Wednesday, May 31, 2006

"Baptist" or "baptistic"?

(This post is an "appendix" to the "Historical Documents" series. My next post will be a summary and conclusion to the series)

I have been asked on several occasions recently to comment on why I believe it is okay for IMB missionaries to plant "baptistic" rather than specifically "Baptist" churches.

Let me start by saying I don’t have anything against planting specifically "Baptist" churches. The last thing I want to do on this blog is "throw stones" at someone for planting "Baptist" churches. My intention is rather to defend those who feel that, in their particular context, it is best to plant "baptistic" churches.

While it is true that the term "baptistic" can mean different things for different people, there is also a wide divergence of belief and practice among people and churches that identify themselves as "Baptist". As IMB missionaries, we already have a good doctrinal guideline (the BF & M 2000) as well as definition of church (the Church Definition and Guidelines referenced on my last post).

In some contexts, the name "Baptist" has negative cultural connotations that serve as an unnecessary impediment to lost people giving a fair listen to the Gospel message. This perception of Baptists may be deserved or undeserved, but nevertheless exists in some cultural contexts. There are some contexts, for example, where Evangelicals, or even Christians, in general, are in such a small minority, that additional labels bring unnecessary confusion to the uninitiated.

Here in Spain, for example, the majority of evangelical churches of all denominations use the same logo and sign on the front of their church building, which says simply Iglesia EvangĂ©lica (Evangelical Church). It is felt that this helps to build a better image in Spanish society, lessening the confusion in people’s minds between Evangelicals and various cult groups. When you throw the name "Baptist" into the mix as well, it can confuse the issue even more, as many people don’t understand there are different denominations of Protestantes or EvangĂ©licos, or why.

In several countries of Latin America, from what I understand, Evangelicals are known merely as Cristianos. I long for the day we can say the same thing here in Spain. For the time being, the term Cristiano, for most people in Spain, is equivalent to Catholic.

Even in the States, in recent years, church growth experts point to the advantage of non-denominational church names, especially in certain areas of the country, and with certain population segments. I wonder, for example, if Rick Warren would have had the same success in Southern California, if his church had been known from the start as Saddleback Baptist Church. Even in the middle of the Bible belt, in suburban Memphis, Tennessee, since the time of my father’s ministry, my home church has intentionally linked its public image to the name "Bellevue", opting to play down the official name, "Bellevue Baptist Church". Ed Stetzer, of NAMB, in his book Planting New Churches in a Postmodern Age, goes as far as to affirm: "Most new churches being planted today do not identify their denominations in their names."

Some have suggested that to avoid identifying oneself publicly as "Baptist" is tantamount to being ashamed of Bible doctrine. I would definitely agree we should not be ashamed of biblical doctrine. But I see as completely separate issues being ashamed of biblical doctrine, and naming or not naming your church after a particular doctrine. Why specifically baptism, and not, for instance, substitutionary atonement, or bodily resurrection, or virgin birth, etc.? It would seem to me that the purpose of the name "Baptist" is mostly to separate (or at least to create a separate identity) from other Christians who do not share "Baptist" (or "baptistic", if you will) distinctives. I do not think going without the name "Baptist" necessitates compromising on biblical doctrinal beliefs (which, in my point of view, would almost certainly match up almost completely, if not completely, with what many call "Baptist" distinctives).

Paige Patterson, as you will remember from a recent post, says:

…to call a church a Baptist church is to tap into the historic march of a people bent on a restoration of the New Testament Church. Clearly, the Baptist name is not found attached to churches in the New Testament. But the name apparently assigned to a movement by its enemies came to stand for a body of truths that marked the movement as distinctive. To the three Reformation principles of sola scriptura, sola gratia, and sola fide, Baptists would add sola Trinitate, doubtless with the approval of the Magisterial Reformers. But then they would also insist on sola ecclesia regeneratorum witnessed by baptism and ordered by the ban, working to disseminate the liberating Gospel of Christ to every person on the earth. For these truths, Manz, Hubmaier, Sattler, and a host of others paid with their blood. For those of us in this generation to trifle with those principles for which they shed their blood would be reprehensible.
While I am certainly "proud" of the theological and testimonial heritage of the Anabaptist leaders, and would not hope for their legacy to be lost to posterity, I think it perhaps even better to commemorate the example left us by the martyrs of the early church, who were content to be identified by the term "Christian". Perhaps, in some contexts, as ours in Spain today, that term creates confusion in people’s minds. But, the truth is, whatever term you choose in most contexts around the world creates confusion in one way or another.

Perhaps the following example will help to illustrate my point. I unreservedly believe in believer's baptism by immersion. I wholeheartedly embrace it as the biblical model of baptism. I also happen to believe in "common loaf communion". My reasons for this are basically the same as my reasons for my beliefs about baptism: 1) The Scripture clearly teaches it in 1 Cor. 10.17; 2) it is a symbol of the important spiritual reality of the essential unity of the Body of Christ (just as immersion is of death, burial, and resurrection); 3) Biblical example almost always refers to "breaking bread", not passing out "pre-prepared wafers" (in the same way biblical example points to believer's baptism by immersion).

Would it not make as much sense to call my church a "Common Loaf Communionist" church as it would a "Baptist" church? However, I would not choose to call my church a "Common Loaf Communionist" church for several reasons: 1) it would, in my opinion, place the main emphasis on a doctrine or practice, which, although important in my mind, is not the central doctrine of the Gospel; 2) it would be communicating to all "non-Common Loaf Communionist" Christians my separation, rather than essential unity with them; and 3) I would be concerned that the name "Common Loaf Communionist" church might provide an unnecessary barrier to the lost.

Am I saying that I believe Baptists are therefore wrong to call their churches "Baptist" churches? Not at all, especially if that name helps you in your quest to reach people for Christ. But please don’t tell those who hold to biblical and even "baptistic" convictions that they are compromising their faith, and are ashamed of the Gospel, when they choose to call themselves something other than "Baptist".

Monday, May 29, 2006

Historical Documents: Baptist-Evangelical Cooperation in World Missions, Part 14

At the Nov. 10-12, 2003 IMB Board of Trustee meeting in Lexington, Kentucky, two statements were issued in response to the Vision Assessment paper distributed by Keith Eitel. According to Baptist Press:

The trustees’ first statement, which was adopted without discussion or dissent, affirms “the strategies and leadership” of the board and resolved “to review the concerns and the issues raised and take appropriate action to guarantee that the vision to lead Southern Baptists to reach the world for Christ is not compromised.”

The second statement, also adopted unanimously, affirms an initiative by Jerry Rankin to arrange for a meeting of IMB staff and trustees with Eitel and Patterson “to resolve misunderstandings and perceptions communicated in Eitel’s assessment of the International Mission Board vision and strategy.”
While, upon first glance, these statements might be interpreted as a rejection of the ideas proposed by Eitel, and an affirmation of Jerry Rankin and New Directions, it might also appear that “a bone was tossed” to those who may have been more sympathetic to Eitel’s concerns, by way of the vaguely defined commitment “to review the concerns and the issues raised and take appropriate action to guarantee that the vision to lead Southern Baptists to reach the world for Christ is not compromised.”

Looking back at several policy changes in recent months, it would appear that perhaps some of the key ideas contained therein may be traced in some way to Eitel’s paper.

The new policies on “private prayer language” and acceptable baptism for new missionary candidates have already been amply discussed, both on this blog, as well as others.

In January 2005, two other significant policy changes were voted on and approved. The first of these, on Church Definition and Guidelines, was, in my opinion, a positive clarification of church planting expectations.

CHURCH DEFINITION AND GUIDELINES Approved by the Board of Trustees in January of 2005

The definition of a local church is given in the 2000 edition of the Baptist Faith and Message:

A New Testament church of the Lord Jesus Christ is an autonomous local congregation of baptized believers, associated by covenant in the faith and fellowship of the gospel; observing the two ordinances of Christ, governed by His laws, exercising the gifts, rights, and privileges invested in them by His Word, and seeking to extend the gospel to the ends of the earth. Each congregation operates under the Lordship of Christ through democratic processes. In such a congregation each member is responsible and accountable to Christ as Lord. Its scriptural officers are pastors and deacons. While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.


We believe that every local church is autonomous under the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the authority of His inerrant word. This is as true overseas as it is in the United States. Some churches to which we relate overseas may make decisions in doctrine and practice which we would not choose. Nevertheless, we are accountable to God and to Southern Baptists for the foundation that we lay when we plant churches, for the teaching that we give when we train church leaders, and for the criteria that we use when we count churches. In our church planting and teaching ministries, we will seek to lay a foundation of beliefs and practices that are consistent with the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, although local churches overseas may express those beliefs and practices in different ways according to the needs of their cultural settings. Flowing from the definition of a church given above and from the Scriptures from which this definition is derived, we will observe the following guidelines in church planting, leadership training and statistical reporting.

1. A church is intentional about being a church. Members think of themselves as a church. They are committed to one another and to God (associated by covenant) in pursuing all that Scripture requires of a church.

2. A church has an identifiable membership of baptized believers in Jesus Christ.

3. A church practices the baptism of believers only by immersing them in water.

4. A church observes the Lord’s Supper on a regular basis.

5. Under the authority of the local church and its leadership, members may be assigned to carry out the ordinances.

6. A church submits to the inerrant word of God as the ultimate authority for all that it believes and does.

7. A church meets regularly for worship, prayer, the study of God’s word, and fellowship. Members of the church minister to one another’s needs, hold each other accountable, and exercise church discipline as needed. Members encourage one another and build each other up in holiness, maturity in Christ, and love.

8. A church embraces its responsibility to fulfill the Great Commission, both locally and globally, from the beginning of its existence as a church.

9. A church is autonomous and self-governing under the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the authority of His Word.

