Ed Stetzer released a post today called “Top Religion Stories of 2011 according to Huffpo.” According to the Huffington Post, the top 11 stories of the year in the world of religion are:
- The Muslim Spring
- The Dalai Lama Steps Down
- Mormons in Politics
- The Muslims Are Coming, The Muslims Are Coming
- The End of the World
- Presbyterians Acknowledge Gays and Lesbians Can Be Ministers
- The Struggle for the Soul of Yoga
- A Jewish American-Israeli Rift?
- Occupy Faith
- The New Mass
- Interfaith Secularists
While there are still two and a half weeks left in the year, and there is a possibility for some big breaking story to come to the forefront during the Yuletide season, I spent some time today going back through the year at SBC Voices to try to figure out what our big stories were for 2011.
The first issue I faced was how to rank the issues. Did we look at the posts that received the most comments? Do we look at the issues that came up over and over again?
Most Active Posts
You can get some idea what topics were hottest this year looking at the most commented posts. There were 18 posts that received over 200 comments. Here is a list of those.
1. Genesis 3: Temptation, the Fall, and Gender Roles (Dave Miller) 574 Comments
2. Immigration and the Gospel – the SBC’s Real Controversy (Dave Miller) 360 comments
3. Al Mohler’s Response to Peter Lumpkins: The Complete Video (Dave Miller) 359 comments
4. Why I’m wary of Calvinists (by William Thornton) 303 comments
5. Theistic Evolution–Legitimate Belief System or Cheating? (Actually, It Is Worse Than That) (Anthony Russo) 286 comments
6. What Produces Faith? (Mike Bergman) 286 comments
7. Why Is That Christian Dressed Up Like a Psychic? (Jared Moore) 273 comments
8. The Appeal of Calvinism to Young Pastors (Brandon Smith) 272 comments
9. What I like about Calvinists (William Thornton) 271 comments
10. You Can’t Make This Stuff Up (William Thornton) 263 comments
11. Alcohol, SBC Senior Pastors & Laity: Surprisingly Different (Jared Moore) 258 Comments
12. It’s Time to Retire the KJV (Dave Miller) 237 Comments
NOTE: While this only got 237 comments, I would recommend that if you do not want to become “public enemy #1” on certain fundamentalist blogs and forums, do not call for the retirement of the KJV. Those folks are SERIOUS!
13. Young, Southern Baptist, and Self-Important? (Alan Pearce) 217 comments
14. Mark Driscoll “Sees Things” – I See the Rise of SES* in the SBC (Supernaturalism Embarrassment Syndrome) (Dave Miller) 217 Comments
Had to add this one after the fact. Mark Driscoll is always good for a lively discussion these days!
15. Are Churches with Female Pastors Southern Baptist? (Dave Miller) 206 comments
16. Calvinist Identity Issues: What Is a Calvinist? (Dave Miller) 204 comments
17. Latest Research Backs up Bible about Booze (David Worley) 203 comments
18. The ??? Baptist Convention: Considering Bryant Wright’s Task Force Recommendation (Dave Miller) 201 comments
19. Should Christians Express Their Political Views? (Anthony Russo) 200 comments
Special note: I want to make it clear that I do not equate quality of article or importance of article with number of hits or number of comments. In fact, I think the really important articles we post that deal with spiritual issues get very few (disappointingly few) hits. This is a measurement of interest and emotion – the things that get people commenting and arguing.
The Issues that Define SBC Voices Blogging
There are several issues that get the blood boiling here at SBC Voices. They are not in any particular order.
1) Calvinism: The undisputed reigning champion of Baptist Blogging is Calvinism. Case closed. As I looked back through the year’s posts, it was the most common topic (we had plenty of articles on all sides) and the one that drew the most consistent attention.
2) Alcohol Consumption: We did not have as many posts on alcohol as we did on Calvinism, but the passions were pretty high and the discussion of alcohol often “spilled” (pun intended) over onto other posts often leaving them staggering (pun intended again).
3) Gender Issues: this is an issue that won’t go away. One association disfellowshipped a church for having a woman pastor. The top post in terms of comments was an examination of this issue. My opinion is that those who hold to the biblical view of gender issues are going to be more and more of a minority even in the Christian world and subject to greater and greater attacks – from within the church.
4) Homosexuality: Another issue that isn’t going away. Most of what I said about gender issues is also true here. Look at the firestorm created by Mohler’s biblical and reasoned expression of a Christian approach to homosexuals that goes beyond ostracism.
5) Politics and Patriotism in the church: Another hot-button issue. Should churches participate in politics? Should we honor America in our worship services Memorial Day weekend or July 4th?
6) Traditionalism vs “cultural relevance”: Does the future of the SBC depend on us holding to those traditions that made us great or must we change and remake ourselves to “speak the language” of this new culture. Brad Whitt’s article really pushed this to the forefront, but I think it is one of the fundamental issues that drives SBC life. The GCR. The name-change. These are issues that root in the traditionalist vs contemporary divide. And if anyone mentions “Mark Driscoll” – watch the comment stream light up!
