how a male would serve and how a female would serve? And that difference is what makes one “pastoral” and the other not?

          • Adam Blosser says

            Good question David, and unfortunately I am not sure I can answer it fully without further thought. All I have said so far in this thread is that the BF&M 2000 is very clear that women are not to serve as pastors. I will say that I am not really talking about pastoral responsibilities. I know that is the direction Tarheel went earlier in the discussion but you will have to get him to answer that question. Pastor/Elder is a NT office, not simply a type of roll one may perform.

          • Dwight McKissic says


            Thanks. Forgive me for conflating your arguemente & positions with Tarheel’s. I appreciate your answers.

          • David (NAS) Rogers says

            Thanks Adam for the honest reply.

            I think your difficulty in replying shows one reason why it would be difficult to use the BFM as a required membership affirmation for churches.

            The language is murky for example on this pastor-male issue.

            One reader takes the language as referencing only lead or senior pastors should be male.

            Another says, no, it means all pastors whether one or multiple elders must be male.

            Another says, we don’t call the females by the title “pastor”; they are only “ministers” or co-ordinators”.

            Another says, the title isn’t the issue, the work of ministry is, and the functional equivalent of “pastoring” is being done by females and thus they are a de facto “pastor” and thus in violation of the BFM 2000.

            Another says, I don’t know about that but we should still use the BFM as a membership requirement for churches.

            Another says, I’ll support a BFM as membership requirement as long as I get to write it.

          • Adam Blosser says

            No problem, Dwight. We are really not far apart on what we believe which is why I think we can continue to cooperate together in the SBC as long as the SBC will have us.

            You make a good point David. I agree with Bart that there needs to be some minimum level agreement for cooperation, but I am not convinced that the BF&M 2000 as it is presently constructed is that document.

          • Tarheel says


            I have have also suggested that the Lords Supper issue might be further addressed (somewhere in the couple of treads that have addressed that topic, lol).

            I also assert that the BFM is not unclear or ambiquious in the area of the office of pastor being reserved only to men. The bible is equally clear about it. I’m not sure why you keep arguing against such clear and unamiquious text.

          • Dwight McKissic says

            David(NAS) Rogers,

            Tarheel & perhaps Adam are definitely saying that no woman should ever get the title pastor. My reading of the 2000 document does not restrict the title “pastor” from those who serve in an associate pastor’s role. As you so rightly point out, all of those roles are pastoral in nature. The overall responsibility for shepherding, vision casting, and the primary preacher/teacher of the flock is the pastor as viewed by the congregation and tge community. It’s that person that I believe that the 2000 document says must be male.

            At some point— in light of how Troy Gramlin, Sherri Klouda, Karen Bullock, Ken Hemphill, a female VP at the IMB, Dianne Garland, and a candidate for an entity head position that gave “buried landmine” answers as opposed to fence answers on the woman question, were so horribly treated by the convention over women issues unaddressed in the 2000 document—the SBC in session needs to clarify or address these questions. While they are tinkering with the 2000 document in light of seeking confessional unity, this would be a good time to carefully pull up the buried land mines and erect beautiful fence.

        • Dwight McKissic says


          One other question. How do you justify the commissioning of a woman to do missions in Madagascar, but the restrictions on commissioning a woman to do missions through a local church in Minneapolis? How can we lay hands on and commission a woman to go and do missions in Angola, but we refuse to lay hands on and commission a woman to do ministry through her local church in Arlington? Tillie Burgin is a local missionary extraordinaire in the city of Arlington, Tx. If anybody should be ordained/commissioned/set aside/ layed hands upon(pick whatever label you choose) it should be her. It would be my guess that between her former life as a Southern Baptist Missionary, and being a member of an SBC church that would not harbor hangups on the issue of commissioning or ordaining women, she already has been formally set aside. But, it appears that you and Tarheel would be against ordaining/commissioning/laying hands upon/ setting aside Tillie Burgin. Why?

          • Adam Blosser says

            Dwight, with all due respect, you are arguing against a position that I have not advocated and a position that I am not contending is advocated by the BF&M 2000. I have not said that women cannot be missionaries in Madagascar, Angola, Arlington, or even on the moon. I have only said that the BF&M 2000 prevents women from serving as pastors.

          • Adam Blosser says

            I shouldn’t say prevents. I should say that it takes the position that women cannot serve as pastors.

          • Dwight McKissic says


            You are arguing that the word “pastor” is to be absolutely applied to men in all context in the 2000 document. I am saying that the 2000 document says no such thing as it relates to positions outside of the office of the pastor that encompasses pastoral roles. The 2000 document not only is not clear on that question, it does not address appropriate & inappropriate titles for roles other than the office of the pastor. But, I am willing to let you be content believing otherwise.

          • Tarheel says

            Adam Blosser,

            I agree with you….I think women can be missionaries to the moon as well! :-)

          • Tarheel says

            The BFM addresses the office of pastor…leaving to each church whether they employ the idea of a singe Pastor or a plurality of Pastors….but it’s clear that whichever they choose….the office of pastor is reserved to men.

            I’m too am content with leaving you wallowing in your error on this topic. ;-). Just playing.

