Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Unity in the Body of Christ and Unity in the SBC

A lot is being said on the blogosphere lately about degrees of inclusiveness or exclusiveness in the Southern Baptist Convention, and how this relates to the unity of the Body of Christ.

See Wade Burleson (and comments) here, here , here, and here; Nathan Finn here; Bart Barber here and here, and Jeremy Green here.

From my point of view, unity in the Body of Christ at large is a more important concern that "trumps," if you will, unity in the Southern Baptist Convention, or any other denomination or Christian group, for that matter. Our unity in the Body of Christ, however, does not depend on everyone else "crossing every ‘t’ and dotting every ‘i’" just like we do. I recognize that my understanding of the Word of God is imperfect, and that, as a result, I am not always going to see eye to eye with other sincere brothers and sisters in Christ, who may well love the Lord and his Word just as much as I do. But this does not keep me from loving them, accepting them, fellowshipping with them, and cooperating with them in ministry.

However, the Body of Christ is also very big and very broad. This fact makes it so that it is not always practical nor desirable to directly cooperate with every member of the Body of Christ in every ministry project. Out of a desire for practical stewardship of the Kingdom resources God commends to us as His children, we sometimes form "strategic alliances" in order to more effectively do the work He has given us to do.

I believe the Southern Baptist Convention, and the Cooperative Program, is one such "strategic alliance." However, I believe it is an error to view the SBC or any other grouping of Christians as a microcosm of the Body of Christ at large. I believe we commit the sin of schism whenever we treat the members of one grouping of believers as more authentic or legitimate members of the Body of Christ than another, just because of the grouping with which they happen to affiliate.

Within any "strategic alliance," however, there are pragmatic reasons that lead us to do things the way we do them. We join together, for example, in order to sponsor an orphanage. And we look for other believers who have similar ideas in order to better work together in sponsoring the orphanage. We don’t look to partner with those who have no particular interest in orphanages. Neither do we look to partner with those who have radically different ideas from us regarding how orphanages should be run. However, we are open, to a certain extent, to new ideas, and "thinking outside of the box," but not to working with people whose "core values" are too much in conflict with ours. All in the interest of doing a better job with the orphanage.

The "ministry project package" we as Southern Baptists work together to support is obviously a whole lot more complex than sponsoring an orphanage. It is for this reason that we need conventions, and messengers, and trustee boards, etc. As a group, we must agree, through democratic processes, on how we are going to make the best use of the economic, human, creative and spiritual resources we all contribute to see accomplished the various ministry projects we have joined together to accomplish.

Sometimes, this process brings to light the reality that, in the interest of doing a better job, and moving forward with a reasonable amount of agreement, it is best that some members of the Body of Christ find other "ministry project support groups" with which they can better collaborate. But this does not mean that we begin to treat these brothers and sisters as less authentic or legitimate members of the Body of Christ, just because they do not see eye to eye with us regarding the administration of our particular ministry project. We allow them to go their way, but continue to love them, continue to accept them, continue to fellowship with them, and even remain open to the possibility of cooperating with them, whenever circumstances warrant a strategic cooperation in order to get a ministry project for which we share a common interest or commitment accomplished.

Those who deny the faith, and who fall into heresy that would lead to question even their membership in the Body of Christ at large, are a whole different story. With these, we are bound by Scripture to point out the error of their ways, and to exclude them from fellowship.

34 comments:

Bart Barber said...

Thanks, David, for a substantive and reasonable post on this issue.

And for what it is worth, brother, I have your blog's RSS feed bookmarked...you don't have to worry about me missing one of your posts.

In Christ,
Bart

GuyMuse said...

I too have read with interest the degrees of inclusiveness/exclusiveness in the various SBC blogs of late.

Our own view of all this is really quite simple. The task before us is impossible if we do not partner and join forces with fellow believers of different persuassions. What we have learned over the years is that these differences between us don't really amount to much at all, and are certainly not worthy of separating us from one another. We do a lot of friendly kidding with one another, but in the end, our hearts are one and the same in the things that matter like winning our city, province, country to Jesus.