10. A church has identifiable leaders, who are scrutinized and set apart according to the qualifications set forth in Scripture. A church recognizes two Biblical offices of church leadership: pastors/elders/overseers and deacons. While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor/elder/overseer is limited to men as qualified by Scripture
I personally have no problem with this definition of church and the corresponding guidelines, as worded. I would agree that in the midst of the new emphasis on “Church Planting Movements” and the many times self-induced pressure to produce results, which is common in practically any organization, some IMB workers were perhaps tempted to put the label “church” on an assortment of “Bible study groups”, “preaching points”, or “seeker groups”, that did not really meet the biblical qualifications of “church”. Not that these other groups are bad in and of themselves. Many times, they are a necessary step along the way to true, biblical “church”.

Another policy change that has not garnered near the attention as these, was the amendment to the policy on Volunteers passed in Jan. 2005. The relevant part of the new policy reads as follows…

3. Only members of SBC churches will be enlisted for volunteer service by the board.
a. Exceptions may be made for members of other evangelical churches for projects with a purpose of entry into target populations, ministry to human needs, prayer, scripture distribution, and construction projects.
b. Projects for church planting, preaching and teaching, theological education, etc. must be filled only by members of SBC churches.
c. Any other exceptions must be approved by the executive vice president.
d. Only members of SBC churches may serve as team leaders for volunteer teams. All IMB field personnel have affirmed the BF&M and have agreed to work in accordance with it. All volunteers who go to work with our field personnel are expected to work within the parameters of the BF&M.
What is unclear is whether IMB missionaries remain free to work with non-SBC volunteers who are not channeled through the Board’s Volunteer Program. In actuality, there are many such opportunities that often play a strategic role in on-field ministry. In Spain, for example, while we have worked, and will continue to work, with specifically SBC volunteers, we have also hosted volunteers from other parts of Spain, other countries, and other organizations. Many of these have been a great blessing, and have played a strategic role in helping us advance in our evangelistic and church planting objectives.

Even more significant, in my opinion, has been the change of language in policy related to relating to GCCs on the mission field. In 1998, the IMB released David Garrison’s booklet Something New Under the Sun, explaining the rationale behind “New Directions”, or “Strategic Directions for the 21st Century,” as it is now officially called. Especially relevant is Chapter 5, which, due to its crucial importance, I include here in its entirety…

Chapter 5

Since the strategic question (What's it going to take?) reveals our own limitations in terms of fulfilling the Great Commission, it's nice to know that there is a much greater pool of resources available to us. This greater resource pool consists of the millions of evangelicals from all over the world who also have yielded their lives to the lordship of Jesus Christ.

One missionary compared his awakening to this broader community of God's people to a fisherman who has been casting around in a small tidal pool and then begins to surf-cast in the sea itself. Our God is so great! he exclaimed. There is nothing He can't do. But first we have to open our eyes to His resources.

Gazing out over the ocean of Great Commission resources also can be overwhelming. More than one missionary has confessed to feeling a little seasick. How can we navigate in a sea without boundaries? they ask. Their question is reasonable. For some, a fear of drifting aimlessly on this boundless sea of potential has led them to reject the whole notion of sailing with other evangelicals. This needn't be the case. There are lessons we can learn from those who have gone before us. Let's take a look at some of these lessons as we address some of our missionaries' most frequently asked questions


FAQ #1: Surely you don't expect us to work with all so-called Christians? Many of these Christians are Christian in name only and have no personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

This is true. While researchers have identified more than two billion individuals in the world who claim Christianity as their religion, Baptists are right to point out that calling oneself a Christian doesn't mean it's so. As Jesus warned us, Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven ... (Matt. 3:9).

Nominal Christians are an object of missions, not a resource for missions! However, within the great sea of Christianity there are many born-again believers--men and women--who have experienced a personal saving relationship with Jesus Christ and look to God's Word as their authority for faith and practice. These evangelicals are scattered all over the world and are growing in number. Current global estimates put their number at up to 500 million. They are found in more than 20,000 denominations with over 1,000 foreign mission agencies worldwide. It is these fellow believers who offer us tremendous potential as co-laborers in fulfilling the Great Commission.

FAQ #2: Does this mean we're no longer planting Baptist churches?

As Southern Baptist missionaries, it always will be our heart's desire to plant and nurture indigenous Baptist churches. This is still the aim and focus of all our personnel. However, there are places where historic, political or legal factors impinge on the overt use of the name Baptist. In some places, the radical multiplication of new churches has simply exceeded the ability of local Baptists to assimilate them all.

In these instances, IMB missionaries still can work to see these churches become as baptistic as possible by nurturing in them Baptist ideals and core values. These ideals are shaped around a variety of questions: Do church members submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all matters? Are they committed to the authority of God's Word? Do they adhere to the sole competency of the believer to interpret Scripture? Does the church follow a New Testament model of polity? Do they practice the ordinances of baptism and the Lord's supper? Do they practice believers' baptism? These are some of the Baptist core values that we adhere to that lead to distinctly baptistic churches, even in those places where the name Baptist does not appear.

FAQ #3: Have we abandoned our relationships with overseas Baptist partners, conventions and unions?

Certainly not! However, the relationship is maturing to a new level. There may have been a time in the past when we were in a paternal relationship with these overseas colleagues. Today, more and more Baptist conventions around the world are coming into their own and challenging us to keep up! There is no greater joy than to share with a Baptist partner in the task of fulfilling the Great Commission. This may be the most significant implication of the new directions for our Baptist colleagues around the world. We are calling on them, counting on them, depending on them to share with us in this exciting ministry of taking the gospel to every person in the world. We cannot do it without their help. We need each other to get the job done.

FAQ #4: Is it true that I can now approach any church with funding needs for my mission projects?

In a word, no. As we said earlier, there are over 20,000 evangelical denominations in the world today. One of these denominations has covenanted to faithfully support you and your ministry. The condition is that we not undermine the Cooperative Program or Lottie Moon Christmas Offering by directly soliciting donations for our own ministry from Southern Baptist churches.

It is appropriate for you to submit project-funding proposals to your IMB regional leadership team for their consideration. They may then either fund the project from existing budgets or submit the project to the IMB Development Office. Once the Development Office has received it, the project is regarded as an IMB Priority Needs Project. At that point, a local church or group of concerned believers may fund it directly, but not as a result of missionary solicitation. It is offered to the potential donors in response to their request for personal projects that they can adopt.

A sure and safe guideline for any missionary navigating these uncertain waters is to direct any and all Southern Baptist churches to support the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. Then, if the church chooses a course of more personalized involvement, it can be directed to the IMB-approved Priority Needs List of projects.

FAQ #5: How do I get a handle on working with Great Commission Christians?

The key to understanding how best to partner with non-Baptists is first to define your goals and then identify the different partners who might contribute to these. Partnerships are not all the same. Some are fleeting in nature, barely even relationships. Others are much deeper and have eternal consequences. So it is with missions. The International Mission Board has identified five levels of relationships between IMB personnel and non-IMB entities. Let's look at them more closely.

Level One: This is the most superficial level of partnering, but it does serve a valuable purpose. Its aim is to gain initial access to a people group or population segment. Its governing principle is acceptability to people you're trying to reach. At this level, a missionary is trying to make inroads into what may be a hostile situation. Creativity and flexibility on the part of the missionary are essential.

Over the past year, many IMB missionaries have reported incidents of high government officials opening the doors to their cities or countries to teams of mission volunteers by hosting cultural festivals, educational programs or business fairs. These creative partnerships generally aren't even with believers, but they achieve the purpose of providing initial access to the people group. Level-one relationships often are with government departments, which serve as gatekeepers to the society as a whole. Once these gates are opened, the way is clear for deeper levels of relationships to follow.

Level Two: At this level, the missionary has taken his ministry to the next strategic step. The aim may be prayer for the people group or for ministry to its physical needs. The governing principle is suitability to the needs of the people being considered. The partnership may include anyone who wishes to help address these physical needs or to pray for these spiritual needs. Thus, the net of potential co-laborers is still cast far and wide.

When prayer is the aim, missionaries at this level haven't hesitated to invite any Christian believer to pray for the spiritual needs of their people group. In addition to specific and well-known prayer networks, missionaries have submitted prayer-profile requests directly to Internet prayer sites. The result is that thousands of unknown partners are able to engage in the ministry of prayer at level two.

For ministry, missionaries at level-two relationships often have partnered with secular agencies such as the United Nations High Commission for Refugees or the International Red Cross. While our ultimate agenda differs from theirs, partnering with them at this level allows us access and a redemptive touch in Jesus' name.

Level Three: Level three takes the ministry beyond prayer and physical ministry to the point of gospel presentation. For this reason, the governing principle of who we will partner with is a mutual commitment to New Testament evangelism. Accordingly, the net of potential co-laborers has been greatly reduced. One would not look to the United Nations or Red Cross for this type of partnership. Instead, the missionary calls on those evangelical colleagues who are able to present the good news of Jesus Christ in a clear and relevant manner.

Increasingly, missionaries are reporting many examples of level-three partnerships as they engage in evangelism projects with such agencies as TransWorld Radio, Campus Crusade for Christ, Operation Mobilization, Youth With A Mission and many, many others. Often these evangelism partnerships involve local bodies of believers including our Baptist brothers and sisters. Likewise, a growing pool of co-laborers is coming from agencies and independent Bible churches that have sprung-up in non-Western countries. The result of these level-three partnerships has been a manifold increase in the evangelization of lost peoples around the world. This increase in evangelization has set the stage for the next level of partnering.

Level Four: At level four, the aim is church planting. Here the principle governing who we work with is the New Testament model for a church. For us, this is synonymous with a Baptist or baptistic church model . At this level, the scope of potential partners is further reduced. Christian agencies and individuals that support evangelism without regard for church starting are less helpful at this level. Likewise, many Protestant denominations, if they don't advocate believer's baptism, would be unacceptable, because they wouldn't have a New Testament church model in mind. Baptist missionaries also hesitate to partner with fellow evangelicals if they conclude that their teaching distorts the gospel by emphasizing one aspect of the church at the expense of the whole. This still leaves an ample pool of colleagues with whom to co-labor around the world.

