Strict//EN" ""> EAGLES' REST: The supreme Supreme Court has the case...

Saturday, June 16, 2007

The supreme Supreme Court has the case...

No, not that one. I'm referring to the One Whose jurisdiction extends from everlasting to everlasting. The one with three Jurists on the panel, and Which has yet to ever hand down a split decision.

There were several arguments presented to The Court last week. I'll highlight each that I saw as particularly significant, along with my spin on each. In other words, I've seen folks making fools of themselves with their spin on this stuff, and now it's my turn, by golly (turn .. spin .. haha).

BF&M deal: I'm sure you've seen the statement from the Executive Committee report which was adopted by this convention. In case you've been out of touch, here it is:

"The Baptist Faith and Message is neither a creed, nor a complete statement of our faith, nor final and infallible; nevertheless, we further acknowledge that it is the only consensus statement of doctrinal beliefs approved by the Southern Baptist Convention and such is sufficient in its current form to guide trustees in their establishment of policies and practices of entities of the Convention."

My understanding of the motivation behind this is that certain entities within the SBC have made theological positions which exceed the BF&M doctrines, to be litmus tests on whether one can teach at certain seminaries, become missionaries (IMB or NAMB), and perhaps certain other things. As I understand it, there's at least one seminary and maybe two, who won't let you teach there if you so much as believe that tongues is a valid gift today. Wade Burleson got into hot water over objecting to that sort of fundamentalist trend at the IMB BoT, and this adoption should at least send a signal to various entities that the Convention wants them to stick to the BF&M and not narrow down things beyond that.

***EDIT NOTE*** Wade Burleson posted a transcript of the debate on that motion; I'll simply delete my description of what I said .. the transcript is accurate ... and point you here for the full debate.

I will add one other thing: some folks are complaining that the motion was so vague and confusing that the folks didn't know what they were voting on. Gee ... wouldn't that apply to those voting against the motion, too?

What do I expect? Let's just say I don't even know how to pound sand, which seems to be what Drs. Mohler and Patterson indicated (that's my take, at least) we should go do. But the convention is now on record, and hopefully those who will carry on the attempt to negate the narrowing of what it means to be Baptist, will have a few more arrows with which to continue their efforts.

There was another significant resolution voted on by the convention. It was Tom Ascol's resolution calling on churches to clean up their church rolls and present an accurate picture of how many folks really belong to SBC churches. We declare 16 million members, but the truth is we have 6.2 million folks in church on Sunday, including infants and children too young to be members. And visitors, come to think of it.

That motion never even made it out of committee! Note that I do not buy their reasoning. When it was reported as declined by the Committee, Tom moved, from the floor, that the motion be brought to the Convention floor for vote, which would require a 2/3 majority vote to do. I spoke to that motion, covering the following points:

When Jesus was on earth, He stated that He didn't do His own work; He looked for what His Father was doing, and he joined in that work. When He left earth, He passed that work on to the church. In a very real sense, we are doing God's work here.

When we say we have 16 million members, we are misrepresenting who we are, and we are deceiving the hearers or readers of that number. And I envision NO CIRCUMSTANCES where Jesus would EVER misrepresent, or deceive, anything or anybody. Period. And I cannot IMAGINE God would ever be happy that we continue to do so. EVER.

I said I think this should be dealt with, by the Convention, and dealt with now.

Dr. Malcolm Yarnell, Assistant Dean for Theological Studies, Director of the Center for Theological Research, and Director of the Oxford Study Program, Associate professor of Systematic Theology at SWBTS, spoke against the motion. I think his reasoning was it didn't go far enough; that it didn't address regenerate membership, baptism, etc. Frankly, I was shocked. I think his objection was tantamount to a Sheriff finding a plan to stop a serial killer, but the mayor rejecting it because he doesn't make the killer promise to stop cheating on his income taxes, too.

Dr. Yarnell: you spoke against the motion to bring the resolution to the floor for discussion and a vote. I'm no parliamentarian, but if we'd voted positively, couldn't you then have moved to amend the motion and include the things you saw as important?

Bottom line: the convention heard that at least one person thinks that we are misrepresenting and deceiving and the convention, in effect, said either "Naaaah .. we're not", or "OK .. what's your point?"

As we were only voting on bringing the motion to the floor for an up or down vote, I didn't make all my arguments at that time. I thought the motion to bring forth the resolution would pass, frankly (so much for my opinion of my debating skills). So let me bore you with a few other points.

1) The system we have been operating under ... love'em back in, membership rolls are a good place for prospects, etc ... is what has brought us to where we are. Mostly missing in action. What ... are we striving for 22 million members and 8 million attendance, with 14 million missing?

2) If you tell me you're a member of Rotary, I know there's an overwhelming 90-100% chance you're there every week, and you're involved. But if you say you're a Baptist, I know there's a 64% chance you won't even be there this week. And you've probably got a good idea of what percentage of those who DO show up, are active participants and contributors. We have made church membership less meaningful, in its context, than membership in the Rotary Club.

3) We have many millions who signed a card at the front of an aisle and then went home, rarely ever to show up again. And they think they're OK! And you know why they think that? Because they ARE. At least we've told them that, and affirmed it by our actions.