In my own latest blog post the church planters described there come from backgrounds as diverse as Pentecostal, Baptist, Mennonite, and AG. It is an honor for me to serve alongside these guys. Yes, we have our differences, but the differences are so minimal, and what unites us is so much more important. I believe that it is more Satan's strategy to disunite the Body of Christ and when we think ourselves so pure in our own doctrines and beliefs as to not contaminate ourselves with the poison of our brothers, we are falling right into Satan's trap.

If you had 2 Pentecostal brothes willing to go out and serve in an unreached area, and had NO Baptists willing; would you work with the Pentecostals? Some might say, no. We say, yes. The laborers are too few to waste time quarreling about matters that have not been resolved in centuries, and will not be resolved until Christ returns.

Kevin Bussey said...

David,

Well said. I appreciate your insight!

tim rogers said...

Brother David,

With all due respect, I did not read Wade's post as being united in the body of Christ. I have gone back an re-read the post and for the life of me cannot see that. He advocates returning to what your father said was; "What we have now is a broad theology where everybody is saying we have unity in diversity. but the unity in diversity in only theological, not program wise. And somehow the sin. . . in the SBC is not that you be aberrant in your theology, but...that you be aberrant in your program, that you don't do the program just right, that you fail to support evertying. The question centers on what we believe about the Word of God. If we can't believe that, I believe it is the ultimate cancer that will destroy the organism. There are two differnt schools of thought [in the SBC]; there is a continental divide [between us]...Either the Word if God is infallible or it's fallible, it is inerrant or it is errant."
Wade has said; "Now I realize I was fighting for the wrong thing. I should have been fighting for Southern Baptists to TALK to each other, to PRAY with each other, to COOPERATE with each other, to LOVE each other, rather than to divide into sides and conquer one another. True, classical liberals need to be removed from any positions of authority in the SBC, but it should be done in a proper manner, following all protocol and procedures established for such an event."

Brother, it appears from his post that he understood exactly what he was saying. I believe should not be exclusive as Southern Baptist when we are trying to plant churches and do ministry. But, when you are speaking about bringing people into the SBC, we have to be exclusive at some point.

Blessings,
Tim

Bart Barber said...

Tim,

If David is siding with Wade, he is doing so in such a subtle way that I missed it.

I read David to be articulating the mere principle that there are more stringent limits to the realistic bounds of partnership in something like the SBC than the limits to the body of Christ.

David is not really saying who fits into which group. If he gave his opinion on that, then we might be in a position to have a little controversy here. As it now stands, I think it is pretty hard to argue with him or to link him with anyone's particular position.

Bryan Riley said...

You've hit the nail on the head and said what I've been wrestling with and trying to verbalize for a while, but I needed some of your mentoring/writing and others as I came to grips with what God was teaching me.

The emphasis for me in this is that we do all things to glorify God and one part of accomplishing that is being able to love, accept, fellowship, and cooperate in ministry with all believers, not just ones who look just and talk like we do. And, through this, the world will see our shared love, despite our differences, and know that Jesus is the source of our ability to love one another.

David, you've helped me come a long way in a short time at understanding the balance here between unity, strategy, etc. Thank you.

Bryan Riley said...

Apollos, Paul, Christ? SBC? Body of Christ?

David Rogers said...

Thank you, Bart,

Yes, you have apparently understood me correctly. Although I count Wade as a friend, and have been more overt in my support of other things he has said on this blog, I am not in this post intending to take one side or another in the current "controversy." I do hope, however, that the perspective I offer here would help some to not be so quick to judge Wade's motives.

Bryan Riley said...

I just found it ironic that in a post about unity someone started wondering whose side someone was on. Thus, the reference to Corinthians...

tim rogers said...

Brother David,

I need to apologize. After reading Brother Bart's comment, I went back and re-read your post. I missed completely the paragraph on the orphanage the first time. I must have had a brain glitch or something. I agree with your assessment and ask your forgiveness. I am sorry if I offended you in any way referring back to your father. I now see that you were merely pointing out the same things I have heard him more pointedly say over the years.

Brother Bart,
Thank you for calling my attention to the error of my reading. If my comment offended you in any way, please forgive me. It was not my intention to offend.