Level Five: At level five, the missionary's aim is to create ongoing structures and institutions that will shape the future of Christianity among a people. These ongoing structures address such matters as theological education and missionary-sending structures. Because the aim of level-five relationships has implications that would carry on even after the missionary is gone, the governing principle must be narrowly focused. Nothing less than an uncompromising commitment to doctrinal orthodoxy is acceptable. Thus, the scope of potential partners defines itself.

Even though the governing principle is tight, missionaries around the world have reported a wide-array of resources from which to draw. I look for resources that are solidly Bible-based, is a typical response. Missionaries find these from within and beyond the fold of the Southern Baptist Convention. At each point, however, their guiding principle is the same: Does this potential partner or curriculum hold firmly to the Word of God?

These five levels of relationships are not intended to be exhaustive but a descriptive snapshot of what Southern Baptist missionaries are currently engaged in around the world. They also are instructive for any of our personnel wanting to know what boundaries have been charted in relating to non-IMB individuals and agencies.

Most importantly, these levels point to a growing reality that is emerging on our mission fields. Southern Baptist missionaries increasingly are partnering with others to fulfill the Great Commission. We're not alone! In truth, we've never been alone. Christ always has been there with us. Today, however, we are seeing more clearly how He is at work through us and through others all around us.

IMB Relationships Levels, Goals & Guidelines

IMB missionaries relate to non-IMB entities at different levels depending on their goals and needs. These relationships range from expedient to eternal in their significance. The deeper the level, the greater its significance.

Level One:

Goal: Entry to the target population (e.g. tourism, business, education, etc.).
Guiding Principle: Suitability to the target poplulation.

Level Two:

Goal: Prayer for the population, ministry to felt needs for purpose of pre-evangelism.
Guiding Principle: Response to spiritual & physical needs.

Level Three:

Goal: Evangelism & Scripture distribution.
Guiding Principle: Commitment to biblical evangelism.

Level Four:

Goal: New Testament Churches (i.e. Baptist or baptistic).
Guiding Principle: Commitment to planting New Testament churches.

Level Five:

Goal: Ministerial training, theological education, ordination, deploying missionaries, etc.
Guiding Principle: Doctrinal Purity.
I would ask you to remember that what you have just read is the original policy related to working with GCCs and New Directions. What now follows is the new policy passed in May 2005 in which some significant changes were made…

Goals and Guidelines

Level One. This represents the level in which our aim is simply to gain a presence or access to a people group or population segment. The missionary may be trying to make inroads into what may be a hostile situation. Creativity and flexibility are essential in associating with cultural programs, educational institutions, business forums or whatever can open the door to deeper levels of relationships. The key in these relationships is accessibility to the people the missionary is trying to reach.

Level Two. This represents the level in which we seek to minister to specific needs and mobilize prayer networks. Organizations that have a Christian identity and are motivated by spiritual principles may become co-workers in disaster response and in accessing restricted people through social and developmental ministries. We have not hesitated to invite and encourage any Christian believer to pray for the spiritual needs of a people group through prayer networks on the internet and other relationships.

Level Three. This level takes our relationships beyond prayer and ministry to physical needs to the point of gospel presentation. Accordingly the extent of potential co-laborers is greatly reduced to those whose commitment is to New Testament evangelism and who present personal repentance and faith in Jesus Christ as the only way of salvation. Such relationships usually reflect an encouragement to each organization to contribute what they can to the total effort, whether radio broadcasts like TransWorld Radio, literature distribution like Operation Mobilization or evangelism and discipleship training like the Navigators or Evangelism Explosion.

Level Four. This is the level of actually planting New Testament Churches, and the scope of relationships would be even further reduced and restricted. Individual teams relate with individuals and/or agencies in alignment with the definition of church as stated in the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message and the Church Definition and Guidelines document approved by trustees in January 2005.

Level Five. This is the level at which we are seeking to influence the ongoing shape of Baptist work and identity, even after the missionary is no longer present, through theological education and ministerial training. Seldom, if ever, would we engage in strategic relationships, even with other Great Commission Christians, at this level though we sometimes find ourselves with opportunities to relate to indigenous institutions in which others may already be working.
I believe it is significant that the term “baptistic” was not mentioned in the new document at Level Four. Perhaps, as others have inferred, the term “baptistic” is too vague, and means different things to different people. In any case, I also think it is significant that neither Something New Under the Sun, nor “IMB STRATEGIC RELATIONSHIPS: Goals and Guidelines,” strictly speaking, limits cooperation in church planting to groups clearly identified as “Baptists”.

What I would like to point out, however, from a missionary perspective, is the practical difficulty, in many situations, in dividing between Levels 3, 4 & 5. First of all, when you are doing “hands on” church planting, it is almost impossible to say anything you do is strictly “evangelism” and does not enter into the “church planting” realm. In the church plants in which we have had the privilege to participate, evangelism, discipleship, and leadership training, are all intermingled together at various stages of the church planting process.

Perhaps what is intended is that significant input into the doctrinal directions of the new churches planted be limited to those in agreement with the “Church Definition and Guidelines” document. And I can see why we would want the “input” we are funding and supporting as Southern Baptists to be in agreement with our doctrinal convictions. However, I think it is important to realize, at the same time, that true “Church Planting Movements” cannot be contained within denominational structures.

Under “New Directions”, the role of the missionary is less and less that of “hands on” church planter, and more and more that of “facilitator” of CPMs. This is perhaps a subtle distinction that is hard for many that have not lived on the mission field to understand. In a true “Church Planting Movement”, we are told, the original church planters will have little or no contact with the 3rd and 4th generation church plants, and thus no direct control over them. It is even debatable to what degree, if any, we as church planters should “control” the new churches we ourselves are planting. Yes, we have influence, and significant influence, at that. But “control” is a different matter.

One of the main principles of “New Directions”, which has deeply impacted my own ministry in Spain, and in which I believe deeply, is the following…

Impacting and “reaching” an entire people group with the Gospel, and seeing CPMs started among them, is a God-sized task. It is much bigger than any of our individual ministries, and much bigger than what we as the IMB, or as Baptists, can do by ourselves. It requires the participation and cooperation of the entire Body of Christ, both locally and globally. Missions research has demonstrated that when God’s people, from differing backgrounds and organizational affiliations, have gotten together to pray, strategize, and join hands in ministry, there have been significant breakthroughs in church growth and multiplication.

In the midst of all of this, those with “baptistic” convictions regarding ecclesiology continue to teach what they understand the Scripture to teach regarding ecclesiology, those from Pentecostal and Charismatic backgrounds will continue to teach what they believe regarding the gifts and ministry of the Holy Spirit, etc.

But, in my opinion, if the emphasis is on separation and denominational distinctives, and technical definitions of Levels 3, 4 and 5, rather than the overarching unity and cooperation of the Body of Christ at large, the dynamic of growth and spiritual advance of the movement suffers as a result.

It is because of this that I prefer the 5-level diagram drawn as follows. The differences are a thick black line in between Level 1 and the rest, in order to emphasize the essential unity that brings us together as born-again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. In my opinion, the differences on either side of this line are much greater than those between the various levels on the inside of this line. Also, I have changed the lines dividing between levels 2, 3, 4 & 5 to “dotted” lines, in order to signify the flexibility and fluidity that I believe ought to exist when seeking to put into practice these general principles. I think the general principles, dividing between these levels are completely valid, and ought to serve as legitimate guidelines. But when missionaries feel they have to continually be looking over their backs to see who may be looking, and may call them down, for cooperating too widely with other born-again Christians, I think we are in danger of quenching the work of the Holy Spirit.

In closing, I would like to clarify I am not criticizing the new policy. In essence, I think it is a good policy. I am just warning of what I consider a danger of misusing this policy as a club to hinder spiritually committed and effective missionaries from carrying out the ministry God has called them to do.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Historical Documents: Baptist-Evangelical Cooperation in World Missions, Part 13

In 2003, Keith Eitel, at that time Professor of Christian Missions at Southeastern Seminary, and presently Dean of the School of Evangelism and Missions at Southwestern, wrote a paper entitled "Vision Assessment: The International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention." This paper was later distributed, together with a cover letter from Paige Patterson to all of the IMB Trustees. The context of the distribution of this letter was reported here in the North Carolina Baptist Biblical Recorder.

You can read the entire text here. But I would like to highlight a few quotes, especially in the context of our series on Historical Documents: Baptist-Evangelical Cooperation. Normally, perhaps, an "in-house" document like this, addressed to a relatively small group of people, would not merit much discussion when talking about strategically significant Historical Documents spanning such a long period of time. I am discussing it, however, in this series, because I believe that it (or at least the ideas contained therein) has been quite influential in the adoption of recent policies and strategy directions advocated by the IMB Board of Trustees.

First of all, Eitel begins with a quote of Keith Parks, in which he contrasts the theological perspectives of my father, as well as Paige Patterson, and his own, in relation to missions.

Early on I would argue with Adrian Rogers about that [basis for unity in the SBC] and he’d say no, ‘the theme that has held us together is not missions, but doctrine.’ Well, historically I don’t think that’s accurate because historically the SBC is composed of people with varying theological perspectives . . . . My assessment is that they’re [conservatives in the SBC] from an independent Baptist viewpoint where conventions are built around doctrine [sic] than from the heritage that we as Southern Baptists have had that the convention is builtaround missions. And so after arguing with Adrian several times, I finally came to realize that for him and I think for Paige [Patterson] and for others the unifying element ought to be a unifying perspective of theology . . . according to the Scripture, the Living Word is more important than the written word . . . it’s a mistake in my estimation to elevate Scripture above Christ . . .
Eitel later adds the following remarks: In essence, Parks was saying that doctrine or theology divides us but missions unites us. Rodgers (sic), however, was indicating that unless our theological convictions are solidly established squarely on an inerrant Bible, we will have no legitimate or reasonable basis for doing missions.
I certainly do not side with Parks on these points. I agree completely with my father in insisting that, when we dilute our theological underpinnings based on the authority of God’s Word, we lose the basis from which our commitment to world missions flows. However, I believe at the same time that Eitel went a bit overboard, using my father’s name and views as an emotional support to his arguments expressed later in his paper, many of which I am convinced my father would not have completely agreed with.