4) We tell folks "Choose ye this day whom you will serve...". My question is ... "or WHAT?". We tell folks to consider how to encourage one another to love and good works, not forsaking the assembling together deal. Oh yeah? Or WHAT? Or NOTHING; our calls for that are toothless because we're going to let folks continue to be far more casual about God than about their jobs, doctor's appointments, airline schedules, etc. So let's tear Joshua 24:15 and Hebrew 10:24-25 out of our bibles, lest we be guilty of hypocrisy in addition to misrepresentation, deceit, and indifference.

We have a majority of our "members" whose faith does not take them to our churches, but we expect it WILL take them to heaven?

James seems to indicate otherwise. But it's OK with us.

I think it is a tribute to God's mercy that we still exist. The vote to even bring this motion out and vote for it failed.

Business as usual. Lie on, troops.

The other biggie, according to some, was First VP election. The candidates were Jim Richards, Executive Director of the SBTC. I don't know a lot of history, but apparently the SBTC was formed in protest to a rift between the BGCT and the SBC. I suppose, therefore, that Jim Richards would be seen as an SBC supported.

The other candidate was David Rogers, IMB Missionary and son of the late Dr. Adrian Rogers. He wasn't there; he was attending a daughter's High School Graduation in Spain, where they serve. Folks seemed to somehow think he was more an "outsider", and that the election was the establishment vs the BFM'ers. I don't really know about that but I do know Mac Brunson, formerly a Texas pastor, and "one of us", gave a super-duper stemwinder of a nomination speech for Jim Richards, whereas David Rogers' nomination speech was, to me, much less inspiring.

In fact, I cannot remember who nominated him, and don't want to go look it up so I can appear to remember.

On the way out, after that election, I walked over to where Wade Burleson was sitting and said "I'd say 70/30 for Richards". Wade looked disappointed and asked if I didn't think Rogers would win. I said Rogers isn't even here, Texas crowd, dynamite nomination speech, 70/30. I was a liar for 2%, apparently, as it was about 68/32 for Richards.

Some folks are saying that was bigger than the BFM vote. OK, they have to have something to say. But that vote pales in comparison with the Vote To Continue Misrepresentation and Deceit.

Yeah, we had a good time around the bloggers, hanging with our Pastor and Minister to Senior Adults, and Skip Parvin from Milan, TN. Sure, there were resolutions; some were "fluff" and some were things we needed to say. One of the more interesting was a resolution to ask graduates from our seminaries to lead "model lives" as pastors. Gee. I wonder what we expected them to do....

I'm sure I'll remember some other stuff to say, so I may add some stuff. But right now, Mr. Carpal Tunnel is recommending I stop. So here it comes.......


OK .. some more. It was good to see all my Blogging friends. Despite the heat of many of the (shall we say) discussions here, everyone was really cordial and friendly. I'm on the other side of some issues from Tim Rogers, Wes Kenney, occasionally Les Puryear, Robin Foster, and some others. But what a great bunch of guys. I love them all. And it was wonderful spending some time with lots of others that I've spent time with before.

Dwight McKissic. What a fine, fine man. If he wasn't a lot younger than me, I'd ask him to adopt me.

Missionaries. One of the most uplifting things of the week happened one day at lunch. We were just finishing and two people walked up and one of them said thanks for writing my blog. They were European IMB missionaries, and referred to the blog as a "voice of reason". Gosh, what a kind thing to say, and encouraging thing to hear. It gave a lot of meaning to expressing opinions and standing up for things, to know that someone who had never ever commented on my blog, was reading and appreciating it. Thank you so much, to you folks for saying that. You'll never know how much I appreciated that.

The elephant in the room, for the convention as a whole, may have been the Lifeway report on the gift of tongues. For years, the establishment has told us that 95% of SBC pastors and laymen don't believe in that gift's validity, today. Actual facts, as unearthed by Lifeway, are startlingly different. And the spin about, and attacks on, the report, have been legion (hey I like that term for it .. teehee). But I didn't see much about that this year.


We stuck around a day and went on The Boat Ride, and also visited the Alamo. That was interesting in the sense that it's a Shrine, the signs say to be silent in it, and the folks inside sounded about like the average Deacon Meeting in terms of noise level.

I'm glad Ben Cole's Resolution about Gluttony didn't come to the floor. I'd have had to vote for it, and that would have cast a pall over Thursday's lunch of chicken-fried steak, mashed potatoes, and gravy at the Alamo Cafe.

One thing I know about this Highest Court of all, which differs from our earthly Supreme Court, is that it doesn't render Its verdict on anybody else's timetable. We don't show up on some steps some morning and hear pronouncements. They don't render opinions; when they decide a thing, they simply exact justice. And I do think we'll know their verdict shortly.

So it'll be interesting to see what happens this year. I'm no prophet, and neither was my father. But I have the feeling that something bad is going to happen within the SBC, specifically in response to the vote to continue misrepresentation and deceit. God may be merciful in that respect. Maybe. But maybe not.

If anything does happen, I hope somebody notices it, but we may be too successful to.

Which would be an answer in itself.


