Joey is Pastor of Berkeley Baptist Church, Berkeley Springs, WV
The Baptist Banner, an independent Baptist newsletter that affiliates (but is not owned or operated by) with the SBC of Virginia devoted an entire edition in April of 2001 to a single article, John Arthur Ippolito’s “Seminary in Apostasy: Theology Applied Liberally.” The article was essentially the journal of a theologically conservative, Bible-believing student who was attending the Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond because of its geographical convenience. He paid a visit to Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary during his first year at BTSR and transferred soon thereafter.
I want to highlight a few things from his article before proceeding with what I feel is another example of the apostasy of Americanized Christianity. Rev. Ippolito said he would sum the following up as BTSR’s Top 10 list on doctrinal positions:
- Homosexuality as natural and acceptable Christian behavior.
- Women as Senior Pastors as a cause and not a calling.
- Eliminating the use of masculine personal pronouns when referring to God.
- God as a woman, or without gender.
- Only endorsing the New Revised Standard Version Bible.
- The Old Testament as myth and not history.
- Skepticism as to the traditional authors of the New Testament, and doubt of its accuracy.
- Use of BCE (before common era) and CE (common era) instead of BC and AD
- Frequent bashing of SBC and SBC seminaries.
**reminder, this list is compiled by a former BTSR student
- 9-26- 97: The Old Testament professor has declared that there is no revelation of Jesus Christ in the OT…I am already growing weary of the constant bashing of God’s Word at this place.
- 10-5- 97: I will not permit these atheistic liberals to break my spirit or crush my faith.
- 10-21- 97: [After one student’s pro-homosexual story] After we separated into our discussion groups no one had questions or comments, although the professor was eager to have a discussion on the topic. I was tempted to ask what the Bible says about homosexuality, but I am concerned that my faith in the Bible will hurt my grade?
I’m going to stop right there. This is a rather lengthy article, but one I find worth the read. If you’re interested, go to www.baptistbanner.org. Just below the “regular mail address” are a couple of links: click on Seminary in Apostasy April, 2001.
Calvary Baptist Church of Washington, DC, a historic Baptist church founded in the midst of the Civil War because their “mother” church refused to pray for Union soldiers, has called two women as co-pastors of their church. Now, that in and of itself is worthy of debate, but it’s a debate that has been hashed out 1,000 times over these past 20 years and I don’t want to type about now. What makes this church one in apostasy is that the two female co-pastors, Sally Sarratt and Maria Swearingen, are married. That’s right…lesbian co-pastors of a Baptist church.
This is pretty odd since the Calvary Baptist Church’s webpage says they exist to “live out the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the heart of Washington, D.C.” Sarratt and Swearingen come to D.C. from Greenville, SC where Sarratt as an associate chaplain for behavioral health in the local hospitals and Swearingen was an associate chaplain at Furman University. Sarratt was also a part-time minister at Greenville Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. Sarratt hails from the University of Virginia and Emory University while Swearingen is a product of the Duke Divinity School. How do two lesbians, one of whom comes from the liberal Methodist background of Duke Divinity and the other who hold to Unitarian Universalist teachings manage to become co-pastors of a historic Baptist Church?
Where do I begin in all of this? I posted a link to the article announcing the church’s decision on Facebook with the following header: The Apostasy of American Christianity continues. “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness, who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter…for they have rejected the Lord of Hosts and despised the Holy One of Israel.” Isaiah 5:20,24. My office secretary commented on my post with the following phrase: “not my definition of Baptist.” I replied: “Not my definition of Baptist, Christian or Church!”
And that’s where I am taking this article. The Baptist denomination has its origins in the Anabaptist movement with Ulrich Zwingli as our Reformer forefather. One thing that Zwingli, Calvin and Luther had in common though was the core belief of “sola scriptura,” or solely Scripture. This flew in the face of the Catholic point-of-view which held Scripture and Tradition on equal playing fields. In the United States, outside of Scripture as a whole, there have been certain documents we have pointed to as statements of belief. The first, the New Hampshire Confession of Faith, was drafted by a Baptist preacher for a Baptist State Convention. The first article was on the Scripture and specifically states, concerning the Bible, that “it has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth without any mixture of error for its matter,…” This means that the Bible is to be trusted in what it teaches.