Next, I would like to comment on the following quote from Eitel’s paper…

The Parks attitude seems pervasive within the day-to-day operations of the International Mission Board [IMB] and represents the greatest future challenge to redirect Biblically the IMB and re-root it firmly in the older theological heritage of the founding fathers and its contemporary conservative commitments.

In the final analysis, the "New Directions" campaign seems to reflect the same theological position inherited from the Parks era. Theological definition is minimized and that which is "new" reveals it’s (sic) roots in the very theological heritage that influenced Parks to conclude that doctrine divides and missions unites.
In my opinion, Jerry Rankin himself has already done an admirable job at answering this accusation. While I have not been able to find the exact text of the response letter, here is an article by Associated Baptist Press writer Mark Wingfield, and posted in the North Carolina Baptist "Biblical Recorder", that gives a good summary.

I would also like to comment briefly on the following paragraph in Eitel’s paper…

While advancing toward the same stated goals in the Bold Mission Thrust campaign, Parks was influenced by trends among other Christian agencies. He advocated the use of strategic planning techniques and invited David B. Barrett, author of the World Christian Encyclopedia, into the Board’s facilities in Richmond. Barrett’s own Anglican theological persuasions are far more ecumenical than those traditionally held by Southern Baptists. Barrett quietly influenced several strategic planners at the Board and his methods were used to analyze the remaining task of global evangelization. It was not until the early 1990’s that Barrett was removed from the Board, yet his influence still lingers in the office of strategic planning and research to this day.
I would generally agree with Eitel that the perspective of Barrett is a good bit more ecumenical than that of most conservative evangelical Southern Baptists. I myself, having worked for the past 16 years in Spain, a country with a spiritual heritage very influenced by Roman Catholicism, have been concerned with how the theological biases of Barrett and others like him, are leading many to de-emphasize the priority of evangelism in Catholic contexts. At the same time, I recognize the positive contribution made by Barrett in objectively analyzing the comparative spiritual need of different areas of the world and people groups, and encouraging evangelicals to work together in order to see the Great Commission fulfilled. It is my contention, that if the influence of Barrett "still lingers in the office of strategic planning and research," this influence is mostly limited to the more positive aspects of Barrett’s contribution. I have never sensed, under Jerry Rankin’s leadership at the IMB, anything insinuating that Roman Catholics were not legitimate "targets" of our evangelistic efforts.

Now, more directly on the subject at hand, I would like to present the following quotes from Eitel’s paper regarding IMB cooperation with "Great Commission Christians"...

Yet, as the Board began to work in and with the broader Neo-Evangelical groups (now called Great Commission Christians), the cross-pollination of ideas without a careful analysis of the biblical and theological soundness of the trends that depicted the end of the last century missions world, began to erode even further the commitments Southern Baptists have historically had to a real need for personal evangelism, church planting, and discipleship of the nations.

I am in agreement regarding partnering with agencies of like theological persuasion for some tasks at home or abroad. However, I sense there’s no real mechanism in place to help missionaries evaluate the theological commitments of the plethora of groups that work around the world and certainly no incentive to guard themselves from unnecessary entanglements with charismatic people or agencies. Incidentally, the first time I heard the term Great Commission Christian was from the mouth of David Barrett as he was explaining to me how, in his opinion, Mormons are GCCs!

Rankin’s "New Directions" campaign drew the Board more directly into the network of GCC’s, again with no mechanisms in place to filter or check the entry of unbiblical practices other than the specific theological preparation of the individual missionary.

It raises serious questions regarding whether the end justifies the means when the types of churches planted increasingly do not reflect a biblical ecclesiology, Baptist values, or in some cases even appear Christian.
Also, from Eitel’s list of recommendations at the end of his paper, the following…

Generate theological definitions and boundaries for partnering with GCC’s, review the nature of the SC/SL position and create alternatives suitable for women that are in line with the sentiments of the BF&M 2000, and create guidelines for church planting that will insure healthy theological development and be reflective of Baptist distinctives.

    First off, Eitel seems to follow Patterson’s lead (as referenced in The Church in the 21st Century) in throwing groups with widely divergent beliefs and practices into the "Great Commission Christian" sack ("Neo-evangelical groups", "charismatic people and agencies", and even "Mormons" and "churches" that do not "even appear Christian"). The impression left is all are "guilty by association."

    I would also question Eitel’s suggestion that more seminary education is the best corrective for missionaries unprepared to deal with the theological subtleties involved in working with the "GCC world". Most assuredly, there is an important place on the mission field for those gifted in missiological and theological reflection. However, in my experience, a seminary degree is far from a guarantee for this. Some of the most gifted and effective workers I know have not completed a seminary degree. It has been my observation that those who have been most successful in North American ecclesiological and training models many times are the ones who later have the most difficulty in "thinking outside of the box" in order to reach people more effectively in other cultural contexts.

    I myself have an M. Div. from Southwestern Seminary, (which includes almost 2 years worth of transfer credits from Mid-America Seminary), and probably read up on missiological and theological issues more than the average IMB missionary. Yet I would not say this has influenced me to be any narrower in my dealings with other GCCs. If anything, I would venture to say, it has pointed me in the contrary direction.

    Now, if what is being advocated is indoctrination and teaching "cookie-cutter" approaches to missions at our seminaries, perhaps with time we would have a more "lock-step" contingent of IMB workers. If, however, we are looking for an effective "incentive to guard [IMB workers] from unnecessary entanglements", I would neither suggest this, nor generating narrower "theological definitions and boundaries for partnering with GCCs", as the solution.

    A better plan, in my opinion, is to open the forum of discussion among those who have the most at stake: the missionaries themselves. Under "New Directions", this is precisely what is already happening. We as missionaries are being encouraged to go back to the Bible (not just denominational tradition) to find our definitions for church and to seriously reflect upon how to best flesh this out in the particular cultural context in which God has led each of us to work.

    As a result of this (and certainly many other factors as well), I believe, we are seeing great breakthroughs in many parts of the world in terms of evangelism and church planting. Yes, perhaps, there are isolated cases of things getting a bit "out of hand" from time to time. But, in my opinion, the dangers of putting a damper on, and encouraging a more restrictive and inquisitorial mindset in regards to "New Directions" and our cooperation with other GCCs, is by far the greater danger. IMB missionaries, as a whole, love God, the Bible, and lost souls as much as anyone. And I believe we, as a result of the unique experiences and calling God has given us (together with the strategic input of all of those God has gifted throughout his entire Body), are the most qualified to determine how best to make disciples of all the peoples of the world.

    Thursday, May 25, 2006

    Historical Documents: Baptist-Evangelical Cooperation in World Missions, Part 12

    Apparently, the new direction at the IMB under the leadership of Jerry Rankin did not sit well with some. In 2001, several years into "New Directions", Dr. Paige Patterson published a paper entitled The Church in the 21st Century.

    Although I do not personally know Dr. Patterson well, I have a lot of respect for him as a person. His leadership in the Southern Baptist Convention over the past years has been of vital importance as we were in danger of slipping further and further away from our biblical moorings. He is clearly a brilliant scholar. I am aware that he was a close friend and co-laborer of my father during the crucial years of the Conservative Resurgence in the SBC. It is thus with a certain degree of apprehension that I must now respectfully voice my disagreement with several views he espouses in this paper.

    Actually, I have no real bone to pick with the majority of what he writes in this 29-page treatise, which mostly outlines a traditional Baptist understanding of Biblical ecclesiology. It is only when he comes to the section towards the end of the paper on "Missiological Issues" that I find any significant points of disagreement with what is stated. Although this paper was published back in 2001, the truth is, from my perspective, the issues it brings up pretty much "flew under the radar" for many Southern Baptists and IMB missionaries, myself included, up until the recent events involving new policies at the IMB, and Trustee Wade Burleson. The fact that I (and others) am just now responding to them, though, does not necessarily imply a reactionary "jumping on the bandwagon". They are rather deep-rooted issues that recent events have merely brought to the surface, in my opinion.

    Copied below is the part of the paper with which I disagree. At the end of this lengthy quote, I will share my comments…


    Ecclesiological questions also intersect missiology at crucial points. With the advent of “Third Wave churches” partnering with other “Great Commission Christians” and the age of post-denominationalism, new horizons force contemplation of questions of cooperation both new and old. What level of cooperation with others who name the name of Christ is appropriate for Baptist missionaries? Is it sufficient for a church to be merely “baptistic” or must it be “Baptist”?
    Actually, the prior question is the matter of integrity. For Southern Baptist missionaries to be involved in planting churches that are not Baptist churches, would not be good news. Integrity demands that a clear policy be articulated to and approved by the Southern Baptist Convention. Then that policy needs to be circumspectly followed by Southern Baptist Convention mission personnel. To accept the funding provided by Baptists and proceed in a direction distinct from what that supporting constituency believes is no different than the actions of the mid-twentieth century liberal and neo-orthodox leadership who deliberately misled the Convention.

    The author does not allege that this is what is happening, but it is the case that disturbing reports do continue to filter in from the field. If any of these represent the trajectory of even a few, then that issue must be faced; and a solution acceptable to the Convention must be found.

