William Thornton is the SBC Plodder.
The list of largest churches in the SBC include just nine with reported weekly attendance over 10,000. My curiosity over just how Southern Baptist these churches really are led me to their public information. Most interesting was Village Church, ninth on the list and a church that has their constitution and by-laws on their website.
The SBC at the national level has on occasion kicked out (or taken action to “cease their relationship” if you are picky about the language) churches for being too homosexual friendly and the basis for that action has been the Baptist Faith and Message Statement.
So, I ask a hypothetical question: If a church is found to be non-compliant with the BFM in other areas, should not they too be excised from our convention for the sake of doctrinal consistency?
Just asking. Not suggesting.
The Village Church, Flower Mound, Texas (legal name: First Baptist Church of Highland Village) looks in their legal documents to be a true elder ruled church, and, seems to me, is a church that is non-compliant with the BFM.
Article VI of the BFM:
Each congregation operates under the Lordship of Christ through democratic processes.
Village Church constitution:
The overall policy, control, direction and management of the ministry, operations and finances of the church shall be vested in the elder body. The elders are designated as the directors of this corporation as the term is defined and used in the Texas Nonprofit Corporation Act. Subject to the provisions and limitations of the Texas Nonprofit Corporation Act, any limitations in the Articles of Incorporation, this constitution and the church’s bylaws, all corporate powers shall be exercised by or under the direction of the elders.
Village Church by-laws:
The elders shall have the sole authority to appoint new elders. A man shall be appointed as an elder by a passing vote of the elder body after he has been tested and proven to meet the qualifications stated herein.
The members of the church will be allowed to raise concerns, in accordance with Article 2.01.d herein, before any prospective elder is confirmed. However, confirmation of the elder will be at the final discretion of the elders. The elders may appoint a committee or group to vet qualified elder candidates to the elders. The elders may also receive recommendations for elder candidates from the Covenant Members.
If the BFM calls for congregational governance (“democratic processes”), and I am unaware of any who say that it does not, is another form of governance something that should be examined?
If the wording of the BFM was deliberately phrased so as to be able to accommodate elder ruled churches, and I cannot quite see how, then perhaps our denominational doctrinal gurus could just say so.
I suppose one could stretch the wording to a ridiculous extreme and say that Village Church’s elders operate through “democratic processes” since they (elders only) do vote democratically among themselves, each of the elders having a vote, very democratic. However, I do not see how one could squeeze the congregation into that process.
If one maintains that the congregation voted to give all authority to elders, and at some point in the past one presumes that they did and thus was both democratic and BFM compliant, then the same could be said about the congregation voting for any form of non-congregational governance, say, voting to anoint the senior pastor as King or to rename the church Presbyterian or something similar.
This is a question that is often discussed among the blogs and now Frank Page has this informal Calvinism study group meeting in order to help us achieve some comity over the Calvinist/Traditionalist conflicts. The area of elder governance, elder rule, is an issue that surely, surely, this group has discussed. Unfortunately, their discussions are all on background so we do not get to hear the best minds and the key people around the convention speaking on this important issue.
I might suggest, not on background but right out in the open, this:
“My Calvinist colleagues and friends, Here is an elder ruled SBC congregation. Is this a church that is clearly not in accord with the Baptist Faith and Message Statement?”
“Why or why not?”
“If so, what, if anything, should be done about it?”
I have no quarrel with this particular church and don’t get too exercised over how a church chooses to govern itself. Churches may arrange their governance as they see fit and I am, now as always, happy to rejoice where Christ is preached.
It is a salient question to be examined, though, and certainly worthwhile for church laymen to understand. I’d recommend that any church where the word “elder” is raised by a new or prospective pastor check out what elder rule did to this church.