7) Human Origins: Did God make the world? Did he do so in 7 days relatively recently or over billions of years? Young Earth Creationism vs. Old Earth Creationism vs Theistic Evolution. How does the Bible and science relate? This is a fundamentally important argument. One can argue that many of our debates are “tempests in a tea pot” but not so with the issue of creation.
8.) Racial Reconciliation and the SBC: Dwight Mckissic’s motion at the 201o Annual Meeting, the EC response to that and the subsequent EC statement at the 2011 SBC was a hot topic leading up to the Annual Meeting this year. I think real progress is being made, but time will tell. If Fred Luters is elected as SBC president this year, a giant leap forward will be made.
9) Dealing with Illegal Immigration: The most contentious moments of the SBC probably revolved around the discussion of the resolution on illegal immigration. A sharp divide was evident between those who wanted to uphold law and order and those who focused on what they called “a gospel-driven approach.” Both sides made a reasonable point and the issue isn’t going away any time soon.
10) The SBC and its future: We all (well, most of us) want to see it succeed. We often have very different ideas about how that will happen. Obviously, this subject has a lot of crossover with Calvinist issue, traditionalist issues and others.
Events that Motivated SBC Blogging in 2011
Here are some specific events that took place this year that defined the SBC and Baptist blogging (at least at SBC Voices). Again, I’m not taking the time to rank these.
1) SBC Name-change Task Force
If I were ranking these, this one would be a clear #1. Bryant Wright appointing a task force to study changing the name of the SBC was an earth-shattering event, both in terms of process and purpose. Many criticized the process itself, one blogger going so far as to call it “tyranny.” We’ve had several posts on the advisability of the name-change. When the task force brings its report in February, this will jump to the forefront again.
2) Brad Whitt’s Post “Young, Southern Baptist…and Irrelevant?“
This was a well-written anthem for the SBC traditionalist movement. And there can be little doubt that it set off a huge debate in the SBC. While I’m not in sync with everything he said, I think he said it well.
3) Rob Bell and Hell
This was a huge issue in Baptist blogging as a whole, but surprisingly it was not a huge issue here at SBC Voices. It is still an important discussion.
4) Association Excludes Calvinist Church from Fellowship
At its annual meeting, October 17-18, the Daviess-McLean Baptist Association in Kentucky voted 104-9 to deny fellowship to the Pleasant Valley Community Church based on the perception that it would not fellowship well with the association – primarily, according to reports, because of the Calvinism of the church. You can imagine how this stoked the fires of debate!
5) Association Disfellowships Church with Female Pastor
On July 26, just two weeks after the Flat Rock Baptist Chruch of Mount Airy hired a female pastor, Bailey Nelson, the Surry Baptist Association in North Carolina expelled the church from its membership.
6) SBC Executive Committee Race Study
The SBC’s EC presented a very encouraging set of ten recommendations on how to foster greater ethnic diversity. It received overwhelming support. If they will follow these recommendations, things will improve in the SBC in this regard.
7) SBC Immigration Issue.
The most hotly debated issue at the SBC Annual Meeting was the immigration motion. I’ve already mentioned this above.
Here’s the resolution.
Here’s the video of the entire discussion.
8.) Tom Elliff elected IMB President
This was a shocker to many of us. After Jerry Rankin retired, there was an extended search, the search committee finally recommended long time SBC pastor, missionary and IMB employee Tom Elliff, who was not on the radar in most discussions of the subject.
As surprising as the choice was, it also seems to be shaping up as a very good one!
9) The Pastor’s Conference, TD Jakes, and Modalism.
When Jamar Jones, from TD Jakes’ church was invited to help with worship at the Pastor’s Conference in Phoenix, another firestorm ensued. Is TD Jakes a modalist? (Unclear. He says he is not and others support him, but he uses language commonly regarded as modalist in his doctrinal statement.) Does that mean that Jamar Jones should not play the piano at the pastor’s conference? It was a big issue for a short time. Vance Pitman ended up leading a fantastic Pastor’s Conference but Jamar Jones backed out of it, not wanting to cause controversy.
10) Dr. Jerry Nash, “Hold the Hearse, I Have an Idea!”
Dr. Nash, the Director of Missions at the ironically-named “Harmony Baptist Association” in Northern Florida created a brouhaha when he invited those who did not share his traditionalist perspective (ie Calvinists) to leave the convention.
10a) The Emergence of SBC Today under Dr. Steve Lemke
Dr. Steve Lemke who is now the force behind the blog “SBC Today” has turned that blog into one of the SBC’s best. Many of the prominent blogs in the SBC have been on the Calvinist and more contemporary side of things. SBC Today was inactive for some time and then returned under Dr. Lemke’s direction to become an articulate voice for the more traditional and generally non-Calvinist side of SBC debates. It is a must-read blog regardless of your perspective.
I debated on whether to include the Nash article as #10, but based on the response here, it had to be included. I did not want to leave anyone to think that that kind of venomous article was normal at SBC Today.
Dr. Lemke’s four part series on “The Shot Heard Round the SBC” was one of the best templates for a positive SBC future you are going to see. The first article is here. The rest are linked on that site.
Even though I often disagree with SBC Today, it is a model for what reasoned debate should look like among Southern Baptists.
So, now its your turn. What were the issues and events that stuck in your mind for 2011?