    But why is it important to plant "Baptist" churches? Why is it not enough to plant "baptistic" churches? The first problem arises from the lack of definition of "baptistic." This rather vague, amorphous concept may mean almost anything from "baptizing believers" to insisting on autonomy for churches.

    On the other hand, to call a church a Baptist church is to tap into the historic march of a people bent on a restoration of the New Testament Church. Clearly, the Baptist name is not found attached to churches in the New Testament. But the name apparently assigned to a movement by its enemies came to stand for a body of truths that marked the movement as distinctive.

    To the three Reformation principles of sola scriptura, sola gratia, and sola fide, Baptists would add sola Trinitate, doubtless with the approval of the Magisterial Reformers. But then they would also insist on sola ecclesia regeneratorum witnessed by baptism and ordered by the ban, working to disseminate the liberating Gospel of Christ to every person on the earth. For these truths, Manz, Hubmaier, Sattler, and a host of others paid with their blood. For those of us in this generation to trifle with those principles for which they shed their blood would be reprehensible.

    To the contrary, if we avoid the chaos of 5000 independent African church movements, many of which are de facto cults, as the pattern in all countries or if we do not wish to concede the world to a Neo-charismatic movement sculpted by experience rather than the parameters of God’s Word, then we must tether our new churches to their historical roots all the way back to the New Testament. In no way does this interdict their automony, but it does link them to a strain of Christianity rejecting the Volkskirche concept as well as to the unbridled experentialism that has periodically wasted the church since the days of its earliest manifestation in Montanism. These churches are linked thereby to a "people of the Book," who have continually insisted that every doctrinal belief and consequent practice of the church arise from and be judged by the Scriptures alone.

    If someone wishes to suggest that this is nothing less than the imposition of western cultural patterns in other segments of the globe, it need only be rehearsed that "truth" is not subject to cultural variation or manipulation. A pure church witnessing to a dislocated and lost world is New Testament and "Eastern" to the core. Consequently, it is both necessary and appropriate to explore two important questions. First, what levels of cooperation with other Christian groups are acceptable? Second, under what conditions would our own missionaries find it necessary to plant a church that is not statedly a Baptist church?

    As I see the answer to question one, there are four levels of participation with other confessing Christians, but with each level narrowing in the scope of that cooperation. Level one is that which is frequently denominated "co-belligerency" in combating social evils. Here we may be so broad as to cooperate with those of non-Christian faiths in such efforts as those made recently by Jews, Moslems, Hindus, Mormons, Roman Catholics, and evangelicals to impact the United Nations in behalf of the "traditional family."

    A second level of participation is prayer, although here at least two parameters must be maintained. First, Christians must remain free to pray in "Jesus’ name" as the Scriptures prescribe. Second, I cannot imagine a situation in which prayer would be appropriate among any but monotheistic faiths. But to gather to pray with other monotheists for peace or at time of great calamity seems appropriate. For Christians who are of the same mind about salvation and its consequences to pray for revival or for the lost is surely acceptable. And caution is needed even here since the follower of Christ must keep in mind that God has obligated Himself to hear only prayer in Christ’s name. Christians must then exercise care lest people of other faiths be led to believe that they can approach God in some way other than through Jesus (John 14:6).

    A third level, participation in evangelism such as Graham Crusades, showing the Jesus film, etc. seems appropriate, provided the concept of salvation proffered is fully biblical and without compromise. Also, such efforts should not be allowed to become easy stepping stones to the development of less than New Testament churches.

    A fourth level raises the old question of acceptable baptism. Whose baptism shall we receive? On this Landmark advocates insisting on rebaptism for many were probably correct but for the wrong reason. I do not believe that New Testament churches should receive baptism from any communion that fails to embrace the nature of salvation by grace alone. Here the shingle out front is not so important. The confession of faith of that assembly is strategically critical.

    Finally, there is one level to which we need never proceed. When it comes to the planting of churches we need to do our own work. First, as indicated above, churches that we plant need to have roots of identification with the people who sent the missionary and to the Baptist people of history. In order to establish churches that will remain true to the New Testament faith, churches need a statement of faith informed by the New Testament. Unless we attempt to argue the unprovable, namely a swift return of Christ, then we must plant churches that have sufficient doctrinal comprehension to pass this on to others until Jesus comes.

    Another way to state this is to say that there is such a thing as a New Testament church. If this is the case, then for anyone to establish "churches" that are not in keeping with the whole faith of the New Testament constitutes a significant abandonment of at least a third of the Great Commission, namely, teaching all things commanded by Jesus.

    But are there exceptions to this? Are there circumstances in which we might plant other than a "Baptist" church? And, of course, the answer must be that it is better to have a church without the Baptist name than to have no church at all.

    Conceivably, situations may arise where it is unduly dangerous and/or unlawful to plant a Baptist church. Of course, if this is the case it remains exceedingly doubtful that the word "church" would be any more tolerable than Baptist. The same would be true of most other substitute names. And even if the above conditions prevail, our forefathers accepted the designation in the teeth of persecution; why should we do less?

    This paper is certainly not intended as definitive on these issues. It is an effort in light of Baptist history and belief to push to the surface legitimate missiological questions. But a few conclusions seem to me to be abundantly clear. (1) The people paying the bills deserve to know exactly what the missionary practice is. (2) If the mission personnel are out of step with the position of the sending body, they are compelled by integrity to seek employment elsewhere. (3) The threat of a worldwide ecumenism based on the least common denominator is more real and more potentially devastating than it was in the days of the old liberal ecumenism, which spawned the World Council of Churches. The new ecumenism, tied heavily to the neo-charismatic movement, is not where Southern Baptists and their missionaries belong. (4) Except in the most exceptional and remote cases, Southern Baptists should establish Baptist churches and not cooperate with other groups when it comes to ecclesiological matters.

    In the final analysis, the conclusion is obvious. If we do not establish distinctively Baptist churches, then our distinctive Baptist witness will gradually die. If it is not a New Testament vision, it should perish. But if it is a vision faithful to the New Testament, then it must be perpetuated. We are primarily about getting the Gospel to the nations and the nations to Christ. But this includes not merely evangelization, but also baptizing and teaching all that Jesus taught. And what Jesus taught included ecclesiology.
    Dr. Patterson’s words in this section are apparently a reaction against "New Directions" at the IMB. They seem to be motivated, as far as I can tell, by a sense of duty to defend the Anabaptist and Baptist ecclesiological heritage, as well as a distaste for and concern about what he calls "Third Wave churches" and the "Neo-charismatic movement". As a result, it seems to me, he wants to throw "the chaos of 5,000 independent African church movements", "unbridled experentialism", "the World Council of Churches" and non-Baptist but "baptistic" evangelical churches and groups, all in the same sack.

    In his article "Shoot-out at the Amen Corral: Being Baptist through Controversy" included in the book Why I am a Baptist, edited by Tom Nettles and Russell Moore, Patterson writes:

    In all this time, I had read carefully the various members of the Landmark triumvirate, including Theodosia Ernest by Amos C. Dayton, all of J. R. Graves’s available works, and William Pendleton’s contributions on the subject as well as his short systematic theology. I read John T. Christian and even J. M. Carroll’s The Trail of Blood. While I was profoundly influenced by the Landmark tradition in my view of the importance and independence of the local church, I did not follow the Landmarkers in some of their more questionable conclusions. Nevertheless, I dare not fail to acknowledge my indebtedness to them.
    I wonder what specifically are the "questionable conclusions" of the Landmarkers Patterson does not follow, and what specifically are the areas of his ecclesiology in which he is "indebted to them". It seems to me that perhaps some of the latter surface in these "Missiological Issues". I would argue missiologically (and I believe biblically) that our emphasis must be on planting New Testament churches, not necessarily "distinctively Baptist churches". Don’t get me wrong. I am not against planting Baptist churches. But Jesus did not command us in the Great Commission to "go and plant Baptist churches". He did command us to "make disciples", "baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, & Holy Spirit", and "teaching them to obey everything he commanded us". And, according to my understanding of the Bible, one of the things about which he commanded us was the essential unity of his Body, the Church Universal.

    Since I plan on dealing with the question of "Baptist" versus "baptistic" churches in another post, I will not go into much depth about it here. I do appreciate Patterson’s acknowledgement that it is acceptable to cooperate with other Christian groups at various levels. Some "Landmarkers" would perhaps not go this far. I also plan on dealing more in depth on another post with the question of the various levels of cooperation.

    But for now, I leave you with my comments in response to the following statement:

    If we do not establish distinctively Baptist churches, then our distinctive Baptist witness will gradually die. If it is not a New Testament vision, it should perish. But if it is a vision faithful to the New Testament, then it must be perpetuated.
    Although, when taken in context, they may seem to reflect only a slight twist of emphasis, I identify more with the words of Charles H. Spurgeon (quoted on a previous post), "I look forward with pleasure to the day when there will not be a Baptist living! I hope that the Baptist name will soon perish, but let Christ's name last forever."

    I can’t help but ask the following questions… Is the Christian & Missionary Alliance vision a New Testament vision? Is the vision of the Plymouth Brethren assemblies a New Testament vision? Is the vision of any number of independent evangelical congregations with baptistic ecclesiology a New Testament vision?, etc., etc. Or does the name "Baptist" bring along with it a "corner on the market" in regards to faithfulness to the Scripture?

    And, perhaps, the even bigger question for me…

    Am I as an IMB missionary actually demonstrating a "lack of integrity" which ought to "compel me to seek employment elsewhere" because my "Bottom-line Loyalty" is more to the Body of Christ at large around the world than specifically to the Southern Baptist Convention?

    My hope and assumption regarding this are that no, that the majority of Southern Baptists, upon really understanding the issues involved, are more interested in seeing the nations won to Christ, disciples made, and New Testament churches planted, than in whether these churches have the "Baptist" label on them or not. However, it seems to me there is a concerted effort underway to influence more and more Baptists to give more and more relative importance to the "Baptist" name and "Baptist" distinctives as over against "generic" New Testament distinctives. And I, for one, in keeping with my understanding of Scripture (i. e. John 17. 20-23 and 1 Corinthians 1.10-17), am not in agreement with this.