Blessings,
Tim

David Rogers said...

Tim,

Apology accepted. And no, I was not offended in any way by your comment. It is just as valid to quote my father on this blog as it is to quote anyone else. And I hope just as valid to quote him to me as it is to quote him to anyone else.

I believe my father would be in agreement with what I have written. But, even more important, I have to be true to my own beliefs and convictions, under accountability to my Heavenly Father.

Blessings,

David

IN HIS NAME said...

David,

Thank you for this post, which is my main concern for the SBC.

Kingdom Authority, one of your Fathers Books that he wrote should be a must read for all Baptist. I surrender ALL is the song that comes to mind, when I think about this Book(Kingdom Authority).

It is Christ Centered, not Baptist Centered. If we are not focused on Jesus Christ we have lost our focus.
We should never compromise the Word of God(Bible) in any way like the BF&M 2000 qualifications for a Deacon being open for a woman.
My prayers are with You David, as well as all the Missionaries throughout the world.

A Brother in Christ

IN HIS NAME said...

David,

I Thank your Mother for the talk she gave on this very subject. Jesus Prayed for Unity in the Body, which is Jesus's Body.

A Brother in Christ

Bart Barber said...

Bro. Tim,

No...I came nowhere close to taking offense. I was just saying that I read it differently. Honestly, David's statement that the post was designed to keep us from reacting so quickly to Wade's post went further than what I expected. I'm not sure that my reading was 100% accurate, either.

In Christ,
Bart

David Rogers said...

Bart,

Let me see if I can be more clear.

I did not say that "the post was designed to keep us from reacting so quickly to Wade's post."

I did say that "I do hope, however, that the perspective I offer here would help some to not be so quick to judge Wade's motives."

And I do say now that "the post was designed in order to communicate what I consider to be an important distinction between unity in the Body of Christ and unity in the SBC, which often gets in the way of clear thinking and understanding, when we are talking about issues such as those brought up on Wade's blog, as well as yours, Nathan Finn's, and Jeremy Green's."

If a by-product of this "clarified thinking" can be that people will perhaps see Wade's motives from another perspective (i.e. "We allow them to go their way, but continue to love them, continue to accept them, continue to fellowship with them, and even remain open to the possibility of cooperating with them, whenever circumstances warrant a strategic cooperation in order to get a ministry project for which we share a common interest or commitment accomplished"), and, if indeed those are Wade's motives (which I at least understand them to be), I for one will be glad.

But that was not the motive for this post.

Bart Barber said...

<No longer scratching my head>

Thanks for the clarification, David. I appreciate it.

In Christ,
Bart

Bart Barber said...

So, how high are those mountains south of you? Google Earth doesn't really give a good perspective for that sort of thing.

David Rogers said...

Bart,

You're not spying on me, are you?

The "mountains" to the south of Alcalá de Henares (if that is where you are looking) are not all that tall.

If you are looking at the same picture that I brought up, the mountains to the north of Alcalá, and a bit to the west, are quite a bit taller. On the picture I brought up (which is obviously not today) there is still a good bit of snow on these mountains.

tim rogers said...

Brother David,

Thank you for your humble spirit and the way you have responded to me. If it were not for that attitude that I perceive, then I would just go my way. So, I guess this next question is in some way your fault. :>)

You know Wade Burleson and therefore I acquiesce to your perspective. But, IMFBHO (In My Flawed but Humble Opinion)I do not read his post as allowing the SBC to work with the CBF. I read it as reaching out to those in the CBF and bringing them back into the SBC. He refers to various men who led others out of the SBC and formed CBF. Then he says; "I now have met everyone of the above named men. They all believe the Bible. They all love the Lord Jesus Christ. They all love missions... There are thousands of kind, gracious, compassionate, Bible believing Southern Baptists in the Baptist General Convention of Texas and the Baptist General Convention of Virginia.
In a few months I would hope Dr. Frank Page will be appointing men and women from both the above named Conventions to serve on boards and agencies of the Southern Baptist Convention, just as he said he would."

