The “Conservative Resurgence” in the SBC, as I understand it, had to do primarily with the issue of biblical authority. Yes, it occurred within the context of the Southern Baptist Convention, and thus, all of its leaders were essentially Baptist in their interpretation and basic ecclesiological convictions. However, the “Conservative Resurgence” and the self-proclaimed “Baptist Renaissance” within the SBC are not two sides of the same coin. This is evidenced in the fact that there are many who were convinced supporters of the causes advocated in the “Conservative Resurgence” who are not equally excited about the “Baptist Renaissance.”
It is my opinion, however, that the “Baptist Renaissance” is attempting to “piggy-back” on the success of the “Conservative Resurgence,” presenting itself as the legitimate heir of its legacy. At one point, several years back, it would seem that all the supporters of the “Conservative Resurgence,” both those of a “Baptist Renaissance” mindset, and those of other mindsets, were considered legitimate members of the fold.
Up until recently, in the post-Conservative Resurgence SBC, the issues of “private prayer languages,” “local church” as opposed to “Universal Church,” alien immersion, open communion, Calvinism, etc. were not high on the denominational agenda. Of course, some may have debated these issues in certain forums, but, in general, there seemed to exist a tacit agreement towards peaceful coexistence within the broader sphere of the SBC in these areas. Local churches that wanted to take a strong stand, one way or another, on these issues felt free to do so, but at a local church level. On the denominational level, there was more flexibility.
It is hard to pinpoint exactly one set of issues that describe these two visions. From my perspective (which admittedly may not be the same as some others), though, it seems one way to describe it is there are some who would want to “put the exclamation point” on everything that distinguishes us from other conservative evangelicals, while for myself and others, we prefer to put it on everything that unites us with other conservative evangelicals. On the main points of doctrine, we have no real discrepancies with each other. We both agree to the basic doctrinal framework laid out in the Baptist Faith & Message. However, there seem to be certain differences of basic values that define who we are.
Those who think like me give a high priority to unity. We have no inherent desire to form a splinter group. The CBF has already gone its own way. We wonder if it would be a good testimony to the world and the Church at large if we were to go our own way as well. We also wonder if it would be the most responsible stewardship of the resources God has entrusted into our hands. We would like to continue to work together with Baptists that may think a little differently than we do on these issues. However, if we are made to feel less and less welcome, the more and more awkward it becomes to continue to cooperate in the same way we have before. In some situations, it is not even a matter of choice. The decision has already been made for us.
It is not my point, nor that of many others who think like me, to be a “fly in the ointment” of the promoters of the “Baptist Renaissance.” We are just wondering where is the best place for us to serve the Lord, and cooperate with like-minded believers for the advance of His Kingdom. We feel we have as much place in the SBC of today as others.
Where do we fit?