    Tuesday, May 23, 2006

    Historical Documents: Baptist-Evangelical Cooperation in World Missions, Part 11

    In 1993, Jerry Rankin became the new President of the Foreign Mission Board. Later that same year, FMB Vice President Avery Willis participated as Chairman for the Ad Hoc AD 2000 Denominational Summit Declaration Committee, which drafted the AD 2000 Denominational Summit Declaration. The following is an excerpt from that important document…

    We, the attendees of this historic summit meeting,
    • Realizing that God is on a mission to redeem a lost world (II Peter 3:9), and that Christ has given us the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:18-20);
    • Having come here in the prayerful conviction that the Spirit of God is leading His Church at this unique juncture of history; and
    • Having heard the reports of denominational initiatives to the year 2000 and beyond, and of resource networks that are cooperating across denominations, churches and organizations to focus on world evangelization, mobilization of united prayer and coordinated efforts to reach the unreached;
    • Believing that the Holy Spirit has led us to be present at this gathering, and having experienced the unity of the multifaceted body of Christ and the unique corporate gifting that different denominations and organizations bring to that body.
    Now, being of one mind in our commitment to work together for the evangelization of the world by the year 2000 and beyond, we, as individuals from various denominations, declare our joint commitment to seek a church for every people and the gospel for every person by the year 2000. We urgently call the worldwide Body of Christ to join openly in linking hands, hearts, minds and spirits in this grand cause of Jesus Christ.

    In 1995, a second Global Consultation on World Evangelism (GCOWE) , in conjunction with the AD 2000 movement, was held, this time in Seoul, Korea. In an earlier post, I already commented about Jerry Rankin's and Avery Willis’s participation at this event.
    I direct your thoughts now to an excerpt from an article in the July 1, 1995 edition of Missions Frontiers, entitled "Reconciliation: Is it the Missing Key to Revival and World Evangelization?," written by Rick Wood…

    Certainly there is also a need for this kind of reconciliation and repentance on the part of many denominations and ministries towards each other.
    Unfortunately, the attitude of many denominations and ministries has been one of competition and empire building. There is even the unspoken belief that they have more truth than other denominations or ministries. Each believes they must make sure that as many converts as possible become part of their church. Many ministries have too often been unwilling to cooperate with one another.
    This kind of needed repentance was also seen at GCOWE '95, as reported by David Aikman. "Doctor Avery Willis nodded his head and the audience broke into applause. He had just apologized on behalf of the Southern Baptist denomination. He had discovered that the best efforts of his denomination, even if all the goals were attained, were not good enough to reach the world by the year 2000.
    "'We want to ask forgiveness from you,' he said meekly, 'for thinking we could do that kind of job without you. We recognize that it's going to take the whole body of Christ to reach the people of this world.'
    "As a sign of his change of heart, he offered to any delegate who requested it, the databases of the Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board.
    "'Business as usual will not get the job done,' he concluded." Willis' remarks were made in the large sanctuary of Seoul's Choong Hyun Presbyterian Church, which was the venue for a number of GCOWE events.

    At the same event, Jerry Rankin was invited to give a talk in a session entitled "Intra-denominational Initiative: Southern Baptists." Here is a key excerpt from his talk, which he entitled "Bold Witness"…

    In 1975, Southern Baptists looked toward the 21st Century and after prayer, consultation with convention leaders, and dialog with Baptist partners overseas, a committee unveiled a plan that was approved by the Southern Baptist Convention messengers at the annual meeting in June 1976. The plan was called Bold Mission Thrust and carried the objective that every man, woman and child have the opportunity to hear and respond to the gospel of Jesus Christ by AD 2000.
    By the early 1980s, despite significant growth, a disturbing question arose, If we continue at the present rate, will everyone in the world hear the good news of Jesus Christ? The answer was a sad, but honest, "No."
    Careful analysis of church growth trends affirmed that bold witness goals were needed in response to God's leadership. God used the alternative futures study to convict the Foreign Mission Board (FMB) for appearing self-sufficient to reach to the whole world alone. Grasping the immensity of the unreached world, FMB leaders began reaching out to Great Commission Christians committed to reaching the world for Christ. Working cooperatively ushered in a new era in which Christians joined in world prayer crusades, interchanged information about unreached peoples and encouraged one another.

    I believe it is significant that Rankin, although taking a different position than former FMB President Keith Parks on the Conservative Resurgence in the SBC, and taking a strong stand against ecumenical positions that would decry the legitimacy of evangelism in Catholic countries, vocally supported the continued involvement of Southern Baptists in efforts such as the AD 2000 Movement, and events such as GCOWE.
    I would like to close this post with an excerpt from Mobilizing for Missions in the New Millenium, A Great Commission Vision for Southern Baptists in the 21st Century, written in 1999, by Jerry Rankin, in which he spells out the IMB’s approach, as a part of "New Directions", towards cooperation with other "Great Commission Christians"…

    Chapter 7, Building for the Future
    Great Commission Partners
    Completing the Great Commission in the new millennium means not only mobilizing Southern Baptists but the larger community of Great Commission Christians. A significant part of the "New Directions" paradigm is creating alliances and partnerships that enable us to more rapidly roll back the curtain of lostness. This has been modeled by strategy teams, limited in personnel and resources, who have become advocates for their people groups. Rather than attempting to duplicate what others can contribute to the evangelization effort, they have mobilized far-ranging agencies and organizations, each of which brings its own additional resources to the task.
    Wycliffe may launch a Scripture-translation team. Campus Crusade provides the JESUS film and effectively targets university students while TransWorld Radio beams broadcasts into the region. Pioneers and Youth With a Mission may send in short-term teams while others enlist tentmakers and engage in development projects. Literally hundreds of organizations and agencies have become a part of some coordinated partnerships that have vastly accelerated getting the gospel to a target population group.
    When we cease to be concerned about who is in CONTROL and who gets CREDIT, we will be amazed at what God can do!
    As the church-planting stage develops, we give emphasis to nurturing Baptist churches while other evangelical traditions may emerge parallel to ours. But the kingdom is extended more rapidly, and God gets the glory. When we cease to be concerned about who is in control and who gets credit, we will be amazed at what God can do.
    Because of the size and scope of Southern Baptist international missions, we are finding ourselves in a leadership role we did not seek. Few other organizations have been able to maintain as strong a focus on the main thing of evangelism and church planting. No other agency has such extensive deployment of personnel in strategic assignments all over the world.
    Throughout 1999 and possibly into the future, the IMB is sponsoring a series of "AWE Conferences"—Accelerating World Evangelization. In follow-up to the AD2000 and Beyond Movement, which was so effective in creating awareness and adoption of unreached people groups, we are trying to provide a forum to stimulate actual engagement of unreached people groups that will result in church-planting movements. In a series of small, focused conferences, we are gathering affinity groups of similar mission agencies to challenge and coordinate involvement in the task.
    Similar conferences are being planned with partners from Baptist unions and conventions around the world to garner their insights and clarify an understanding of the new directions of IMB strategies. As we facilitate their involvement and mutual ownership of the vision to reach all the peoples of the world, global evangelization will be advanced.
    We must look beyond ourselves and even beyond the extensive but limited resources of Southern Baptists. We must see beyond the present and not sacrifice fulfillment of the task on the altar of the urgent and the immediate. From a vision of the completed task, we must see our role in a "big-picture" perspective and press forward to the goal of bringing all the peoples of the world to saving faith in Jesus Christ.
    No, they are not perfect. But I, for one, as a Southern Baptist International Missionary, am grateful and proud to be represented by godly, visionary, and biblically-balanced leadership, even in the face of criticism from both sides, such as we have been privileged to have in the person of men such as Jerry Rankin and Avery Willis.

    Saturday, May 20, 2006

    Historical Documents: Baptist-Evangelical Cooperation in World Missions, Part 10

    As previously noted on this blog, in the year 1806, William Carey had written: "Would it not be possible to have a general association of all denominations of Christians, from the four quarters of the world, held there once in about Ten Years? I earnestly recommend this plan ... I have no doubt but it would be attended with many important effects; we could understand each other better, and more entirely enter into one another's views by two hours' conversation than by two or three years' epistolary correspondence."

    Down through the years, there have been various attempts to follow through, in one way or another, with Carey’s recommendation. Arthur P. Johnston writes, in his important book, The Battle for World Evangelism, published in 1978:

    "For well over a hundred years the missionary conference has made a great contribution to world evangelism. Christian missionaries have crossed denominational and national lines in every continent to seek inspiration and instruction, in order to better accomplish the task the Lord of the Harvest committed to them. Whether at home or abroad, Christians have gathered together in local churches, as denominations or as individuals concerned with the advance of the Gospel. These conferences have not only provided missionary manpower and financial support on the home front, but missionaries and national leaders of evangelism have also acquired deeper insights into the will and continuing work of the resurrected Lord (Acts 1:1)."
    Conferences such as those recommended by Carey, and commented on by Johnston, have occurred, for example, in 1825 in Bombay, 1877 and 1890 in Shanghai, 1888 in London, and 1900 in New York. The World Missionary Council held in 1910 in Edinburgh launched what was to become an increasing ecumenical emphasis, culminating in the formation of the World Council of Churches. In an effort to return to the evangelical roots of the world mission enterprise, two important conferences were held, one in Berlin in 1966, and another in Lausanne in 1974. At the latter conference, the well-known Lausanne Covenant on World Evangelization was adopted, and there was somewhat limited Southern Baptist participation, most signficantly, a strategy paper presented by Keith Parks, on “The Great Commission”.