I never remember hearing Dr. Page say he would appoint people out of other state conventions that were clearly aligned with the CBF to positions in the SBC.

I reference your orphanage illustration and agree completely that if in the future we can partner with the CBF to accomplish a particular mission we should. However, that does not seem, to me IMFBHO, what Wade is advocating.

Blessings,
Tim

David Rogers said...

Tim,

As I understand it, Frank Page has indicated clearly he will only appoint people who personally hold to inerrancy:

-------------------------------
(From Baptist Press)

"Page was careful to point out that his call for “broadening of involvement” was methodological, not theological.

“I had an e-mail this morning from somebody wanting to know if I was a stealth candidate for the CBF [Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, a dissident group opposed to the current leadership of the SBC], which offended me. … As I’ve said over and over, I’m not talking about broadening the tent theologically; I’m talking about broadening the tent of involvement among godly conservatives.”

Page said his presidential appointments will include people who have a “sweet spirit,” are evangelistic, affirm the inerrancy of Scripture and strongly support the Cooperative Program, and the same will be expected from those who make recommendations to him for appointments."

--------------------------

I would assume that Wade Burleson has read this, and is in agreement with it.

Perhaps (I'm not completely sure where you're coming from) the real issue for you is "guilt by association." While I can see that past and/or present alignment with the CBF may be in some ways out of line with SBC core values, and thus, counterproductive when it comes to working together in the same "ministry project support group" (e.g. the SBC and its agencies), I do not believe people should be permanently "blacklisted" or "labeled" as "heretics" or "liberals" on the basis of what group they may have affiliated with. There should be an open door for reconciliation, but never compromise on essential doctrine.

Maybe Wade was intending to go beyond this, and say something else. I will have to let him speak for himself.

But that is what I have to say on this for the time being.

In Christ,

David

Tim Cook said...

Speaking from experience, the SBC, and most denominations, are in danger of losing many young people for exactly this reason; namely, that the focus is on being unified Baptists and not on unifying the body of Christ. I have, coincidently, just started a blog which is likely to focus on some of these issues from my own experience...feel free to check it out. (I am slightly shy about this shameless advertising, but I really AM on topic)

www.methobapticostal.blogspot.com

Tim Cook said...

correction:
http://methobapticostal.blogspot.com

though, the other one might get you there? I am new to this...

volfan007 said...

david,

i hope that you are right about frank page. thats why i voted for him. plus, as a statement for the cp.

i agree with tim rogers as well. i think wade goes too far. he is saying welcome back the cbf'ers who allowed our sbc to go down the liberal drain to begin with. i would be very uncomfortable with someone who would affiliate with the cbf being in charge of anything in our beloved sbc.

david,

are you and tim related?

also, i just want to thank God for your dad, dr. adrian rogers. i thank God for him and men like him who led us out of the hold of liberalism.


volfan007

tim rogers said...

David,

Thank you Brother for your openness on this. I did not presume on you to speak for Wade. I just felt that as you knew each other as friends in, I think college, you would know more where he is coming from. I certainly do not want to come across as guilt by association. At the same time, I know that I would not allow myself to be part of a group that I did not believe in reagardless of how strongly I did not like someone in another group.

Please hear my heart as I try desperately to get my point across without sounding harsh. I am in no way advocating that we do not get along with other Christians. I do maintain that we have to be united in the SBC and that unity, as I understand it, is around Missions and Evangelism. In order for us to make certain our Missions is truly Kingdom Work and our Evangelism is more than just giving kool-aide and sandwiches, we adopted the BF&M2K. Am I wrong on this? Truly, I want to know.

Blessings,
Tim

tim rogers said...

David,

I am sorry for your email. The person doing that should be told he/she is doing a dis-service to the cause of Christ to approach a Brother in Christ with that type of accusation.

volfan,
The only relation I know about with David is, as you hillbilly's would say it, bludkin. He and I have both been purchased by the Blood of Jesus.

Blessings,
Tim

David Rogers said...

Tim Rogers,

I knew Wade in college, but it's been a long time, and we have both grown and changed a lot since then. I know him now, pretty much just like everyone else, by way of his blog (though I did get to say hello to him at the SBC).