            We’re not going to agree here, as with other issues we’ve discussed…but we’re not enemies and I’m happy to engage you in discussion and willing to learn from you.

            God bless you, sir.

          • Tarheel says

            One last thing…I was joking in my comment to adam about Wien being missionaries on the moon…I sure hope no one construes from that jovial statement, that I don’t think women should be missionaries on earth.

            I certainly believe they can and often do well when thy do.

            That is so long as they’re not serving as a pastor in that missionary role of course.

          • David (NAS) Rogers says

            This discussion on the meaning and reference that “pastor” applies to in the BFM 2000 shows that, assertions aside, these matters are not unambiguous and clear. My concern is when a single blog post can invite quite differing readings on one phrase in the BFM 2000, then making it a church membership affirmation requirement invites much controversy. If it is adopted, integrity says it should be enforced, but then the murkiness of the phrasings become problematic.

            Bro. McKissic, Sr. notes several awful applications of some power-brokers enforcement of their interpretation of the BFM and/or the Bible. These matters are to the shame of the SBC and its agencies.

            The BFM 2000 will be enforced by whomever is in power at the time, and that could be scary.

          • David (NAS) Rogers says

            Adam, thanks. The back-and-forth reveals areas for thought that all of us should consider in order to be well-rounded, and more importantly, more biblical in understanding where it teaches and where it does not.


  9. William Thornton says

    This “strange” situation we’re in has crossed some threshold of strangeness that we haven’t been in for almost a century?

    This grave risk of expulsion that tens of thousands of SBC churches have managed to avoid for 89 years (pity about the one or two, is it, that were expelled), would this be the same risk that we are being assured will not be invoked if the SBC does link the BFM and “friendly cooperation” and put half or more churches in violation? You wish to have this both ways?

    “You can get booted out” you say? And if the BFM is put in here the assembled tiny fraction of SBCers would not be able to boot out some vile church for whatever reason? I believe the body may do as it wishes regardless.

    This isn’t your best work.

  10. Tarheel says

    Great article and insight, Bart.

    I agree with you,thanks for saying these things!

    Your last paragraph, IMO is a gem.

    “Personally, I believe that your church’s autonomy and liberty are protected better when the doctrinal standard of the convention is subject to your scrutiny, has been approved by your vote, cannot be changed without debate to which you are invited, and is set out as a set of universals by which everyone has to live rather than being adjudicated case-by-case according to the prejudices that may favor or disfavor individual churches because of their size, gifts, or influence.”

  11. Wm. Dwight McKissic, Sr. says


    As I give more thought to your statement about the SBC church being viewed as”radical abolitionist” based on their current racial policies, positions, and practices, I feel compelled to add to what I’ve already said: As a stand alone statement your “radical abolitionist” statement may be technically true, but it lacks so much detail and context ’til I still find it a suspect statement. But, I must confess, again, as a stand alone statement, sure, today’s SBC church would oppose slavery.

    The question that your statement does not address though is this: Would the SBC oppose slavery today if the popular White conservative political and social culture today supported slavery today? It’s in answering that question where I believe that your question would face some thorny, problematic, socio-political, and historical roadblocks, obstacles, and push back. I may be wrong, but I believe that the vast majority of critical thinking Black persons in and outside of the SBC would have processed your statement very similar to how I processed it.

    To achieve biblical unity in the SBC, it requires this kind of free, open, honest, transparent, and truthful dialogue, that we both have endeavored to engage in. Again, you add much value, and a needed viewpoint to these discussions here. I trust that my communication with you here has in noway been offensive, or unnecessarily combative. If so, please forgive me. Thanks.

    • Bart Barber says

      “Would the SBC oppose slavery today if the popular White conservative political and social culture today supported slavery today?”

      Although I have never asked that question about the SBC, I have directed it toward my own self in many a moment of anguished self-reflection. Would I have had the courage, had I been alive in 1845, to have taken a stand for the humanity of African slaves?

      I can never know. That may be for the best.

      • Wm. Dwight McKissic, Sr. says


        I appreciate your honest reflection and answer here. Your answer forces me to admit, as I believe that your answer indicates, that sociology, peer pressure, economic concerns, family relationships, etc., often factor into our decision making, and even influence our exegeisis(sp) and positions that we take on issues. The older I get, I find it a little less difficult to not have to factor in these collateral concerns, but, I would be lying if I said I am totally betond external factors playing a role on decision making, and positions, that I take at times.

        Thanks again for your answer to the slavery question. You appear to be a man of grave convictions and values. I would have thought that your answer would of been that you would have stood up for the humanity of the Africans. But, you are right; it’s really hard to say what you would say in a given situation, until you are actually in that situation.

        • Bart Barber says

          A related question that I often ask myself: Would I have had the courage, living in the first century, to have gone to the lions without recanting my faith? Living in the sixteenth century, would I have suffered torture and gone to the stake without denying biblical truth about baptism? If in this day and time I had been born in Saudi Arabia instead of Arkansas, would I have had the courage when Christ came to me to follow Him publicly?

