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.