It seems that recently a phrase that has been popularized in the SBC blogging world is causing fear in the hearts of many conservatives within the SBC. It seems that they fear the use of the phrase “widening the tent” in reference to our understanding of proper SBC acceptance. That fear, I believe, is invoked because many believe that phrase is an invitation to the reconciliation of those who have left the convention primarily over their stance on scripture.

In an effort to provide clarity, I wanted to share with you what I’ve already shared over at Les Puryear’s blog concerning that very thing. I hope this is encouraging as we seek to partner together for the sake of the kingdom.

First of all, I think the phrase, “widening the tent” needs to be viewed from a shortsighted perspective. In order to explain that I need to go back to an earlier phrase that we’ve used, and that is that we need to protect from the “narrowing of the parameters within SBC life.” It is apparent to some of us that many of those who would have historically been acceptable within SBC life are now being marginalized. These would include those who hold to less restrictive views of baptism, less restrictive views of a personal prayer language, and may go on to even include the restriction of those who hold to reformed theology, the encouragement of contemproary worship, among other things. All of these are views which, while they may not be held by a majority of Southern Baptists, are certainly within the historical view of orthodox SBC thought. It seems that many of those who hold to these opinions are being unneccesarily segregated without clear direction from either the BF&M or t!
he directive of the convention at large. That exclusion of conservatives who have a minority, yet orthodox, theological opinion is the greatest concern. It is through these efforts that we see an attempt to “narrow the parameters” within SBC life, unnecessarily.

Having said that, it is my opinion that when we refer to “widening the tent” we are not referring to those who have been recognized to be outside the realm of acceptable theology within SBC life (particularly in reference to the view of scripture) but rather it is a reference to the marginalization of those who have recently begun to be excluded over non-essential issues that throughout history were recognized as acceptable within SBC thought.

So, it seems to me that conservatives should not fear those of us making these claims. We’re not trying to dilute the gospel, nor devalue our collective view of scripture. We are trying to broaden the understanding of who is acceptable by evaluting all opinions in light of scripture. This fear, therefore, is misdirected if it is a fear about opening ourselves up to the devaluation of scripture.

I hope this provides some clarity.

Micah is a husband to Tracy & a daddy to Grace, Kessed & Haddon. He’s Senior Pastor at Brainerd Baptist Church in Chattanooga, TN. Most of all, he’s a debtor to grace.

10 thoughts on “clarity?

  1. Sorry Rob.
    Here, let me help you out.
    “I’m all out of love. I’m so lost without you. I can’t do too much, believing for so long. I’m all out of love. What am I without you. I can’t say too much, to say that I was so wrong.”
    Crap. Now its stuck in my head.

    Sing it backwards out loud. Then, when it meets up with the song in your head, it will be 360 degrees out of phase, and will pop out of your head. Good luck.

  2. I think another, nuanced meaning of the phrase is to select trustees and board members from outside the same small social network.

    Earlier in the year, much was written about people serving multiple terms on multiple boards; or some churches being disproportionately represented; or, even of some families that were serving either simultaneously or serially on different boards.

  3. Micah,

    I responded over there, and will transport that comment here, if you don’t mind. This is my first visit here, and I like what you’ve done with the place.

    I think most in this debate will agree with what you said. The only problem is that this is not the way this thing has played out. It has from day one been an attack on personalities, not to mention the second thoughts about the exclusion of those found to be outside the realm of acceptable SBC thought in the past.

    This movement had a lot of momentum in principle from the beginning, but now finds its greatest support among those who have axes to grind or personal disagreements with their brothers in Christ, and are looking forward to seeing them tumble down the steep slope of innerantist ascendancy of the 80’s. Whatever you may do with my analysis of the whys, you still have to deal with the fact of the whats- otherwise you would have little need to try and mend the fences here with brothers who would otherwise be on board (as you alluded to) seeking more Christ-like principles for our denominational entities.

  4. Colinm, Thakns for the compliments in regards to the blog. It has been a 2 and a half year progression, and it’s not done yet! 🙂

    I answered you on Les’ blog, and I’m also going to respond to you hear in case anybody else is reading and would like to see the comments.


    Thanks for your perception of the events. I do disagree with you, to a degree, however. The “movement,” if you want to call it that, does contain both good ideas and good people. Are there “axe-grinders” involved as well, yes. The truth is, though, that they are generally on the fringe. I’ve spent time face to face with many, if not most, of the folks who would be considered leaders in the “movement” and they have no desire whatsoever to descend the hill of innerancy. In my time with Marty Duren, Ben Cole, Wade Burleson and Art Rogers, among others, I am absolutely convinced that they have no desire to go that route, and I mean none.

    Now, are there people in the group who have at times (and sometimes more often than not) allowed this to be about people and motives rather than issues? Well, yes. There’s no doubt about that, and I can assure you that I’ve confronted that within the individuals that I know that are guilty of that kind of behavior, and I’ve even had to apologize when I’ve jumped in that pond, myself. The reality is, though, that doesn’t negate the necessity of the principles behind the movement that are being pushed. The conservative resurgence (though it was a much needed and is a much appreciated movement) was full of backbiting, deception and character assasination. That ungodly behavior didn’t negate the need for the resurgence, it just solidified the need for reform within the resurgence.

    So, too, do we find ourselves today. We need this movement, we also need reform in this movement, but isn’t that true of all of the Christian life?

  5. Micah,

    We are going to find ourselves agreeing on most issues. I think you misunderstood me slightly. I do not claim nor believe any of those you mention are denying inerrancy, nor pushing for its denial. What I am claiming is that most of the vocal support given to the leaders of this movement, which it can be rightly called, are those “who have axes to grind or personal disagreements with their brothers in Christ, and are looking forward to seeing them tumble down the steep slope of innerantist ascendancy of the 80’s.”

    It is because of the personal attacks that many have shied away from lending their support to Wade, Ben, or McKissic, and I have found that to be the case among most I have talked with about these issues. It is difficult to argue that aligning yourself with certain principles doesn’t also automatically align yourself against certain personalities. That is the way this debate/”principled dissent”/movement was set up from the beginning, and it is unfortunate.

    So while I can agree with you in the principles of the matter, as far as the principles concerned rely on follow the regulative principle and the NT pattern as Baptists have for centuries, I cannot agree with you if you are suggesting we overlook the sinful behavior in light of principles themselves- for isn’t that what everyone is decrying the resurgers for? One cannot call out the sin in others with which one is guilty of himself, and that is what has happened.

    Micah, I am with you on principle. I am completely frustrated that a movement on good NT and Baptist principles has turned into this, and I have dim hopes that it can be salvaged. It has unnecessarily alienated too many good people. And, alas, then what? God forbid this unfortunate strategy cause backlash that splits our brethren down ecclesiastical or soteriological lines. I think the behavior of the principles in San Antonio will determine much.

  6. Colin,
    What “sinful behavior” are you referring to? I haven’t seen the kind of “personal” attacks you are referring to. That doesn’t mean they don’t exist, since I really only began regularly paying attention to this debate relatively recently. You might want to share a couple of specific examples. From what I have seen, at least of Dr. McKissic and Wade Burleson, nothing would fit that category, IMHO.

    The sentiments of the majority of people I serve with in church don’t really represent either side in the current debate. Their attitude is one of, “Not another Baptist fight!” And their inclination, as they sit on the stewardship committee and in business meetings, is to find what they consider to be much better ways of using tithes and offerings to do missions and ministry.

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