THE CORNER OF IRRELEVANCE
I've never seen it actually happen, but I'm thinking we're seeing it happening right now. I think the SBC and its entities are painting themselves into a corner.
I call it the Corner of Irrelevance. I don't know how rational my thinking is, but here's the rationale.
The Arkansas State Convention recently rejected a proposal to remove some old Landmark sections of their constitution; namely provisions calling for closed communion, and rejecting alien immersion. I heard the comment that many churches didn't observe closed communion anyway, nor did they require SBC baptism to become a member of an SBC church. Personally I agree with changing those things but I don't live there, so that's a moot point.
What definitely IS important, though, is that they acknowledge many folks aren't observing those things anyway, so why change them. That hints at irrelevance of the rules, and casts doubt on other, legitimate provisions of the constitution.
Doesn't it? Oh, don't worry about the rules ... nobody pays attention to them anyway.
Now, I don't know about you, but that doesn't seem very smart to me. Intentionally downplaying the importance of part of our structure of rules unintentionally calls ALL of them into question. Doesn't it? Sure seems to me it does.
I wonder if this same thought applies to the SBC. When we returned from last summer's Convention in San Antonio, our pastor updated the congregation on most of the noteworthy events. His comment as respects some of the items with which our church might not have agreed was that none of those things made any difference in FBC Pelham; we're an autonomous body and hence the views of the hierarchy really didn't affect our practices. For instance, we practice open communion, and our acceptance of baptisms from other churches is different from the widely-broadcast edicts of the SBC/IMB. And I don't know of better evidence of the sincerity of that remark by our pastor, than his acceptance of, and explicit love for, this old Charismatic Calvinist.
Even to having no problem with my teaching Sunday School.
In my opinion, FBC Pelham has the correct view of the SBC overall. They are useful, but not historically. There's no future in the past. What they do now, what they say now, the positions they take now, that's all that matters now. In that sense, I'm reminded of the football player who was somewhat of a media darling in college, and got a lot of press attention. He was recruited by a professional team and the coach called on him to do some exercises and run some plays, so he could assess the player's capabilities. The player griped after a few minutes and asked the coach "Haven't you read what all I've accomplished?"
The coach's response: "When some 325# tackle comes down on you like a freight train, scrambling for your life, you gonna show him your press clippings?"
So it is with the SBC, the IMB, SWBTS, SBTS, et al. Every time some inane pronouncement issues forth, and the local church leadership exercises their Southern Baptist prerogative and ignores what they say (can you say tongues, baptism, closed communion, cooperation, closed door meetings, women teaching men, prohibiting dissent, blah blah blah?), then the SBC runs the risk of every decision becoming irrelevant to the local church, in the local church's autonomy.
Even the righteous ones.
One danger I just thought of is this: in any area in which they exclude some group or other, they ought to be viewing it as a one-way street. If local churches decide to begin supporting other mission causes, wholly or partially by-passing the IMB and NAMB, those folks are never coming back. If you alienate a congregation, they're probably gone for good. Lose a raft of missionaries over some silly requirement, and you're not getting them back. And this may be the sort of thing, if it goes too far, that the SBC et al could never overcome after-the-fact.
We may well become the religious equivalent of Norma Desmond, living on the Sunset Boulevard of SBC life, no one wanting to see us any more.
I haven't been an active deacon for a number of years, now. So I'm not up to speed on all the current practices, but I recall our internal agreement to be open about things (except for the obvious) and if we disagreed with something, we'd still support the majority decision. Same way we do with business meeting votes. We weren't stifled from sharing our own views with anyone, but we
Getting our say doesn't mean getting our way. We lived with it. But then, our deacons weren't the FBC news bureau, whereas IMB trustees are supposed to interpret and carry the news of what happens back to their folks.
BIG difference there.
I was raised with the admonition that, regardless of who we voted for (yes I know it's really whom), we'd support our president. That's the American way. Unity in diversity. Our say if not our way. And that fact in no way diminishes the value of having my say. But that's government.
The leadership of the SBC et al doesn't govern us. So while the government can never, in our national context, become irrelevant, the SBC leadership certainly can!
I wonder if that's happening right now. If so, it won't be you and I that did it, nor will it be Wade Burleson or any other person (including bloggers) who's insisting on openness and accountability and a continuation of the Baptist tradition of courteous dissent. If that's what's happening, they'll have painted themselves into that corner.
The Corner of Irrelevance.