Not All Answers Have Questions
One of the nice parts about being old is that you can say some off-the-wall things, and there's a chance folks will chalk it up to old age (which you can't do much about) rather than to ignorance (which you can). So I shall exercise the privilege of age.
What booms out louder than anything else, to me, in all this mess that has capable people firing salvos in every direction, has them checking out of the wrestling match over convention politics, and even alternately endorsing, and distancing themselves from, efforts to showcase SBC matters via the blogs (case in point: SBC Outpost)?
Something's got to give, that's what.
When I look at the SBC, I see what it was formed for, and what it is now. BIG difference. And I question why that happened, and the only thing I can observe is that people are people. If we don't learn from what has happened in the SBC, I suppose we'll be doomed to either perpetuate it, or duplicate it in another direction. And that's sad.
One possible answer: The current travail will generate a new denomination (oh, don't go shouting that we're not a denomination ... I know that but I'm not clever enough to invent some new term for it). At worst, a lot of churches are going to go their merry way alone, and become independent.
I have several reasons for thinking that something like this is going to happen:
1) After hearing the reaction of some heads of SBC entities at the convention, taking what was supposed to be "report time" to react to the Garner motion, I have no expectations that they will change their ways or their rules or their requirements, at all. None. They will continue to drift toward a matrix of rules, to the detriment of any spiritual sensitivity, the same way I've seen churches do with their Deacon requirements. The entities are putting up an image of success and seem to be willing to simply withhold information which indicates otherwise, and I really feel they will continue that for the foreseeable future.
2) As opposed to some leadership who seem to have vested interests in the status quo, we have a goodly number of eager, talented, young pastors who've studied what it means to be Baptist and disagree with the direction leadership is taking us. They've put up a good battle, a worthy one. Worthy, that is, if you want to perpetuate the SBC as a viable and God-controlled entity. But they sure seem to be getting tired. I don't know everyone, but I can think of (in no particular order) Micah Fries, Alan Cross, Art Rogers, Marty Duren, CB Scott (who isn't blogging about SBC stuff that I've noticed lately) and I'm sure there are others. They look as if they want to concentrate on their own church's mission, and be less vocal in SBC affairs. If you don't like the way the SBC has been drifting in the changes that have been broadcast enough already (see Boyd Luter's blog), just wait until we see what happens without the loyal objections of the faithful.
3) Like it or not, blogging about these matters, while it is worth doing, in my mind, will always attract big disagreements. I have no doubt that everyone has pure motives when they kick off a blog, but we've seen what happens in those comment threads enough to know what happens when we try to have a decent discourse about important matters. Human nature takes over and out come the claws. Sure, lots of folks .. maybe even most .. are civil enough. But debates degenerate, regardless.
4) The Sandy Creek/Charlestonian Roundtable showed great promise, and I attended the first meeting and the followup conference on the Holy Spirit. By the last meeting of the conference, attendance was perhaps 20% of the registration. I made the comment to Wade Burleson, standing in the back of the auditorium, that even the folks who cared enough to come, apparently didn't care enough to come.
5) The SBC has many, many different kinds of churches in it. Ours is a church of 2,500+/- members, and 900+/- in attendance. As our pastor said to the congregation upon return from San Antonio, nothing that took place there necessarily had any effect on our church. Looking at that another way, we view the Cooperative program as a way we can fulfill our obligation to reach out to the state, the nation, and the world (as I believe was the original purpose) and we can frankly get along without the SBC other than that. At least that's my take.
The SBC also has a lot of small churches that are not involved in SBC matters (41,000+ churches, 8400 messengers registered, mostly under 4,000 ever even voting in any of the ballots) and they have their hands full doing what they are doing where they are. They depend on Lifeway and the local association and perhaps the state convention for things, so they'll hang in there.
Then there's the establishment, whatever that is, who will stay right there (seemingly) forever.
6) Frankly, I think there IS a place for a Round table Baptist Association. I spent many years living close to an independent mission board in Indiana. They had several noteworthy things going for them. For one thing, they went to bed broke every night. When God blessed them with resources, they used them in Kingdom work right then. They depended on God to supply, every day. Also, everybody on staff made the same money. If you were full-time missionary staff, you made the same salary if you were a mail boy, a missionary, or the president. Those folks were all called to their own personal mission and were the most devoted folks I know. And they lived in the same sort of housing; the president's home was no bigger than the art director's. Incidentally, the mission's employees all raised their own support, other than a few domestic employees they hired for work in their home office.
So I know that mission-sending agencies CAN operate on such a basis. They always seemed so unspotted by the world, too. And, if God can generate such a missionary organization as that, He can do it funded by cooperating churches the way the SBC funds NAMB and IMB. Someone, one of these days, is going to wake up to that fact and say "Let's do that".
7) We saw the reaction to the Garner Motion. All that said was "The BF&M is a sufficient guide for SBC entities." Look at the brouhaha it generated. Well .. ... for one of my really off-the-wall thoughts .... SBC and NAMB and IMB leadership, in their recent re-definitions of the parameters for participation, seem to think that the Bible isn't sufficient, either. How else can you declare as unfit, people with God-given gifts, and who have been scripturally baptized?
Go beyond the BF&M? They're going beyond The Bible!
I see too many guys checking out of convention politics for the ship to ever really change course. What I haven't seen is any convention leadership wanting to change the status quo.
I smell a new denomination. There's room for one... Staid upon Jehovah.... Sitting at a round table.... Insisting on openness and honesty and integrity. And equality. Believing God to enable them to discern His Spirit over their rules. Followers responsive to leaders, and leaders responsive to followers.
If that doesn't happen, then something else ought to. And I suspect it will. The formation of a new mission-sending agency. One which will give God-gifted missionary candidates the chance to fulfill their role in the Kingdom work. And, one formed by Southern Baptists. If the Southern Baptist Convention and its entities won't give them the chance to do that, why shouldn't Southern Baptist Churches do it anyway?
Look ... SBC churches don't live in a vacuum. Some churches plant churches on their own, without Association or Convention involvement. Some churches don't use Lifeway Sunday School material. I suspect some even send missionaries other than through NAMB or IMB, on their own. Why shouldn't some churches group together to send workers to the field, in other ways than SBC entities?
There are also SBC pastors who didn't go to SBC seminaries or colleges, aren't there?
So, while the things that are going on may generate a new denomination, or may result in an exodus of the sort of churches the SBC really needs to keep, there may be another answer on the horizon. In fact, when the Sandy Creek-Charlestonian Roundtable was first announced, it included mention of exploring the possibility of alternate funding mechanisms for disenfranchised missionaries and missionary candidates.
I think it's time to start.