    However, at the Global Consultation on World Evangelization by AD 2000 and Beyond (GCOWE), held in Singapore January 5-8, 1989, Southern Baptist participation came more to the forefront. Keith Parks, by then president of the Foreign Mission Board, addressing the participation of himself and then FMB-vice president, Bill O’Brien, made the following comment, in front of the entire assembly …

    There have been one or two references to the Southern Baptist participation here. We Southern Baptists are all delighted to be here. Actually, I do not feel that our coming has been such a dramatic shift from the usual for us, but some may think so.
    The following are some significant quotes representing the general spirit of GCOWE…

    Luis Bush, President of Partners International, and member of the GCOWE Program Planning Task Force, from Preface: “Working Together Towards 2000”

    Let the barriers between organizations and denominations not keep us from cooperating in the task of world evangelization. The task of world evangelization by the year 2000 is too great for any single organization or denomination to adopt on its own.
    From the Great Commission Manifesto, Jan. 8, 1989, Singapore …

    …We humbly confess our pride, prejudice, competition and disobedience that have hindered our generation from effectively working at the task of world evangelisation. These sins have impeded God’s desire to spread abroad His gracious provision of eternal salvation through the precious blood of His Son, Jesus Christ. We turn from these sins and failures to express our belief that God has graciously opened to us a window of opportunity for completing the magnificent task He has given us. We boldly seize this crucial moment, more impressed with God’s great power than any force arrayed against us…We see afresh that cooperation and partnership are absolute necessities if the Great Commission is going to be fulfilled by the Year 2000. For the sake of those who are lost and eternally separated from God, we have dared to pray and dream of what might happen if appropriate autonomy of churches and ministries could be balanced with signficant partnership…
    Thomas Wang, International Director Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization, from “The Call: Cleansing for the Countdown”

    Sometimes when I am asleep, I seem to hear God ringing a bell up in heaven telling the churches of the world, “Gentlemen, time is up pretty soon. It’s time to get serious, to renounce your petty arrogance, pride and prejudice. It’s time to get together, to have open, bigger hearts. It’s time to shift into high gear. You have been delaying for two thousand years. Most of that time you have spent fighting among yourselves—fighting for turn, fighting over ownership, fighting for boundary, fighting for self-exaltation. Gentlemen, it’s time for you to become a little more serious.
    From A Kaleidoscopic Global Plan, 3rd edition, November 28, 1988, put together by a Working Group composed of 15 interdenomi- nationally representative members, including David Barrett, an Anglican missions researcher, who in 1985, upon the invitation of Keith Parks, had moved his World Christian Encyclopedia research center to the Foreign Mission Board headquarters; and David Garrison, later to become the author of Church Planting Movements, and a leading strategist at the IMB under Jerry Rankin.

    From the section on “GREAT COMMISSION CHRISTIANS” (from what I have been able to gather, and I’m open to correction, the term “Great Commission Christians” first came into widespread use at this conference) …

    Accept all Great Commission Christians as co-laborers. We are not going to get anywhere fresh until we realize that we in the churches and agencies do not link up with, and are in fact all out of touch with millions of others who are clearly also Great Commission Christians. We should accept those who profess faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, in accordance with the Scriptures, and who desire to bring others to faith in him as well, in obedience to Christ’s Great Commission. We don’t have to judge their discipleship, nor to agree with them on lesser matters. Concentrating on the central matter of obedience to Christ the Lord, with hundreds of millions of others so confessing, we form a mighty “force for evangelism”, one single force of Great Commission Christians dedicated to obeying that Commission.

    Seek out new relationships with other Great Commission agencies and networks. Today’s agencies should deliberately seek to relate to other Christian agencies that work to fulfill the Great Commission, especially to those in other countries or in distant parts of the world. We are not talking about harmonizing or coming to terms with other doctrines, dogmas, modes of baptism, theologies, methodologies, missiologies, eschatologies, ecclesiologies, nor mergers nor organic church union. We are not talking about structural mergers or pan-Christian unity. We are talking about Great Commission solidarity in all its forms. We are talking only about cooperating in obedience to the Great Commission and its 7 mandates.
    I am thrilled that Southern Baptists were able to play an integral part in GCOWE and the entire AD 2000 movement. As the largest evangelical denomination in the world, with the largest international missions agency, we ought to be represented at these types of events. I also believe very much in the general thrust of this movement, as evidenced by the above-mentioned quotes. However, certain things that transpired at Singapore were not quite to the liking of all Southern Baptists, myself included.

    For one, Roman Catholic representatives were given a significant platform, and were to some degree embraced as partners in the task of world evangelization. Read, for example, the personal reflections of conference participant David Kitonga

    One issue was whether consultation participant—including such widely diverse groups as the Catholic AD 2000 Movement and evangelicals working in Latin America—could resolve to work together. The differences in opinion suggested that some evangelicals are sensitive to this issue and prefer to move more cautiously as they consider cooperation with the traditionally non-evangelical groups, such as the Catholics;
    and, Luke Heng Sze Chhoa

    During the consultation, a Roman Catholic priest, Fr. Gino Henriques from India, expressed his personal experience of renewal through the power of the Holy Spirit and Bible study. He now is actively involved in the promotion of a new-life-in-Christ movement and of Bible studies for the Roman Catholic churches in East Asia. I recall vividly Fr. Henriques’ testimony, which touched many hearts, especially that of the president of the Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board, who was so moved that he instantaneously embraced Fr. Henriques.
    Perhaps even more vexing to many Southern Baptists was the “jab” Keith Parks made in relation to what was later to become known as the Conservative Resurgence, in his message entitled “Bold Mission Thrust”
    In 1976 we launched this “Bold New Thrust,” renewing our commitment to share the gospel in our nation and in our world—just at the time when as a nation we were celebrating our 200th anniversary. The thing started off so well that I personally believe Satan decided he ought to do something about that. Starting in 1979, there developed in our denomination a controversy that has diverted our attention from the main task of sharing the gospel with the world. All of us regret this development and are praying that somehow, in some way, we can have the spiritual maturity to move past arguing and fighting among ourselves in a greater concentration of effort toward winning the world for Christ. Part of our problem has been that our denomination functions in such a fluid way that those who led in shaping the “Bold Mission Thrust” have now moved off the scene. Those who have taken their places were not a part of the original ownership and are not, perhaps, as committed to the concept. The result is spiritual apathy, prayerlessness, and self-centeredness—things we’ve talked about here, which are a real part of our problem in trying to do what we committed ourselves to in terms of the “Bold Mission Thrust.”
    I believe it was due in great part to these unfortunate events that Southern Baptist participation in the AD 2000 movement, and cooperation with other evangelical groups for world missions, got somewhat of a “bad rap” with some significant Southern Baptist conservative leaders. Shortly thereafter, Keith Parks would no longer be president of the FMB, and the FMB would become known as the IMB. I, for one, am glad that new leadership, under new president Jerry Rankin, had the vision and presence of mind to not “throw out the baby with the bath water” regarding all of this, so to speak. But I’ll leave that for another post…

    Wednesday, May 17, 2006

    Historical Documents: Baptist-Evangelical Cooperation in World Missions, Part 9

    One of the most important Historical Documents for us as Southern Baptists is the Baptist Faith and Message. Most readers of this blog will be aware there are three different versions, adopted subsequently in 1925, 1963, and 2000. Among the issues dealt with in these statements is included the issue of Cooperation, both with other Baptists, as well as with Christians of other denominations.

    The reading of the 1963 and 2000 statements on the subject of Cooperation is exactly the same:
    XIV. Cooperation

    Christ's people should, as occasion requires, organize such associations and conventions as may best secure cooperation for the great objects of the Kingdom of God. Such organizations have no authority over one another or over the churches. They are voluntary and advisory bodies designed to elicit, combine, and direct the energies of our people in the most effective manner. Members of New Testament churches should cooperate with one another in carrying forward the missionary, educational, and benevolent ministries for the extension of Christ's Kingdom. Christian unity in the New Testament sense is spiritual harmony and voluntary cooperation for common ends by various groups of Christ's people. Cooperation is desirable between the various Christian denominations, when the end to be attained is itself justified, and when such cooperation involves no violation of conscience or compromise of loyalty to Christ and His Word as revealed in the New Testament.

    Exodus 17:12; 18:17ff.; Judges 7:21; Ezra 1:3-4; 2:68-69; 5:14-15; Nehemiah 4; 8:1-5; Matthew 10:5-15; 20:1-16; 22:1-10; 28:19-20; Mark 2:3; Luke 10:1ff.; Acts 1:13-14; 2:1ff.; 4:31-37; 13:2-3; 15:1-35; 1 Corinthians 1:10-17; 3:5-15; 12; 2 Corinthians 8-9; Galatians 1:6-10; Ephesians 4:1-16; Philippians 1:15-18.
    On the subject of Cooperation, the 1925 version is only slightly different, and reads as follows:

    XXII. Co-Operation

    Christ's people should, as occasion requires, organize such associations and conventions as may best secure co-operation for the great objects of the Kingdom of God. Such organizations have no authority over each other or over the churches. They are voluntary and advisory bodies designed to elicit, combine, and direct the energies of our people in the most effective manner. Individual members of New Testament churches should co-operate with each other, and the churches themselves should co-operate with each other in carrying forward the missionary, educational, and benevolent program for the extension of Christ's Kingdom. Christian unity in the New Testament sense is spiritual harmony and voluntary co-operation for common ends by various groups of Christ's people. It is permissable and desirable as between the various Christian denominations, when the end to be attained is itself justified, and when such co-operation involves no violation of conscience or compromise of loyalty to Christ and his Word as revealed in the New Testament.

