Friday, March 16, 2007

SBC: Denomination or Convention?

I believe the comment originally made by Paul Burleson, and referenced by Wade Burleson on this post, is extremely relevant, not only in light of the discussion over the new policies at the IMB, but also in reference to many other questions being discussed throughout the SBC today.

In order to facilitate more discussion, I am reproducing here a comment I just left on Wade's post. It also ties in, to some degree, I believe, with the fruitful conversation we have been having here at Love Each Stone on the City church...

I agree that this is a key issue that underlies many of the discussions within the SBC. As such, this question lies at the root of many of the posts on my own blog.

I believe that biblical teaching on unity is at the level of the Universal Church (or the Body of Christ), the City church, and the local congregation (or New Testament "house church"), but never at the level of "denomination." An overstated emphasis on denominational unity and uniformity can also become an impediment to true biblical unity at the Universal Church, City church, and local congregation levels.

This is not to say that the SBC, in and of itself, is a bad thing, or has to necessarily be counter-productive in regards to biblical unity. It does mean, however, that the SBC should never be viewed as more than a tool, in the hands of local congregations, in unity with the various City churches, and the Body of Christ around the world, for effective work towards the fulfillment of the Great Commission. In order to be a more effective tool, agreement on doctrinal statements such as the BFM, can be helpful.

But whenever the SBC, in and of itself, is seen as representative of the Body of Christ as a whole, or as competing with our legitimate loyalty towards the entire Body of Christ, it becomes, in my opinion, not only a "denomination," but also a sect, and as such, contrary to the will of God for us as believers.


Matt Snowden said...

I ask for the "city church" posts on Wade's blog before I checked out your blog. This interesting stuff - thanks.

bryan riley said...

David, this is absolutely an incredible post and I pray it will be the beginning of something amazing for the Body of Christ. Let us all who claim to be followers of Jesus join Him in His prayer that we would be as one just as He and the Father are one so that the world would know that He really is their Lord.

Strider said...

When I signed up for the IMB it was the FMB still and I actually came on through CSI. Sorry to all those who will not know some of these letters.
CSI had a unique ethos and one of the key principles was found as the last bullet point on every job request including the one that I chose: To work in coordination with other GCCs to fullfill the task.
I pray that we can recover that ethos for our entire convention. A spirit of working together with the entire body of Christ to fullfill His prayer for us.
Thanks for the good word.

blessedchild said...

Hey! I stumbled upon your blog because i searched for private prayer language and i found yours! I just wanted to let you know, on my page there are a ton of biblical references and support for it... it's REALLY long... but i believe that it's all neccessary in putting together the big picture. God bless! :]

bryan riley said...

Strider, that should always be one of our missions. Great word and great bullet point.

Geoff Baggett said...

I'm with cb scott on this one ... he says were a "bunch of nuts." I had a little fun doing a "mixed nuts of the SBC" post. Check it out. Just for fun. :)

Rob Dando said...


if its alright I thought I might post a comment or two on this post. As an European Baptist pastor I hope that you and others will know that whilst my comments may suggest unease about the structural direction and ossification of the SBC, I would not want people to see my comments as throwing stones at those who have left fellowship with the wider world.

I wonder if the question about whether the SBC is a denomination or convention is somewhat redundant, as it seems that there are significant enough trends not only to see the strains of institutionalism but more to raise genuine concerns about the way the institution that is forming will become narrower, more controlled and more centralised in the coming future.

Take the following examples

Sacramentalism -the increasing focus on the mode of baptism and a growing refusal to recognise that baptism practised by others. Even when at the same time, the fruit of the millions baptised and the sometimes extremely young age of the candidates means that the question of genuine faith seems to be slipping from people’s practice. Also an apparent return to closing the table to those who do not meet a particular set of standards - that is they are not proper members of the true church.

Hierarchical Local Authority Structure - recent blogs and essay suggest a strong focus present or emerging that identifies the pastor as have the right to control the direction, vision and values of a church. Having been “put there by God”, and an associated undermining of a belief in the priesthood of all believers and genuine congregational governance.

A Central Magisterium - a small sub group within the denomination, to whom others look to set boundaries on both doctrine and dogma. The increasing amount of dogma which is being set – on alcohol, PPL, baptism etc does somewhat confirm this concern.

Exclusivity - the Landmark question about whether any other church is the true church or not. The claimed uniqueness of a particular body over and against all others, which is different from denominational loyalty or doctrinal convictions.

Control over the Source of Authority - I am entirely sure that the HCSB is a fine translation, undertaken by eminent and faithful scholars, but I still remember hearing on its launch, one Southern Baptist pastor speaking of it as an advance because now Southern Baptists could “control” the Bible. Control of a translation can lead to control of the comments made upon it, which can in due course lead to official and sanctioned interpretations becoming normative.

Control over Who Belongs - where the need to toe the line and support the magisterium and accept the dogma becomes the central question as to whether you belong or are to be put out or removed – rather than belonging or removal being about church discipline (which I see as essential in a healthy church) practised to help bring fallen brothers and sisters back to God.

Those with any knowledge of medieval church history may see some disturbing similarities which, if real rather than the product of my fanciful imagination, might best be avoided or reversed for the kingdom’s sake.

David Rogers said...


Thanks for this comment. I believe this recognition of our need of the entire Body of Christ working together in order to fulfill the Great Commission, and the encouragement to partner together with other "GCC's" was a wonderful step forward in Southern Baptist history.

I posted some of my impressions regarding the events that underlied this important development here and here.

The sad thing for me is that it seems like there are some who would like for us to take a step back from this now. It even seems to me that this may be one of the key philosophical issues behind those who have questioned Dr. Rankin's leadership.

David Rogers said...


Thanks for your contribution. I would love for more Southern Baptists to be aware of what Baptists in other countries, like you, think about these things. I think it may be eye-opening for many.

Strider said...

Did Rob just say 'whilst' and 'ossification'? We're not but humble pirates.
But actually I think there is a lot of room for hope in what he very accurately outlines. I am supposing that the reason these issues are evident to a European is not because they have been trumpeted by their defenders but because he has heard the din of rebellion amongst the vast majority of us who will not tolerate such papist tenets being inflicted on our beloved SBC.