At 4:56 PM, June 16, 2007, Anonymous marie said...

I knew I wouldn't be disappointed!!! :)

Yeah, I like your take best of all. You have a way of calling it what it is and making it funny too! How do you do that???

I'm sad for the SBC, but it looks like there will be many church leaders who take a stronger stand for Christ and His mission because of this. I believe the LORD will greatly bless those who are getting on with His business even while trying to cooperate with an institution that may not fully function in a godly way.

There is still so much good being done - so many missionaries that depend on the SBC - that are out there bringing people into the Kingdom by the Spirit of God.

Thank you for standing up for what is right. I believe the ripple effects of what you and others have done will be seen for many years ahead...

At 6:03 PM, June 16, 2007, Blogger Bob Cleveland said...

Hi Marie. Thanks for commenting.

I think I have an advantage over the vast majority in that I don't have a church to maintain or a budget to meet or a crowd to please, and I'm too old to bend what I think to match folks' expectations. So I just observe. I'm sure there are lots of others, who don't speak up for reasons I'll blog about soon (I just now figured I ought to tell that story).

At 11:50 PM, June 16, 2007, Anonymous Lee said...

I can't figure out why we wouldn't want to pass a non-binding resolution which would do nothing more than make an honest statement that we are aware of the fact that our membership figure is way out of line with our actual participation. At the very least, it might prompt some churches, which are the ones who send in the reports, to do some roll cleaning.

When we registered for the convention, my pastor smiled at the membership figure listed with the SBC on our messenger cards. Our church clerk has apparently not updated the membership figure with the SBC since we cleaned our rolls several years ago, and we are listed with something like 1800 members. We have 300 in worship on any given Sunday, and about three years ago, initiated a computer-driven membership tracking system which allowed us to clean the rolls and arrive at a figure of 556 members, which has increased to 589 members in the three years we've used it.

Perhaps there's an ego factor involved. The United Methodists, who report 8.5 million members, also report a weekly attendance of 7.6 million, which would make them, in effect, the "Nation's Largest Protestant Denomination" if we got honest. There may be a couple of others out there with a bigger weekly attendance average as well, and I'm not sure the egos of some of our agency heads would be able to endure that.

Then there is the deepest, darkest secret of all, and that is the fact that the weekly attendance figure (**shhhhhh**) that is currently reported might actually be lower than it was when the resurgence was launched in 1979, and that it has declined since then, whereas, it grew substantially from 1950 to 1979, when "the other people" were in charge. If that's the case, then that might (shhhhh) make us a declining denomination, just like those mainliners we've been maligning for years and claiming that liberal theology was the root cause of their decline. Apparently, something other than that must be behind denominational decline, and we can't have news about that getting out, either.

How would you like to serve as the next president of the SBC. It would be my distinct privilege, seriously, to nominate you.

At 1:31 AM, June 17, 2007, Blogger Bob Cleveland said...

Lee .. what .. you trying to KILL me?

On the flight out, an AoG rep, from their foreign missions department, told me their attendance is about 6.5 million. I'm sure there are others.

Seriously, when Rotary International insists on attendance and involvement, whereas we're 62-63% missing and unfindable, something's wrong. When membership in the Rotary is more meaningful than membership in a Baptist Church, well ... I don't know what to say. And we did it.

At 5:40 PM, June 17, 2007, Blogger Jim Collier said...

Bob -

To make public the comments I made in private to you at the convention, thanks for being yourself. Thanks for your kindness and gentleness, thanks for honoring our Lord Jesus.
As for your comments that an affirmative vote for Ascol's resolution giving me a chance to challenge my church, I'll give my SBC report tonight at church and this non-resolution will still be discussed. Thanks for your suggestions.

Grace to you and Peace,

At 6:12 PM, June 17, 2007, Blogger Bob Cleveland said...

Thanks, Jim. I really do appreciate your kind words.

I figure I'd best be myself; I don't know anyone better qualified for the job. Not that anybody else'd even want it....

I tell my SS Class every Sunday that one person can be involved and can count in the Lord's work. As an Army of sorts, we've left the battle to the Generals, and that's got to stop. If I help in any way, I'm honored and humbled.

Thanks again. Blessings upon your noble work there.

At 9:23 AM, June 20, 2007, Anonymous marie said...

Bob! You are a celebrity!!!!

Can I say I knew you when...? :)

What a wonderful tribute to you and the LORD you serve over at Wade Burlson's blog.

You rock, Bob!!! (I'm still under 50, so I can say that!)

At 10:18 AM, June 20, 2007, Blogger Bob Cleveland said...

Thanks, Marie. To quote my pastor (referring to his D. Min. degree) .. "It's like the curl in a pig's tail: it's nice decoration but it doesn't mean there's any more meat there". Such it is with Wade's post.

I emailed him and told him the only reason I didn't ask him to take it down (that sort of thing makes me uncomfortable as I don't know how to react) was that perhaps some other ordinary folks out there will read it and get the idea that they can count, too, and that God will do some stuff in their lives that they never dreamed He'd do, if they'll let Him.

I rock? Sure you can say that. I'll get one of my grandkids to interpret it for me.


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