    Ezra 1:3-4; 2:68-69; 5:14-15; Neh. 4:4-6; 8:1-4; Mal. 3:10; Matt. 10:5-15; 20:1-16; 22:1-10; Acts 1:13-14; 1:21:26; 2:1,41-47; 1 Cor. 1:10-17; 12:11-12; 13; 14:33-34,40; 16:2; 2 Cor. 9:1-15; Eph. 4:1-16; 3 John 1:5-8.
    It is clear, on the basis of these statements, that Southern Baptists, in general, believe in cooperation, not only with other Baptists, but as well, with Christians of other denominations. The difference between us may be found in our interpretation of the phrase: "when the end to be attained is itself justified, and when such cooperation involves no violation of conscience or compromise of loyalty to Christ and His Word as revealed in the New Testament." Certain types of cooperation that, for me, involve "no violation of conscience or compromise of loyalty to Christ and His Word as revealed in the New Testament," for you, may indeed involve "violation of conscience" or "compromise of loyalty to Christ and His Word as revealed in the New Testament." It is thus my understanding, that, while the general concept of cooperation with other Christians, Baptist or otherwise, is indubitably affirmed as a principle accepted by Southern Baptists, the specific application of this principle depends on differing interpretations of the wording of this statement.

    It is interesting to me, however, that, in spite of the clear reference in the Baptist Faith and Message, in the article explaining the point on Cooperation written by Southern Seminary Professor on Christian Missions and Evangelism, Mark Terry, and linked on the page referencing the Baptist Faith and Message, there is comparatively very little mention to cooperation with believers outside the Southern Baptist Convention.

    Sunday, May 14, 2006

    Historical Documents: Baptist-Evangelical Cooperation in World Missions, Part 8

    In 1994, when my wife, Kelly, and I went through IMB orientation, one of the presenters who came to talk to the group of new missionaries was Glenn Iglehart, Director of the Department of Interfaith Witness at the old S.B.C. Home Mission Board. I was frankly a bit surprised and concerned to find out we had someone as openly ecumenical as Iglehart come to speak to us about “Interfaith Witness”. At this time, Jerry Rankin was still quite new at the IMB, and many changes which were to take place later still had not come into force. The following quotes from Iglehart’s chapter on “Ecumenical Concerns among Southern Baptists” in the book Baptists & Ecumenism, edited by Iglehart and William Jerry Boney, give some good background information on Southern Baptist involvement in the ecumenical movement. It is important to remember that this book was published in 1980, before we had really seen a whole lot of the effects of the Conservative Resurgence upon the S.B.C.

    Two decades of openness to things ecumenical were launched in 1889 by T. T. Eaton, editor of the Kentucky Baptist state paper, The Western Recorder, and pastor of the Walnut Street Baptist Church in Louisville. Although Episcopal Bishop Charles H. Brent is usually named as the one who first proposed a Faith and Order Conference at the close of the 1910 International Missions Conference, Eaton had made the same proposal eleven years earlier. In an editorial discussing the broadening interest in Christian unity, he stressed that the only path to Christian unity was on the basis of scripture. Therefore, he proposed that “representative men and competent scholars” from the various Christian denominations come together to “consider the differences of belief from the Bible standpoint.” The next summer at the 1890 annual meeting of the S.B.C., the Convention adopted a resolution presented by Eaton suggesting that such a meeting of representative scholars be held, and that the results “be widely published in all denominational papers, so that the Christian public may be thoroughly informed” and that “progress may be made toward true Christian union.” (p. 50)

    In 1904, the Convention declined to become involved in the preliminary efforts that led to the formation of the Federal Council of Churches. (p. 51)

    The Foreign Mission Board had been a member of the interdenominational Foreign Mission Conference of North America since 1893, but statements adopted in the 1910’s revealed their rising doubts of the value of this ecumenical linkage. After the S.B.C. action in 1919, they stopped sending representatives to the conference that same year. (p. 53)

    In 1932, and again in 1937, the Convention declined to send “delegates” to the upcoming World Conference on Faith and Order, citing that the S.B.C. had no ecclesiastical function.

    The Foreign Mission Board in 1938 began sending representatives again to the Foreign Mission Conference of North America and continued to do so until dropping out when the Conference went into the N.C.C.C. in 1950.

    Having established a precedent in both position and rationale in declining to join conciliar forms of ecumenism, the Southern Baptist Convention used the same pattern in 1938, 1940, and 1948 statements. The 1938 statement was almost a copy of the 1914 Pronouncement. The 1940 and 1948 statements declined invitations to consider membership in the World Council of Churches. (p. 54)

    A third event in 1965 that would have a great effect on the future of S.B.C. relationships with other Christians was the creation within the Home Mission Board of a Department of Work Related to Nonevangelicals. This department had an initial focus on four groups: Catholicism, Judaism, world religions, and sectarian movements. Its intent was primarily apologetics, but the writings of its first director, Joseph R. Estes, showed a concern for accuracy and irenicism, especially with Catholics. Baptist publications sought to interpret the new initiatives of Roman Catholics after Vatican II, and to address ecumenical subjects. The interest in ecumenism was further illustrated by the founding of an Ecumenical Institute in 1968 by Wake Forest University, a Baptist school. Brooks Hays, former Arkansas member of Congress, was named its first director. In 1969, the Ecumenical Institute conducted the first Roman Catholic-Southern Baptist dialogue. In their summer meeting of that year, the Baptist World Alliance executive committee established a new standing Commission on Cooperation with Other Christians. Thus in the denomination and within the wider Baptist family, Southern Baptists came to look more carefully at the ecumenical challenge. (p. 56)

    Since 1975, the Department of Interfaith Witness of the Home Mission Board has promoted two-church dialogue between SBC and Roman Catholic local congregations. A growing number of churches each year have engaged in these two-session meetings, which include a typical worship service in each congregation followed by a fellowship hour and presentations on the distinctive beliefs of each communion. A follow-up committee representing the two congregations plans for other joint ministries and meetings. In 1979 more than four thousand persons took part in these ecumenical events. (p. 57)

    However, the lack of official membership has not meant the total lack of contact between the S.B.C. and the W.C.C. and N.C.C.C. Almost all Convention program agencies engage in professional ecumenical contacts with their counterparts in the conciliar as well as other modes of ecumenical organizations. The W.C.C. Commission on Faith and Order has had S.B.C. members since at least 1961, and there have been S.B.C. observers at all of the recent W.C.C. General Assemblies. There have been occasional S.B.C. observers at meetings of the N.C.C.C. Governing Board. Other examples of agency relations to the N.C.C.C. include: the Home Mission Board’s Language Missions Division has worked with Church World Service in Vietnamese refugee resettlement; the Sunday School Board has been related to the International Sunday School Lessons unit; the Home Mission Board’s Department of Interfaith Witness works with the N.C.C.C. Task Force on Christian-Muslim Relations, and the Advisory Committee on Christian-Jewish Relations; and there are three Southern Baptists on the N.C.C.C. Faith and Order Commission. In all of these relationships, the S.B.C. programs and persons fit into the N.C.C.C.’s provisions for non-member bodies to participate in their interests and programs. (pp. 58-59)

    A major catalyst for ecumenical vision and activity among Southern Baptists has been the Department of Interfaith Witness. It has the largest fulltime staff (eight) of any Protestant denomination for trans-denominational and trans-faith relations. Its goals are to share the claims of Christ with the non-Christian, to advocate the importance of personal faith among Christian groups, and to challenge deviations from biblical teaching in Christian sectarian movements. But this activity also promotes genuine ecumenical contacts with Roman Catholics, the Orthodox, and Protestants. The aim of this program is not to make all persons Baptist but to express concern that all might be believing and active Christians. This program is decidedly denominational in orientation but is also openly ecumenical. (p. 59)

    As Southern Baptists stand at the threshold of the 1980’s, their diversity is seen in their attitudes and actions related to other Christians. The vast majority are very denominationally oriented, and their energies are totally consumed in channels of mission and ministry solely related to their own denomination at local church, association, state, and national levels. Others, and their number increases slowly, have a broader view of the Christian task and the Christian family with whom they relate, and they are open to relating with other Christians, especially in local communities. Even on the national level, Southern Baptist agencies are gaining more experience and thus more confidence in relating ecumenically to other Christian bodies, which will have long-term effect.

    The prospects of membership of the S.B.C. in the N.C.C.C. and W.C.C. are still slim, given the stereotyped image these bodies have in S.B.C. life of being theologically and socially liberal in nature. This will not, however, prevent more contacts and relationships that are felt to be mutually beneficial.

    The SBC is built upon a sense of mission, of sharing God’s good news with all persons in the world. That this mission shall be perceived as including the sharing of the Baptist witness with other Christians in other denominations and searching with them for truth beyond any present denominational structure is a hope for which Southern Baptist ecumenists pray. (p. 60)
    I think it is important to point out that when I (and I believe many others like me) talk about Baptist cooperation with other Evangelicals in World Missions, I am not talking about ecumenism in the same way Iglehart (and others like him) talk about it. I am talking about cooperation (not ecclesiastical union) with other evangelical groups (not Roman Catholics or liberal Protestants). I certainly do not believe we need to cooperate in evangelism with groups whose official teachings would not lead you on the path to salvation (by grace through faith alone).

    I believe it is important to not forget that, at least from certain sectors, up until quite recently, we as Southern Baptists have been dangerously open to ecumenism a la the N.C.C.C. and W.C.C. I, frankly, have been concerned with attitudes on the part of some former co-workers regarding possibilities of working together with Roman Catholics in Spain. I am happy that Dr. Rankin has strongly affirmed the IMB’s commitment towards continuing to view Roman Catholics, as well as any who do not embrace a biblical plan of salvation, as worthy “targets” of our evangelistic efforts.

    That is why when someone like Malcom Yarnell suggests that I have embraced “ecumenical ecclesiology” (see previous post) I feel a need to clearly explain what I am talking about.

    See also...

    SBC Resolution on Missions, May 1912
    SBC Resolution on Cooperation with Other Christians, May 1961
    SBC Resolution on Southern Baptists and Ecumenism, June 1996