That’s what the Gaffer said to Frodo when he returned to the Shire and promised to do all he could to set thing right. He couldn’t understand why Frodo and the others had gone off on their foolish quest or why they’d been gone so long. Events in far off lands couldn’t matter as much as the pain and sorrow that had taken place right there in Hobbiton. But now the travelers had returned as fierce warriors ready to set things right. And at Frodo’s assurance, the Gaffer was satisfied.
“You can’t say fairer than that.”
That is also my response to James MacDonald’s post from yesterday, entitled, “Elder Rule Church Government is from Satan, Too.” In this post he, with what seems to me to be sincerity, humility and conviction, apologizes for the post he wrote in 2011 in which he claimed that congregational government was of Satanic origins.
That post “Congregational Government is from Satan” was removed from his website long ago, but it is available any number of places on the internet. Since the apology post came out yesterday, I’m not going to link to it. You can find it if you’d like.
The title pretty much says it all – it is not a subtle piece and left little wiggle room for interpretation. He did not say that congregationalism could be abused – he said the system was unbiblical and of Satanic origin – plain and simple. His conclusion was, “Let’s send congregational government back to hell where it came from.”
As you can imagine, there were quite a few folks who felt a little shell shocked when that missile was fired, and it is safe to say that not a few rounds were fired in return. MacDonald has not been a hero to many in the Baptist part of the kingdom since.
That’s why many of us were surprised, saddened and a little chafed when he was invited to speak to the SBC Pastors’ Conference. Why would we bring in someone to speak to us who thinks our form of government is Satanic? It was my plan to be absent when James MacDonald addressed the conference, and I am aware of several others who felt the same way. Why would we give ear to someone who had expressed such open hostility to our views?
But I’ve been contacted about going one step farther. “Dave, are you going to organize a boycott or protest?” Anyone who knows me knows that’s not really my style. But after discussing this with people and after the suggestion that I organize a boycott (something I never intended to do), I decided to make some contacts.
I went to the website of his church and got Willy Rice’s email and I sent him a question. Did he know if James MacDonald had ever recanted, revised or repented of those comments? He sent me a very cordial email a couple of days later that said that he did not think that MacDonald’s views on the topic were nearly as harsh as they had been interpreted as being. I can understand that now. In the post of yesterday, MacDonald explains that his views have moderated toward congregationalism a little (not completely) and his friend Willy Rice was aware of that. All I had to go on way what he said in 2011 which was really not open to much interpretation.
I also sent an email to James MacDonald’s church asking for clarification of his views. I have not yet received a response, but I am guessing that since the post yesterday was probably in the works when I sent my email on Sunday, they did not feel the need to reply directly.
I agree. Frankly, I am completely satisfied. I can’t promise that I will be in the room when MacDonald speaks, but I won’t be boycotting it. I devote a good bit of the pastors’ conference time to the fine art of schmoozing (er…fellowship) and I don’t know what opportunities for such “ministry” might present themselves when he is speaking. But as far as I am concerned, this post from yesterday is a sufficient apology and explanation to render the 2011 post a dead issue.
- It seems sincere.
- He repents of pride and asks forgiveness for words that were intemperate.
- He seeks to correct those words.
- He demonstrates theological development – and the fact that the development is closer to what we believe is a hallelujah moment, right?
Honestly, folks, what could we ask for by way of an apology that James MacDonald did not give? I thought it was a model for such things. There was no self-justification, deflection, or anything. He did it right. So, in one less-fat-than-I-used-to-be-preacher-from-Iowa’s opinion:
You can’t say fairer than that!