The Baptist Faith and Message 1925 is roughly a copy of the New Hampshire Confession of Faith. In 1963, in order to combat Biblical criticism, the BFM was updated. Here is what it says concerning the Bible: “It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter.” Once again, the standard Baptist confession of faith stands firm on what the Bible says. Oh, and the BFM 1963 is still the standard most moderate-liberal Baptist churches still use! Finally, there is our beloved BFM2000. Here is what it says concerning the Bible: “It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. THEREFORE, all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy.” [EMPHASIS ADDED]
Historically, Baptists have been a people of the book. We believe in the Bible. We love the Bible. We have fought for the Bible. Honestly, if it came to it, we would die for the Bible. Yet this historical “Baptist” church has now hired two lesbians to be their pastors, the undershepherds who are supposed to guide the church in seeking out God and following the Spirit. There is nothing Baptist about this. Unfortunately, this is not normal. The local United Methodist Churches in Berkeley Springs are a part of the Baltimore Conference. They have recently been very vocal in their support of gay marriage and LGBT rights. I wish someone could tell me when it became right to trade Biblically founded teaching for the pandering to a sinful culture.
This church isn’t Baptist. This church isn’t Christian either. What does it mean to be Christian? Well, Lifeway VBS teaches us that there are 3 steps to salvation, the ABC’s! Admit that you’re a sinner and you need God’s salvation. Believe that Jesus is the Son of God who came to take away the sins of the world. Confess to Him your sins and ask Him to remove them from your life. I reminded someone recently that to be a Christian isn’t as simple as a sinner’s prayer. Jesus commanded us to repent. This means to acknowledge our sin and turn from it. Don’t do it anymore! But this isn’t what we see from American Christianity anymore. Adam Ford, a Christian cartoonist, posted a cartoon on his Facebook site between two women that goes like this:
Woman 1: I feel like Jesus’s teachings can be summed up like this: DON’T HURT ANYBODY’S FEELINGS. CUZ IF SOMETHING HURTS SOMEONE’S FEELINGS, IT CAN’T BE CHRISTLIKE.
Woman 2: I see that sentiment everywhere. How on earth do you reconcile that with the Bible as the source of truth? I mean, the truth hurts sometimes. It convicts, it pierces, it expels that which is false. It’s objective and exclusive. And the truth is true no matter how we feel about it.
Woman 1: Want to know how I know you’re wrong? Cuz that hurts my feelings.
This church isn’t Christian because they reject the truth of who Jesus Christ is. Jesus is God. He’s not a New Testament God. He is the same God who revealed the law to Moses. He is the same God who ordered Joshua and the Israelites to wipe out the Canaanites. He is the same God who said that homosexuality was sin. He is also the same God who revealed it to Paul in the New Testament as well. To deny the Old Testament, to deny that Jesus is God is to deny Christianity. By ignoring what the Bible says about sin, this church is denying Christianity. They are not a church! Last, this church isn’t a church. They are a civic organization. They are a civil rights group. They are lauded by the left as tolerant, holy and righteous. Liberals across America will look at them and say, “This is what the 21st-century church is supposed to look like!” Yet God will one day sit in judgment and remind them of Jesus’ words in the Gospel of Matthew: “Whoever causes the downfall of one of these little ones who believe in Me—it would be better for him if a heavy millstone were hung around his neck and he were drowned in the depths of the sea.” God told Ezekiel that he was the watchman on the wall. If God gave him a message to deliver and he did not do it, while judgment may fall on the heads of those who sinned, it would be the watchman who answered for their blood. We, the church, are to carry the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are to teach the world everything He did and taught. We are to take His Word, the Holy Bible, and we are to change the world for it. This “organization” is causing others to stumble and fall. They are neither Baptist, Christian or a church.
As Isaiah said, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness, who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter…for they have rejected the Lord of Hosts and despised the Holy One of Israel.” I pray that God will prosper the faithful church in America and bring to ruin the apostates. I pray that He will raise up a remnant of Bible believing, God-fearing Christians who are unafraid to stand on the truth of Jesus Christ.