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Historical Documents: Baptist-Evangelical Cooperation in World Missions, Part 9

One of the most important Historical Documents for us as Southern Baptists is the Baptist Faith and Message.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 sbc.net page referencing the Baptist Faith and Message, there is comparatively very little mention to cooperation with believers outside the Southern Baptist Convention.

2 comments:

Kiki Cherry said...

It's a little scary that his chief example of cooperation with other denominations was our membership in the Baptist World Alliance.

I had to read that paragraph twice before I realized it was written back in 2002.

Another great article, David. Keep them coming.

GuyMuse said...

"...there is comparatively very little mention to cooperation with believers outside the Southern Baptist Convention."

There doesn't seem to be much of an intentional effort to address this most important issue. Seems like we SB are more interested with in-house issues than in reaching the world for Christ. In one sense those of us overseas are further along in the process of making contacts and partnering, but it has been more out of necessity than conviction that we are all part of the Body of Christ.