I appreciate and share your concern for maintaining doctrinal purity in the SBC. It's just that I think that biblically unity in the Body of Christ "trumps" (as I say in my post) unity in the SBC. Unity in the SBC has to do with pragmatic concerns of getting the job done as well as we can possibly do it. It will be hard (as you infer) for people who don't truly believe the Bible to do a good job at missions and evangelism. Unity in the Body of Christ, however, has to do with being obedient to Christ's commands.

I think as much as possible we need to work towards both. But when there is a tension between the two, unity in the Body of Christ takes priority, in my opinion.

David Rogers said...

Tim Rogers,

Remind me again what the e-mail thing you mention is about. I can't seem to recall what you are talking about.

David Rogers said...

Vol fan,

Thanks for the kind comment about my Dad.

I guess I will let you post here even if I am a Florida Gator fan (in football) and Memphis Tiger fan (in basketball).

Bart Barber said...

David,

In spying, I prefer human intelligence to electronic intelligence. I was checking out your town in Google Earth simply because of curiosity. My spies are the folks in the Smart Car across the street from your house with the laser mike.

:-)

I agree with everything in your original post. I don't agree with your elaborations in your comments. In my opinion, wrongful "guilt by association" comes when you just happen to be friends with somebody who believes this-and-such or does something-or-other. But when you JOIN such-and-such organization, it is not "guilt by association" to assume that you share some affinity with the core principles of that organization.

Benjamin Bogard grew up in the South and knew a lot of racists. That didn't make him guilty of anything. But, he went so far as to JOIN and write a pamphlet to DEFEND the KKK. He still claimed that he wasn't a racist, didn't support lynchings, etc. But his membership in the KKK gives me sufficient ground to call him a racist, and that is not, in my opinion, "guilt by association."

So, if a person has joined the CBF, I do not believe that it is an inappropriate "guilt by association" leap of logic to reach conclusions about that person's qualifications to lead the SBC. No person affiliated with the CBF ought to be in leadership of the SBC.

tim rogers said...

David,

I am sorry, I have got to slow down when reading. The email I was referring to was the comment you posted concerning Frank Page. I did not notice the quotation marks until now. I thought you had received an email from someone stating what you posted as Frank Page's statement.

After blogging with me for awhile I am sure you can probably guess why Peter is my favorite Biblical character.

Blessings,
Tim

David Rogers said...

Bart,

I must agree you have an interesting point with what you say about Benjamin Bogard.

I was just wondering, if my comment you reference I were to put the words PERMANENTLY and RECONCILIATION in all caps, would you feel any better about that?

Shades of the Donatist controversy?

Alycelee said...

What a wonderful call to unity.
It reminded me of this scripture,
The test of our love for God's family lies in this question-do we love God himself and do we obey his commands? I John 5 (JB Phillips)
Is the problem, the leaf on the tree, or the root?
John seems to indicate it is the root of the tree.
Like King David, a good time for self examination.
Thanks for the reminder.
Agape

Bart Barber said...

Ah....the Donatists. They were really Baptists, you know. ;-) LOL

The emphasis there makes your comments agreeable to me, but it also makes them inapplicable to anyone. Is there anyone out there who would really black-ball someone from the SBC forever because of prior affiliation in the CBF.

For example, what would happen if, in Baptist Press tomorrow, Daniel Vestal released a press statement saying that the CBF is full of liberals, he now realizes that the conservative resurgence was a needed correction, he's resigning his post effective immediately, and he's devoting the remainder of his life to advocating inerrancy?

He'd be the darling of the SBC within a week.

David Rogers said...

Bart,

I think we are probably not all that far apart on our views on this issue. Perhaps my "merciful bent" is getting the best of me.

Add to that, in spite of the role my Dad played in the conservative resurgence, I have been relatively isolated over here in Spain from a lot the developments of the last 16 years, and perhaps from your point of view, a lot of my "naivete" can be explained.

I do not want to compromise God's Word on the altar of expediency. But neither do I want to compromise on what I understand God's Word to teach about unity.

Thanks for your "iron on iron" help as I continue to think through these issues.