      • Dwight McKissic says


        If you were one of the slaves or their descendants, this would not be a difficult question for you to answer-:). I find this particular question a very easy one to answer.

  12. John Fariss says

    I agree that churches ( and I suppose denominations) have unspoken, unarticulated “statement of faith” (though I question that title). But do you really think that codifying a confession, or creed for that matter, will change that? How likely is it that the things which are present in those unspoken expectations will ever be expressed in a confession/creed, until and unless someone breaks or defies them? Will having a written confession/creed to which all must give assent really prevent or stop unspoken expectations?

    I realize that I am writing from a position of cynicism–and it is that, and not theology. But having served dysfunctional churches, I know no other perspective to come from.


  13. Richmond Goolsby says

    One of the best things you have ever written, and that’s a huge compliment! Let us disarm the hidden unspoken “buried landmines” and walk with “above-ground fences”. God will bless! Saw you from distance in Houston but didn’t get to say hello.
    Thank you for a great post,

  14. Tarheel says

    “Does the 2000 document says that a local SBC church has more than one pastor? No!!!! There you go again, reading into the document. We call a church “vacant” when she has no pastor. When we say a church is praying for, or looking for a pastor, we have only one pastor/male person in mind.

    You and Barber are saying that the churches sole motivation for ordaining women is financial, or fir tax advantages. I don’t believe that any church that ordained a woman that the sole or major morivation was driven by financial concerns.”

    Ther YOU go again.

    1. The BFM states that the office of pastor is restricted to men. You keep adding (reading into it) the word “the” and an assumption of “single eder” it ain’t there sir.

    2. Bart nor I have said that the above reason was a SOLE reason….Bart indicated that some have done it, and we agreed that where (and if) that has happened…. its disgusting.

  15. Louis says

    A common theological confession is necessary, and prudent, for any group of religious people or religious organizations that desire to work together in ministry.

    The contours of that confession, how specific it must be, what areas it must address, depends on the areas in which the people or group desire to work.

    Every group defines itself by what it believes. Not putting the confession in writing is not the controlling issue. The group still believes some common theological confession that is at the core of the group’s existence.

  16. says

    “No creed but the Bible” is a creed. It’s a very short and non-specific creed since it offers no standard on how the Bible is interpreted, but it is a creed nonetheless. The level of specificity for something like the BF&M is important since we recognize that there are areas of theology in which it is okay for us to differ. Dr. Mohler’s theological triage is helpful, but I know that there are some who would dispute whether some theological categories need to be in a different tier. Likewise, there are some parts of the BF&M that probably don’t need to be in there. The closed communion issue recently discussed could be one of those.

    I liken it to civil law. There are some things we simply don’t need a law for. But lawyers who end up as representatives like to make laws we don’t need and sell it as though we really do need a law for it. It makes them look like great leaders to be so active in making laws. But good leadership is established more on knowing when not to lead as it is assuming that everything requires leadership from the top. Set a general policy and let people work it out best in their specific circumstances.

    According to Paul It is a sin, after all, to violate the conscience of someone with weak faith because it would cause them to sin in some way that is not a sin for someone of stronger faith. Likewise, there are some areas that do not need to be covered in a creed, but it will be impossible to come up with something that is theologically agreeable for everyone, even among conservatives. The BF&M as such is pretty close to what it needs to be and it would be hard to get it much closer.

    • Tarheel says

      You’re exactly right in your assertion that “no creed but the bible, is in fact a creed.”

      Just like when people say that absolutes don’t exist are in fact making an absolute statement.

    • Christiane says

      I think that ‘saying’ was the reformers’ way of rejecting the Catholic framework of Scripture and tradition (also the authority of the Councils and the teaching authority of the Church)

  17. Greg Buchanan says


    To the nature of the post: agreed completely. If we do not have creeds and confessions, then anything goes as we pour any old meaning into any text.

    In a room of multiple “Jesus” followers, including baptists, methodists, catholics, jehovahs witnesses, church of christ scientist, mormons, muslims, and even Mohandas K Gandhi, they could all completely agree with the statement: Jesus is Lord.

    However, without non-biblical language defining and defending biblical language, they will each pour their own meaning into the two words, “Jesus” and “Lord.” We can each say this, but, which “Jesus” is Lord and what is he “Lord” over?

    In all honesty, we should be creedal and confessional without being afraid of the “reformed” boogey-man, just because they are SOOOO creedal/covanental in contrast to the average SBCer. We should have creedal statements (apostles creed or nicene creed) regarding Jesus, the Father, the Holy Spirit, Lordship (over one’s whole life rather than savior but NOT lord); distinctives without which the church falls.

    We should and need to define orthodoxy for the sake of cooperation in creedal no-ifs-and-or-buts statements or just adopt some existing creed in part or in whole; these are required for cooperation or membership, period.

    Confessions can define our baptist distinctives that define membership in the convention and seminaries if we wish to offer discounts on tuition or such, define messengers/envoys to the annual meeting/s, and layout expectations of membership and limits that will invite expulsion. Then we have no CAVEAT EMPTOR for existing or new churches or more likely for newer membership as older generations leave earth for “Big Church.”