The “Theology Committee” of the Missouri Baptist Convention have released a statement today that, in effect, separates the MBC from ever working in partnership with Acts 29 and their organization of church planters again. The Chairman of the committee had this to say, “We are living in a day and age where we need doctrinal precision and we need to be definitive in what we believe,” which begs the question,” How have you concluded that the use of alcohol is a significant enough issue to sever partnership? Knight goes on to say, “The day of presuming what everybody believes—that’s ambiguous. I believe most people do not thrive well in ambiguity. We thrive well with parameters such as the Baptist Faith & Message (2000), and any clari!
fication that can be made of a statement like that.” (emphasis mine) Since alcohol use is not addressed in the Baptist Faith and Message, one can only assume that Knight is imposing his interpretation of scripture on to the document. It appears that he is serious about providing “clarification” of “a statement like that” and in doing so he is interpreting, for us, the Baptist Faith & Message.
In response to their statement, I’ve listed below the seven conclusions of the committee. I’d like to interact with them individually.
1) Acts 29 is a part of the Emerging Church movement;
I would agree with that.
2) We have great difficulty with the notion or philosophy that a church can be theologically conservative and methodologically liberal. There is an inherent connection between biblical theology and missions methodology;
Hmm, interesting quote. I would assume, then, that his point would disallow a Democrat, for instance, to be a member of the MBC. Wouldn’t it follow that espousal of “liberal” social positions indicates a sign of biblical infidelity and therefore renders one who practices such behavior (i.e. a Democrat) useless to the MBC?
3) There seems to be levels of immaturity and even rebellion among the leadership of the Emerging Church movement;
Wow, I cannot believe that they went there. Do they really want us to address the level of immaturity that exists within “accepted” SBC life? Is that a sign of disfellowship? Beyond that, how are they measuring what they perceive to be “rebellion?” If by rebellion they mean happiness to throw off traditional norms that are either not grounded biblically, or ineffective methodologically, than count me as a “rebel”.
4) Acts 29 should not be an organization with which the Missouri Baptist Convention networks by means of our Cooperative Program money, missions emphases and church planting;
I completely disagree with their assessment but I’m curious to know if they will accept money towards the CP from churches that consider themselves Emerging Church friendly? If so doesn’t that mean that they’re playing both sides of coin?
5) A commitment to planting indigenous churches in Missouri is not a commitment to cultural compromise;
I cautiously agree. I would like for them to define “cultural compromise” further.
6) We recognize the diversity of opinion in American evangelicalism when it comes to alcoholic beverages. This does not negate our historic and ongoing affirmation of the resolutions at 57 annual meetings of the Southern Baptist Convention regarding abstinence as the Baptist position on the sale and use of alcoholic beverages;
It would be stupid for me to disagree with their assessment of an historical SBC position. Having said that, however; does that qualify this as an issue of theological diversity that is great enough to cause a lack of fellowship/partnership? In my opinion, no.
7) There are vast theological extremes and a profound depth of doctrinal diversity, even instances of clearly heretical statements, within the Emerging Church movement with which we are greatly uncomfortable.
Umm, there are vast theological extremes and a profound depth of doctrinal diversity, even instance of clearly heretical statements, within the Southern Baptist Convention, and yet we’re still happy to partner together. I’m sorry, I don’t buy it. Are there problems within the EC movement? You bet there are. That doesn’t negate the significance of those within the EC movement that are conservative, biblical, etc. The EC is not a “formal” organization and as such I am more than reticent to write off the entire group in a wholesale move.
Beyond all that I’ve said above, in no specific order and carrying no measurable degrees of importance to me, here are some additional concerns that I have with the report.
1. Dr. Ed Stetzer is considered one of the greatest minds in SBC life today. He has worked for multiple seminaries, NAMB and now LifeWay. He also sits on the board for Acts 29. Are we withdrawing our support from these SBC agencies because they obviously support a man who is tied directly to Acts 29? If not, why not? The fact that they would outwardly withdraw fellowship with an organization that is encouraged by a man like Dr. Stetzer seems ludicrous to me.
2. Why, when there are only 5 committee members, did Mike Green (who appointed the committee) appoint an individual who reports directly to him to sit on the committee? Denny Marr, who sits on the committee, is the Education Minister at Green’s church. Isn’t that indicative of the problems with tightly controlled power that we’ve been lamenting in the MBC?
3. Are we ready, upon acceptance of this statement, to disfellowship ourselves with all churches that embrace Acts 29 and other aspects of the Emerging Church movement? I hope not because if so, myself and my church will be out the door.
In the article by the Pathway, the reader is led to believe that the decision of the committee was influenced by Dr. Mark Devine, from Midwestern Seminary and his paper on the Emerging Church. That just didn’t seem right to me. I’ve taken theology under Dr. Devine and spoken to him many times away from the classroom about the EC movement and that opinion seemed contrary to what he and I have spoken about. In fact, I was just getting ready to email him and query him about it when I read his response on Steve McCoy’s blog about the whole controversy. It has certainly set me at ease regarding Dr. Devine’s role in the situation. !
His quote is below.
The Pathway article contained a vast distortion, indeed a contradiction of both my article (which was distributed to the committee) and my comments to the committee. Don Hinkle has invited me to write an op-ed peice for the next edition. I am working on it now and will post an early draft on my website.